On the benching stand today is GIGABYTE’s new Z270X-Gaming 8, which comes in one step down from their gaming flagship. Everything, except the kitchen sink, was seemingly included with this motherboard. Integrated water cooling, dual Gigabit LAN, built-in Wi-Fi, and plenty more grace the Gaming 8. Let’s dig in to the details and see everything GIGABYTE brought to the table.
Specifications and Features
Where do I even start here, maybe I’ll start at the table, since this motherboard even brings the table to the table.
We’re looking at four DIMMs with support of up to 64GB RAM at speeds up to 4133 MHz. The dual Gigabit LAN, bringing for all of your networking and gaming desires. The mass amount of connectivity, including two M.2 and two U.2 connections, which also support up to Triple RAID0 via NVMe drives for blistering performance. How about the absolutely stunning sound section on here with replaceable OpAmps for your own fine-tuning of the sound, not like you’d need to with a 120dB+ SNR. I can go on and on, but please do read the table and GIGABYTE’s website!
All specifications in the table below are provided by GIGABYTE.
|GIGABYTE GA-Z270X-Gaming 8 Specs|
|CPU||Supports 7th/ 6th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors|
|Chipset||Intel® Z270 Express Chipset|
|Memory||4 DIMM Dual-Channel DDR4 4133 MHz+ (Up To 64GB)|
|Expansion Slots||1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)
* For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)
* The PCIEX8 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16 slot. When the PCIEX8 slot is populated, the PCIEX16 slot operates at up to x8 mode.
2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1, PCIEX4_2)
* The PCIEX4_1 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX8 slot. When the PCIEX4_1 slot is populated, the PCIEX8 slot will operate at up to x4 mode.
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
(All of the PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
|Graphics|| Integrated Graphics Processor+Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 Controller:
1 x Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 connector, supporting DisplayPort and Thunderbolt™ video outputs and a maximum resolution of 4096×2304@60 Hz
* Because of the limited I/O resources of the PC architecture, the number of Thunderbolt™ devices that can be used is dependent on the number of the PCI Express devices being installed. (Refer to Chapter 1-7, “Back Panel Connectors,” for more information.)
* Support for DisplayPort 1.2 version.
Integrated Graphics Processor-Intel® HD Graphics support:
1 x DisplayPort, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×2304@60 Hz
* Support for DisplayPort 1.2 version.
Integrated Graphics Processor+MegaChips MCDP2800 chip:
1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×2160@60 Hz
* Support for HDMI 2.0 version. (Requires the latest Intel® graphics driver from the GIGABYTE website.)
Support for up to 3 displays at the same time
Maximum shared memory of 1 GB
|Multi-GPU Support||Support for NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ and 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ technologies
Support for AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ and 3-Way/2-Way AMD CrossFire™ technologies
1 x M.2 connector (Socket 3, M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 SATA and PCIe x4/x2 SSD support) (M2M_32G)
1 x M.2 connector (Socket 3, M key, type 2242/2260/2280 SATA and PCIe x4/x2 SSD support) (M2P_32G)
2 x U.2 connectors
2 x SATA Express connectors
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3 0~5)
Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
* Refer to “1-11 Internal Connectors,” for the installation notices for the PCI Express, U.2, M.2, and SATA connectors.
ASMedia® ASM1061 chip
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3 6, 7), supporting AHCI mode only
|LAN||1 x Intel® GbE LAN chip (10/100/1000 Mbit) (LAN1)
1 x Killer™ E2500 LAN chip (10/100/1000 Mbit) (LAN2)
|Audio||Creative® Sound Core 3D chip
2 x JRC NJM2114 and 1 x TI Burr Brown® OPA2134 operational amplifiers
Support for Sound Blaster ZxRi
High Definition Audio
Support for S/PDIF Out
|USB||Chipset+Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 Controller
1 x USB Type-C™ port on the back panel, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port (red) on the back panel
Chipset+Realtek® USB 3.1 Gen 1 Hub
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports available through the internal USB headers
5 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports on the back panel
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports available through the internal USB headers
|Back I/O Ports||1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
2 x MMCX antenna connectors (2T2R)
1 x HDMI 2.0 port
1 x DisplayPort 1.2
1 x Thunderbolt™ 3 connector (USB Type-C™ port, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support)
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port (red)
5 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports
2 x RJ-45 ports
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In/Mic In, Line Out, Headphone)
|Internal I/O Ports||1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x CPU fan header
1 x water cooling CPU fan header
4 x system fan headers
2 x system fan/water cooling pump headers
1 x I/O shield audio LED power connector
2 x RGB (RGBW) LED strip extension cable headers
2 x SATA Express connectors
8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
2 x M.2 Socket 3 connectors
2 x U.2 connectors
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 headers
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
1 x Thunderbolt™ add-in card connector
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
2 x temperature sensor headers
1 x power button
1 x reset button
1 x Clear CMOS button
1 x ECO button
1 x OC button
2 x audio gain control switches
2 x BIOS switches
Voltage Measurement Points
|OS Support||Windows® 10 64-bit (for 7th Generation Intel® Processors)
Windows® 10 64-bit / Windows® 8.1 64-bit / Windows® 7 32-bit / 64-bits (for 6th Generation Intel® Processors)
* Please download the “Windows USB Installation Tool” from GIGABYTE’s website and install it before installing Windows 7.
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor; 12 in. x 9.61 in. (30.5cm x 24.4cm)|
And you guys thought the magic stopped after the specification list, but you were wrong. The features list is even longer. I can’t possibly fit them all in the table below. Check out GIGABYTE’s website for a comprehensive list, but I’ll hit the high points here.
The Gaming 8 has an integrated waterblock (and it is HEFTY) which also doubles as a very capable ambient heatsink. There is built-in RGB control, including two RGBW (W=White for those like Earthdog that didn’t know!) headers for case strips, and LED’s seemingly everywhere (even on the audio and IO shrouds). All eight of the fan headers on this motherboard can control via both PWM and Voltage, while two also support a whopping 2A per fan header. There are nine temperature sensors on this board, seven integral and two external via the included thermistors. The 120dB+ SNR audio section includes some of the absolute nicest capacitors and (replaceable; one for front audio, one for left rear, and one for right rear) OpAmps I’ve seen integrated into a motherboard, part of this SNR is due to the T.I. Burr Brown 127dB 192kHz/24-bit DAC as well. For USB power users there are dedicated front and rear USB DAC-UP 2’s to provide cleaner power and voltage compensation to your devices.
The next table lists the high-level feature set of the GA-Z270X-Gaming 8. All images and descriptions provided by GIGABYTE.
The front of the packaging for the Gaming 8 is relatively simple, with GIGABYTE’s AORUS logo and a few high level details. The front then opens into a window showing the motherboard safely nestled inside. The rear of the packaging has an absolute slew of details, features, and other information. Pulling out and opening the inner box we find the Gaming 8 safely nestled away in the foam cradle. All the accessories are in a small box underneath said foam cradle.
Now, for the slew of goodies GIGABYTE somehow packed into that tiny box underneath the Gaming 8. Here you get the usual user manual, install guide, driver CD, and case badge. Some stuff we don’t normally see though are the door hanger (gaming/not gaming), Velcro ties, and (not pictured) a set of stick on cable labels. The I/O Shield included has an RGB LED strip built in, attach it to the motherboard and you can control the color of your I/O Shield.
Moving to the next picture we see four sleeved SATA cables, HDMI and DisplayPort blanking plugs, the Wi-Fi antenna and the silver retention cover for its cables, the two RGBW extension cables, two thermistors, the G-Connector, and a High Bandwidth SLI Bridge.
The GIGABYTE GA-Z270X-Gaming 8
Powered off, looking at the front, the Gaming 8 is a very build-agnostic motherboard with a relatively simple design. Most anyone should like these looks. You can see here just how big the integrated water block is. The only stand out parts here otherwise are the AORUS logos and the red/gold audio caps.
Turning the motherboard around, we see the PCIe slots are soldered exactly as GIGABYTE described. Also we can see the water block and chipset heatsink are both attached with screws for a solid connection. Not too much else to see here!
A Closer Look
Zooming in on the PCIe area of the Gaming 8 we can see the Dual Armor shielding on the four PCIe x16 slots. Above the first slot is a 32 Gbps M.2 slot capable of using up to a 110 mm device, between the second and third x16 slots there is another 32 Gbps M.2 capable of using 80 mm devices. We also find two PCIe x1 slots.
There’s a distinct lack of connectivity here, due to the monstrous size of the chipset waterblock, in the upper left corner of the board we only find a CPU 8-pin power connection and the LED connection for the rear I/O Shield.
Move to the upper right corner and we hit the motherload. Immediately noticed are the four DIMM slots (with dual retention clips, thank you GIGABYTE) which have Dual Armor for increased strength and better grounding. There are three diffused RGB LED strips which fill the gaps between the DIMMs. There is also a clear acrylic piece which is lit, and shows a design, on the very edge of the board here.
For features there is the power button, ECO button, and OC button. Two more switches up here are the RST_SW (white) and CMOS_SW (black), which overclockers should use frequently as they are the restart and CMOS clear buttons. Regarding connectivity we find four fan headers (one 2A, three 1A), a thermistor connector, two front USB 3.0 connections (giving four front ports), and the 24-pin ATX power connection.
Going all the way across the board, to the lower left corner, we find another jam-packed area on the Gaming 8. Here is the front audio connector, two RGBW strip connectors, TPM (Trusted Platform Module) connector, two front USB 2.0 connectors (four front connectors), and the Debug display.
You’ll also notice four switches, those are labeled CAP_SW_F, CAP_SW_R, BIOS_SW, and SB. The two CAP switches are the front (F) and rear (R) audio gain control, position 1 is 2.5x (default) and position 2 is 6x. The BIOS_SW allows the user to select BIOS 1 or BIOS 2 while the SB switch allows the user to turn the Dual BIOS function on/off. Please see the manual on these for further details.
And last, but not least on the internal connectivity, we get to the lower right hand corner of the Z270X Gaming 8. Here, for storage, we’ll find two U.2 connectors, four SATA 6 Gbps connectors, and two SATA-E (or four more SATA 6 Gbps) connectors. There are also the final three fan headers (one 2A, two 1A), the front panel connectors, a Thunderbolt connector, the two pin CLR_CMOS header, and the second thermistor header.
There’s no lack of connectivity on the outside of the Gaming 8 either. Starting off, there are two antenna connections for the integrated Wi-Fi. For display there’s HDMI and DisplayPort. For networking there are two Gigabit Ethernet ports. The one on the left is driven by the Killer E2500 NIC, the right by the Intel i219 NIC. In the device connectivity department we start with a PS/2 port, two (yellow) USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, two (blue) USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, a Thunderbolt 3 / USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port, one (white) USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, and one (red) USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. For audio we find five gold plated 3.5mm jacks and an S/PDIF Optical output.
Now, you’re probably wondering why the USB ports are all broken out by color. The yellow ports are connected to the DAC-UP 2. This allows for voltage compensation on these two ports when using high power draw USB devices. The blue ports are standard ports. The white port is used when utilizing the Q-Flash Plus function to install a BIOS. The red is another standard port.
Stripping the GA-Z270X-Gaming 8
For the voltage regulation on the Z270X Gaming 8 there are 8+3 phases, split as vCore + iGPU voltage. The controller sends this as a 4+3, then the CPU section uses doublers. Don’t let the four, doubled, phases fool you though as this VRM really impressed me. Setting the CPU LLC to “Turbo” held within 0.005V of the set CPU vCore, even when read via a multimeter.
Below is a picture of the VRM controller, an Intersil ISL95866. This is a 4+3 phase fully PWM VRM controller. The MOSFET’s are ON Semiconductor NTMFS4C06N and NTMFS4C10N.
Here’s some pictures of the water block, you can see it made fantastic contact with the VRM section. This is an incredibly heavy, very solid block. I have no doubts of the performance it will give whether using air or water.
The aesthetic covers for the I/O section and the audio section are shown next, when flipped over you can see where the RGB LEDs connect to the motherboard.
The audio section, I can’t say I’ve ever seen one this nice. The capacitors are all high-end Nichicon and WIMA branded. As mentioned earlier, there are switches to change the gain of the front and rear audio ports. There are three replaceable OpAmps, one dedicated to front audio, two dedicated to rear audio (one for the left channel, one for the right channel). All of this gives an SNR of 120dB+ and without incredibly expensive headphones you’ll never notice this is not a top-end dedicated sound card.
As mentioned earlier, the Z270X Gaming 8 has dual Gigabit Ethernet. The first controller is the newest Intel i219 solution, the other is Killer’s E2500. Both are great controllers.
UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software
The first set of BIOS screenshots includes the MIT section. There’s also Easy Mode here. This section of the BIOS includes all of your frequency, memory, voltage, and other tuning settings.
The second set of screenshots is short, but includes the BIOS and System tabs of the BIOS. Not too much to see here.
Next up is the Peripherals section of the BIOS. All of your onboard features/functionality can be tweaked here. This section is where you’ll find the RGB Fusion page, which is where tweaking of all the board’s LED’s (integrated or connected) can be tweaked.
Lastly we come to the Chipset, Power, and Save & Exit pages of the BIOS. Again, not too much to see here.
Here we see the GIGABYTE APP Center, this is where you will find many motherboard controls, Windows controls, third party softwares, and a preferences screen. Basically, GIGABYTE has made a one-stop-shop for all the motherboard software they have. I’ll cover a few of these pieces of software next, but go to the GIGABYTE website to see all of the utilities available.
Here we see Easy Tune, GIGABYTE’s overclocking software. There’s controls here for frequency, voltage, memory timings, fan settings, and more.
Lastly we’ll touch on RGB Fusion, System Information Viewer, and V-Tuner.
RGB Fusion is used to control all of the built-in lighting on the Gaming 8. This is also where the two RGBW headers can be controlled from. There are simple and advanced settings, you can even control the LED’s by CPU Temperature, music, and other neat functions.
System Information Viewer shows all kinds of sensors (like the built-in ones) as well as performs fan control, allows recording of system sensors, and has a sidebar hardware monitor.
V-Tuner allows overclocking of an installed graphics card. If you have multiple GPU’s in the system, you can overclock them individually.
Test Setup, Benchmarks, and Overclocking
Listed below is the test system used for benchmarking.
|CPU||Intel i7-7700K @ 5 GHz 1.4V / 4.2 GHz Ring|
|Cooler||CoolerMaster Glacer 240L|
|Motherboard||GIGABYTE GA-Z270X-Gaming 8|
|RAM||2×8GB DDR4 GSKILL TridentZ @ 3866 MHz 18-19-19-39 1.35 V|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GTX 750Ti FTW|
|Solid State Drive||OCZ Trion 150 480GB|
|Power Supply||EVGA SuperNova G2 850W|
|Operating System||Windows 10 x64|
We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks which tests rendering, memory performance, and single/multi-threaded CPU performance. For 2D benchmarks we’ll use SuperPi 1M and 32M, wPrime, PiFast, and Intel XTU. For rendering it’s Cinebench R11.5 and R15. Memory performance is checked against AIDA64 and MaxxMEM. For encoding, we use x265 (HWBOT Version) and PoV Ray. A more real-world test is included in 7zip. Testing is performed with the CPU at 5GHz to eliminate any inherent differences in stock BIOS options. Memory speed is XMP, unless otherwise specified.
We’ll be comparing the GA-Z270X-Gaming 8 to a few different motherboards, their models and links to the reviews are below.
Memory Bandwidth and Throughput Benchmark – AIDA64 and MaxxMEM
CPU Rendering Benchmarks – Cinebench R11.5 and R15
Single Threaded CPU Benchmarks – Super Pi 1M and 32M and PiFast
Multi-Threaded CPU Benchmarks – WPrime 32M and 1024M, x265 (HWBOT Version), PoV Ray R3.73, 7Zip, and Intel XTU
Overall, the results seemed to be in line with the expected performance of a top-tier motherboard. With the exception of MaxxMEM Copy, the memory performance of the Gaming 8 was outstanding. On the Pi calculations, Cinebenches, and XTU the Gaming 8 was in line with the other boards in the comparison. Coming around to the multi threaded benchmarks and GIGABYTE made a strong show leading all three of XTU, POVRay, and 7-Zip.
Pushing the Limits
Like most other boards I’ve reviewed, the GA-Z270X-Gaming 8 hit 5.1 GHz using only 1.4V on the CPU. It seems to be fairly stable at this level, running Cinebench R15 without issue. Booting 5.2 GHz using only 1.42V happened, but I couldn’t complete R15 at this speed (heat issue, the board was more than capable). Where the Classified K took 1.4V to run at 5.0 GHz and 1.44V+ to run at 5.1 GHz, the Gaming 8 took only 1.39V to run at 5.1 GHz. Even at this higher voltage level, I was measuring 1.388-1.389V with a DMM during the Cinebench run.
I haven’t been able to find a single thing I didn’t like about the Z270X Gaming 8, GIGABYTE knocked it out of the park with this one. A fantastic VRM, loads of RGB LEDs, superior audio, integrated water cooling, and many more features grace this board; there’s no way I can cover all of that again! Overclocking results were phenomenal, and honestly surprised me given the four phases being doubled.
As far as pricing, it is high, as it should be for such a loaded board. Coming in with an MSRP of $399, for sale for that at Newegg and Amazon, puts this motherboard as one of the most expensive on the market. It is priced along the lines of the ASUS Maximus IX Formula and ASRock Z270 SuperCarrier, but those boards all have differing features sets. Only one board rests more expensive currently than these three, and it is the big brother which GIGABYTE has called the Z270X Gaming 9. What you’re missing on the Gaming 8, from the Gaming 9, is the PLX chip for better multi-GPU support, an improved VRM (even though this one is awesome), a third SATA Express port, and a move from ATX to E-ATX. Even so, I feel the price is justified, especially given the level of performance. Overclockers Approved!
Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.