It was only a matter of time before we got our hands on the small, mini-ITX versions of the Z270 chipset. Our first look at these micro power houses is from ASUS, their ROG Strix Z270I Gaming. The board, even in its tiny mITX size, looks to bring you all the features and performance of the larger boards, but in a package that can fit into a small form factor. Let’s take a look and see what the board has to offer!
We can start out with what most know, the Z270 chipset supports both 6th and 7th generation Core i7, i5, i3, Pentium, and Celeron processors. This specific board supports up to 32 GB of DDR4 with speeds up to 4266 MHz (OC). It can “only” reach 32 GB as it has two DIMM slots on the board. That capacity is plenty useful throughout the life of the product.
Graphics-wise, it has one full length PCIe 3.0 slot for a discrete GPU. While on the integrated graphics side of the house, the board has two outputs, HDMI (v2.0) and DisplayPort (v1.4).
Regarding your storage needs, the Strix Z270I Gaming has two M.2 sockets: the first under the PCH heatsink, the other on the back of the board. For your SATA drives, you can connect up to a total of 4x SATA 6 Gbps ports which should be plenty for most users. If not, and you need the small form factor, get a NAS for storage!
The board has integrated LAN, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. The LAN uses Intel’s latest I219V NIC with Anti-Surge LANGuard to protect from ESD, as well as its GameFirst network traffic cop software to efficiently route traffic for the best performance. The wireless is a dual band (2.4/5 GHz) 802.11ac device and the BT supports MU-MIMO v4.1. A pretty inclusive connectivity solution in a tiny package.
Audio is handled by the ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel HD Audio CODEC S1220A. This is an improved version (113 dB SNR stereo playback) of the Realtek 1220 CODEC found in most other Z270 boards. There are dual headphone amplifiers with impedance sense as well. All of this runs through premium Nichicon Japanese-made capacitors. Don’t forget the Sonic Studio III software to shape the sound to your liking as well as Sonic Radar II which visualizes where sounds are coming from (great for FPS games!).
USB ports are not forgotten here with a total of six USB 3.0 ports (4x at back panel and 2x mid-board) as well as four USB 2.0 ports. USB 3.1 connectivity is handled by a 3rd party controller (ASMedia) of which there is one port for the front panel.
Please see all more details from the ASUS website for the Strix Z270I Gaming.
|ASUS ROG Strix Z270I Gaming|
|CPU||Intel® Socket 1151 for 7th/6th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors|
Supports Intel® 14 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.
* Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
|Chipset||Intel® Z270 Chipset|
|Memory||2 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB, DDR4 4266(O.C.)/4133(O.C.)/4000(O.C.)/3866(O.C.)/3733(O.C.)/3600(O.C.)/3466(O.C.)/3400(O.C.)/3333(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3200(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400/2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory|
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
** Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
|Graphics||Integrated Graphics Processor- Intel® HD Graphics support|
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort ports
– Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz
– Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1024 MB
Supports Intel® InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
|Expansion Slots||1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16|
|Storage||Intel® Z270 Chipset : |
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)*1
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)*1
4 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s)
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology*2
Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready *3
|LAN / Wireless / Bluetooth||Intel® I219V|
ROG GameFirst Technology
Dual interconnect between the integrated Media Access Controller (MAC) and physical layer (PHY)Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
Supports MU-MIMOBluetooth V4.1*4
|Audio||ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220A|
– Dual Headphone Amplifiers
– Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs
– Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
– High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output and 113 dB SNR recording input
– SupremeFX Shielding Technology
– Supports up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback *5
Audio Feature :
– SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
– Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
– Dedicated audio PCB layers: Separate layers for left and right channels to guard the quality of the sensitive audio signals
– Premium Japanese-made audio capacitors: Provide warm, natural and immersive sound with exceptional clarity and fidelity
– Sonic Radar III
– Sonic Studio III
|USB||Intel® Z270 Chipset :|
6 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z270 Chipset :
4 x USB 2.0 port(s)
ASMedia® USB 3.1 controller : *6
1 x USB 3.1 front panel connector port(s)
|ROG Exclusive Features / Special Features||ROG RAMCache II|
GameFirst IVOC Design – ASUS PRO Clock Technology
– Full BCLK range for extreme overclocking performance
5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processors 5
– Whole system optimization with a single click! 5-Way Optimization tuning key perfectly consolidates TPU, EPU, DIGI+ Power Control, Fan Xpert 4, and Turbo App together, providing better CPU performance, efficient power saving, precise digital power control, whole system cooling and even tailor your own app usages.
– Auto Tuning, TurboV, GPU Boost
– Fan Xpert 4 featuring Fan Auto Tuning function and multiple thermistors
– DRAM Overcurrent Protection
– Stainless Steel Back I/O
– Highly Durable Components
– DIGI+ VRM
ASUS EPU :
ASUS Exclusive Features :
– AI Suite 3
– Ai Charger
– ESD Guards
ASUS EZ DIY :
– ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
– ASUS EZ Flash 3
ASUS Q-Design :
– ASUS Q-Shield
– ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
– ASUS Q-Slot
– ASUS Q-DIMM
Gaming Aesthetics :
– AURA-RGB Lighting
|Back Panel I/O Ports||1 x DisplayPort|
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0 Type-A + Type-C *8
4 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio jack(s)
1 x ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module (Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v4.1)
|Internal I/O Ports||1 x RGB Header(s)|
1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s)
1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)
1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s)
1 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
1 x AIO_PUMP connector
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s)
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
1 x 14-1 pin TPM connector
1 x Thermal sensor connector
1 x USB 3.1 front panel connector
M.2 2242 mounting kit
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
2 x M.2 Screw Package
1 x CPU installation tool
1 x Supporting DVD
1 x ASUS 2T2R dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant)
1 x ROG Strix stickers
1 x 10-in-1 ROG cable label
1 x Extension Cable for RGB strips (80 cm)
1 x Panel cable
1 x ROG coaster(s)
|Form Factor||Mini ITX Form Factor|
6.7 inch x 6.7 inch ( 17 cm x 17 cm )
One of the first features listed below is the the double decker heatsink. Did anyone else think of a double decker couch? Or is that just the Dad in me?! Anyway, what ASUS has done here was to make a stacked heatsink covering both the PCH as well as an M.2 SSD! The heatsink design is said to thermally isolate PCH heat from affecting the M.2 slot. It should keep the M.2 SSD cooler by up to 20°C. Pretty good ingenuity there!
Just like its larger siblings, the ROG Strix 270I Gaming includes has RGB LEDs on the board which run along the right side by the DIMM slots and 24-Pin power. The RGB LEDs are controlled by ASUS’ software, AURA. The board also offers another 4-pin header to add your own compatible RGB strips.
ASUS has taken the latest Realtek audio and improved upon it with their implementation, SupremeFX S1220A CODEC. This is said to improve upon the vanilla version with with a higher SNR (113dB) on the line in and on the line out (120dB). The board also sports dual T.I RX4580 and OPA1688 op-amps, premium Nichicon audio capacitors, line shielding, and the cover over the chip to help minimize EMI.
Not straying too far from its ROG roots, the the Z270I Gaming uses ASUS’ third generation T-Topology for the memory allowing superior overclocking (frequencies to 4266+ MHz) through minimizing noise, signal reflection, and using equidistant memory channels.
Networking is handled by the latest Intel Gigabit Ethernet card (I219-V) for better gaming. It reduces CPU overhead while providing “exceptionally high” TCP and UDP throughput. If you need to use a wireless connection, this diminutive board has you covered with integrated 802.11ac 2×2 Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO. The dual band (2.4/5 GHz) gives you speeds up to 867 Mbps.
Please go to the ASUS website and check out all the details and even more features!
ROG Strix Z270I Gaming has an innovative double-decker heatsink design that allows the M.2 SSD to be stacked atop of the PCH heat sink, which is then topped off with an additional metal heatsink for the M.2 drive. The two heatsinks are thermally isolated to prevent the PCH and M.2 from affecting each other. The double decker design not only cleverly maximizes the board space on miniITX board, but also dramatically improves heat dissipation, cooling the M.2 SSD by up to 20°C for better stability and enhanced gaming performance while featuring a stylish angular design to enhance the look of ROG Strix Z270I Gaming builds.
AURA LIGHTING CONTROL
Create your own custom LED lighting effects with the intuitive Aura software. Cast a stunning multi-color glow across your build with the powerful RGB LEDs built in to ROG Strix Z270I Gaming, or attach separate RGB strips using the two onboard 4-pin header. You can even use both at the same time and enjoy perfect lighting synchronization. Fire up Aura and enjoy the creative freedom of nine different lighting themes.
*The Aura RGB-strip header supports standard 5050 RGB LED strips with a maximum power rating of 2A (12V). For maximum brightness, strip length should not exceed 2m.
*Visit the ASUS Aura microsite to learn more about Aura Sync.
SHIELDED AUDIO, SUPERIOR SOUND
ROG Strix’s SupremeFX audio technology has levelled up, delivering an exceptional 113dB signal-to-noise ratio on the line-in connection for best-ever recording quality — and 120dB on line-out for crystal-clear sound! We’ve also added a low-dropout regulator for cleaner power delivery to the SupremeFX S1220A codec, plus Texas Instruments® RC4580 and OPA1688 op-amps for high gain with low distortion. It all adds up to audio that envelops you as never before!
With support for DDR4 memory, ROG Strix Z270I Gaming lets you drive memory frequencies to 4266+MHz and beyond when overclocked! ASUS-exclusive T-Topology circuit design plus OC Socket provides superb memory-overclocking capability to unleash the full power of DDR4 by minimizing coupling noise and signal reflection. With innovative equidistant memory channels, T-Topology delivers balanced control and powerful overclocking compatibility.
ASUS PRO CLOCK TECHNOLOGY
IMPROVED OVERCLOCKING FOR FASTER GAMING PERFORMANCE
A dedicated base-clock generator designed for 7th Generation Intel® processors allows overclocked base base-clock frequencies up to or beyond 425MHz*. This custom solution works in tandem with the ASUS TurboV processing unit to enhance voltage and base-clock overclocking control, — providing an exciting new way to boost performance to extreme heights.
INTEL GIGABIT ETHERNET
MORE THROUGHPUT AND LESS CPU USAGE FOR GREAT GAMING EXPERIENCES
ROG Strix Z270I Gaming features the very latest Intel Ethernet (I219-V) for faster, smoother gaming. Intel’s LAN has the serious double advantage of reducing CPU overhead while offering exceptionally high TCP and UDP throughput. This significantly reduces the processor’s workload, so there’s more power for gaming.
2X2 WI-FI WITH MU-MIMO
ONBOARD WI-FI WITH TRANSFER SPEEDS UP TO 867 MBPS
ROG Strix Z270I Gaming has next-level 802.11ac Wi-Fi with 2×2 dual-band 2.4/5GHz antennas for up to 867Mbps* transfer speeds — and the very latest Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology to ensure that every connected user** experiences the best wireless and online speeds!
* Actual speed varies, and Wi-Fi hotspot feature operates at 802.11a/b/g/n. Windows 10 does not currently support Wi-Fi hotspot functionality.
** Requires MU-MIMO-ready client.
Retail Packaging and Accessories
Taking a look at the retail packaging, we see a mostly black box with the Strix name in rainbow colors on the left hand side, with a picture of the board on the right. It shows the motherboard inside as well as some of the items it supports like Optane memory as well as 6th an 7th generation CPUs. The back of the box shows another picture of the board as well as some of the specifications and features listed above.
Opening up the box exposes the motherboard sitting in form fitting foam and its anti-static bag for safe shipping. Below the board rests the abundant accessories.
Meet the ASUS ROG Strix Z270I Gaming
Our first picture of the board shows us this tiny mITX-sized board really has (at least) one of everything you need to build a powerful system.
A Closer Look
From left to right on the bottom part of the board, you can see the Wi-Fi adapter, while below it and to the right of the audio in/outputs is the SupremeFX audio. Next to that we see the only PCIe slot on the board while above it is the double decker heatsink for the PCH and an M.2 drive. To the right of that we see two of the four SATA slots.
Flipping the board around a bit, we see the front panel USB on the bottom left, the two other SATA ports, front panel connectors, and the RGB header for adding a RGB LED strip.
The back panel has everything you need as well from USB 3.1 Type A and Type C, USB 2.0, and display outputs in HDMI (2.0) and DisplayPort (1.4). You can see the Wi-Fi unit as well as some of those Nichicon caps and the audio in/output.
Showing the socket area, we can see a robust VRM totaling eight phases. The heatsinks all made good contact and keep the VRMs cool, even through the heavy overclocking I put it through on the test bench. Last up, as one may have expected, you do need 8-Pin CPU power to adequately feed this little monster.
Below is a closer picture of the double decker heatsink with the top portion off. You can see a (really thick) thermal pad on the base of the top heatsink which makes contact with your M.2 drive. While ASUS says they are thermally separated, I am sure there is a bit of heat soak into the top from the bottom just because the heatsinks touch when screwed down.
The last gallery I have here contains close-up shots of a few of the IC’s used on the board.
UEFI BIOS and Monitoring/Overclocking Software
Below are screenshots of the BIOS from the default (but can change) EZ BIOS, into the advanced BIOS. There are still loads of options in this smooth-running, full featured, BIOS.
This next gallery digs down into the AI Tweaker section where all the overclockers like to play. Again, fully featured here, from voltage control to memory timings…and there’s a kitchen sink!
Last up are some screenshots of AI Suite III for managing the PC through windows, as well as the ASUS Aura Lighting Software.
|CPU||Intel i7 7700K|
|CPU Cooler||Custom Loop with EK LTZ CPU Block, Swiftech MCP655 Vario,|
Swiftech MCR320 + PA 120.2, 3x Yate Loon High @ 1K RPM
|Motherboard||ASUS ROG Z270I Gaming|
|RAM||GSkill Trident Z 2×8 GB DDR4- 3866 MHz CL18-19-19-39 2T|
|Graphics Card||AMD R7 250|
|Hard Drive||OCZ RD 400 512GB|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic Platinum-1000|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro x64 (Fully Updated)|
|Benchmarks||AIDA64 Engineer (Memory Test)|
Cinebench R11.5 and R15
x265 1080p Benchmark (Hwbot)
Super Pi 1M/32M
Performance of this board is as expected throughout all the benchmarks in our testing suite. Nothing out of the ordinary here. It is within margin of error between most all boards and benches.
Productivity and Intel XTU
Raw Memory Data:
|AIDA64 Memory Benchmarks – Raw Data (MB/s)|
|MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium||42742||44302||38894||44.6|
|MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium||50183||55076||46103||43.2|
|ASUS ROG Maximus IX Formula||49383||55192||45688||44.4|
|ASUS ROG Maximus IX Apex||50254||55250||46090||40.6|
|ASUS ROG Z270I Gaming||51126||54792||45631||44.9|
|Maxxmem Memory Benchmarks – Raw Data (MB/s)|
|MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium||27249||34427||33094|
|MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium||27989||33784||34905|
|ASUS ROG Maximus IX Formula||27858||34048||34809|
|ASUS ROG Maximus IX Apex||28247||33216||30916|
|ASUS ROG Z270I Gaming||29628||35078||31967|
Pushing the Limits
So, the little board that could pushed the 7700K I have past 5 GHz and settled on 5.1 GHz with all cores running. The voltage needed for the CPU was right around where the others were at according to software. I would imagine I can push a bit further, but temperatures were really the limit here, not the board. The memory I raised up to DDR4-4000 so we know it can at least reach that! I’m confident the board can run this overclock until you need another system or something else breaks. It has s a well-built power section and handled these high clocks well.
ASUS has brought to market a very good ITX-sized board. The reality is the board has everything one needs and likely more to have an incredibly powerful system be it for gaming or even productivity uses. The black motherboard, grey colored heatsinks, and the heatsink designs, including the double decker and the VRMs, as well as the RGB LEDs, will allow the board to fit in with most any builder’s theme.
We were able to overclock the 7700K to over 5 GHz with the memory at 4000 MHz and it didn’t seem to make it sweat on the test bench. Voltages were around the same and the heatsinks were merely a bit warm to the touch after my testing. What I have come to expect from an open air test bench with minimal circulation. In a case with airflow, I doubt they would feel warm at all.
The ASUS ROG Z270I Gaming can be found on Newegg.com currently for $179.99 with a free Dawn of War III game code. There are, surprisingly to me, a few mITX boards in the segment, with this ASUS board costing $10 more than the Gigabyte offering. However, the Gigabyte board only has one M.2 slot. The other boards from MSI and ASRock offerings are also priced at at $169.99. So it seems like, at least on the M.2 side of things, the ASUS board has the rest beat there.
If you are looking for a mini-ITX board which fits with any theme, can support two M.2 drives, and overclcock the heck out of whatever CPU you put in there, stop looking and simply grab the ASUS ROG Strix Z270I Gaming. If you don’t care about potentially expanding to an M.2 based device, then you have more options, but, for a paltry $10 more, you really can’t go wrong here and still have room for growth!
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)