ASUS Z170-Deluxe Motherboard Review

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With the release of Intel’s Skylake “K” series CPUs, today also brings the release of Z170 chipset motherboards from various manufacturers. One such release is the ASUS Z170-Deluxe, which we’ll take a good look at today. Sitting at or near the top of the ASUS Channel series motherboards, the Z170-Deluxe is packed with a ton of unique features that take full advantage of this new platform. We’ve reviewed an ASUS Deluxe motherboard or two in the past and always came away impressed with the features, ease of use, and performance. So, let’s have a look at this latest ASUS offering and see if it can hold up to its predecessors.

Specifications and Features

The specifications below were pulled from the user’s guide that accompanies the kit. The Z170-Deluxe is decked out with all the latest storage options including SATA 6 GB/s, a M.2 port that supports both SATA and PCI-E interface drives, NVMe U.2 Device support, and a host of USB support that features six USB 3.1 ports at the back panel (five Type A and one Type C). The Skylake platform introduces DDR4 support to a mainstream platform for the first time, and you can see the Z170-Deluxe supports fast memory speeds. The motherboard also comes with dual Intel LAN jacks and the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC. The gaming crowd will appreciate the SLI and CrossFireX support the Z170-Deluxe offers, which can be as much as Quad SLI/CrossFireX if you have a pair of dual core graphics cards. All in all, a pretty impressive set of features seen here.

ASUS Z170-Deluxe Specifications
CPU LGA1151 socket for 6th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron Processors
Supports 14nm CPU
Supports Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
Chipset Intel Z170 Express Chipset
Memory 4 x DIMM max 64GB, DDR4 3466(OC) / 3400(OC) / 3333(OC) / 3300(OC) / 3200(OC) / 3000(OC) / 2800 (OC) / 2666(OC) / 2400(OC) / 2133 MHz, non-ECC, un-buffered
Dual channel memory architecture
Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
Expansion Slots 2 x PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (single at x16 / dual at x8/x8 mode)
1 x PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot (max at x4 mode, compatible with PCIe x1, x2 and x4 devices)
4 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
VGA Integrated Graphics Processor – Intel HD Graphics Support
Multi-VGA output support: DisplayPort 1.2 with max resolution 4096×2034 @ 60/24Hz
Support HDMI 2.0 with max resolution 4096×2160 @ 60/24 Hz
Supports Intel InTru 3D/Quick Sync Video/Clear Video HD Technology / Insider
Supports up to 2 displays Simultaneously
Max shared memory of 512MB
Multi-GPU Support Support NVIDIA 2-Way/Quad-GPU SLI Technology (with 2 PCIe x16 Graphics card)
Support AMD 3-Way/Quad-GPU CrossFireX Technology
Storage Intel Z170 Express Chipset with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, and Intel Rapid Storage Technology 14 Support
– 1 x SATA Express port (compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 GB/s ports)
– 1 x M.2 socket 3 with M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support both SATA and PCIE mode
– 6 x SATA 6.0 GB/s ports (gray, two from SATA Express)
– Supports Intel Smart Response Technology
ASMedia SATA 6 GB/s Controller
– 2 x SATA 6 GB/s ports (black)
LAN Intel I219-AT Gigabit LAN Controller
Intel I211-AT Gigabit LAN Controller
Wireless Network Speedy Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac supports dual frequency band 2.4/5 GHz up to 1300Mbps transfer speed
Bluetooth Bluetooth v4.0
Audio Realtek ALC1150 8-channel HD audio CODEC featuring Crystal Sound 3
USB Intel Z170 Express Chipset – supports ASUS USB 3.1 Boost
– 5 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (4 ports mid-board, 1 port back panel (blue)
– 5 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 ports mid-board, 1 port back panel (black)
ASMedia USB 3.1 Controller – Supports ASUS USB Boost and 3A power
– 5 x USB 3.1/3.0/2.0 ports at back panel (teal blue, Type A)
– 1 x USB 3.1/3.0/2.0 port at back panel (Type C)
Rear Panel I/O Ports 1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI port
1 x ASUS Wi-Fi GO! Module (Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac w/Bluetooth v4.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
2 x Intel LAN (RJ45) ports
5 x USB 3.1/3.0/2.0 ports (teal blue Type A)
1 x USB 3.1/3.0/2.0 port (Type C)
1 x USB 3.0/2.0 port (blue, supports Key Express)
1 x USB 2.0/1.1port (black support USB BIOS Flashback)
8-channel Audio ports
Internal I/O Connectors 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 connectors support additional 4 USB ports (19-pin)
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 connectors support additional 4 USB ports
1 x M.2 Socket 3 (for m Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 devices)
1 x SATA Express connector
6 x SATA 6 GB/s connectors (4 x gray, 2 x black)
1 x CPU fan connector (4-pin) for both 3-pin (DC Mode) and 4-pin (PWM Mode) CPU coolers control with auto detection support
1 x CPU OPT fan connector (4-pin)
1 x Water Pump Header
4 x Chassis fan connector (4-pin) for both 3-pin (DC Mode) and 4-pin (PWM Mode) coolers control
1 x front panel audio connector (AAFP)
1 x S/PDIF out header
1 x Thunderbolt header (5-pin) for ASUS ThunderboltEX Series support
1 x TPM connector
1 x 24-pin EATX power connector
1 x 8-pin EATX 12V power connector
1 x System panel (Q-Connector)
1 x MemOK! button
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
1 x USB BIOS Flashback button
1 x DRCT (Direct Key) connector
1 x TPU switch (advanced two-stage adjustments)
1 x EPU switch
1 x EZ XMP switch
1 x Power-on button
1 x 5-pin EXT_Fan (Extension Fan) connector
OS Support Windows 10
Windows 8.1
Windows 7
Form Factor ATX Form Factor 12″ x 9.6″ (30.6 cm x 24.4 cm)

Much of what’s listed in the specifications can also be seen by looking at the overview shown below.

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The Z170 platform overview gives us a few details as to what this new chipset/processor offers. On the CPU side, we have support for both DDR3 and DDR4, which makes for a wide range of potential motherboard offerings from motherboard partners. Enthusiast motherboards aren’t likely to be outfitted with DDR3 support, but lower-end 100 series chipset motherboards are where you might see it utilized. The CPUs will offer x16 PCI-E Gen3 support and digital display technology. The Z170 chipset will support PCI-E 3.0, and PCI-E RAID is available through Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology on motherboards with an appropriate hardware design.

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Taking a look at some of the ASUS unique features, we first land at their new Pro Clock Technology. Being that changes to BCLK no longer affect DMI and PCI-E speeds, ASUS implemented a dedicated clock generator on the Z170-Deluxe. It works alongside the Turbo Processor Unit (TPU) to enhance both voltage and base clock control. Intel’s clock generator is limited to 170 MHz, but ASUS claims up to 450+ MHz is possible if your CPU is capable.

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Storage connectivity is rather impressive on the Z170-Deluxe and includes just about every current option available. The onboard M.2 slot supports all the available SSD sizes ranging from 2230 up to 22110, as does the Hyper M.2 x4 mini card that’s included in the kit. PCI-E RAID is now possible by utilizing both M.2 connectivity options. NVMe support for 2.5″ SSDs (also known as U.2) comes via the bundled Hyper Kit, which is basically an M.2 to U.2 adapter. NVMe is also supported if you’re using a PCI-E drive that plugs into a PCI-E slot.

SATA Express hasn’t really caught on like many had hoped, but motherboard manufacturers continue to provide the option. ASUS has developed a few devices that take advantage of the technology, which can be purchased separately. The Z170-Deluxe goes all in with USB 3.1 support, and it’s back panel area is a good example of that. There are only one each USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports available there, with all the rest being USB 3.1 (five Type A and one Type C).

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The Z170-Deluxe uses the ASUS Crystal Sound 3 audio solution, which is based off the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC. Noise isolation is achieved through EMI protection, audio shielding, and separate left and right channel circuits. It also employs an audio amplifier and uses Japanese made audio capacitors and a power pre-regulator. The power pre-regulator is used to lower power supply noise before it ever reaches the the Realtek CODEC.

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There is a nice lighting effect under the PCH heatsink that can be completely customized to your liking. Up to 256 color choices are available, and you can even have the light pulsate to the beat of music. It can also be used as a CPU heat indicator and glow green, yellow, and red to indicate temperature ranges.

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The UEFI BIOS sees several enhancements for the Z170 platform, and some of our past favorites are still included. One of the new items is the EZ Flash 3 utility, which adds the ability to flash the BIOS via the internet. Flashing the BIOS from the internet has always had to be done from within the operating system, which can be risky. It should now be a much safer process done from within the UEFI BIOS. Performing a secure erase on your SSD can be done within the UEFI BIOS, which was usually reserved for the ROG series motherboards in the past. It’s nice to see that feature added to channel series motherboards. Checking HDD S.M.A.R.T. information is now available right from within the UEFI BIOS as is information on your graphics card. The EZ Mode section section of the UEFI BIOS also gets a face lift with the addition of a FAQ search option, which is basically a QR code you can scan with a smart device and be taken to the ASUS FAQ web page. The My Favorites area found in Advanced Mode is also enhanced with many popular presets already loaded. The presets can easily be removed if you prefer to set your own, and they can be restored if you decide to use them down the road.

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As is usually the case with ASUS motherboards, the software is quite extensive. AI Suite III and its Dual Intelligent Processors 5 feature includes a 5-Way optimization tool for automatic overclocking and total system optimization. Whether it’s fan optimization, power efficiency, or overclocking you’re after, DIP5 has all the tools you need to get your system set the way you like it right from the desktop.

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You may remember the KeyBot feature that was found on previous generation ROG series boards. For Z170 Channel series boards, ASUS has a similar tool they call Key Express. Key Express allows you to turn an otherwise mundane keyboard into a macro, function key, and short cut capable device. It can also be programmed to work when the system is powered off and in S5 standby mode. From there, you can perform USB BIOS Flashback, initiate stage 1 TPU overclocking, or even boot the system directly into BIOS. It’s a pretty cool feature that’s definitely worth trying out for yourself.

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HyStream and Mobo Connect are a couple other software packages making their debut on Z170 motherboards. HyStream lets you mirror content to a PC screen from your Android or IOS device, while Mobo Connect lets you control your PC and Anroid device from the same keyboard and mouse. Mobo Connect also offers streaming capabilities from your device to the PC.

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The ASUS Q-Design feature can be found at several locations around the motherboard and is designed to make building your own system as painless as possible. It includes the following helpful items

  • Q-Code – makes troubleshooting POST failures even easier.
  • Q-shield – designed to help prevent finger cuts when inserting the IO panel into a PC case.
  • Q-LED – onboard LEDs that show POST progress of the system for easy troubleshooting.
  • One-clip Q-Slots for memory – help memory module insertion and removal when the primary PCIe slot is occupied with a long graphics card.
  • Q-Connector – a pass-through module for front panel cables that simplifies connection to the onboard front panel header.

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In addition to the above Q-Design feature, ASUS also has the 5X Protection feature that is said to ensure a long-lasting product and help protect peripheral devices from damage. 5X Protection includes the following benefits.

  • DIGI+ VRM – Uses an advanced buck controller for better power efficiency and voltage control.
  • Enhanced DRAM Overcurrent Protection – Helps protect DRAM modules from short circuit damage. Utilizes the OCP feature of the DRAM buck controller and onboard fuses for an additional layer of protection.
  • ESD Guards – Utilizes better components to provide protection from electrostatic discharge.
  • High-Quality 5K-Hour Solid Capacitors – Rated to last for thousands of hours well beyond temperatures they will be exposed to on a motherboard.
  • LAN Guard – Uses higher rated components to protect the motherboard from being damaged via the Ethernet port from lightning strikes.

We’ll have a look at additional features the Z170-Deluxe has to offer when we explore the motherboard close up and tour the software packages. For now though, let’s get the box on a workbench and have a look around.

Packaging/Accessories/First Look

The retail box is decked out with the same color scheme used on the motherboard itself and gives the potential buyer a great deal of information to digest. The box top and sides contain product branding, and a few high-levels features are listed as well. At the bottom of the box, you’ll find more specific details on several of the features we discussed above. The top of the box has a flap that can be raised to reveal even more of the features the motherboard offers. There is also a see-through window that provides a glimpse of the motherboard wrapped in an anti-static bag. With the box fully opened, you’ll find the motherboard sitting on top and the generous accessory stack below.

Z170-Deluxe Retail Box

Z170-Deluxe Retail Box

Retail Box - Bottom Side

Retail Box – Bottom Side

Box Sides

Box Sides

Box Sides

Box Sides

Flap Opened

Flap Opened

Flap Up CLose

Flap Up CLose

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View Through Window

Z170-Deluxe Wrapped

Z170-Deluxe Wrapped

Accessories Below

Accessories Below

The abundant accessories include the below items. Of special note is the CPU installation tool, which snaps over the CPU and makes it much easier to control as you set it into the motherboard’s CPU socket. The tool can be left on the CPU once it’s installed and will not interfere with the lock latch or a CPU cooler.

  • User’s Manual/Product Documentation
  • Key Express Stickers
  • CPU Installation Tool
  • 2 in 1 Q-Connector
  • SLI Bridge Connector
  • 6 x SATA 6GB/s Cables
  • ASUS 3T3R Wi-Fi Antenna
  • Hyper M.2 x4 Mini Card
  • Hyper Kit
  • M.2 Attachment Screws
  • I/O Shield

Accessories

Accessories

More Accessories

More Accessories

Even More Accessories

Even More Accessories

The following pictures were taken from a variety of different vantage points, which will give you a good idea of the aesthetics. ASUS took the black and white color scheme they introduced on the X99 platform and refined it a little for the Z170 platform. It’s a very clean and classic look that should appeal to the masses. There is no denying that black and white themed builds are becoming extremely popular these days. Having said that, we think making different color PCH heatsink plaques and I/O covers would be nice, even if only available as a separate purchase.

Overhead View

Overhead View

Overhead View #2

Overhead View #2

Overhead View #3

Overhead View #3

Overhead View #4

Overhead View #4

Side Angle View

Side Angle View

Side Angle View #2

Side Angle View #2

Side Angle View #3

Side Angle View #3

Side Angle View #4

Side Angle View #4

Back of Motherboard

Back of Motherboard

The ASUS Z170-Deluxe Up Close

At the bottom-left edge of the Z170-Deluxe, you’ll find the front panel audio connector, Thunderbolt connector, Q-Code LED display, and the TPM header. The two buttons located here are for the BIOS Flashback feature and clearing CMOS. There are also onboard power and reset switches found here.

Over at the bottom-right side, we find the first of two front panel USB 3.0 headers followed by a pair of USB 2.0 front panel headers. A 4-pin fan header and the connections for the case’s wiring are next in line. Above the headers and connections are three switches, which are for EZ XMP, TPU, and EPU. The EZ XMP switch will automatically set your memory to its XMP profile without having to enter the BIOS. The TPU switch offers two levels of automatic overclocking, while the EPU switch is used to moderate power consumption based on current PC load. All three of the switches have a corresponding LED that will illuminate when they are activated. The CPU overvolt jumper and ASUS Fan Extension header (available as a separate purchase) are located just below the TPU switch.

Bottom-Left Edge

Bottom-Left Edge

Bottom-Right Edge

Bottom-Right Edge

Moving over to the right side, we land at the SATA ports. There is a SATA Express port and six SATA 6 GB/s ports that are all native to the Intel Z170 chipset. Two more SATA 6 GB/s ports are available (black) and are via an ASMedia controller.

Farther up the right side, you’ll find the second USB 3.0 front panel header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, another 4-pin fan header, and the MemOK! button. The MemOK! button can be used if you find yourself in a situation where the memory is not compatible with the system. By using the button, automatic memory tuning will initiate in the hopes of finding a setting that will allow the system to post. Also viewable from here are the four DIMM slots that support up to 64 GB of DDR4 memory.

SATA Ports

SATA Ports

Upper-Right Side

Upper-Right Side

At the top edge of the motherboard, you’ll find three 4-pin fan headers. One of them is marked for use with a water pump, one is for the CPU fan, and ones is designated as an optional CPU fan. Unlike the other fan headers on the motherboard, the water pump header defaults to 100% speed. However, it can be changed in the UEFI BIOS or within the Fan Xpert 3 software. Having fan headers for CPU and optional CPU make using an air cooler with a push/pull design a snap to install and control.

Over at the top-left side, there isn’t a whole lot going on other than the 8-pin 12V AUX CPU power connector.

Top-Right Edge

Top-Right Edge

Top-Left Edge

Top-Left Edge

At the left side of the Z170-Deluxe, we can see the rear panel I/O area. Beginning at the top, we find the audio optical out, HDMI, and DisplayPort connections. Next to that is where the included Wi-Fi antenna gets installed. As we mentioned before, the rear panel USB ports are dominated by USB 3.1 connectivity. There are five Type A and one Type C USB 3.1 ports available here. One USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 ports are also available. The dual LAN jacks are both provided by Intel (I219V and I211-AT). Lastly, you’ll see the analog audio jacks that support up to 8-channel HD audio. The Audio components are covered by the plastic shield, but we’ll have a look at those later.

Rear Panel I/O

Rear Panel I/O

Plastic Shield Over Audio

Plastic Shield Over Audio Area

Looking at the PCI-E expansion slot area, we see three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots and three PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots. A single graphics card in the top slot will run at x16 speed. Two cards in SLI/CrossFireX will run at x8/x8 speeds. Behind the PCI-E slots is the onboard M.2 port, which supports both SATA and PCI-E interface SSDs.

PCI-E Expansion Slots

PCI-E Expansion Slots

M.2 Port

M.2 Port

The PCH heatsink adds a nice aesthetic value to the motherboard, but I’m not sure why the hint of blue was used. Looking at the CPU socket area, we see a relatively wide open space to accommodate just about any cooler imaginable. Again, we see a hint of blue applied to one side of the MOSFET heatsink, which in our opinion takes a little away from the black and white theme.

PCH Heatsink

PCH Heatsink

CPU Socket Area

CPU Socket Area

CPU Socket Area

CPU Socket Area

After removing the plastic I/O/Audio cover, we can get a better look at the audio components that make up the Crystal Sound 3 feature. This audio solution uses the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC, analog/digital shielding, left and right channel track separation, and an audio amplifier for headphones that require more current/voltage swing than the ALC1150 CODEC can provide on its own. Premium Japanese audio capacitors are used to provide improved sound quality, and a de-pop circuit is added to reduce that annoying popping noise often heard when starting or shutting down the system.

I/O/Audio Cover Removed

I/O/Audio Cover Removed

Audio Components Exposed

Audio Components Exposed

The passive cooling scheme found on the Z170-Deluxe consists of four total heatsinks. Two of them are connected with a heatpipe and cover part of the MOSFET area and one of the ASMedia controllers. A single heatsink is used to cover the other MOSFET area and the PCH. All of the heatsinks use thermal pads and were found to be making excellent contact with their target points. The MOSFETs get additional cooling from the plates that are attached at the back of the PCB. The last picture below is a close-up of the Z170 PCH.

PCH Heatsink Removed

PCH Heatsink Removed

Single MOSFET Heatsink

Single MOSFET Heatsink

Two Piece Heatsink - MOSFET Side

Two Piece Heatsink – MOSFET Side

Two Piece Heatsink - ASMedia Controller Side

Two Piece Heatsink – ASMedia Controller Side

Cooling Plates at Back of PCB

Cooling Plates at Back of PCB

Passive Cooling Solution Laid Out

Passive Cooling Solution Laid Out

Passive Cooling Kit - Thermal Pad Side Up

Passive Cooling Solution – Thermal Pad Side Up

Z170 PCH

Z170 PCH

With the heatsinks out of the way, we get a look at the massive 22-phase power phase design. Twenty phases are dedicated to the CPU, four are dedicated to the iGPU, and two are dedicated to the memory. We found three DIGI+ VRM controllers, so we’re assuming the CPU, memory, and iGPU each get their own controller. Voltage regulation is no longer embedded in the CPU, so that onus again falls back to motherboard manufacturers with the release of Skylake/Z170.

CPU and iGPU Power Phases

CPU and iGPU Power Phases

CPU and iGPU Power Phases

CPU and iGPU Power Phases

Memory Power Phases

Memory Power Phases

DIGI+ VRM #1

DIGI+ VRM #1

DIGI+ VRM #2

DIGI+ VRM #2

Memory DIGI+ VRM

Memory DIGI+ VRM

The ASUS UEFI BIOS

Initial entry into the UEFI BIOS lands you at the EZ Mode page. There is a basic set of parameters that can be customized from here, but enough to get you started. You can adjust such things as fan speed control, boot device priority, XMP profiles, etc. You can also view basic system monitoring and temperature information from here. If you need help fine tuning your system, the EZ Tuning wizard can be accessed. The wizard will guide you through an automatic overclock based on a few parameters you choose and even guide you through the process of setting up a RAID array. The novice user will find EZ Mode to be a great help in first time system setup. In addition, the QFan Control button can be pressed to access fan control based on a graphical interface. You can choose from preset variables or set things manually, and it works with both PWM or DC type fans!

EZ Mode

EZ Mode

EZ Tuning Wizard

EZ Tuning Wizard

QFan Control

QFan Control

By pressing F7, you enter the Advanced Mode area of the UEFI BIOS. If you prefer to land in Advanced mode when entering the UEFI BIOS, you have that option under the Boot tab. The first tab is called My Favorites where you can create shortcuts to your most visited areas of the UEFI BIOS. In the past, this area was always void of any entries and it was up to you to populate it. ASUS made a change here and preloaded many of the most popular locations for you. You can opt to clear these out and start fresh, or you can add to what’s already there. If you clear the preloaded shortcuts, they can always be restored from the setup tree menu.

My Favorites

My Favorites

My Favorites Setup Tree

My Favorites Setup Tree

Next in line is the Main tab, which is mostly informational. The language, system time and date, and security settings can be accessed from here.

Man Tab

Man Tab

Main Tab

Main Tab

Ai Tweaker is the next tab, which is where the enthusiast user will spend most of their time. Here is where all your overclocking options can be found, and there are lots of them. Voltage control, multipliers, memory frequencies, and several other options are available from the main Ai Tweaker tab. There are four sub menus for memory timings, DIGI+ power delivery, CPU power management, and Tweaker’s Paradise. Tweaker’s Paradise makes its debut on channel series motherboard and provides a few extra lower-level tweaking options.

As you peruse the pictures below, you’ll notice a few changes from the Haswell platform. First, BCLK straps no longer exist because adjustments to the BCLK speed no longer affect the DMI or PCI-E bus. In a nutshell, this means that the BCLK can operate freely within the confines of CPU core, Cache (Ring), memory, and BCLK generator. Depending on the CPU, a BCLK setting of up to 400 could be possible. Also notable is that memory ratio granularity has been improved and can now be adjusted in increments as little as 100/133 MHz increments. As a comparison, the only other platform using DDR4 (X99) is limited to 200/266 Mhz granularity. With these changes in place, you should find a greater variety of possible combinations to maximize clock frequencies.

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Ai Tweaker Tab

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Swing over to the Advanced tab, and we find 11 sub menus dealing mostly with system configuration options. A couple notable changes for Skylake/Z170 include a sub menu for SSD S.M.A.R.T. information and the option to set the PCH PCI-E speed to Gen 3, which coincides with the increase in PCI-E Gen 3 lanes to 20.

Advanced Tab

Advanced Tab

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The Monitor tab provides real time information on temperatures, fan speeds, and voltages. However, the star of this show is the QFan area, where you’ll find the industries’ best fan control options. PWM and DC control can be configured for every fan header on the motherboard and can be targeted to any monitored temperature. ASUS is the only manufacturer that offers this level of both PWM and DC fan control. The motherboard comes with plenty of fan headers and one T-Sensor, but you can add more of each with the purchase of the Fan Extension Card. If you do purchase the Fan Extension Card, those fans can also be controlled in the same manner as fans hooked to one of the motherboard’s fan headers. The T-Sensors on the card can be used as temperature targets as well. Another item worth noting here is the addition of fan step up and step down delays, which can be set anywhere from 2.1 seconds up to 25 seconds. This will eliminate those annoyingly wild (and often loud) fan speed fluctuations. Suffice to say, unless you have monster fans that exceed the wattage capability of onboard fan headers, the QFan control pretty much makes a fan controller obsolete.

Monitor Tab

Monitor Tab

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The Boot tab has all the system post behavior options. This is where you’ll set all your boot device priorities and several other post behavior options.

Boot Tab

Boot Tab

Boot Tab

Boot Tab

There are several useful utilities found under the Tool tab and some new additions here as well. The EZ Flash utility has been updated to version three and now includes the ability to flash the BIOS via the Internet. Secure Erase is one of our favorite tools as it saves you from having to install software or boot from a CD/USB device to perform the function. It can be a real time saver! The Overclocking Profile utility lets you save up to eight profiles right to the UEFI BIOS or an unlimited amount to a USB storage device. The SPD Information utility is just that. If gives you all the JDEC and XMP information on your installed memory modules including timings, voltage, and speed. Normally reserved for the ROG series motherboards, the Graphics Card Information utility includes GPU Post for the first time on Channel series motherboards. It shows you which PCI-E slots are populated, lane allocation, GPU name, and speed the card is running at.

Tool Tab

Tool Tab

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The Exit tab has the usual set of suspects, but includes a nifty pop-up window showing any changes made when you choose to save and reset.

Exit Tab

Exit Tab

Save & Reset Pop Up Window

Save & Reset Pop Up Window

Bundled Software – AI Suite III

AI Suite III is a comprehensive suite of software that offers many useful utilities. While it looks very similar to past versions we’ve looked at, there have been some additions to the package for this platform release. The way you navigate from utility to utility has changed to a slide-in menu that enters from the right side. From there, simply click on any of the options.

The Dual Intelligent Processors 5 (DIP5) utility is the highlight of AI Suite III and includes all the options you could ever need for automatic or manual overclocking. If you want to let DIP5 automatically overclock your system, just click on the 5-Way optimization button, set your parameters, and let it do its thing. You can target the overclock to the CPU voltage, frequency, or temperature; and it will stop the process once the target has been reached. There is a built in stress test that will automatically run at different stages of the process, which can also be customized to include memory testing, AVX routines, and the length of time it runs.

If you prefer manual overclocking, a trip into the TPU section will give you a detailed set of options that come close to mirroring what’s in the UEFI BIOS. Even the power delivery options can be customized by visiting the DIGI+ Power Control section of DIP5. If you’re concerned about power efficiency, then you’ll find the EPU section to be a useful tool. EPU allows you to customize power plans to different usage scenarios such as performance, power saving, and away modes.

DIP5 also holds the Fan Xpert 3 utility, which is widely regarded as the best desktop fan control software there is. It offers all the same options as the QFan feature we discussed in the UEFI BIOS, but in an easy to follow GUI format. Fax Xpert 3 also allows you to assign locations to any fan to quickly identify where it’s located inside your case. Another cool feature is that you can use the graphical fan slope option to control fans individually or mirror one fan’s settings to all the others with a single click.

DIP5 also contains the TurboApp utility, which allows application specific overclocking, audio, and LAN profiles. Often times, you’ll find that some applications will run perfectly fine at higher overclocks than others. TurboApp lets you apply user defined overclocks to any application and will apply them as soon as the application is launched. The audio and LAN profiles can also be applied when the application is launched, if desired.

AI Suite III Navigation

AI Suite III Navigation

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The rest of AI Suite III has many familiar faces and some new additions to the family. PC Cleaner is one of the new additions and will scan your system for unneeded files and offer to remove them after the scan.

PC Cleaner

PC Cleaner

We talked about the Key Express feature earlier, and the utility to make it all come together is part of AI Suite III. From here, you can set your Macro keys, set Windows login parameters, set function keys, button extenders, and shortcuts.

Key Express Utility

Key Express Utility

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One other new feature added to the AI Suite III family is Mobo Connect, which allows you to share a keyboard and mouse with any physically connected Android device.

Mobo Connect

Mobo Connect

The rest of AI Suite III is self explanatory by perusing the thumbnail images below, but here is a brief explanation. USB utilities include Ai Charger+ and USB 3.1 Boost. EZ Update can be used to check for system driver updates, software updates, and UEFI BIOS updates. The System Information utility is useful for checking motherboard, CPU, and memory SPD information at a glance. USB BIOS Flash back can automatically check for UEFI BIOS updates on a user defined schedule, and save the file to a USB storage device. Push Notice is designed to alert you of system events and has the ability to send notifications to your portable device (ASUS account setup required). The Version utility gives you the version numbers for all the AI Suite III utilities you have installed.

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For network prioritization, ASUS offers their Turbo LAN software. Once you work your way through the plethora of available options within the settings area, network traffic can be adjusted to give any application bandwidth priority over others.

Turbo LAN

Turbo LAN

Benchmarks and Overclocking

You may have noticed this is the motherboard we used to review the i7 6700K, which was also published this morning. In that review, we have comprehensive performance results, overclocking results, gaming performance, and a side by side comparison with the Haswell i7 4790K. There’s not much sense in duplicating all that information here, so we’ll refer you to the Skylake i7 6700K review for all the performance information you’ll ever need on the ASUS Z170-Deluxe. Having said that, what you’ll see in the i7 6700K review is that this motherboard displayed stellar performance, overclocked fantastic, and had no problem running a DDR4-3600 MHz memory kit. We were able to get a stable 4.8 GHz overclock and then pushed it to 5.0 GHz for a suicide run of SuperPi 1M. The ASUS Z170-Deluxe proved to be a top notch performer, no question.

One thing we didn’t check on during the Skylake i7 6700K review was the BCLK overclocking. Intel’s default design allows for a BCLK setting up to 170 MHz, but ASUS claims their custom Pro Clock technology extends the range up to 400 MHz. You’re not likely to get anywhere close to a 400 MHz BCLK setting, unless you hit the jackpot in the silicon lottery. In our case, we were able to pass well beyond the Intel limit of 170 MHz BCLK and landed at 220 MHz. So, we can confirm the Pro Clock technology does help in this regard. We didn’t do a stability check or run any benchmarks at this setting as this was more of “see if it works” adventure. In any event, working with BCLK without the PCI-E and DMI limitations of the past opens up some serious granular tuning opportunities.

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Conclusion

The Skylake/Z170 platform brings a lot of new technologies to the table, and the ASUS Z170-Deluxe stands ready to take full advantage of everything the new platform offers. As we found out during our Skylake i7 6700K processor review, the Z170-Deluxe took everything we threw at it and easily handled a stable overclock of 4.8 GHz while allowing the memory to run at 3600 MHz. That’s a pretty impressive combination that resulted in a hefty performance gain over the Haswell platform.

The UEFI BIOS was easy to navigate, responsive, and the settings you need are intelligently organized. The amount of overclocking options are plentiful and should appease even the most seasoned enthusiasts out there. Let’s not forget about the QFan control, which stands alone among its peers.

At the PCB level, the motherboard is well laid out and offers all the latest technologies the Skylake/Z170 platform offers. The massive power phase design is impressive and should help immensely when trying to push that last little bit from your overclock. The DIGI+ VRM is poised to take back control of voltage regulation now that the FIVR is no longer integrated into the CPU. If past history tells us anything, it’s more than up to the challenge.

Aesthetics are obviously subjective to one’s personal taste, but the Z170-Deluxe has a classic look to it that should appeal to a wide range of potential buyers. We could probably do without the hint of blue on the heatsinks, but it’s not overbearing in the least.

Ok, let’s talk price. If the Z170-Deluxe isn’t available for purchase by the time you read this, it will be shortly thereafter. ASUS tells us the MSRP will be right at $320, which is almost exactly what we were expecting. Given the Z97-Deluxe is still hovering around $290 to $300, the small increase is well justified given everything the new platform offers. If you’re looking to jump into the Skylake/Z170 platform, the ASUS Z170-Deluxe has everything you need to take full advantage of what it offers.

What does this mean? Click to find out!

What does this mean? Click to find out!

Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)

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