EVGA Z170 Stinger Motherboard Review

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Today, I come to you with the fortune to review another new installment from EVGA’s Z170 motherboard series. This time around it’s the Z170 Stinger that’ll be shown the ropes. The Stinger’s feature set is largely unchanged from last generation. I can’t wait to see what features they kept, improved, and dropped from this newest iteration. Who else is ready?

Specifications and Features

Taking a quick look at the specifications of the Z170 Stinger, there’s a few things which stand out: 4 phase PWM power section, 3200 MHz DDR4 Dual-Channel support, and mITX form factor. The board has eight USB 3.0 ports (two front/ six rear) along with a single Gigabit Ethernet connection. Note, there is no SLI support since the form factor only allowing for 1x PCIe slot.

EVGA Z170 Stinger Specs
CPU Intel® Socket 1151 for 6th Generation Processor Family
Chipset Intel Z170 Express Chipset
Memory 2x DIMM Dual-Channel DDR4 3200MHz+ (up to 32GB)
Expansion Slots 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 (Supports NVMe SSDs)
1x M.2 Key-E (WiFi/Bluetooth only – NO SSDs)
Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor – 1x DP 1.2, 1x HDMI 1.4
SLI Support N/A (only one PCIe slot)
Storage 4x SATA 6G on Z170 PCH – RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
LAN 1x Intel® i219 Gigabit NIC
Audio Realtek 8 Channel High Definition Audio – ALC1150
USB 8x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0 – Z170 PCH
Back I/O Ports 1x DisplayPort
1x HDMI
1x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
6x USB 3.0 (blue)
2x USB 2.0 (black)
1x Optical S/PDIF out
5x Audio jack(s)
1x Clear CMOS button(s)
OS Support Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10
Form Factor mITX Form Factor
Length: 6.7in – 170.18mm
Width: 6.7in – 170.18mm

The next table lists the high-level feature set of the Z170 Stinger. All images and descriptions provided by EVGA.

EVGA Z170 Stinger Features
2015-11-28 16_10_14-www.evga.com_products_pdf_111-SS-E172.pdf Full UEFI GUI BIOS Interface
– Focused on functionality
2015-11-28 16_10_23-www.evga.com_products_pdf_111-SS-E172.pdf E-LEET X Tuning Utility
– Adjust your overclocking in the OS
2015-11-28 16_08_38-www.evga.com_products_pdf_111-SS-E172.pdf Onboard CPU Temp Monitor
– Monitor CPU temps quickly & easily
2015-11-28 16_08_50-www.evga.com_products_pdf_111-SS-E172.pdf 4 Phase PWM
– Cleanest variable power switching
2015-11-28 16_09_00-www.evga.com_products_pdf_111-SS-E172.pdf Passive Chipset Heatsink
– No fans, lower noise, longer lifespan
2015-11-28 16_09_12-www.evga.com_products_pdf_111-SS-E172.pdf 10 Layer PCB
– Improved overclock stability and PCB cooling
2015-11-28 16_09_23-www.evga.com_products_pdf_111-SS-E172.pdf Higher Gold Content
– Lower inductance, better power delivery!
2015-11-28 16_09_31-www.evga.com_products_pdf_111-SS-E172.pdf Onboard Power, Reset, and CMOS Reset
– Power at your fingertips

Retail Packaging

Looking at the packaging, I see a very similar design as the Z170 FTW and the last iteration, as well. Simple front with the brand and logo to catch your eye, while the back is a full feature and specification listing. The sides of the box contain other information about the motherboard, but all the major features are located on the front and rear. All sides of the box are pictured below.

Retail Packaging - Front

Retail Packaging – Front

Retail Packaging - Rear

Retail Packaging – Rear

Retail Packaging - Top

Retail Packaging – Top

Retail Packaging - Bottom

Retail Packaging – Bottom

Retail Packaging - Left

Retail Packaging – Left

Retail Packaging - Right

Retail Packaging – Right

Inside the marketing box, there’s a simple black box keeping the motherboard safe!

Retail Packaging - Inner

Retail Packaging – Inner

Accessories

The accessory set includes a driver CD, case badge, M.2 adapter, 2x SATA cables, manual, I/O shield, and I/O cover. The Stinger has plenty to get you up and running, whether it’s your first or hundredth build.

The I/O cover is an aesthetic piece which bolts down with your motherboard and keeps the bright boxes of the I/O area out of view when using a windowed case. It’s a nice touch to give an “attention to detail” look to a build. The rear I/O shield build quality is better than expected, which has foam on the inside to dampen vibration.

Accessory Package

Accessory Package

Here is where my first issue was reached; the M.2 connector which plugs into the motherboard had bent pins. All the accessories were packaged in their own anti-static bags, but these bags were loose in the box with the motherboard. I’m surprised this was the extent of damage I found since there was no compartment for the accessories. After trying to bend the pins back, I don’t believe I could without damaging them permanently.

Damaged M.2 Connector

Damaged M.2 Connector

The EVGA Z170 Stinger

Enough dilly dally, let’s look at the goods (motherboard)! Like the last version of the Stinger, EVGA chose a solid black theme. Immediately seen are two decently-sized heatsinks and the single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot. Flipping the board over, we see the full PCIe slot is soldered, which I expect since it’s the only slot. All the heatsinks are attached with screws, which is expected on a motherboard at this level.

I was shocked to see EVGA released the motherboard without an M.2 slot supporting SSDs. The majority of other Z170 motherboards have this feature, especially since it is now part of the Intel chipset features.

Motherboard - Front

Motherboard – Front

Motherboard - Rear

Motherboard – Rear

Motherboard - Oblique

Motherboard – Oblique

A Closer Look

Let’s take our first look at the top-middle section of the motherboard. Here we find all three 4-pin PWM fan headers, 8-pin CPU power connector, and Debug LED/CPU Temp Monitor. EVGA implemented a nice feature giving the debug LED two functions: displaying the boot error codes while booting, and displaying the CPU temperature once running.

The upper right corner of the motherboard is fairly barren, due to the form factor. This area only holds the power and reset buttons.

Motherboard - Upper

Motherboard – Upper

Motherboard - Upper Right

Motherboard – Upper Right

Shifting down to the lower right portion of the Stinger, we find a few more pieces and parts here. These are the 24-pin motherboard power connection, case switch/LED connections, 4x SATA ports, and the removable BIOS chip. The nice thing about EVGA’s removable BIOS chip is they actually have a “door” over the chip instead of just the open socket like most motherboards.

Over on the lower left side of the motherboard is where EVGA really packed in some connectors and features. Here lies the audio section (detailed more later) with front audio connector, M.2 connection for the included adapter, USB 3.0 front panel connector, and CMOS battery. I like the location of this CMOS battery as it can be accessed with the CPU cooler and GPU still installed on the board!

Motherboard - Lower Right

Motherboard – Lower Right

Motherboard - Lower Left

Motherboard – Lower Left

BIOS Chip Holder

BIOS Chip Holder

BIOS Chip

BIOS Chip

Looking at the rear I/O ports there are quite a few connections. The first two ports are USB 2.0 and the next six are USB 3.0. There are two display connections; one is an HDMI 1.4 port and the other is DisplayPort 1.2. For audio there are five 3.5mm analog connections and one S/PDIF optical output. Last, but not least, are the Gigabit Ethernet port and CMOS clear button.

Notably missing from the rear I/O are the USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C connections most current Z170 motherboards are equipped with. This is important for future compatibility with new devices since USB 3.1 is the newest standard.

Motherboard - Rear I/O Ports

Motherboard – Rear I/O Ports

Stripping the Stinger

Now to see what the heatsinks are hiding! This VRM section is a 4+2+1 phase setup. This means it is broken up into 4 phases for the CPU, 2 phases for the iGPU (with 4 capacitors), and 1 phase for the VCCSA. The CPU is fed power controlled by an International Rectifier IR35201 chip, which is a fully digital PWM voltage regulation module.

Great components, but I don’t feel like cutting one third of the VRM phases, compared to the last generation, is a good thing. This VRM would likely be enough for Haswell, considering the Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator (FIVR) was on-die for that generation of CPUs. Since the voltage regulator was moved back to the motherboard for Skylake, it’s going to stress these 4-phases fairly hard at the top range of an overclock. We’ll have to wait until later in the review to see how they perform.

Motherboard – VRM Exposed

Motherboard – VRM Exposed

The heatsinks on this motherboard are a design very similar to the Z170 FTW, except smaller. However, for an mITX board, the heatsinks are a good size. The thermal pads and thermal paste both made great contact with their targeted components as well.

Heatsinks Rear View

Heatsinks Rear View

The audio section of the motherboard is nicely isolated from the rest of the components. The isolation strip in the motherboard is also lit with white LEDs. This section is controlled by the latest Realtek audio codec, the ALC1150.

Motherboard - Audio Section

Motherboard – Audio Section

Realtek ALC1150

Realtek ALC1150

Below is a picture of the Gigabit Ethernet controller on the board and it’s the newest Intel model currently in use, the i219V.

Intel i219V

Intel i219V

UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software

This BIOS is almost identical to last generation’s user interface, and seems to be identical to the Z170 FTW. In the first slideshow, the Overclock and Memory tabs are shown. In the Overclock tab, there’s control for CPU ratio, BCLK frequency, and system voltages. In the Memory tab, there are settings for memory speed, timings, and voltages. This tab also lets you set an XMP profile for the system memory. As before, there is control for primary, secondary, and tertiary timings in this BIOS.

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The next slideshow details out the Advanced tab. This is where all the system tweaks which don’t belong in an overclocking setting are located. From here things such as power savings, fan controls, and onboard devices can be configured to user preferred settings, among many other features.

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Found in the third and final slideshow are the Boot and Save & Exit tabs of the BIOS. Here the user can set where to boot from along with other startup settings, save BIOS profiles, and override the boot device for a one-time boot.

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EVGA’s E-LEET X Tuning Utility has been around for a few motherboard generations at this point. There were no issues installing or using the software, as it is the same release which came with the Z170 FTW. E-LEET X has features such as system monitoring, system information, and overclocking adjustability. There’s one key function I found to be missing though, vCore control. The software allows you to set all the voltages and speeds the BIOS does, with the exception of vCore and memory speed. Screenshots of the software can be seen in the slideshow below.

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Test Setup, Benchmarks, and Overclocking

Listed below is the test system used for benchmarking.

Test Setup
CPU Intel 6700K @ Stock (for the motherboard – 4.0 boost to 4.2 GHz), 4.7 GHz for Overclocking
Cooler CoolerMaster Glacer 240L
Motherboard EVGA Z170 Stinger
RAM 2×4GB DDR4 GSKILL RipJaws4 @ 3000MHz 15-15-15-35 2T 1.35v
Graphics Card EVGA GTX 750Ti FTW
Solid State Drive Samsung 850 Pro 256GB
Power Supply EVGA SuperNova G2 850W
Operating System Windows 7 x64 SP1
Graphics Drivers 353.30

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, Intel XTU, and PiFast. For rendering it’s Cinebench R11.5 and R15. Memory performance is checked against AIDA64 and MaxxMEM. For encoding, we use x264 and PoV Ray. Stock testing is performed with the BIOS as you get it out of the box, which will vary from motherboard to motherboard. When overclocking, a CPU speed of 4.7 GHz will be used for testing purposes. Memory speed is unchanged.

Memory Bandwidth and Throughput Benchmarks – AIDA64 and MaxxMEM2

AIDA 4GHz

AIDA 4GHz

AIDA 4.7GHz

AIDA 4.7GHz

MaxxMEM 4GHz

MaxxMEM 4GHz

MaxxMEM 4.7GHz

MaxxMEM 4.7GHz

CPU Rendering Benchmarks – Cinebench R11.5 and R15

Cinebench R11 4GHz

Cinebench R11 4.7GHz

Cinebench R15 4GHz

Cinebench R15 4.7GHz

Single Threaded CPU Benchmarks – Super Pi 1M and 32M / Pifast

SuperPi 1M 4GHz

SuperPi 1M 4GHz

SuperPi 1M 4.7GHz

SuperPi 1M 4.7GHz

SuperPi 32M 4GHz

SuperPi 32M 4GHz

SuperPi 32M 4.7GHz

SuperPi 32M 4.7GHz

PiFast 4GHz

PiFast 4GHz

PiFast 4.7GHz

PiFast 4.7GHz

Multi-Threaded CPU Benchmarks – WPrime 32M and 1024M, x264, PoV Ray R3.73, 7Zip, and Intel XTU

wPrime 4GHz

wPrime 4GHz

wPrime 4.7GHz

wPrime 4.7GHz

x264 4GHz

x264 4GHz

x264 4.7GHz

x264 4.7GHz

POVRay 4GHz

POVRay 4GHz

POVRay 4.7GHz

POVRay 4.7GHz

7zip 4GHz

7zip 4GHz

7zip 4.7GHz

7zip 4.7GHz

XTU 4GHz

XTU 4.7GHz

Overall, the results seemed to be in line with previous motherboard reviews. One or two benchmarks were a bit higher or lower than expected, but not outside margin of error.

Pushing the Limits

This is the part where I ran into issues, as the board never wanted to stabilize my 6700K at 4.8GHz like other boards I’ve reviewed. I had a gut feeling this would happen when I had to give more voltage than usual to get to 4.7GHz though. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue to me for an mITX motherboard, but when EVGA is advertising the board as “mITX, Built to OC” on Newegg and “Improved overclock stability” in their features, it should be able to max the CPU on ambient cooling.

Bonus Section – EVGA mITX Build

I’ve used an EVGA Hadron Air for my main rig for almost 2 years now. After receiving the Z170 Stinger for a review sample, I knew this section needed to happen. Below is a table detailing what’s included in this build update.

Build Setup
CPU Intel 6700K @ Stock (for now, will most likely land at 4.5GHz)
Cooler Noctua NH-U9S
Motherboard EVGA Z170 Stinger
RAM 2×16GB DDR4 GSKILL TridentZ @ 2800MHz 14-14-14-35 1.35v
Graphics Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980 SC GAMING ACX 2.0
Solid State Drive Samsung 850 EVO 500GB
Power Supply EVGA 500W 80+ Gold (Included with Hadron)
Operating System Windows 10 x64

There were a couple of other reasons for this. First, I was out of RAM with my last build; the system had crashed out several times after using all 16GB (Photoshop can be brutal at times). Second, I had the “new build itch.” And, lastly, who doesn’t want the newest parts in their main system?

This system had been using the EVGA ACX mITX cooler until a few days ago. When I went to build the Stinger into the system, I ran into a slight issue; the cooler overlaps the first RAM slot of the motherboard ever so slightly. This caused it to bump into the TridentZ, which didn’t let the heatsink clip in. Thanks to Amazon, though, I had an NH-U9S on Tuesday after ordering late on a Sunday. This cooler clears the RAM perfectly (it doesn’t overlap the RAM slot). There goes the all-black, all-EVGA theme for the build, but I won’t complain about an excuse to use Noctua in a system.

Build Pic 1

Build Pic 1

Build Pic 2

Build Pic 2

Build Pic 3

Build Pic 3

For more pictures, and some discussion, check out my Little Power Build Log!

Conclusion

In typical fashion for my reviews, I’ll start out here with the negatives. Unfortunately I ran in to quite a few; no SSD support on M.2, damaged M.2 adapter, no USB 3.1 support, the ACX mITX cooler overlapping the first RAM slot, and the top-end overclocking stability. Now, none of these were detrimental issues for me, but when your competition has M.2 SSD support and USB 3.1 support it is hard to get a first look without it. This is simply new technology, some of which is integrated into the Z170 PCH, and is expected on a top-end motherboard.

I would like to address the overclocking stability separately. My issue isn’t because I have an mITX board in hand which will only do 4.7 GHz, which is great. The issue is how the motherboard is marketed. If it weren’t marketed as “Built to OC” we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Due to the marketing though, my expectations were the same as all the other Z170 motherboards I’ve reviewed: I would run out of cooler instead of running out of board.

There are some positives to the board, though. It is quite a looker; the board design is very appealing and will appeal to a wide array of people. The power and fan connectors are in very logical positions on the motherboard and will make cable management easy, in most cases. The BIOS and software both work well and have a simple UI to find settings in.

Now, let’s talk dough, and I don’t mean the delicious kind. The Z170 Stinger will run you $199.99 at Newegg, which is the MSRP. This is on the high side of mITX Z170 motherboards, with only the Maximus VIII Impact coming in at a higher price. The price is also up $30 from where the Z97 Stinger released, but it has more features and a VRM with half again the phases. When compared to some of the close competition, the Stinger comes in at a higher price (anywhere from $30 to $65 higher) than competition with similar features plus USB 3.1, WiFi, M.2 SSD Support, and stronger VRM sections.

I’m giving the Z170 Stinger a “meh” and here’s why; it works. There’s no doubt the board is stable at a moderate OC and it has a decent feature set. That said, it is priced much higher than boards with a lot more features which would be commonly looked for on any Skylake system.

oc_meh

Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

-Austin (ATMINSIDE)

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