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GIGABYTE AORUS Z270X-Gaming 5 Motherboard Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,088
Location
Montreal
Now I know what many of you are thinking: "Who or what is AORUS?". Well my curious friends, AORUS is the gaming-oriented brand that GIGABYTE launched exactly three years ago. Thus far, the AORUS name has been used on a number of premium gaming products, such as laptops, mice, keyboards, and even a few gamer-friendly backpacks. Always looking for new opportunities, it was recently decided that the brand should be branched out into motherboard market, and what better time to launch a new motherboard product line than with the release of the new Kaby Lake processors and Z270 chipset.

If you will once again permit the use of my psychic powers, some of you are thinking: "Will these new AORUS motherboards exist alongside GIGABYTE models?" Yes, that is correct. AORUS models will be slightly more upscale than the average GIGABYTE motherboard, with more premium features, a different design, and a slightly higher price tag as well. Kind of like the position ROG models occupy in the ASUS product line. Some of what you can look forward to in the higher-end models are integrated water blocks, Creative Sound Core 3D audio chips, Killer LAN controllers, HDMI 2.0 video outputs, exclusive gamecasting/streaming software, and more.

While we look forward to reviewing those fully decked out motherboards, today we are going to take a look at a model that is at the more budget-friendly end of the spectrum. The AORUS Z270X-Gaming 5 will retail for about $200 USD, so it won't break the bank, but it still comes packed with a ton of features and a healthy specs list in order to woo new customers to the brand. For starters, this model features a 11-phase CPU power design, three steel-reinforced PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or 3-way CrossFireX, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, six SATA 6Gb/s ports or three SATA Express ports, one U.2 port, and a pair of full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slots - at least one of which will support Intel’s upcoming Optane SSD product line. There are also two high-speed USB 3.1 ports, one Type-A and one Type-C, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, as well as two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 headers.

On the networking front, this model has two gigabit LAN ports, one is Intel-powered and the other runs off the newest Killer E2500 LAN controller, and thus supports the powerful Killer Network Manager utility. Needless to say, the aforementioned utility is the tip of iceberg in GIGABYTE's large software suite that is comprised of a few truly useful applications. They have also added the little elements that we often take for granted like two physical BIOS chips, a debug LED display, six onboard temperature sensors, two temperature sensor headers, two high current fan headers that support water pumps, and more.


Those who plan on making use of Kaby Lake's integrated graphics will have to make due with either a DisplayPort and an HDMI 1.4 port, both of which are gold plated just like the five analog audio jacks. Speaking of audio, the onboard AMP-UP audio solution is based on the brand new Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel HD audio codec, and features both a headphone amplifier and gain switch, as well as audio-grade Nichicon capacitor. As we have come to expect, there is also a PCB isolation line that helps protect the audio components from electromagnetic interference. Those that desire even better audio quality will also be glad to know that there is a USB DAC-UP 2 port, which is a special port that have been isolated from the rest of the motherboard in order to minimize the signal noise that gets transferred to your external USB DAC.

While GIGABYTE have dabbled with LED lighting on previous models, with this new generation they are now fully committed to this 'must-have' feature. Dubbed RGB Fusion, this new RGB LGB lighting implementation has what it takes to turn the inside of your case into a full fledged disco ball light show. These RGB LEDs are placed not only under the little plastic strip that covers the audio section, but under the chipset cooler, under the PCI-E x16 slots, and even near the CPU socket. There is also a cool lighting strip on the top-right edge of the motherboard near the memory slots, and even a bunch of LEDs directly in between each memory slot. It’s an approach we’ve never seen on any other motherboard.

There is also an RGBW LED light strip header on which you can plug an aftermarket LED light strip. All of these LEDs as well as the header are controlled using the new RGB Fusion application. These lights can be adjusted to any number of different colours and customized to create cool lighting effects, like fading in and out, syncing with your music, cycling through all of the colours, flashing on and off, flashing sections randomly, or even just displaying one static colour.

So overall there is a lot here that we are anxious to check out. However, given the fact that AORUS is a new brand in the motherboard market, we are definitely going to be putting the Z270X-Gaming 5 under the microscope today. Hopefully, everything has been well implemented, since brands only have one chance to make a favourable first impression on consumers.

By the way, since we're publishing multiple articles this week, keep an eye out our reviews of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 and the ASUS Maximus IX Hero.

 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the Z270X-Gaming 5 features and specifications in the intro, it is time to examine the packaging and then crack open the box to take a look at the bundled accessories. Let's check it out:



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While the basic design and typography are unmistakably GIGABYTE's, the large AORUS logo will obviously be new to anyone that isn't previously familiar with the brand. On the back of the box, you will find quite a bit of information regarding all of the interesting features that have been packed onto this model, as well as a handy rear I/O panel diagram and a full specifications list.


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Once you flip open the box, you are greeted with two separate sections, the top half securely holds the motherboard in an anti-static bag while the bottom half contains the accessories, the documentation and the software DVD.




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The Z270X-Gaming 5 comes with a decent enough accessories bundle, which consists of a user manual, installation guide, driver and software DVD, AORUS sticker, rear I/O shield, four SATA 6Gb/s cables, and the useful front-panel connector so that users don't have to fiddle with individual wires when first installing the motherboard in their case. The unusual looking cable is an extension cable for the RGBW LED header that will allow users to plug in a standard 5050-type light strip.

As you might have noticed, there is no 2-way SLI bridge, which slightly disappointing since motherboards have historically included one. However, apparently there will be a fancy AORUS version available for purchase.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,088
Location
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A Closer Look at the Z270X-Gaming 5

A Closer Look at the Z270X-Gaming 5




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While we have seen this black and white colour scheme before, this AORUS motherboard does it best thanks to the futuristic-looking and incredibly difficult to photograph MOSFET heatsinks and white plastic shroud, which features a bunch of sharp angles and edges. The overall design looks great, and it might give owners an incentive to seek out some of the many white components (case, fans, memory kits, power supplies, etc) that are available nowadays. If you aren't too fond of the white trim pieces, don't worry, you can use the cool lighting effects to basically bathe this whole motherboard in whatever colour combination that you prefer.

All the numerous buttons, connectors, and ports are easily accessible and free from possible obstruction. The two CPU fan headers are well positioned, and the three system fan headers are spread evenly across the motherboard. There is also a huge amount of spacing between two main PCI-E x16 slots, so there won’t be any issues fitting thick dual or even triple-slot graphics cards on this motherboard. We also like the placement of the M.2 slots, since many motherboards seem to place at least one slot directly under the primary graphics card, which is a problem because very high performance M.2 solid state drives have been known to throttle themselves when running too hot.

Lastly, the Z270X-Gaming 5 adheres to the standard ATX form factor (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm / 12.0-in x 9.6-in), so there are no weird sizing issues to worry about.



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Since we were previously talking about aesthetics, here you can get a closer look at the white stripes that have been silk-screened to the matte black PCB. This is not the first motherboard to feature heavy graphics on the PCB, but the novelty hasn't worn off yet. By the way, if you look at the pictures very closely, you might spot the four RGB LEDs that have been strategically placed next to and even in-between the power chokes.

This motherboard has been outfitted with a robust 11-phase CPU power design that utilizes an Intersil ISL95856 hybrid digital PWM controller and Vishay MOSFETs. There are eight doubled phases for the cores and three simple phases for the integrated graphics portion of the processor. Other rails like VCCSA and VCCIO are handled by simple linear regulators, which is fine because they don't have anywhere near the same power delivery requirements. We appreciate the fact this model uses long-lasting Nippon Chemi-Con 10K Durable Black capacitors, as well as GIGABYTE's custom sealed ferrite core chokes.

The extruded aluminium heatsinks - which feature another small sheet of decorative aluminium on top - should be more than capable of cooling the aforementioned MOSFETs.


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Directly below the CPU socket is one of the two M.2 slot, with a full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface, theoretical maximum bandwidth of 32Gb/s, and support for SATA, PCI-E, and PCI-E NVMe M.2 solid state drives. Since there is one additional mounting hole even M.2 22110 form factor SSDs - which are 110 millimeters long instead of the usual 80mm - can be installed. This slot also supports RAID in coordination with the other M.2 slot.

As you will see in our feature test section, there is no performance difference between the two M.2 slots, and they both perform as well as an add-on M.2 expansion card.



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The four DDR4 slots are fed by a single phase VRM, they supports up to 64GB of total system memory, and they have been certified for overclocked memory speeds of up to DDR4-4000+. Make sure to check out our Overclocking Results section to see whether we were able to hit that level. By the way, unlike on most recent GIGABYTE models, the memory slots are not clipless on one side, but as you'll see in our Installation section there are no clearance issues with the back of the primary graphics card.

If you take a closer look, you will see that GIGABYTE have sandwiched rows of LEDs in between the individual memory slots. This is something that we have never seen before, and as you will in our RGB Fusion feature test page, the effect is pretty awesome. There is also a clear plastic strip on the right edge of the motherboard that also lights up, and it is another truly unique addition that creates a visual impact.

Last, but not least, are the OC and ECO buttons that activate built-in performance or energy-saving presets. Personally, we would have much preferred Power and Reset buttons, but no such luck.


To the left of the 24-pin ATX power connector are the two internal USB 3.0 headers that can be used to add another four USB 3.0 ports to the front of your case.



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This motherboard features six SATA 6Gb/s ports, all of which are supplied by the Z270 PCH and as a result support RAID 0/1/5/10 plus Intel Rapid Storage Technology. There are three 10Gb/s SATA Express ports as well, but obviously they are part of the aforementioned SATA ports. The lonely U.2 port features up to 32Gb/s of bandwidth, which is great, but at the moment it can only be used with an Intel 750 Series SSD.

We already showed you the top M.2 slot, and there is also a bottom one. It once again features a full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface, theoretical maximum bandwidth of 32Gb/s, and support for SATA, PCI-E, and PCI-E NVMe M.2 solid state drives. This slot is limited to 2280 form factor drives that are 80mm long.

Thanks to the new Z270 chipset, at least one of these two slots is also Optane Ready. While Intel have not been particularly forthcoming with Optane-related news, we do know that due to the very high cost of 3D XPoint memory the first consumer product will likely be a small SSD cache device (offered in both 16GB & 32GB sizes) that will be referred to as a "system accelerator". While Intel has had a similar idea in the past - think Intel Smart Response Technology - Optane should make a more significant impact due to the ultra-low latency and ultra-high IOPS capabilities of 3D XPoint memory. However, only time will tell.
 
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MAC

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Location
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A Closer Look at the Z270X-Gaming 5 pt.2

A Closer Look at the Z270X-Gaming 5 pt.2




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The lower-right corner and the bottom edge of the motherboard is where you will find the handy colour-coded front panel header, the CLR CMOS jumper, debug LED display, and one of the three system fan headers. This particular system fan header is one of the two that can supply up to 2 amps, and is thus compatible with both high current fans as well as water pumps.

The bottom edge of the motherboard is also where you will find two USB 2.0 headers, the TPM header, the RGBW LED light strip header, one of the two temperature sensor headers, the front panel audio header, and the audio gain switch. The RGBW LED light strip header is where you can plug in any 5050 RGB LED lighting strip, and not only have it fully powered by the motherboard but also controlled by the Fusion RGB utility.

The audio gain control switch allows you to set the gain from the default 2.5X to 6X for the headphone/speaker jack on the rear I/O panel. This essentially amplifies the incoming source signal, which can be beneficial for hard to drive headphones.


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Much like previous generations, mainstream Skylake processors support sixteen PCI-E 3.0 lanes for graphics purposes. These lanes are divided across two separate PCI-E x16 slots thanks to a handful of ASMedia ASM1480 PCI-E 3.0 switches. The third mechanical PCI-E x16 3.0 slot operates at x4, and as far as I can tell, it doesn’t actually share it’s bandwidth with anything else. Likewise, it doesn't appear that anything affects the three PCI-E x1 slots, which receive their lanes from the Z270 PCH.

In a regular single graphics card setup, the first PCI-E x16 slot will obviously operate at PCI-E 3.0 x16. In a dual graphics card configuration, the first and second slots will operate at PCI-E 3.0 x8, which will still provide ample bandwidth for even the highest-end GPUs. This 2-Way configuration is the limit for SLI however, as NVIDIA doesn't support SLI on any PCI-E x4 slots, which as mentioned above is the limit for the third PCI-E x16 slot. If you install three Radeon graphics cards, the expansion slots will be running at x8/x8/x4 in PCI-E 3.0 mode. This is obviously not optimal since this last slot doesn't have a direct low latency connection to the processor, but Triple CrossFireX does work in theory.

One of the new features that GIGABYTE are promoting are the fully reinforced full-size PCI-E slots. Not only are the slots covered by stainless steel shielding, but they feature additional anchor points ensuring that even the heaviest graphics cards won't cause any mechanical failures. Sharp-eyed readers will notice the two little white dots under the slots, those are the RGB LEDs that are placed under the first two PCI-E x16 slots. Speaking of which, between those two slots are the two soldered BIOS chips, which make up the DualBIOS feature.



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Once we removed the plastic shroud, we revealed that the heart of this motherboard's AMP-UP onboard audio is the brand new Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel HD audio codec. Next to the bank of Nichicon Fine Gold Series audio-grade capacitors is where you will find the Texas Instruments NE5532P op-amp, which serves as headphone amplifier for the front-panel headphone jack. If the NE5532's sonic qualities don't match your tastes that is not a problem since it is not soldered and thus easily replaceable.

The PCB isolation line surrounds the audio section of the PCB and protects it from the rest of the system. This helps preserve the signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio and thus ensure the highest possible signal quality. Regrettably, there is no electromagnetic interference (EMI) shield covering the Realtek codec, which is a bit of a disappointment at this price point.

Unlike most motherboards, which have the LEDs mounted on the back side of the isolation line so that the light can shine through, this model has the LEDs mounted on the top of the motherboard so that they can shine through the little windows on the plastic shroud that covers the audio subsystem.

As mentioned above, there is also an audio gain control switch, which allows you to set the gain from the default 2.5X to 6X for the headphone/speaker jack on the rear I/O panel.


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The Z270X-Gaming 5 has pretty good rear I/O panel assortment. Starting from left to right, there is a combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, two USB 2.0 ports, gold-plated DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4 ports, USB 3.1 Type-A and USB 3.1 Type-C ports, two gigabit LAN ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, five gold-plated analog audio jacks and one S/PDIF output.

One of those USB ports is the USB DAC-UP 2 port, which is a special port that have been isolated from the rest of the motherboard in order to minimize the signal noise that gets transferred to your external USB DAC. You can also increase the voltage to this port in order to better power your DAC, or just to make up for any cable-related losses.




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Once we removed the plastic shroud, we got to take a peek at the various controllers powering the rear I/O ports. There is a modern Intel I219-V gigabit LAN controller, a Killer E2500 gigabit LAN controller, a ASMedia ASM1442K IC is responsible for the HDMI output, an ASMedia ASM2142 USB 3.1 Gen2 host controller, and both an ITE IT8686E and IT8792E. These last two are responsible for fan control, temperature and voltage monitoring, the PS/2 port, as well as expanding some overclocking features.


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Aside from a small Richtek RT8288A - which is a step-down regulator with an internal MOSFET - there are no other noteworthy ICs or controllers on the backside of the motherboard. All the heatsinks and the plastic shroud are attached with metal screws, which is what we expect from a quality motherboard like this one.


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While the PCB isolation line that surrounds the audio sub-system is quite visible, there are no LEDs mounted on the rear of the motherboard, they are all on the topside close to the lower left edge of the motherboard.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether there is adequate clearance in all critical areas.


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Since it has such an unobstructed CPU socket area, installing any type of cooling on this motherboard should be a breeze. No matter if we install it in the East-West or North-South orientation, our Prolimatech Mega Shadow cooler and its numerous bits of mounting hardware had no issues physically clearing the capacitors or the MOSFET heatsinks.


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Unlike on most motherboards, we did not encounter any clearance issues between standard height memory modules and our large CPU cooler. The cooler's fan clips did not make contact with the nearest memory module, but obviously you will need to remove the clips and the fan in order to install/uninstall the RAM module placed in the first slot. However, when we swapped in very tall memory modules, there were clearance issues even in the farthest memory slots. The solution is obviously to find another way hold the fan in place, or to mount it on the other side of the heatsink.


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Thanks to the expansion slot layout, there is a large gap between the DDR4 memory slots and the back of the graphics card, so there is no need to take out the GPU in order to release the clips and install/uninstall the memory modules. The 24-pin ATX power connector and the 8-pin CPU power connector are both ideally placed, so that makes assembling and disassembling the system just a tad easier.




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This motherboard will hold one, two, or even three dual-slot graphics cards without difficulty. The cards will obviously extend past the motherboard length-wise, and that last card will overhang all the headers on the bottom edge of the motherboard. Since there is a decent amount of room between the primary graphics card and the heatsink, it was relatively easy to reach the PCI-E slot release clip. One of the welcome layout choices is that no matter how many dual-slot cards are installed, there are always two PCI-E x1 slots usable.


The 90-degree SATA/SATA Express ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed, as is the lonely U.2 port.


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Installing an M.2 SSD in the top M.2 slot is a trouble-free affair. You shouldn’t need to remove your CPU heatsink, but you will have to remove any graphics card installed the primary PCI-E x16 slots since the space between the heatsink and the back of the graphics card will likely be rather minimal.


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Installing an M.2 SSD on the bottom M.2 slot is also simple. Obviously, any dual-slot expansion card installed in the secondary PCI-E x16 slot you cover the slot, so that card will need to removed before installing or removing any solid state drive.


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We were able to install our Prolimatech Mega Shadow heatsink without running into any issues, but its large rear mounting bracket did come pretty close to one little solder point. This is the case on most motherboards, so nothing to worry about there.
 

MAC

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Messages
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Location
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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


For this new generation, GIGABYTE have actually gone back to a dual mode UEFI. They have revived the more GUI heavy mode - now known as Easy Mode - which should give more novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings using only their mouse. The more feature-rich and text heavy Classic Mode has been refreshed, and while it is also mouse-friendly, it is easy to navigate with a keyboard and it caters to power users very well.



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The Easy Mode makes good use of the graphical user interface (GUI) and was designed to be used with a mouse. It obviously does not have all the functionality of the Classic Mode, but it is not meant to. It simply gives novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings. The CPU temperature, CPU Vcore and system temperature readouts are oviously handu. The EZ OC feature allows users to decide whether they want their system to be optimized for maximum performance, energy efficiency, or just a mix of both. You can also enable your memory kit's XMP profile for this page. The Boot Sequence manager is a welcome addition, just in case the system tries booting off of the wrong storage device. Last, but not least, the Smart Fan 5 feature gives users full manual or preset-based control over all of the systems fans. It allows users to set temperature warnings, and even has it's own temperature monitoring section that highlights the impressive six temperature sensors that have been integrated onto this motherboard.

If you're confused about what the keyboard shortcuts are, just hit the ALT key and a useful pop-up will show you what the options are.


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When compared to the previous generation, the UEFI BIOS has received a fairly significant aesthetic overhaul. It has a more modern looking and less flat design, but we wouldn't necessarily say that it's better...just different.

The first page that you are presented when you enter the Classic Mode is the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section. It has been broken down into five main sub-menus and Smart Fan 5. This is where enthusiasts who enjoy overclocking should expect to spend 99% of their BIOS time.

While the old Current Status sub-menu has disappeared, if you drag the mouse cursor to the left side of the screen, a pop-out will appear that which contains a convenient overview of some useful system information, like CPU frequency, BCLK, CPU temperature, CPU core voltage, memory frequency, memory size, memory voltage, and some additional system voltages.



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When you open the Advanced Frequency Settings sub-menu, you are greeted with all the essential system clock control options that a serious overclocker needs: base clock frequency, IGP frequency, CPU multiplier, and memory multiplier.

The Advanced CPU Core Features sub-menu is where you can enable or disable the various CPU-specific settings like Turbo Boost, C1E, C-STATE, Thermal Monitor, and Enhanced SpeedStep (EIST). This is also where you can set the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio as well.



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As its name suggests, the Advanced Memory Settings section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select the memory multiplier, change the performance profile, monitor the memory voltage, and obviously tweak the memory timings. Each memory channel has its own section, within which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It has every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their memory modules.




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The Advanced Voltage Settings sub-menu is where you can tweak the VRM or simply adjust the primary and secondary system voltages. We wish there were more drop-down menus in this section. As it is you can manually type in whatever you want, but that is not particularly useful when you don't know or don’t remember what the default voltages are.

The Advanced Power Settings section is particularly interesting for those who like to tweak since it allows a great deal of control over all elements of the VRM. We would have really liked to see more granular Load-Line Calibration (LLC) options for the CPU vCore, since On or Off simply doesn’t cut it most of the time. By the way, as you will see in the coming pages, with the 3D Power tab in the EasyTune utility you can do a lot of this tweaking from within Windows itself.


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The PC Health Status section has been stripped down a bit compared to the last version, namely since all the temperature readouts have been relocated, but it is a useful place to check on all of the system voltages.


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The Mischellaneaous Setting sub-menu is one that we have actually never used before. The Max Link Speed is just a way to switch between PCI-E versions - ostensinbly for older PCI-E cards that are having compatibility issues in newer slots - and the 3DMark01 Enhancement setting is just to improve scores in that awesome old benchmark.


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The Smart Fan 5 feature in the Classic Mode is exactly the same as in the Easy Mode, which is to say that it gives users full manual or preset-based control over all of the systems fans. It also allows users to set temperature warnings, and even has its own temperature monitoring section that highlights the impressive six temp sensors that have been integrated onto this motherboard.
 

MAC

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Messages
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Location
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BIOS Rundown pt.2

BIOS Rundown pt.2




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The System Information section displays the motherboard model name, BIOS version, allows users to set the BIOS language, and set an administrator password.


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The BIOS Features section is where you can select the boot device priority, enable/disable the full screen logo, select Windows 8/10 features, Boot Mode, and more.



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The Peripherals section is where you can enable or disable some of the onboard devices, like the LAN controller, the PCB LEDs, or even the rear I/O panel LEDs. It is obviously also where you can select the settings for these integrated controllers, most importantly with regard to SATA and Thunderbolt. Having said that, there is surprisingly little here since similar functionality has been integrated in various other sections, like the following Chipset section.


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The Chipset section is where you can enable/disable the VT-d virtualization feature, the internal GPU, the onboard audio controller, the Intel-based gigabit LAN controller, and even the Wake-On-Lane (WOL) feature.


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The Power Management section contains the numerous power management settings linked to the various power-saving sleep modes. The Save & Exit section is pretty self-evident, however you can also save or load BIOS profiles from within this area.


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This last screenshot is of the Q-Flash Utility which is accessed via the F12 key. Since Q-Flash is built right into the BIOS, and it can read files directly from a USB flash drive, BIOS flashing is a simple and quick procedure. Remember that your USB flash drive must be formatted in the FAT16/32 file system in order to be supported by Q-Flash, otherwise the utility won't allow you to update the bios or save the existing bios to a flash drive.
 

MAC

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Included Software

Included Software



APP Center


The APP Center utility is a new centralized hub for all the in-house utilities that GIGABYTE bundles with their motherboards. It permanently resides in the notification area/icon tray in the right corner of your screen. Not only does it give you one location from which to open or even uninstall all motherboard-related pieces of software, but it also contains a Live Update feature that lets you know if the there's a new version of the software available.


EasyTune

The sleek EasyTune system management utility has been refocused towards its core functions of automatic overclocking and real-time tweaking of system frequencies, timings and voltages. As a result, EasyTune has been stripped of its monitoring and fan control duties, and that functionality has been transferred to the new System Information Viewer tool that can apparently handle these tasks with much lower latency.


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As in previous versions, the Smart QuickBoost section is really the most interesting area. First, it contains the Quick Boost feature, which allows automatic overclocking at the touch of a button. Simply pick which one of the three Smart QuickBoost overclock presets best suits your needs, reboot the system, and voila! Overclock achieved. If you're more interested in seriously reducing power consumption, the Energy Saving preset will underclock the processor to 1200Mhz and tweak a bunch of settings to maximize efficiency. Of particular interest to us is the smart Auto Tuning functionality that will automatically overclock your system by going through various tweaking and stability testing phases. As you will see in our Overclocking Results section, we preferred the presets over this supposedly intelligent feature. Last but not least is the Advanced sub-menu that allows you to manually set specific frequency, multiplier, voltage, and memory timing settings.


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It should be noted that at the bottom of the utility there is an information strip that can be expanded by the click of a button. It displays information on CPU and DRAM frequency, real-time voltage and temperatures measurements, as well as CPU and case fans speeds. You can also set safe thresholds for voltages, temperatures and fan speeds as well as setting alerts to warn you of any serious fluctuations.


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The Advanced CPU OC section is where you can manually adjust each CPU core individually, as well as tinker with all the important system voltages. For the power energy aficionados, you can also elect to place a hard limit on the CPU power consumption.


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The Advanced DDR OC section of the EasyTune app is where you can set the memory multiplier, enable or disable your memory kit's XMP profile, or just tweak a wide range of primary and secondary memory timings. It is basically everything you could want from an on-the-fly system tweaking tool.


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While the Advanced Power tab reveals options for selecting the number of VRM power phases and switching frequency, there aren't actually any settings available to use. Instead, you can only adjust the Load-Line Calibration (LLC) setting for the CPU or the integrated GPU.


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The Hotkey tab is where you can elect to save one or two settings profiles. For example, you can save your AutoTuning overclock instead of having to re-run the whole automated process again.


System Information Viewer

In order to make the utility more responsive, all the monitoring and fan control duties were stripped from EasyTune and transferred to a new application, the System Information Viewer. This might seem like a step backwards since usually the aim is to consolidate as many features as possibly into one program, but GIGABYTE claims that by doing this they have managed to greatly reduce the deferred procedure call (DPC) latencies that could interfere with EasyTune's primary functions, i.e. real-time tweaking and overclocking.


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The System Information tab is pretty straightforward, it really just shows some very basic information regarding the system clocks and a few details about the system's CPU, memory, and motherboard.



Click on image to enlarge

In this new implementation, manual and automatic fan control options have been split into two separate tabs. Smart Fan Auto is where you find four standard fan speed presets, while Smart Fan Advanced is where you will find the auto-calibration feature and where you can manually fix fan speed or have it vary based on temperatures.



Click on image to enlarge

The System Alerts tab is where you will find the Hardware Monitor, which display some basic system frequencies, a bunch of system voltages, system temperatures and fan speeds. We would like to see some additional voltage readouts, for the System Agent and Ring Bus for example. System Alerts, is as its name implies, is also where you can set system temperature or fan speed limits, and if those thresholds are crossed you will be alerted.



Click on image to enlarge

The Record tab is fairly self-explanatory, it is where you can enable and adjust settings related to recording the various system voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,088
Location
Montreal
Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



RGB Fusion



The RGB Fusion application allows users to control the RGB LEDs that are placed under the little plastic strip that covers the audio section, under the chipset cooler, under the PCI-E x16 slots, near the CPU socket, lighting strip near the memory slots, and even the bunch LEDs that are directly in between each memory slot. The LEDs can be adjusted to any number of different colours and customized to create cool lighting effects, like fading in and out, syncing with your music, cycling through all of the colours, flashing on and off, flashing sections randomly, or even just displaying one static colour. Definitely check out our Fusion RGB feature test page to see what the lighting effect looks like.


@BIOS


If you don’t want to bother formatting a USB flash drive to FAT16/32 in order to use the Q-Flash feature in the BIOS, you can simply use the @BIOS utility to download the latest version directly from GIGABYTE's servers and flash from within Windows.


Smart Backup


Smart Recovery 2 is kind of like Windows Restore/Apple Time Capsule function, where you can roll-back system settings to a previous working status. Users can select just about any day, week, or month to roll-back from, without having had to manually tell the program to create a backup flag.


Smart TimeLock


Smart TimeLock is a feature all kids will despise, as it allows parents the ability to schedule time limits for their children to use the PC. Parents or administrators can even make different usage time rules for weekdays and weekends.


USB Blocker


If you're building a computer that will be used in a public setting, or you simply don't trust your friends/roommates/family. Once you set up a password, USB Blocker will allow you to prevent certain devices from functioning when plugged into your system's USB ports. All you need to do is set a password in the utility and select which kind of devices to block.


Fast Boot


The Fast Boot utility basically streamlines the bootup process, and starts loading the operating system immediately instead of waiting around to see if you want to access the BIOS. It makes entering the BIOS impossible, but that is easily fixed by just clicking on the "Enter BIOS Setup Now" button.


Cloud Station




The new Cloud Station utility is a function-rich program if you take the time to learn about it and install the associated GIGABYTE Cloud Station mobile app (available on Android & iOS) on your smartphone or tablet.

The HomeCloud feature allows your mobile devices to access files on Gigabyte-powered system from a Wi-Fi or cellular network. The Remote function turns your mobile device into a remote keyboard and mouse from which you can control and navigate your PC. Remote OC gives you basically all the functionality of the EasyTune and System Information Viewer utilities on your mobile device. As a result, you can remotely overclock, tweak, monitor, or even shutdown your system. Auto Green is actually potentially pretty neat, it automatically suspends the system if you and your Bluetooth-paired smartphone walk more than 10 meters away. Obviously, you will need to bring your own Bluetooth adapter since this motherboard doesn't lacks that particular connectivity option. As its name suggests, the HotSpot utility can turn your internet connected system into a Wi-Fi hotspot, assuming you have a W-Fi adapter or card installed.


3D OSD




The 3D OSD utility is a useful in-game overlay that displays real-time hardware information like frame rates, temperatures, CPU and GPU load and frequencies.


USB DAC-UP 2




The USC DAC-UP 2 utility gives users full control over the USB DAC-UP port. This is to say that not only can you totally disable the power to that port if you so choose, but you can also increase the voltage output in order to compensate for any cable-related loses. They have also provided identical control over the two USB 3.0 headers, which means that four additional USB ports can benefit from this functionality.

V-TUNER




V-Tuner is a useful utility that GIGABYTE have bundled with their graphics cards for many years. It gives overclockers full access to their graphics card's key voltages and frequencies. It also allows the power energy aficionados a way to place a hard limit on the GPU's power consumption. By the way, yes, 'Tuning' is still misspelled despite the fact that we told them about this error years ago.

Color Temperature




The new-ish Color Temperature app gives users an option to tune down the amount of blue light that their monitor outputs. Blue light can cause eye fatigue, and exposure to it late at night can also interfere with your body's sleep patterns. It is a thoughtful addition.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,088
Location
Montreal
Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology



For this review, we are going to be testing the performance of the Z270X-Gaming 5 in five configurations: default settings @ DDR4-2133, default settings @ DDR4-3733, two automatic overclocks, and our manual overclock. The components and software are the same across all five configurations, and aside from manually selecting the frequencies, timings, and voltages in the manual overclock configuration, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.

Intel Core i7 'Kaby Lake' LGA1151 DDR4 Test Setup​

For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks are applied to Windows 10 Pro and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • UAC – Disabled
  • Indexing – Disabled
  • Superfetch – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan – High Performance
  • V-Sync – Off

D) All available Windows updates are then installed.

E) All programs are installed and then updated, followed by a defragment.

F) Benchmarks are each run three to ten times, and unless otherwise stated the results are then averaged.


Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • 3DMark Vantage Professional Edition v1.1.3
  • 3DMark11 Professional Edition v1.0.132.0
  • 3DMark 2013 Professional Edition v2.2.3491
  • AIDA64 Engineer Edition v5.80.4000
  • Cinebench R15 64-bit
  • FAHBench 1.2.0
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Benchmark
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • HEVC Decode Benchmark (Cobra) v1.61
  • LuxMark v3.1
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  • PCMark 8
  • SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark v1.0.0.0
  • WinRAR x64 5.40
  • wPRIME version v2.10
  • X3: Terran Conflict Demo v1.0
That is about all you need to know methodology wise, so let's get to the good stuff!
 
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