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GIGABYTE Z170X-Gaming 3 Motherboard Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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It has been exactly two years since GIGABYTE transitioned their gamer-oriented motherboards from the G1-Killer Series moniker to the G1 Gaming Series. This change was not merely a rebranding, since they also got rid of the lime green accents and gun-related flourishes and replaced them with a more conventional black and red colour scheme. Thanks to a special focus on aesthetics, audio, and networking, the end result has been motherboards that have consistently been well-received by consumers and reviewers alike.

When it comes to current Gaming G1 Series motherboard, GIGABYTE's LGA1151 lineup ranges from the tiny Z170N-Gaming 5 to the flagship Z170X-Gaming G1, which retails for over $480 USD / $600 CAD. The GIGABYTE Z170X-Gaming 3 that we are reviewing today retails for about $150 USD / $180 CAD, which makes it the most affordable ATX-sized Z170 model in this product line. This motherboard is positioned directly below the Z170X-Gaming 5 that we reviewed earlier. That higher-end model carries a roughly $15 USD / $40 CAD price premium and features certain extras like a DisplayPort output, a second gigabit LAN port, a nicer matte black PCB, onboard energy-saving and overclocking buttons, and debug LED display.

The Z170X-Gaming 3 features a 7-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, and an impressive pair of full-speed M.2 connectors that support transfer rates of up to 32Gb/s. There are two high-speed USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports courtesy on an Intel Alpine Ridge controller, up to seven USB 3.0 ports, and up to six USB 2.0 ports. There's also a gaming-oriented Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 gigabit LAN controller and its powerful Killer Network Manager utility. Those who plan on making use of Skylake's integrated graphics will be glad to see a solid assortment of DVI-D, HDMI 1.4, and VGA video outputs.

The onboard Amp-Up audio solution is based on the proven Realtek ALC1150 ten-channel HD audio codec, which is protected by its own EMI cover. There is also a user-replaceable TI Burr Brown op amp, a headphone gain switch, audio-grade Nichicon capacitors, and there's a backlit PCB isolation line that protects the audio portion of the motherboard from electromagnetic interference. Included in this bundle is the Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 software suite with effects and features for gamers. Those that desire even better audio quality will also be glad to know that there are two USB DAC-UP ports, which are special ports 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.

On paper, this certainly seems like well-balanced motherboard at an attractive price, and based on our past experiences with GIGABYTE's Gaming G1 Series we have some high hopes for this model. As a result, we are going very thoroughly test it to find out whether it can live up to our lofty expectations.

 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,088
Location
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


Now that we have gone over the Z170X-Gaming 3's 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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Since GIGABYTE is apparently the "Exclusive BlizzCon Motherboard Partner" it makes sense that every Gaming series motherboard model seems to feature a different character from Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm multiplayer game. Aside from the game-related elements, the packaging is the same black and red color scheme that we are familiar with on past Gaming G1 motherboards.

The back of the box does a good job of highlighting this model's more unique features, as well as just listing all of the critical specifications. The full diagram of the rear I/O panel is also a welcome addition. Unusually, there were a couple of white stickers clarifying warranty information and performance claims.


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Once you remove the outside packaging, you are greeted with an inner box that contains two separate sections, the top half holds the motherboard in an anti-static bag and the bottom half contains the accessories, software and documentation, as you will see below.




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The Z170X-Gaming 3 comes with a decent enough accessories bundle, which consists of a user manual, installation guide, driver and software DVD, a voucher for a contest, four fancy silver SATA 6Gb/s cables, a 2-Way SLI bridge, rear I/O shield, and front-panel connector so that users don't have to fiddle with individual wires when first installing the motherboard in their case.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,088
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Z170X-Gaming 3

A Closer Look at the Z170X-Gaming 3



The Z170X-Gaming 3 is conventionally attractive for a gamer-oriented motherboard, with the common black and red colour scheme that we have become accustomed to. Having said that, this model features a dark brown PCB instead of a matte black one like on most higher-end Gaming series motherboards. Despite having to fit six expansion slots and two M.2 connectors, GIGABYTE have still managed a clean and user-friendly layout with all the connectors, headers, and ports conveniently located at motherboard's edges.

We do have one big unusual gripe about this motherboard's design however. For some reason, instead of featuring conventional ATX dimensions, which are 305mm x 244mm, this model is 235mm wide - a bit narrower than the standard size. What does this mean to your average consumer? Well as we experienced - and as you can see in our Installation Section - all the mounting holes on the right side of the motherboard do not line up with the mounting holes in many ATX cases. It is a bizarre decision since it leaves a large chunk of the motherboard unsupported by standoffs.



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Although it's a non-issue once installed, the top-mounted MOSFET heatsink didn't make a great first impression because the spring-loaded push-pins allow the heatsink to wiggle an unfortunate amount. It is an insignificant problem, but this is an issue that has bothered actual buyers the first time they picked up this motherboard.

This motherboard has been outfitted with a very competent 7-phase CPU power design that utilizes an Intersil ISL95856 hybrid digital PWM controller and Vishay MOSFETs. Unlike on the higher-end Gaming 5, there is no phase doubling, but ultimately both models features four real phases dedicated to the cores and three for the integrated graphics. While 7 phases might seem insufficient based on the extreme phase counts of the past, as you will see in our overclocking section this motherboard had no issues maxing our Core i7-6700K, and most importantly the MOSFETs weren't particularly hot while doing so.

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. Considering the fact that we were able to max out the overclocking potential of our Core i7-6700K on the 6-phase Z170-HD3, we aren't concerned about the power handling capabilities of this superior model.

One of the ways that GIGABYTE have clearly reduced manufacturing cost is by using 5K solid capacitors instead of the Nippon Chemi-Con 10K Durable Black capacitors used on the Gaming 5 and above models. In real-world terms that is not a big deal, since they are rated for 5,000 hours at a scalding 65C/149F, and thus infinitely longer at the much lower temperatures found in most systems.

When it comes to layout, the general CPU socket area on this motherboard is little bit busy. There are numerous capacitors pretty close to the CPU socket, which we generally are not a fan of. While this won't cause a problem with any large CPU heatsink or all-in-one liquid cooler, it could make insulating the socket area a little bit more difficult for those who use sub-zero forms of cooling.


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Directly below the CPU socket is one of the two M.2 connectors, 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. It even supports RAID modes in coordination with the other M.2 connector.

Obviously, as on most motherboards, there are caveats to installing a PCI-E x4 SSD in this connector. On this model, doing so will disable four of the six SATA ports. That is heavy penalty, however you can avoid it altogether by using the other M.2 connector, which doesn't have any effect on the SATA ports.

As you will in our feature testing section, there is no performance difference between the two M.2 connectors.


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The four DDR4 slots are fed by a single phase VRM and are clipless on one side, which prevents any clearance issues that can arise between conventional memory clips and the back of any nearby expansion card. This motherboard supports up to 64GB of total system memory and it has been certified for overclocked memory speeds of up to DDR4-3466. Which that might seem low, definitely check out our Overclocking Results section to see whether we were able to hit that level or more.

The 24-pin ATX power connector is in its usual convenient location, and next to it 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 Z170 PCH and as a result support RAID 0/1/5/10 plus Intel Rapid Storage Technology. There are three 10Gb/s SATA Express ports, but obviously they are comprised of the aforementioned six SATA ports.

As we mentioned above, if you install a PCI-E x4 SSD into the M.2 connector below the CPU socket, four of the six SATA ports will be disabled. If you install a PCI-E x2 SSD, you will lose two SATA ports. You only lose one port if you install an M.2 SATA SSD.

The bottom M.2 connector is much more forgiving. Much like its sibling it 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. However, the only storage limitation is that if you install a SATA-based M.2 solid state drive one of the six SATA ports will be disabled. Furthermore, if you install an expansion card in the third PCI-E x16 slot, that will disable this bottom M.2 connector.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Z170X-Gaming 3 pt.2

A Closer Look at the Z170X-Gaming 3 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, one of the four 4-pin PWM system fan headers, the clear CMOS jumper, two USB 2.0 headers, TPM header, and serial port header. Last but not least, above the below the third PCI-E x1 slot is a Thunderbolt add-in card header.

As we have come to expected on all GIGABYTE motherboard, this model is outfitted with the DualBIOS feature, as evidenced by the presence of two individual BIOS chips This ensures instant recovery in the case of a botched BIOS update, nasty virus, or just overclocking-related craziness.


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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 NXP L04083B PCI-E 3.0 switches. The third mechanical PCI-E x16 slot operates at x4, but since it shares bandwidth with the third PCI-E x1 slot, if either slot is occupied they will both be limited to x1 mode. This limitation is because the PCI-E x16 @ x4 slot and all three PCI-E x1 slots receive their lanes from the Z170 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 it works in practice.

One of the unique features of the G1 Gaming models is the 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.



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The Amp-Up onboard audio is based on the familiar Realtek ALC1150 ten-channel HD audio codec, which simultaneously supports 7.1-channel playback and 2 channels of independent stereo output from the front-panel header. As on many of their higher-end motherboards, GIGABYTE have selected a Burr Brown OPA2134 operational amplifier (op amp). It's a proven part that is known for its pleasing warm audio output. If its sonic qualities don't match your tastes that is not a problem since it is fully swappable. The DIP switches next to the op-amp is the audio gain control, 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. Rounding things out are just short of a dozen audio-grade Nichicon capacitors.

We are glad to see that the audio codec has been covered with an electromagnetic interference (EMI) shield, and there is a clear PCB isolation line - dubbed the audio guard light path - protecting the audio section from the rest of the motherboard. The LEDs on the underside of the motherboard glow through that isolation line and are part of the adjustable multi-color Ambient LED feature.

As with all G1 Gaming series motherboards, GIGABYTE have also included the Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 software suite, which provides features like SBX Pro Studio, Scout Mode, and support for EAX Advanced HD 5.0.




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The Z170X-Gaming 3 has a fairly sparse rear I/O panel. Starting from left to right, there are two USB 2.0 ports, a combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, VGA and DVI-D video outputs, a USB 3.1 Type-C port, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 3.1 port, an HDMI 1.4 video output, one gigabit LAN port, two USB 3.0 ports, and the six audio jacks which include an S/PDIF output.

Powering these ports is a small selection of third-party controllers. An ITE IT8628E Super I/O chip is responsible for the PS/2 port on the back panel as well as fan, temperature, and voltage management and monitoring. Hidden under the shiny bronze EMI cover is a Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 LAN controller, otherwise known as a network processing unit (NPU). An Intel L6540 controller - codename Alpine Ridge - is responsible for the USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports. An NXP PTN3360DBS controller provides HDMI 1.4b output, while an NXP P3356 is responsible for the VGA and DVI-D outputs.

The two yellow USB ports are the Dual DAC-UP USB ports, which are special ports that have been isolated from the rest of the motherboard in order to ensure noise-free power delivery to a USB Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC). This should make the audiophiles happy.


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As we have come to expect from GIGABYTE, there are no VRM components or other controllers on the backside of the motherboard. We would have liked to see metal screws used to secure both the MOSFET and chipset heatsinks, because as we mentioned on the previous page, the MOSFET heatsink near the top of the motherboard does wobble an uncomfortable amount due to the use of weak plastic push-pins.


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Lastly, on the rear of the motherboard we also get a good look at some of the LEDs that illuminate the PCB isolation line that surrounds the audio sub-system, and which are an integral part of the Ambient LED feature. These integrated LEDs are fully programmable via a utility that allows you to set the LEDs to pulse, blink or even react to the music you are listing to. Basically, it can give a pretty cool look to your system. Here is a YouTube video from GIGABYTE showing off the effects in action.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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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.


As we mentioned in the previous pages, this motherboard is 9mm narrower than the ATX standard. As a result, all the mounting holes on the right side of the motherboard do not line up with the standoffs in most ATX cases. As a result, if you have a case that doesn't feature any non-traditional mounting holes, there is a large part of the motherboard that will not be properly supported by standoffs.


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We were able to install our Prolimatech Mega Shadow heatsink without issue, but its large rear mounting bracket did come pretty close to pins from the chokes mounted on the front of the motherboard. This is the case on most motherboards, so nothing to worry about there.


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As mentioned in the previous section, this motherboard has a fairly crowded CPU socket area due to the proximity of several capacitors to the socket. Having said that, when installed 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. As a result, most large CPU heatsink and all-in-one liquid coolers should be easily installable.


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Unlike on most motherboards, we did not encounter any clearance issues between our standard 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 or remove the RAM modules. When we swapped in very tall memory modules, we were able to install these modules in the farthest memory slots - which is where they should be anyways - but they did come very gently come in contact with the fan clips. Overall, this is still a better result than on any other Z170 motherboard that we have tested.


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Thanks to the expansion slot layout, there is a large gap between the clipless DDR4 memory slots and the back of the graphics card, so there is no need to take out the GPU before installing/removing 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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The Z170X-Gaming 3 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 obviously 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 card release clip. One of the nice layout aspects with this model is that no matter how many dual-slot cards are installed, there are always two PCI-E x1 slots accessible.


The six 90-degree SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed, as are the three SATA Express ports.


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Installing an SSD in the top M.2 connector is fairly simple on this motherboard. If you have a dual-slot expansion card installed in the primary PCI-E x16 slot, you will need to remove it before installing or removing any M.2 solid state drive, but that is a better option than removing the CPU cooler.


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When it comes to the second M.2 connector, if you have a graphics card installed in the second PCI-E x16 slot, you will need to remove it before installing or removing any M.2 solid state drive.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


For this generation, GIGABYTE have gotten rid of the more graphic intensive Dashboard Mode that gave more novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings. We are now left with the conventional Classic Mode that we have seen on all GIGABYTE motherboards with UEFI BIOSes, and frankly we are totally happy with that decision since it more appropriately caters to our power user needs.


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In the UEFI BIOS, the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section has been broken down into six main sub-menus. This is where enthusiasts should expect to spend 99% of their BIOS time. First and foremost, we have M.I.T Current Status sub-menu which contains a convenient overview of all the system frequencies, memory sizes and timings.


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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 had just about 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 fine tweak the new digital 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 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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Compared to past BIOSes, this one actually has a pretty good PC Health Status section since it has readouts for most of the critical voltages and temperatures. BIOS-based fan control has also improved, but the Smart Fan tab in the EasyTune utility does have a little bit richer fan PWM functionality.
 

MAC

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Joined
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Messages
1,088
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 features and Boot Mode as well.



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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. However, 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 or even the audio DSP.


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The Power Management section contains the power management settings linked to the 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.




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 feature 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 one. 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 that 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 with 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 OC'ing 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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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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The 3D Power utility has the same capabilities as the 3D Power section in the BIOS, and there is a lot of functionality here. Having said that, while PWM frequency, Load-Line Calibration (LLC), and phase control are all things that knowledgeable overclockers might tweak, these are all settings that the overwhelming majority of users will never ever have to use.


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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.



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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.



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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.



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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.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Montreal
Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



Ambient LED


This is the utility that allows you to control that lighting, as well as the LEDs that are under the audio isolation line. Overall, it is a unique and cool effect that we have never seen implemented quite this well. The Still Mode will keep the LEDs on continuously, the Beat Mode will cause the LEDs to blink in sync with the music played through the audio output. The Pulse Mode causes the LEDs to blink slowly. Once again, here is a YouTube video from Gigabyte showing off the effects.


@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 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 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.


Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3



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The Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 software suite is a feature-rich app with a ton of effects and settings. There is the SBX Pro Studio tab which boasts features like a full-band equalizer, noise reduction capabilities, and allows for the tweaking of individual channel volume levels. It’s certainly not unique but still welcome. Creative’s excellent Scout Mode has also been rolled into this app. This enhances the soundstage for improved positional auditory cues in games. While a poor substitute for a multi-speaker surround sound configuration, when used in conjunction with a pair of good headphones it has the capability to provide a noticeable advantage that you would not normally get from ‘onboard’ sound solutions.

EAX Effects & EQ restores hardware accelerated audio so that you can enjoy EAX and 3D audio effects while playing DirectSound3D games. Unlike the SoundBlaster Pro Studio this application will not merit much attention as it can radically change the audio of certain games - sometimes for the worse. However if you wish to hear your games in a 'different' way you may want to explore this simple program in greater detail.


Killer Network Manager



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The Killer Network Manager is the software control interface for the Killer E2201 network processing unit (NPU) that is installed along with the drivers. This utility provides users with a lot of control and monitoring capabilities over every application that is accessing the network. It displays CPU usage, NPU usage, ICMP and UDP average ping, and the network utilization of every system process and program. This tool also allows you give priority to certain applications, and throttle or block others to free network resources for other applications. It is your one-stop tool for monitoring and controlling all network traffic.
 

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Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology



For this review, we are going to be testing the performance of the Z170X-Gaming 3 in five configurations: default settings @ DDR4-2133, default setting @ DDR4-3600, two automatic overclock configurations, and our manual overclock configuration. 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 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 7 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 eight 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 v1.5.915
  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition v5.50.3600
  • Cinebench R15 64-bit
  • FAHBench 1.2.0
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Benchmark
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • HEVC Decode Benchmark (Cobra) v1.61
  • LuxMark v3.0
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  • PCMark 8
  • SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP
  • Sisoft Sandra 2015.SP3 20.28
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark v1.0.0.0
  • WinRAR x64 5.30 beta 6
  • 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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