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GIGABYTE Z170X-Gaming 5 Motherboard Review

AkG

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With the launch of Intel’s Skylake processors, there has been an absolutely massive influx of new motherboards with the Z170 chipset, ranging from budget-friendly to truly expensive. Sifting through the insane number of options and feature combinations of these boards can become a daunting task for any buyer, let alone first-timers. This situation presents a bit of a problem since it fosters confusion and can lead some to buy the wrong motherboard for their needs. Gigabyte is hoping to simplify things a bit with their Z170X Gaming 5; a board that combines pretty much every feature that makes Skylake unique while doing so at an extremely affordable price of $150USD.

While the Gaming 5 may offer something for everyone, Gigabyte’s current Z170 lineup is anything but easy to decipher. Containing 20 different boards across three different product lines (basic, G1 Gaming and SOC Force) along with three different designations (X for ATX, N for ITX and MX to mATX), finding the right mix of elements is anything but easy.

Firmly planted at the center of Gigabyte’s G1 Gaming lineup, the Z170X Gaming 5 is an ATX-sized board that follows closely in the footsteps of the last generation’s gamer-oriented boards but tries to strike into the middle ground. It isn’t at the top of the heap like Z170X-Gaming G1 which is meant for well-heeled enthusiasts who not only want the best, but can <i>afford</i> the best. At the other end of the spectrum is the Gaming 3 which is meant for more budget orientated and entry level gamers.

The GA-Z170X-Gaming 5 ditches the glitz and glamour of the higher end models, discards the plastic fascia of the G1, and replaces a few other minor features the higher priced models offer. On the other hand it still offers dual Ethernet network controllers (including a Killer E2200 NPU), dual x4 capable M.2 ports, dual USB 3.1 ports on the rear IO, and a trio SATA Express ports. It keeps the reinforced PCIe slots that promise to not only make these crucial slots more capable of withstanding the weight of triple slot monster video cards, but also act as EMI shields.

On a more practical point, the Gaming 5 still offers the same EMI shielded Turbo B-Clock which is similar to ASUS 'ProClock' in that it allows for downright insane BLKC ratios. Mix in an 11 phase power delivery subsystem, a 3-year warranty, DDR4-3400+ overclocking capabilities and a Realtek ALC1150 sound solution with <i>removable</i> op-amp and this thing starts to look pretty tempting for pretty much anyone.

Naturally, that $150 price will be brought up again and again in this review since that puts the Gaming 5 into contention against products like the ASUS Z170-A and well out of the crosshairs of other so-called “gamer” boards like ROG Maximus VIII Hero. However there is still plenty of competition around this price point in the form of MSI’s Z170A Gaming M5 and ASUS own Z170 PRO Gaming. Will Gigabyte have what it takes to stand out?

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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



The Gaming 5’s box was obviously was designed with catching the eye of some gamers. It’s all about marketing and they get job done quite well with callouts to Blizzcon rather than any of the board’s standout features.

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Thankfully the graphics are the only thing that has changed since the last generation and the shipping container is just as robust as the Z97X-Gaming 5's was. Within it, the board itself sits at the bottom and is separated from the accessories via a cardboard flap.

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As you can see the included accessories list is rather sparse which is befitting of a sub-$200 motherboard. Basically if you are looking for additions like door hangers or case badges or add-in cards this motherboard is not right for you. If you are looking for a wireless Ethernet daughter-card with external antennas, or USB 3.1 (or even USB 3.0) front panels this motherboard is also not an optimal fit as those expensive options are not included.

On the other hand, if you are expecting good quality accessories that cover all the basics nicely then the Z170X-Gaming 5 is a good match for you. In total you get a user manual, installation guide, driver and software DVD, a standard rear I/O shield, four standard SATA 6Gb/s cables, and 2-way SLI bridge connector.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 5

A Closer Look at the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 5


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Before actually dealing with the physical layout and hardware design of the Gaming 5, let’s first deal with the in the room: the board's aesthetics. It seems that part of Gigabyte's design team wanted a Black and Red color scheme, while the other wanted a more monochromatic look with Black, Silver, and white while the audio guys wanted the usual yellow components. It is oddly jarring and certainly not geared towards color matched components but the layout itself is quite good.

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Now with that taken care of, we can get to the numerous positives this motherboard boasts - and the list is rather long and detailed. First and foremost is that this board is extremely well laid out with most of the components and features being easily accessible. However, Gigabyte did include a long list of advanced features and fitting them all into the ATX form-factor required a few sacrifices as well. Thankfully there aren’t any surprises like an M.2 port on the board’s back.

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In fact, there are only a few major compromises users need be aware of. First and foremost, the topmost M.2 port is encroaching on the LGA115A socket area. Technically it may be outside the “dead zone” that Intel demands be free of obstructions but if you use a medium sized aftermarket heatsink there is a strong chance that it will cover this additional connector.

In addition, due to its location this M.2 port is only capable of supporting 80mm or shorter M2 SSDs. On the positive side it has four available PCI-E lanes so the bandwidth potential is huge.

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The other small hiccup is the odd layout for the six SATA 6Gb/s ports. This in and of itself is not overly concerning as six ports is more than enough for most users. However, while the Gaming 5 does indeed offer up three SATA Express ports, each of these SE ports is linked to two SATA ports. This means if someone is actually interested in using all three SE ports they will have to forgo the use of any SATA 6Gb/s device. Luckily, SATA Express almost feels dead on arrival so the chances of this being a real issue are slim to none for the foreseeable future.

While Gigabyte has included two M.2 ports and three SE ports, they all share AHCI/SATA bandwidth. This means you will not be able to circumvent the above issue by simply using a SATA-based M.2 drive. Luckily the M.2's don’t share PCI-E lanes with the SE portsso they can be utilized in parallel just as long as “AHCI” does not enter into the equation.

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Another interesting thing to note is the positioning for the two USB 3.0 front headers which leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of having them in the usual locations (one next to the 24-pin power connector, and the other at the bottom edge) Gigabyte has placed them between the 24-pin connector and the memory slots. This makes access quite difficult depending on how a build is accomplished and ultimately makes cable management more challenging.

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The LGA1151 socket is the star of this new generation and Gigabyte has done a good job at ensuring this critical area is as clutter free as possible. Yes, there are indeed caps and such encroaching here, but this is par for the course for this generation. More importantly, all these components do respect Intel's z-height restrictions in the socket area and should prove to be of little real world concern for the average consumers.

Backstopping the new LGA 1151 socket is an analog 11 phase power design that should be more than capable of handling any load the typical Gaming 5 consumer can place on it. However, much like MSI and their Gaming M5, this is not a true 11 phase design. First and foremost is this is an older analog based power delivery system instead of digital. This means there will be more voltage variances under load versus idle.

Meanwhile, Intersil ISL95856 Gigabyte has opted for is only capable of four “real” phases. In this case these real phase have been doubled up with four “virtual” phases which accounts for eight of the eleven phases. The other ‘three’ are for the iGPU. Overall this is a decent power delivery system for the price range we would have been more impressed if Gigabyte had gone with a digital-based PWM like ASUS uses.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 5 pg.2

A Closer Look at the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 5 pg.2


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To keep the various power delivery components cool Gigabyte has used two separate heatsinks. These heatsinks may be low profile to reduce clearance issues with aftermarket CPU heatsinks but each one is still more than capable of keeping things cool. Sadly, what we do take issue with is Gigabyte has used pushpins to keep them mounted to the motherboard instead of screws.

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On the positive side the back of the motherboard is clear and free of any additional ICs which keeps installation slipups to a minimum.

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The four DDR4 memory slots support overclocked frequencies up to DDR4-3466. Given the price of DDR4 RAM, this might sound pointless, but the new integrated controller Intel has is extremely capable and as time goes by prices of higher performance DDR4 memory should come down. On the positive side these DIMMS use retention clips on only one side, making things much easier when installing new memory in tight spaces.

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Next to these four DDR4 RAM slots are the two 4-pin fan headers. Both of these headers are intended for CPU coolers and the extra one will certainly be appreciated by users. More to the point this location is much better than most Z170 boards we have looked at recently. With that being said Gigabyte has not caught up to ASUS and their third header which is dedicated to AIO coolers.

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On the other side of the four DIMMS are three noteworthy features. The first is a two digit LED panel which makes troubleshooting issues much easier. The location of this diagnostic LED makes it easy to see when the Gaming 5 is mounted inside most cases.

Next to this LED display are 'Eco' and 'OC' buttons. The Eco button roughly translates to ASUS' EPU switch in that it will lower power consumption of the system, albeit at the cost of performance. The OC button loosely translates to MSI's OC Genie and ASUS' TPU switch since it implements a hardware-based overclock. Unfortunately, it is a factory preset overclock that uses more voltage than our particular 6700K needed. This is the issue with all factory presets as Gigabyte has to ensure stability with all processors.

These are all very nice features to have on an economically priced motherboard but sadly Gigabyte hasn’t included is any Power or Reset…or ever Clear CMOS buttons. Instead Gigabyte expects you to use the front header panel for the former, and jump a 2-pin header in the latter.

For those who want some additional failsafes, the Gaming 5 includes two BIOS chips and will automatically fail-over to the second if the first becomes corrupted. Again, considering this board’s price these features are quite surprising.

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It comes as no surprise to see that Gigabyte has taken careful pains to make the Gaming 5 as gamer-friendly as possible. First and foremost, the actually layout of the PCIe x16 slots is outstanding. Not only is the main x16 slot been moved down one slot (with the actual topmost PCIe slot being a smaller x1 design) but there are two PCIe x1 slots in-between the primary and secondary PCIe x16 slots. This allows even the largest triple slot video cards to be used.

However, as this is an ATX motherboard with only room for seven PCIe slots in total there is only one x1 slot between the secondary and tertiary PCIe x16 slots. This is still outstanding and the best compromise you will find on an ATX motherboard that supports triple slot video cards.

Of course as this is a Z170-based motherboard that does not use PLX PCI-E lane multiplier users will not be able to use all three - or even two for that matter - of these x16 slots in x16 mode. Instead they will take on the usual configuration of on x16, 8+8 or 8+4+4 depending on how many of them are populated.

What is unusual is that Gigabyte has included their own take on 'shielding' for the slots. Much like MSI these three red slots come equipped with metal caps that cover the top and sides. Also like MSI, Gigabyte states this "Ultra Durable Shielding" reduces EMI while also increasing the robustness of the slot itself. Whether or not they actually do all that is moot as they are extremely attractive.

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It is also bears mentioning that if consumers do use the bottom most 'x16' slot for even a dual slot video card, it will overhang the motherboard’s bottom edge. This means the front audio, TPM, COM, and dual USB 2.0 front headers will all be covered. Depending on how long a video card used is, the front panel connectors may also be covered. This is par for the course for ATX motherboards.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 5 pg.3

A Closer Look at the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 5 pg.3


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As this is a Z170 motherboard with higher BCLK overhead, Gigabyte has included a custom base clock generator. Much like ASUS' 'ProClock' Gigabyte's "Turbo B-Clock" allows for rather extreme BLKC settings. So much so that if you cannot find a BCLK that allows you eek out every last ounce of CPU performance….you simply are not trying hard enough as it is rated for a whopping 500Mhz.

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For the past few generations Gigabyte has included some of the best - for their class - onboard sound solutions and the Z170X-Gaming 5 is no exception. While the Gaming 5 may have been 'downgraded' from a Creative Sound Core3D to a Realtek ALC1150 controller-based design, we personally prefer ALC1150 to Creative’s solutions. What may be lost in gaming related special features is more than made up for in driver stability and improved fidelity.

In either case the ALC1150 is an excellent controller in its own right especially when it is paired with Japanese capacitors, an EMI shield, and a removable op-amp. The only thing missing is a NEC de-pop relay like ASUS uses on their higher end boards but we can’t forget the Gmaing 5 is less than $200. Meanwhile, one very interesting addition is a four position DIP switch. This switch adjusts the gain and allows for hardware level audio customization not found on many board in this (or any) price range.

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The Z170X-Gaming 5 is also the first Z170 motherboard we have seen that does not use the ASMedia ASM1142 controller to power its two USB 3.1 ports (1 Type-A and 1 Type-C). Instead it is one of the first to make use of the recently released Intel "Alpine Ridge" USB3.1 controller. This controller not only promises to be more powerful and efficient than the ASM1142 but it also should be better supported. In either case this Intel controller is newer, faster, and generally considered to be worth twice the asking price that ASMedia commands for their USB 3.1 controller.

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As stated in the introduction this motherboard does have a few minor tweaks that allow it to hit a lower price point than the Gaming 7 or G1 models could ever hope for. One such way in which this was carried out by Gigabyte's design team was by using the slightly older Killer E2201 NPU instead of the newer (and costlier) E2400. The E2201 has been used on previous generations and has acquitted itself nicely, and considering Gigabyte does include a cutting edge Intel i219 controller as well as the Killer NPU this is a rather moot issue as most users will simply use the i219.

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Rounding out the included features of the rear IO, Gigabyte has included four USB 2.0 ports and three USB 3.0 ports (all powered by the Z170 PCH), a PS/2 port, five audio analog ports, an S/PDIF optical out port, a single HDMI output, and one full sized DisplayPort. There’s also single USB 3.1 Type-C and Type-A ports.

The two yellow colored USB ports feature Gigabyte’s unique DAC-UP technology which isolates these ports’ power sources so they can provide a clean current base for USB DAC solutions. Supposedly this can improve the overall audio quality a USB DAC can provide.
 
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AkG

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


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In an extremely refreshing change Gigabyte hasn’t simply modified their previous Z97X-Gaming 5's BIOS, and instead has gone in an entirely new direction. This is impressive as nearly every other manufacturer has simply tweaked their respective Z97 series BIOS to reflect the new features abilities Z170 brings to the table.

Put simply Gigabyte did not want to follow ASUS and their approach to BIOS implementation (like MSI has). Instead they have gone back to their roots and what made their approach unique. Gone is the StartUp Guide that greeted every consumer, gone is the SmartTweak mode, and instead Gigabyte has focused all their attention on their Advanced BIOS. The end result is an interesting approach that is not as easy to use as something like the Startup Guide was, but bloody good nevertheless.

In our opinion, this is the best BIOS Gigabyte has ever released as it is filled with advanced features, is laid out in a straight-forward manner, and is above all else easy to navigate. More importantly you don't have to change from BIOS mode to BIOS mode just to get to the options you want to use and every option has a clear description about its intended use / end result.

Now with all that said users of the previous Gigabyte motherboards will instantly be at home with this new BIOS - as it is a modified 'Classic Mode' that came with earlier generations. Albeit a highly refined, highly sophisticated version. As with previous gens the BIOS' has been broken down into six main sections: MIT, System Information, BIOS Features, Peripherals, Power Management, and Save & Exit.

Of these sections the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section is where enthusiasts will spend a lot of their time. This is because it has been broken down into six main sub-menus and covers most of the areas overclockers are interested in very nicely. The main MIT landing page gives a brief overview of the major system frequencies, memory sizes and timings. For a more detailed perspective, the MIT current status page is where you should head.

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When the Advanced Frequency Settings sub-menu is opened, you are greeted with all the essential system clock control options such as base clock frequency, base clock ratio, CPU multiplier, memory multiplier, etc.

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The Advanced CPU Core settings sub-sub-menu option on the Advanced Frequency Settings page is where you can enable or disable the various CPU-specific options like Turbo Boost, C1E, C-STATE, Thermal Monitor, and Enhanced SpeedStep (EIST). This is also where the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio can be modified.

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GIGABYTE’s Advanced Memory Settings section is self-explanatory. 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 just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their modules. Considering Z170 now allows for much more fine grain control over DDR4 than X99 this section will indeed be a great boon to overclocking enthusiasts.
 
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AkG

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BIOS Rundown pg.2

BIOS Rundown Cont'd


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The Advanced Power Settings section is particularly interesting for those who like to tweak since it allows for control over all elements of the VRM. As with all other areas, every single option is there at your fingertips and features excellent descriptions.

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The System Information section displays the motherboard model name. BIOS features, allows users to set the BIOS language and set an administrator password. Boot device priority, enable/disable the full screen logo, selection of Windows 8 features and Boot Mode modifications can all be addressed within the BIOS features section.

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The Peripherals section is where you can enable or disable all of the various onboard devices. This is also where SATA devices can be set to IDE, AHCI, or RAID mode. Also of note is the ability to control NVMe attached storage devices. Brilliant stuff.

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The Chipset section allows you to control the various onboard chipsets. These included the audio controller, LAN controller, etc. The Power Management section contains the power management settings linked to the various power-saving sleep modes.

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The Save & Exit section is pretty self-evident but you can also save or load BIOS profiles from within this area.
 
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AkG

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Included Software (EasyTune)

Included Software (EasyTune)


The most important application that Gigabyte includes with any of their motherboards is the aptly labeled EasyTune program. This is the heart and soul of their software suite and is where most users will spend most of their time.

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In the last few months, Gigabyte has once again updated Easy Tune with a drastically different design, featuring simplified graphics and straightforward interface. There's also an information bar at the bottom, indicating system information and speeds. This is leaps and bounds beyond the older looking design that initially shipped with the Z170X-Gaming 5.

Headlining the application is the Smart Boost feature which is meant to either offer overclocking or power-saving clock speed options at the click of a button. Here there are four options, each of which features a different set of presets that optimize performance one way or another. Simply click on one, apply the setting and you're off to the races.

The ECO setting simply allows the processor to run at lower than stock settings which is actually a pretty good idea for anyone that has excess system resources that only need to be used in certain instances. The Default option restores Intel's optimized defaults for any processor that's installed. Finally, the OC setting applies a minor overclock, increases the voltage by a reasonable amount to guarantee stability and applies an XMP profile to the memory.

That OC option is actually quite straightforward for novices since it is a one-click, one-size-fits-all approach that is designed for compatibility with all processors. However, the Auto Tuning option will likely be the one most flock to since it lets the software apply, and then quickly stability test any overclock. If it passes it will then increase the overclock, reboot and retest until the short stability test fails. We still recommend extended stability testing before considering any auto overclock truly stable, but this is a great addition for any novice overclocker as it will find a very good starting point upon which to start.

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Going beyond the Smart Boost section we have three additional tabs which are basically a GUI version of the Gaming 5's BIOS screens. Here you will be able to boost frequencies, timings and voltages for both the CPU and memory without having to leave Windows. There's even an area where CPU Loadline calibrations can be modified though several of the more exotic options are still reserved for the BIOS itself. Naturally, any settings are applied after a system overclock and should be stability tested.

The final tab is is labelled Hotkey and allows you to store and load overclocking profiles that can be loaded by the press of a key. This is particularly handy if different applications are being used, some of which benefit from higher frequencies while others don't require quite as much resources.
 
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AkG

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Included Software

Other Included Software


“Killer” NPU Software Stack

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The Qualcomm Atheros ‘Killer’ E2201 network processing unit or NPU comes with its own software stack. As with the Z97 implementation this program has a user-friendly interface that allows many of the features to be easily found without searching in sub-sections. Unfortunately, if network customization isn’t within your comfort zone, it is very doubtful this particular feature would allow for any noticeable improvements over Intel-based solutions.


Gigabyte App Center

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As with the Z97X-Gaming 5 before it, the App Center is actually a launching pad for Gigabyte’s disparate catalog of programs (or at least most of them). It is fully customizable and permanently resides in Windows’ notification area / system tray. To be blunt, for quick and painless navigation, this is still one of the better examples out there.


@BIOS, USB Blocker, FastBoot, Smart Switch, EZ Setup

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

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If you're building a computer that will be used in a public setting, or you simply don't trust your friends/roommates/family, look towards USB Blocker. 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.

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Fast Boot is Gigabyte's answer to the age old problem of having to try and enter the BIOS during overclocking sessions. Much like ASUS', MSI’s, and other implementations you can not only adjust the Windows Fast Boot options, but also tell the system to immediately reboot and enter the BIOS - all without having to mash any keyboard buttons.

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EZ Setup gives users a simple way to quickly and easily switch between IDE, RAID and AHCI disk modes from within Windows without having to modify or re-install the OS. This however is only a small part of what it can accomplish since EZ Setup can allow for quick and painless implementation of some of Intel’s latest technologies. In addition to being able to setup and modify Smart Response Technology (a hybrid SSD+HDD setup) you can also quickly turn on Rapid Start which allows a system to go from Hibernation mode to fully useable in mere seconds.

As an added bonus Intel’s Smart Connect feature can also be controlled which can bring a system out of sleep and update your social media information (e.g. download email, refresh your Facebook page, etc.) at set intervals. While none of these options are critical or even of interest to most consumers, GIGABYTE has made implementing them painless.

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System Information Viewer shows extremely fine grain details on the state of your system with everything from CPU to memory to fan voltages covered. It allows for quick configuration of any fans attached via either the four presets or total custom fan profile creation that is similar in its implementation to ASUS' Fan Xpert applications.
 
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AkG

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In order to test how different hardware combinations will fit onto the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5, we installed a Noctua NH-U12S, an 8GB dual channel kit of G.Skill DDR4-3600 RipJaws V memory, and an ASUS GTX 780 video card.

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The ASUS GTX 780 is a long length, dual-slot GPU so it will provide a good reference for other premium video cards and highlight any spacing issues. Meanwhile the NH-U12S is a moderately sized aftermarket CPU cooler so it should provide a good reference for other coolers so we can see if there any clearance issues around the CPU socket. We installed the memory in the two sockets closest to the CPU to ensure clearance with four DIMMs.

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As this motherboard is an ATX form-factored unit, the amount of space between the CPU socket area and the four DIMMS is rather limited. However, the amount of room is actually slightly better than many Z170 motherboards we have looked at recently. This difference may be best measured in millimeters but this extra gap will take a lot of pressure off consumers and their RAM purchasing decisions. Basically as long as fairly a reasonable sized CPU cooling solution is used consumers really need not worry about how tall their DDR4 RAM sticks are.

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By that same token if users have their heart set on utilizing massive coolers like the larger D14/D15’s of the marketplace…expect to have to settle for standard (or near standard) height RAM. This still makes the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 5 above average given its relatively reasonable asking price and somewhat compact footprint.

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While there is indeed more than the expected amount of room between the socket area and the four DIMMS consumers who are interested in memory cooling devices should be aware that you will likely run into clearance issues with any air-based CPU cooling solution - even thin profile ones. There just is not enough room to properly mount both a CPU cooler and memory cooler. If your RAM truly needs active cooling, we recommend taking the plunge into processor water cooling to reduce compatibility problems.

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On the positive side the combination of only two low profile heatsinks and no heatpipe connecting them means that actually installing any air based CPU cooler is a relatively straightforward affair. Once again the differences are small, but this additional space means that installing even large air based coolers will not take great feats of finger flexibility. Instead only patience will be needed. This too makes the Gaming 5 above average and more novice friendly than most in this price range.

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Switching from air to water cooling proved much more uneventful as there is more than enough room between the water block and its adjacent components. Basically the same features that make this motherboard air cooling friendly make it even more water cooling friendly.

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In other words, the amount of room in one of the four corners is a little less than optimal, but barring oversized water blocks, andyone interested in water cooling their Gaming 5 rig will find it a fairly straightforward affair. This goes double for novice consumers who plan on using All In One cooling solutions – all that will be required is patience and a clear understanding of how the various parts are installed.

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The amount of space between the CPU socket area and the GPU are also more than adequate. As with other manufactures, Gigabyte has taken the time to locate the main PCI-E x16 slot down one space from its classical position. Instead the first spot is occupied by an x1 slot which provides more than enough gap so that even the largest of air coolers and the most massive of video cards can live in peace and harmony on this motherboard. As an added bonus accessing the RAM does not mean first uninstalling the video card. We wish more companies used such a layout as it should be the de-facto standard.

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Now with all that being said, there are a few issues that will result in frustration. As with most Z170 motherboards we have looked at recently there is going to be issues with SATA devices and long video cards. This is pretty much par for the course and Gigabyte has done an above average job in this regard.

Basically, if you use a long video card – or cards – with this motherboard expect to have to plug in the SATA and SATA Express cables in first. Doing otherwise will result in a lot of frustration. Specifically, if the main PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot is used it will cover the rightmost SATA ports and possibly the rightmost SATA Express port (especially if a triple slot GPU is used). If a video card is installed the secondary PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot the other SATA ports and SATA Express ports will be partially covered.

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On the positive side the M.2 connector that resides between the PCI-E x16 slots is easily accessible even in dual GPU configurations as long as dual slot cards are used. This is because the two main graphics slots are separate by three slots instead of two.

Unfortunately, the location of the secondary M.2 slot does leave a lot to be desired. Much as with SATA cables, consumers should really install the M.2 card before installing their air based CPU cooling solution. This is because even narrow coolers like the U12S will overhang the M.2 slot, making accessing it a real chore.

Overall we consider this motherboard to be well above average in the amount of issues it presents and very novice friendly.
 
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