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GIGABYTE Z170X-Gaming 5 Motherboard Review

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Feature Testing: Onboard Audio and USB 3.1 Performance

Feature Testing: Onboard Audio


<i> While the Gigabyte Gaming 5 is mainly orientated towards PC enthusiasts, the upgraded onboard audio is one of its main selling features. As such, it behooves us to see exactly what this upgrade brings to the table. To do this we have used RightMark Audio Analyzer.</i>

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For the past few generations Gigabyte has provided their customers with excellent onboard sound solutions and the Z170X-Gaming 5 is no exception. While certainly not the best we have seen, it still is extremely potent and more than capable of providing excellent performance for anyone not interested in a dedicated soundcard. More importantly, it is keeping pace with some extremely high end products which is impressive given its price.


Feature Testing: USB 3.1 Performance


For the USB 3.1 device we have used an Asus USB 3.1 enclosure which uses a pair of Samsung 840 EVO 250GB drives, and is powered by an ASMedia ASM1352R chipset.

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Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB. </i>

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Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

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At this point we thought we knew exactly what this external USB 3.1 device could accomplish and yet in one fell swoop Intel's Alpine Ridge controller has moved the yardsticks. It hasn't done so by a drastic amount but it is obvious that Intel's implementation is slightly better than ASMedia's.

Gigabyte seems to have made the right decision in snubbing ASUS' subsidiary and using this cutting edge discreet controller instead.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Feature Testing: Software Auto-Overclocking

Feature Testing: Software Auto-Overclocking


As with all Z170 motherboards we have reviewed to date the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 offers multiple ways of allowing users to quickly, easily, and nearly painlessly overclock their system. All these various options will result in a fully stable and safe overclock. This may not sound all that impressive but it actually is.

Of course a bit of explanation is in order as on the surface offering stable, and safe overclocking options should not that be notable. In fact, it should fall into the category of 'water is wet' and 'the sky is blue'. However, this is noteworthy and did impress as the last generation Z97X-Gaming 5 had software overclocking that fell well short of that mark, was not fully stable, and in some instances applied dangerous amounts of voltage to the processor.


OC Button


Obviously Gigabyte listened to complaints and have now leashed their software before can run too far off course. This explains why there is now only one factory preset option via the ‘OC’ button. This sets all cores to 4.2GHz on a 6700K and turns on the XMP profile. For most users this boost should prove to be more than adequate and considering it did not push that much more voltage than alternatives from ASUS and MSI do, it represents a great step forward for Gigabyte.


AutoTune

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To be honest, while the factory preset will prove to be more than enough, the real option most will flock to is AutoTune. Here too Gigabyte has fixed their broken software and the end result was fully stable, and was only using a sensible amount of voltage. This to us places the Gigabyte Gaming 5 ahead of the MSI Gaming M5 which doesn’t really have much in the way of software-based options.

Of course, like everyone else Gigabyte is still playing catchup to ASUS as there is no "HotKey OC" option which would allow keypress overclocking during POST. Since Gigabyte now has the basics right we cannot fault them all too much for being conservative - after all it is better to have the foundation and basics down before trying for fancy advanced features.

The only real issue we ran into is that Gigabyte and their Z170X-Gaming 5 does not natively support DDR4-3600 modules. Given the price of the bleeding edge 3600MHz modules we use in relation to the Gaming 5’s cost, it will be a long while before it can be considered a major negative. However, despite our best efforts the our 3600MHz modules topped out at a paltry 2933MHz which is actually well short of the claimed 3466MHz Gigabyte supposedly supports.

In the end the AutoTune program gave a speed of 4.6GHz, boosted Uncore moderately to 4.1GHz and after failing to implement the XMP profile settled for DDR4-2933. This certainly is quite decent given the price range of this motherboard…but would it have been overly complicated to push the RAM native XMP profile to 3600? We think not as this is only one speed step difference.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Manual Overclocking Results

Manual Overclocking Results


Even though Gigabyte includes two very decent automatic overclocking methods, for a lot of enthusiasts it is only the manual overclocking abilities of a motherboard which matter. We’ve seen boards as inexpensive as the Gaming 5 easily meet and exceed expectations in the past.

Thankfully Gigabyte does not disappoint and we really did not have all that much problem implementing a relatively high overclock. With that being said the memory frequency support is really the weak link in this board’s setup. With most boards overclocking memory would simply mean picking the right ratio and multiplier and calling it a day but the Gaming 5 takes a bit more TLC.

Since the BLCK is unganged and due to the fact that Gigabyte offers a custom base clock generator capable of 400 or more, there’s certainly a ton of gas in this tank. It all comes down to patience though. If you are used to only changing the CPU multiplier to achieve a certain memory speed, you will have to take an extra moment and boost the BCLK a bit as well. In fact, our usual BLCK setting of about 165MHz was more than enough and with a lowered RAM multiplier we easily achieved DDR4-3600 speeds. Too bad they aren’t natively supported via XMP.

Moving on the CPU side of the equation was more straightforward and did not involve work-arounds. Basically because Gigabyte uses a good power delivery subsystem, and has implemented a very functional BIOS, this board is capable of pushing a typical 6700K to its limits. We know from past experience that our particular 6700K can easily do 4.8GHz but to get much beyond this requires a lot more voltage than we are comfortable with. As such dialing it in really was not that hard and only took a couple of minutes.

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Moving on the CPU side of the equation was more straightforward and did not involve work-arounds. Basically because Gigabyte uses a good power delivery subsystem, and has implemented a very functional BIOS, this board is capable of pushing a typical 6700K to its limits. We know from past experience that our particular 6700K can easily do 4.8GHz but to get much beyond this requires a lot more voltage than we are comfortable with. As such dialing it in really was not that hard and only took a couple of minutes.

Now with all that being said this board is not perfect from a manual overclocking point of view. First and foremost is there is no physical Clear CMOS button and instead a jumper is the only option. By itself this is not a game changer since the Gaming 5 does boast Gigabyte’s dualBIOS failsafe. Even though we did corrupt it a few times while getting the RAM to work with our CPU overclock all that happened was the typical "Overclock failed" which allowed us to enter the BIOS to fix whatever caused the POST message. This was certainly reassuring, especially considering the Gaming 5’s overall cost.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks


In the System Benchmarks section we will show a number benchmark comparisons of the 6700K and Z170 Gaming 577 using the stock speed (turbo enabled), software overclocking (4.6GHz), and our manual overclock(4.8GHz). This will illustrate how much performance can be gained by the various overclocking options this board has to offer.

For reference the CPU speeds, memory speeds, memory timings, and uncore speeds used for these tests are as follows:

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SuperPI Benchmark


SuperPi calculates the number of digits of PI in a pure 2D benchmark. For the purposes of this review, calculation to 32 million places will be used. RAM speed, RAM timings, CPU speed, L2 cache, and Operating System tweaks all effect the speed of the calculation, and this has been one of the most popular benchmarks among enthusiasts for several years.
SuperPi was originally written by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 and was updated later by snq to support millisecond timing, cheat protection and checksum. The version used in these benchmarks, 1.5 is the official version supported by hwbot.


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CINEBENCH R11.5


CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation.

In this system benchmark section, we will use the x64 Main Processor Performance (CPU) test scenario. The Main Processor Performance (CPU) test scenario uses all of the system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene (from the viral "No Keyframes" animation by AixSponza). This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects which in turn contain more than 300,000 polygons in total, and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights, shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. The result is displayed in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.


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Sandra Processor Arithmetic & Processor Multi-Media Benchmarks


SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. The software suite provides most of the information (including undocumented) users like to know about hardware, software, and other devices whether hardware or software. The name “Sandra” is a (girl) name of Greek origin that means "defender", "helper of mankind".

The software version used for these tests is SiSoftware Sandra 2013 SP3. In the 2013 version of Sandra, SiSoft has updated operating system support, added support for Haswell CPUs, as well as added some new benchmarks to the testing suite. The benchmark used below is the Processor Arithmetic benchmark which shows how the processor handles arithmetic and floating point instructions. This test illustrates an important area of a computer’s speed.


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PCMark 8 Benchmark


Developed in partnership with Benchmark Development Program members Acer, AMD, Condusiv Technologies, Dell, HGST, HP, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Samsung, SanDisk, Seagate and Western Digital, PCMark 8 is the latest version in FutureMark’s popular series of PC benchmarking tools. Improving on previous releases, PCMark 8 includes new tests using popular applications from Adobe and Microsoft.


The test used in below is the PCMark 8 Home benchmark. This testing suite includes workloads that reflect common tasks for a typical home user such as for web browsing, writing, gaming, photo editing, and video chat. The results are combined to give a PCMark 8 Home score for the system.


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AIDA64 Benchmark


AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a diagnostic and benchmarking software suite for home users that provides a wide range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives.

The benchmarks used in this review are the memory bandwidth and latency benchmarks. Memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, Memory Copy) measure the maximum achievable memory data transfer bandwidth. The code behind these benchmark methods are written in Assembly and they are extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x86/x64, x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE4.1, AVX, and AVX2 instruction set extension.

The Memory Latency benchmark measures the typical delay when the CPU reads data from system memory. Memory latency time means the penalty measured from the issuing of the read command until the data arrives to the integer registers of the CPU.


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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
3D and Gaming Benchmarks

3D and Gaming Benchmarks


In the 3D and Gaming Benchmarks section we will show a number of benchmark comparisons of the 6700K and Z170 Gaming 5 using the stock speed (turbo enabled), highest stable software over-clock of 4.6Ghz and our manual overclock. This will illustrate how much performance can be gained by the various overclocking options this board has to offer.

For reference the CPU speeds, memory speeds, memory timings, and uncore speeds used for these tests are as follows:
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3DMark Fire Strike Benchmark


<i>The latest version of 3DMark from FutureMark includes everything you need to benchmark everything from smartphones and tablets, to notebooks and home PCs, to the latest high-end, multi-GPU gaming desktops. And it's not just for Windows. With 3DMark you can compare your scores with Android and iOS devices too. It's the most powerful and flexible 3DMark we've ever created.

The test we are using in this review is Fire Strike with Extreme settings which is a DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. Fire Strike features real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today.</i>

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Sleeping Dogs Gaming Benchmark


<i>Sleeping Dogs is an open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix, released on August 2012. Sleeping Dogs has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are the Extreme display settings and a resolution of 1920x1200. World density is set to extreme, high-res textures are enabled, and shadow resolution, shadow filtering, screen space ambient occlusion, and quality motion blur are all set to high.</i>

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Metro: Last Light Gaming Benchmark


<i>Metro: Last Light is a DX11 first-person shooter video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver released in May 2013. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features action-oriented gameplay. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play. Scene D6 was used and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are Very High for quality and a resolution of 1920x1200. DirectX 11 is used, texture filtering is set to AF 16X, motion blur is normal, SSA and advanced physX turned on and tessellation is set to high.</i>

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BioShock Infinite Gaming Benchmark


<i>BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games released in March 2013. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are UltraDX11 for quality and a resolution of 1920x1200.</i>

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Tomb Raider Gaming Benchmark


<i> Tomb Raider is an action-adventure video game. Published by Square Enix released in March 2013. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are Ultimate default settings for quality, VSync disabled and a resolution of 1920x1200.</i>

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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Conclusion

Conclusion


What Gigabyte is trying to accomplish with their Z170X-Gaming 5 is quite laudable. Today’s Z170 market is book-ended with two types of Skylake-supporting motherboards: those which are absolutely packed full of features with prices ranging above the $200 mark and those under $125 tend to make some serious sacrifices to achieve their relative affordability. Among the more expensive options, some are marketed as premium “gamer” products while others just throw everything but the kitchen sink into their feature list. Gigabyte’s Gaming 5 on the other hand strides into the under-served middle ground at $150 while still endeavoring to appeal to demanding buyers. They ask a pretty straightforward question: what does a gamer actually need in their motherboard? The answer is a straightforward “exactly what’s included on this particular product”.

From a features perspective, the Z170X-Gaming 5 hits all the high points and then some. It has an intuitive no-nonsense BIOS, a very functional layout, plenty of well-planned storage options, one of the best onboard sound solutions around and Intel’s excellent new USB 3.1 controller. Rounding things out is a surprisingly robust networking combination featuring a Killer NPU and an Intel i219 NIC alongside a well-appointed PWM. Honestly, if there’s something else a gamer or even home user could possibly need, we’re all ears.

There have of course been some sacrifices like onboard Power / Reset buttons, a clear CMOS button, native NVMe U.2 device support, WiFi and Thunderbolt connectivity. Those are all understandable omissions but it would have been great to see a few of those added in the place of two of the three SATA Express connectors and one of the two M.2 ports.

On the overclocking side, the only thing that holds this board back is its lack of higher-end XMP profile support. While the performance differences between 3466MHz and 3600MHz+ memory are negligible, it would be nice to have some additional options, though manual overclocking will easily bring higher frequencies within reach. Meanwhile, the addition of Gigabyte’s Turbo B-Clock and a very functional DualBIOS for an overclocking failsafe are both extremely welcome additions on a lower priced board.

Even if you aren’t someone who is comfortable with manual overclocking, the Gaming 5 also offers a whole host of novice-friendly automatic overclocking tools. There’s a PCB-mounted OC button and one-touch software Auto Tuning, both of which work extremely well and represent a huge step forward for Gigabyte.

Comparisons between MSI's Gaming M5 and Gigabyte's Gaming 5 series are inevitable. They cost within a few dollars of each other, offer similar hardware features, have dual NICs and dual M.2 ports and boast a similar layout. Honestly, either is a great choice for anyone on a tight budget that doesn’t want to sacrifice performance, features, overclocking or long-term durability on the altar of lower prices.

With such similar building blocks used for these two models it comes down to more specific scenarios when deciding on one or the other. For example, the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 is more novice friendly for manual overclocking. Both are in the same final frequency range but the when spending a significant amount of time digging deep into the BIOS, Gigabyte’s layout is more user-friendly. It also offers more auto-overclocking options and a superior onboard sound solution.

Another valid comparison is between the various ASUS Z170 offerings and the Gaming 5. Here Gigabyte surges ahead. Compared to the slightly cheaper ASUS Z170-A, the Gaming 5 is a much better value regardless of how you look at such things. Even compared to the more expensive ASUS RoG Hero, this board can easily hold its own and makes a very good argument for why the average consumer should save their money for other things.

After looking at quite a few Z170 motherboards to date, the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 is arguably one of the most well-rounded we’ve encountered thus far. It may not be perfect but its combination of features and abilities at a highly affordable price point makes it a perfect fit for a huge portion of the DIY market.

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