Review of GIGABYTE GA-Z270 Gaming K3 Motherboard
A new set of logic system Intel Z270 Express was introduced simultaneously with the seventh generation of Core processors, code-named Kaby Lake. The Z270 is the flagship chipset of the updated family and is designed to assemble high-performance machines with the most modern interfaces. The key difference between the Z270 and its predecessor is the Z170 is the 24 lines of PCI Express 3.0. According to Intel, four additional bandwidths that provide up to 32Gb/s bandwidth are designed to work with Optane memory, which can significantly speed up the work of system drives and bring the performance of a conventional hard drive to the level of a medium-class SSD. For an ordinary user, the presence of four additional lines means the initial possibility of installing an independent PCI Express slots of the M.2 port.
Manufacturers use the extended resources of the new chipset in different ways. The flagship boards can boast of just two M.2 ports and a U.2 port where you can install three SSDs and even merge them into a RAID array. Boards of this class are equipped with Thunderbolt 3 controllers, additional network adapters and other equipment.
And what if we design a high-performance motherboard based on the Z270, which will have all the advantages of a new chipset, but without excesses? And, accordingly, which will be available to a much larger number of enthusiasts than top models?
This is really possible, and the best example is GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3. This board belongs to the Gaming series and supports the proprietary Ultra Durable technology, which provides increased reliability and durability. At the same time, it costs about 1.5 times cheaper than the flagship models.
Packing and equipment
The GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 motherboard is sold in a cardboard box in black with a colorful GAMING logo on the cover. The Ultra Durable logo is a trademark of GIGABYTE, which includes a whole range of measures that increase the reliability and durability of the board. The use of solid capacitors, MOSFETs with reduced channel resistance, chokes with ferrite core, and double thickness of conductors in the power and ground layers of the PCB and the metal shielding of the PCI Express slots are some of them. The Ultra Durable logo is displayed on the screen when the BIOS is booted.
On the back side of the box, there are the main technical characteristics of the GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 and its key features, including programmable Ambient LED LED lighting, smart cooling control Smart Fan 5, audio subsystem with a telephone intelligent amplifier capable of automatically adjusting to the characteristics of the connected headphones depending on their impedance, the game network platform Killer E2500 and controller USB 3.1 Gen 2.
The GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 package is quite common for this class. Besides the card itself, there are four SATA cables (two with straight and two with angled connectors), a G-connector, a rear panel bracket, a brief installation instruction and a detailed instruction manual, as well as DVD with drivers and software.
Appearance and construction
The GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 is made of dark brown, almost black texture. All connectors and slots are made of black plastic, and three cooling radiators (on the chipset and on the CPU power supply chokes) are also black with red stripes. When the set is off, the board looks rather conservative. Contrary to that, when the built-in backlight turns on, it appears quite different. Later, we will discuss about it more.
The board has three physical PCI Express x16slots, the first of which has a metal shield and additional soldering points. The first slot works in full-speed mode x16, receiving all 16 lines from the processor, and the other two – in x4 mode and supported by the chipset. Because of this configuration, the board does not support the Nvidia SLI mode, but it is possible to install two video cards simultaneously in the AMD CrossFireX/CrossFire 16x/4x mode. There are three traditional PCI Express x1 ports for expansion cards that are not demanding for bandwidth.
Four slots for DDR4 memory with support for XMP profiles are made of plastic and they do not have additional screening. Below them, there are two illuminated Turbo and XMP inscriptions that light up red when the corresponding modes are activated, but there are no hardware buttons for powering up and overclocking on the board. There is also no diagnostic panel with POST-codes output. Four signal LEDs are isolated in its right bottom corner, indicating correct operation of the processor, RAM, video card and drive.
For connection of drives on the GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 board, six SATA III ports with a capacity of 6 Gbps are provided. They are capable of organizing RAID arrays of levels 0.1 5 and 10, a M.2 port supporting high-speed NVMs size (from 2242 to 22110), as well as memory modules Intel Optane. All these drives are supported by the resources of the Z270 chipset, and for the M.2 port, separate 4 PCI Express 3.0 lines are provided, delivering an output up to 32 Gb/s. Interestingly, the four SATA ports are grouped into a common section with two SATA Express ports, and the two remaining SATA ports are installed separately. They are set facing upwards so to make them useful when assembling the system into compact enclosures.
The board has support for 14 USB ports (8 x USB 3.0 and 6 x USB 2.0) based on the chipset’s resources, as well as two high-speed (10 Gb/s) USB 3.1 Gen2 ports via the optional ASMedia ASM2142 controller. Unlike the flagship models, GIGABYTE engineers did not install the Thunderbolt 3 controller on the GA-Z270-Gaming K3, but provided a special THB_C connector for connecting the optional GIGABYTE Thunderbolt card. This card is located next to the common SATA / SATA Express connectors.
The audio system is represented on the GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 7.1-channel codec Realtek ALC1220, (the codec chip is covered with a metal screen with the inscription AMP-UP Audio), nine solid capacitors Nippon Chemi-Con and an amplifier with automatic adjustment of the signal level for headphones with different impedance.
Like the more expensive cards, the GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 has a Gigabit network controller Killer E2500, which can automatically configure the optimal connection parameters allowing you to prioritize access to the channel of certain applications with the help of the supplied software.
On the GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 board, Smart Fan 5 intelligent control function is implemented. It includes 5 4-pin fan connectors with voltage and PWM adjustment and 6 temperature sensors. Two of the five fan connectors support operation in a mode of 2 A and 12 V with built-in protection against overcurrent. It allows you to connect to them as conventional coolers and pumps of water cooling systems.
Traditionally for GIGABYTE, two BIOS chips (GIGABYTE DualBIOS technology) are installed on the board. It protects the microcode against virus attacks and errors during overclocking, PCI Express x16 connectors with double fixation. The resistors resistant to sulfur compounds in the air. The G-connector shoe, which has become an obligatory accessory for GIGABYTE boards, is also worth mentioning. Because it greatly simplifies the connection of cables from the front connectors of the case.
The rear panel of the GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 has one PS / 2 port for connecting a mouse or keyboard, two yellow USB ports 3.1 Gen. 1 with USB function DAC-UP 2 (compensation of fluctuations and voltage drops for connecting external DACs and gaming peripherals), video output DVI-D, two red USB ports 3.1 Gen. 2 Type-C and Type A, two blue USB ports 3.1 Gen. 1, HDMI video output, Gigabit Ethernet network port, two black USB 2.0 ports and six analog audio ports.
Unlike more expensive motherboards, where RGB Fusion multi-color LED technology is implemented, GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 uses a simpler monochrome Ambient LED backlight. It consists of LEDs that are connected with the back of the board along transparent lines on the left and right sides and labels in the upper right corner, as well as under the first PCI Express x16 slot. They all glow red, and you cannot change the color. But through the supplied software, you can set one of three effects: static glow, rhythmic pulses, or fading in time matching the beat of the music. Want to connect additional light-emitting strips by regular means too? Alas! It won’t support.
First of all, let’s answer the main question. Is the system, collected on the basis GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 systems, based on more expensive motherboards on the Z270 chipset?
Recently, in the test lab, GIGABYTE visited Motherboard Aorus GA-Z270X-Gaming 7 based on the same set of logic Z270, and for the assembly of the system. We used absolutely the same components – processor, RAM, drive, video card and power supply. To evaluate the performance, the same set of tests was used, so the comparison should be extremely correct.
If we look at the results of the tests, we will see that in some benchmarks GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 lags behind Aorus GA-Z270X-Gaming 7 literally on scores, and in others even slightly overtakes a much more expensive opponent. Overall, these differences are so insignificant that we can declare with all responsibility that choosing GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3, you will not lose in performance. If desired, the difference can easily be adjusted by the frequency and voltage settings.
As far as equipment is concerned, GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 is a worthy representative of the brand. Yes, there is no gilding on the contacts of the processor socket, there is no RGB-backlight, and the metal screen is installed only on one PCI Express x16 slot. But here, you’ll see a full-fledged M.2 PCI Express x4 slot with the ability to install NVMe that drives of any length or perspective Optane memory. Apart from this, this offers USB 3.1 Gen2 controller, Killer E2500 network adapter, USB DAC-UP 2 ports with improved power and voltage compensation capability, a decent audio codec Realtek ALC1220, five connectors for coolers and six temperature sensors controlled by Smart Fan 5. In fact, the board has a full set of overclocking settings in the BIOS and, of course, built-in LED backlighting.
First of all, we want to mention the lack of a diagnostic display that displays POST-codes, and hardware buttons on the board, which is important if you intend to deal with overclocking. But the rejection of the video output of DisplayPort, in our opinion, does not matter, since the owner of such a board will hardly ever use the graphics integrated in the processor. Moreover, the absence of the still not very popular Thunderbolt 3 controller would be attributed to the merits of this model, because such a solution allowed to keep the price of the board at an acceptable level.
To summarize, we would call GIGABYTE GA-Z270-Gaming K3 a good choice for the construction of a gaming system of the middle class based on the latest processors Kaby Lake and system logic Z270 Express with the prospect of a subsequent upgrade. This board is characterized by reasonably sufficient equipment with modern interfaces. And undoubtedly, by the level of performance, it is not inferior to more expensive models.
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