Well we’ve looked at some of the ASRock Z170 motherboards and we’ve looked at offerings from both MSI and Asus, and all have performed well and had their special mix of features. This time around it’s Gigabyte’s turn at the £150 Gaming motherboard crown with the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 motherboard from their G1 range.
This Z170 based motherboard is an ATX board supporting the latest (Skylake) 6th generation Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 processors. This particular motherboard has four DIMM slots supporting Dual Channel Memory/RAM up to 3466MHz OC with a total maximum of 64GB. There’s a total of seven PCIe slots, three of which are x16 slots while the other four are x1 slots. As the second x16 slot supports x8 speed there’s both support for Nvidia’s SLI and AMD’s Crossfire technologies. In addition to this, the motherboard sports 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports as well as three eSATA ports. There is a total of seventeen USB ports (x9 via the back panel & x8 via motherboard headers) supporting ten USB 3.x and seven USB 2.0, this includes one of the new USB 3.1 (Type-C) ports that are reversible. The Z170X-Gaming 5 also features a Realtek® ALC1150 onboard audio solution with an additional Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 upgrade via software, two Gigabit LAN controllers (Intel & Killer) and two Gen3 x4 M.2 sockets supporting speeds up to 32Gb/s.
The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 arrived at pcG in a refreshingly smart (predominately black ‘n red) box with the Gigabyte G1 logo taking center stage. In addition to the brand, range and product name the front of the box also highlights Ultra Durable (lasting quality from Gigabyte) as well as Intel Z170 chipset, Core inside, DDR4, USB Type-C and USB 3.1. In addition to this you can also see that this particular version of the Z170X-Gaming 5 comes with a free copy of World of Warships.
Looking at the back of the box there’s a lot more to take in! Gigabyte have chosen to highlight the Extreme Intel USB 3.1 Controller and its support for 16Gb/s for two of its USB 3.1 ports. Further highlighting its speed increase over the possible competition. The section through the center of the box goes on to highlight the single USB 3.1 Type-C connector, the Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 + 115dB High Definition Onboard Audio Design (that’s actually by Realtek®) and the dual Gigabit LAN ports by both Intel and Killer (E2200). In addition to this there’s also an image and breakdown of the rear I/O and a brief specification (see Specifications/Features below) table, while Gigabyte also highlights the following:
| AMP-UP Audio Technology with High End Audio Components Design|
Audio Noise Guard with Ambient LED Trace Path Lighting
Dual USB DAC-UP Ports
Gold Plated Audio Ports/DisplayPort/HDMI
| Long Lifespan DuraBlack Solid Capacitors|
Dual PCIe Gen 3 x4 M.2
Built-in Advanced Performance Tuning IC
Exclusive Ultra Durable PCIe Metal Shielding
On opening the box of the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 we can see that the motherboard is adequately packaged, sat in its own cardboard frame and further protected by an anti-static bag. The accessories sit below this tray in the bottom of the box and are both shown and listed below.
IN THE BOX
There’s not too much in the box but we do get four SATA cables and an SLI bridge and of course that (oh so useful!) G-Connector to help with the Front Panel connectors. Also, as stated earlier this version of the motherboard also comes with a free copy of Work of Warships (not shown!).
At the time of review, the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 is retailing at Ebuyer for approximately £135 and comes with an impressive 4 year warranty.
First impressions of the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 are very good, the board it pretty unique when it comes to its looks and the black ‘n red color scheme will also appeal to a lot of Gamers. In fact, the silver accents also help to give it a further lift in the area of aesthetics. There’s no doubt in my mind this is a good-looking motherboard. But there was one thing I did note when I picked the motherboard up for the first time and that was how thin the PCB seems to be, which unfortunately made the board feel a little cheap compared to other boards we’ve seen in the past…
Looking at what I would call the right side of the board and be working left to right; in the far-left corner, we find the SATA ports (see detail below). Next up we find two USB 3.0 headers (nice to see two!) and one of the three system fan headers (SYS_FAN3). Further to the right, we find the main 24-pin power connector followed by an Overclock (OC) button and a low power (ECO) button, both of which alter the CPU Clock speed appropriately. In the far-right corner, we find a debug LED; always nice to see! Just above the 24-pin power socket, we find the four memory DIMMs supporting up to 64GB of RAM in a Dual Channel configuration, supporting speeds up to 3466MHz OC.
Looking at the opposite side of the board (the left) and again working left to right, we first find the main motherboard IO panel (more on this later). Beyond this we find the Realtek® based ALC1150 7.1 channel audio circuitry with its Audio Noise Guard and Ambient LED Trace Path Lighting. In addition to this we can see the Audio Gain Control switches and the Operational Amplifier that can be upgraded if so desired.
Looking at the PCIe 3.0 lanes we see that this ATX Motherboard features seven PCIe lanes. The top one (nearest the CPU) is an x1 slot followed by an x16 slot and then another two x1 slots. Next up we have another x16 slot and another x1 slot followed by the last of the three x16 slots. Note the Exclusive Ultra Durable PCIe Metal Shielding on the three x16 slots. Also note that if one Graphics Card is used the top x16 slot runs at x16 speed if two Graphics cards are used the top one runs at x8 and the second x16 slot runs at x8, meaning that the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 supports both AMD’s Crossfire™ multi-GPU technology and NVidia’s SLI technology.
Looking at what is effectively the top of the board we can see that it’s dominated by the CPU Power phase heatsinks and the LGA1151 Socket, new for Skylake. But what is disappointing to see is that all of the heatsinks are held in place by spring loaded clips! Therefore, don’t go using these as handles as they’re likely to come off in your hand! Over on the right-hand side we find the 8-pin CPU power socket and the second of three system fan headers (SYS_FAN1). And to the left of the upper heatsink we find two CPU fan headers (CPU_FAN/CPU_OPT)
Looking at the bottom of the board and again working from left to right, in the far corner we find the HD Audio header followed by a single Thunderbolt header. This is then followed by a single COM port, the TPM Module header (still never used one of these!) and the board’s two on-board USB 2.0 headers. Finally, we have the last of the three system fan headers (SYS_FAN3) and the Front Panel header. Of course, the Front Panel header can be used in conjunction with the supplied G-Connector, making life even easier! Note how all of the headers feature a socket, which is always nice to see. And also note how tidy this edge of the board seems, very nice…
Flipping the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 over onto its back we can clearly see that the board features a smart black PCB. We can also see that the heatsinks around the CPU area are disappointingly held on by clips and not screws, conversely the chipset heatsink (bottom right) IS held in place by screws!? Also, if we look to the upper right of the board we can see the audio isolation strip running along near the edge of the board. This strip also illuminates (red) when the board is power on.
Taking a tour around the board and looking at things in more detail, let’s first take a look at the new (for Skylake) LGA 1151 socket, as we can see the area around the socket is nice and clear and there’s plenty of that nice black PCB on show! But what is disappointing is that the power phase heatsinks are not screwed to the board, they’re just held in place with plastic (spring loaded) clips. So, don’t go using them as a handle!
Oddly the chipset heatsinks (bottom right) is held in place by screws and just like the power phase heatsinks, it looks good too! In fact, the black/red/silver color scheme really makes this board stand out against the competition.
The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 features a Realtek® ALC1150 7.1 Chanel on-board sound solution, that’s further supported by Sound Blaster’s X-Fi MB3 software. But what’s particularly impressive is the additional of an Audio Gain Control switch (well x4 switches actually) that allows for Gain control to help tune the output for specific headsets. And, the operational Amp can be upgraded should you wish thanks to its (non-soldered) socket mounting.
The Z170X-Gaming 5 features a total of nine SATA ports with a group of four SATA3 6.0Gb/s ports and two eSATA ports (on the left) followed by a single eSATA port and two further SATA3 6.0Gb/s ports. All of which are controlled courtesy of the Intel chipset.
In the far-right corner of the board we have two buttons, one for overclocking the CPU (OC) for higher performance and one for underclocking the CPU (not sure who wants to do that!) via the ECO button. Then in the corner there’s a debug LED, that to be honest really is a useful (comfort) device to have on a motherboard, if things go wrong, let’s hope they don’t…
Rather surprisingly the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 is equipped with not just one M.2 port but two! Both are SATA and PCIe compatible and offer full Gen 3 x4 32Gb/s support via their type 2242/2260/2280 ports. Impressive stuff!
There’s certainly a lot to like about the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 motherboard from its great aesthetics to its dual LAN ports and from its impressive on-board audio setup to its dual M.2 ports. The layout is also good with some well-placed headers and with a lot of them having a full socket and not just pins! The only possible concerns at this point (and at this price point – £150) are the plastic clips on the power phase heatsinks and the fact that the PCB seems a little thin to me, giving the board a somewhat cheap feeling when being handled…
A new build was put together to house the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 Motherboard with a new Intel Core i5-6600K Skylake CPU and and new DDR4 memory in the form of G.Skill RipJaws 2400MHz. The following components were also used:
Test Rig Setup
|Case||Cooler Master HAF XB||Power Supply||Corsair Professional Series AX 760i|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5||CPU||Intel Core I5-6600K Processor|
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-U12S||RAM||G Skill Ripjaws 4 16GB|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GeForce GTX 980Ti Classified||SSD||HyperX FURY 120GB|
Installation of the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 was easy enough thanks in part to a good layout. The Motherboard assembly was also simple enough consisting of the board itself, our test Intel Core i5-6600K Skylake CPU, a Noctua NH-U12S CPU Cooler and 8GB of G. Skill Ripjaws 4 memory. With the motherboard assembly complete it was secured to our test Case (Cooler Master HAF XB) by way of the nine screws required.
All necessary SATA cables were connected to the motherboard and for our test HyperX Fury SSD I actually used SATA3-4 port. All of the relevant power cables from the Corsair AX760i were then plugged into the Z170X-Gaming 5 along with all of the case fans. Final cables included USB 3.0, with the choice of two, which is good to see! And of course, the fiddly Front Panel connectors, but not this time thanks to that (oh so useful!) G-Connector! That just left the installation of our new test GPU an EVGA GeForce GTX 980Ti Classified.
Now it’s time for some testing…
For all of our Z170 testing we will be using Windows 10 (DirectX 12), therefore a new installation of Windows 10 64Bit was performed and the following Drivers were installed. The latest Gigabyte Drivers were used and can been obtained (here). Although the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 has its Drivers and Utilities available on the supplied DVD, we here at pcG try to keep up with the latest Drivers and software where possible.
- System & Chipset Drivers – Intel INF installation (10.1.1.9)
- Audio Driver – Realtek HD Audio Driver (7553)
- Audio Driver – Creative SB X-Fi driver (1.00.07)
- On-Board LAN Drivers – Bigfoot LAN driver (22.214.171.1243)
- On-Board LAN Drivers – Intel LAN driver (20.2)
- NVidia Driver 361.91 WHQL
During testing the following tools/benchmarks & games were used/played:
|Rise of the Tomb Raider|
When I first dropped into Gigabyte’s UEFI I assumed that I was in a basic/easy mode as there was so little on screen and it all looked a little, well, basic! But no there seems to be only one mode and it is basic, very basic indeed. There was very little sign of any GUI to speak of in fact, and if I was feeling mean I’d say that it looked looked a little like the BIOS’s of old; but that would be mean right!?
Having said that it was very easy to use even if it did look a little dull. But there were other issues too, mouse control on my 3440×1440 screen was terrible, almost to the point it was unusable. A problem that I’ve not come across with any other Motherboard tested! I also came across several errors on a BIOS re-boot where I was just left with an instruction error on screen! A further reboot would seem to fix it though!? All in all, from what I’ve seen so far, I’m not much of a fan of Gigabyte’s BIOS/UEFI.
The two images above show off (or don’t!) Gigabyte’s UEFI. The first shows the basic M.I.T. screen, loaded by default on entry into the UEFI and the second shows off the basic Load Optimized Default settings. Note that all settings were detected correctly by the BIOS with the Intel Core i5-6600K CPU running at 3.5GHz (3.9GHz Turbo) and the G. Skill 2400MHz memory defaulted to 2133MHz.
Dialing in our overclocked profile of 4.5GHz @ 1.3v with XMP on was simple enough. I adjusted the CPU Clock Ratio to 45, the Extreme Memory Profile (X.M.P.) to Profile1 and changed the CPU Vcore voltage from Auto to 1.300V.
There are, as you can see some built in Overclock profiles for you to choose from these range from 4.2GHz to 4.6GHz. In addition to this there is also the OC button on the motherboard that overclocked our Core i5-6600K from 3.9GHz to 4.1GHz, so not by much!
|Having recently seen some Motherboards suffering from vDroop, I decided to look at the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 under full load also. vDroop, WTF!? Well, it’s nothing to do with erectile dysfunction that’s for sure! But it’s still not good! It basically describes a drop-in voltage (CPU Core voltage) when the CPU is under heavy load. And boy was it bad, under Idle (at 1.4v) when using Gigabytes own 4.6GHz overclock (via Easy Tune, see below) the voltage was already at 1.380v. But under load this dropped massively to just 1.308v almost 0.1v less that the dialed in value. That’s simply not good!|
- Benchmark Results (CPU @ STOCK: 3.5GHz (1.208v) : RAM @ 2400MHz) with EVGA GeForce GTX 980Ti Classified
|Metro Last Light||1920×1080||101.5|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||2352|
|3DMark Fire strike||Extreme||7968|
- Benchmark Results (CPU @ OC: 4.5GHz (1.308v) : RAM @ 2400MHz) with EVGA GeForce GTX 980Ti Classified
|Metro Last Light||1920×1080||112.00|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||2377|
|3DMark Fire strike||Default||15364|
|3DMark Fire strike||Extreme||8055|
Performance of the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 when tested with our Intel Core i5-6600K at stock settings was almost in-line with what we’ve seen before. But the values were all lower than what we’ve seen before, which is a bit of a shame. Although to put this in perspective we’re taking about 1-2% difference.
The overclocked results are also a little down on what we’ve seen in the past, but again keeping things in perspective it’s not something you’re going to notice in game. What’s is good news being that the Z170X-Gaming 5 remained stable throughout all of our benchmarking, even with that vDroop problem. Although we did run into other boot issues later during general testing…
Again, here we’re actually seeing a difference (on our Sky lake platform) in the Stock and Overclocked scores, especially in the Metro Last Light benchmark that seems to be leaning on the motherboard and sub-system more than some of the other Gaming related benchmarks. This is due to the increase in frame rate as now the new GPU is not holding the motherboard back in any way, therefore the motherboard is forced into working that little bit harder!
Gigabyte boards in the past have always impressed with their on-board audio and (thankfully) there’s no change here. The Realtek® ALC1150 equipped audio solution with its Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 enhancement via software puts in an admirable performance with plenty of power on tap. But the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 has another impressive little trick up its sleeve! Remember that little switch on the motherboard, the Audio Gain Control, well switching that over (On 6x) gave a further boost to our favorite headset of choice (HyperX Cloud). With the end result being that the on-board audio solution was capable of really kicking some serious ass… Nice!
There are so many features and so much software that comes with (or is downloadable) for the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5, that to try and cover it would be a review in itself! I’m also not a big fan of software so for me the only software that I’m likely to install is Gigabyte’s App Center and the EasyTune program. The EasyTune program effectively bolts into the App Center in the same way the other apps do and it in itself is a one stop show for all of your overclocking needs.
Gigabyte’s EasyTune is simply an advanced overclocking program for Windows, although surprisingly there little to no monitoring here. But this may be covered by the plethora of other apps on offer (here). The main screen shown above allows you to switch between any of the supported modes (ECO, Default and OC) as well as launch the Auto Tuning option (see below for more detail).
The four screenshots above show off the main sections of EasyTune, that allow you to overclock the CPU and the RAM etc., as well as alter the power delivery (CPU Vcore Load line & VAXG Load line) and assign a Hotkey to either of the supported software based Profiles. To be honest, it’s all pretty simple stuff and that might be a good thing, but the software is lacking when you look at the quality and functionality of the Competitions.
As the EasyTune option is something that many of us like the sound off, I decided to take it for a spin. After a few minutes of Stress Testing and a couple of reboots our Intel Core i5-6600K was now running at a very impressive 4.6GHz with a voltage of 1.4V. Of course, due to this board’s issue with vDroop (see above) that actually only saw 1.308 volts at the Core, not so impressive! Also, I noted that despite the EasyTune overclock there was no alteration to the RAM, not even the XMP profile was switched on!? In fact, I tried to switch it on via the EasyTune software itself and that didn’t seem to work either! So EasyTune is good, but it’s only good for tuning your CPU it would seem…
The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 is a good Z170 based board with great aesthetics, impressive features, and impressive audio. It’s a shame then that it’s let down by some poor design choices, such as the lack luster UEFI and software as well as some of the worst vDroop I’ve seen on a motherboard, making overclocking more difficult than it should be.
The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 arrived at PCG in a very smart black and red box adorned with Gigabyte’s G1 logo. The board and its accessories were adequately packaged and presented, with the board protected by a cardboard tray and sealed in an anti-static bag. The accessories found in the base of the box are welcome, especially the SLI bridge and the G-Connector, less so the Silver SATA cables!?
Once out of the box I was immediately impressed with the aesthetics of the Z170X-Gaming 5, this really is one good looking Motherboard. And, it’s packed with features too, from its dual LAN ports to its dual M.2 ports and from its impressive Audio solution to its debug LED and OC controls. It’s a shame then (and a little weird!) that the board’s PCB seems a little thin, making for a somewhat cheap feeling!
Installation and setup of the board were fine and the board correctly set up all of the attached hardware. It was also easy to update the BIOS via Gigabyte’s Q-Flash utility within the UEFI. The UEFI though is a little disappointing, not only does it look dull in comparisons to the competitions, it also suffers from some of the worst mouse control I’ve come across. Overclocking via the UEFI though was nice and simple, with just three values needing updating to get our 4.5GHz overclock @ 1.3v with XMP. Although we actually needed to dial in 1.4v to get 1.3v as this Gigabyte board suffers some of the worst vDroop (under load) that we’ve seen.
Performance wise the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 performed well in testing, although both the stock and overclocked tests revealed that the board was down a little (less than 1%) when compared to the competition. Certainly, something you’d never notice in the game!
The performance of the on-board audio, on the other hand, was nothing short of excellent and easily makes this motherboard one of the best we’ve tested when it comes to on-board audio. Its Realtek® ALC1150 7.1 Chanel solution, is further enhanced by not only the Gain control on the motherboard but also by the Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 software. With the Gain control set to on (High 6x) our test headset of choice (HyperX Cloud) really kicked some serious ass! A real Gamers sound solution this!
Software wise I took a look at Gigabyte’s App Center and installed EasyTune so I could do some overclocking from within Windows. Although overclocking the CPU worked well as did the Auto Tune function, I was disappointed that the Auto overclock didn’t seem to include support for XMP. In fact, I couldn’t seem to control XMP via the software (in conjunction with an overclock) at all!? Also, the overclock that it did manage to dial in via the Auto Tune function was (obviously) compounded by the vDroop problem.
Now while the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 is a good board with a host of great features, great aesthetics, and good performance, it’s let down by numerous niggles. None of them are major, but there’s just so many of them it tends to mar what is otherwise a good Gaming motherboard.