Last Updated: December 2017
Skylake is the codename of one of the most popular processors by Intel. This processor was launched in August of 2015 and it is the successor of the Broadwell processor. Skylake is a microarchitecture redesign that uses the same 14 nm manufacturing technology as the Broadwell processor, and it serves as a ‘tock’ in the famed ‘tick-tock’ manufacturing design model by Intel.
As per Intel, the Skylake processor offers greater CPU and GPU performance while reducing the consumption of power. Though it has been succeeded by the Kaby Lake processor, the Skylake processor still remains one of the most popular processors on the market for gamers, and that’s partly due to the fact that it is the last Intel platform on which Windows that are earlier than Windows 10 will be officially supported by Microsoft.
The Skylake processor has a lot to offer gamers, which is why it remains one of the most popular processors on the market. If you’re a gamer – or anyone else – who is looking to get the most out of your PC, here’s a look at some of the most powerful ways that a Skylake processor will boost the performance of your PC build….
In a hurry? Then check out our best Intel Skylake motherboard recommendation: ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Formula DDR4 ATX Motherboard – You can learn more about this motherboard right here.
The Best Z170 Motherboards for Skylake Processors
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So, if you have determined that upgrading to a Skylake processor is a wise choice for you, you are going to need to get a motherboard that will support it. But, what motherboard should you purchase? What will offer you the best performance? What will truly enhance the experience of your PC and allow you to get the most out of the Skylake processor?
There are several motherboards on the market that are designed to be used with the Skylake processor, which can make it difficult to determine which one will best suit your needs. In an effort to help you find the best possible motherboard for your Intel Skylake processor, we have tested out options from the biggest names on the market. After doing so, we have concluded that the following three motherboards are, hands down, the best motherboards for Intel Skylake processors. Choose one of these options and you will be sure to get the best experience out of your processor – and your PC.
Asus ROG MAXIMUS VIII FORMULA DDR4 ATX Motherboard
The Asus ROG Maximus VII Formula is one of the latest additions to the motherboard line of Republic of Gamers. The ROG Maximus VII Formula features an armor overlay that is similar to the Formula and the Sabertooth motherboards. Aesthetically speaking, this motherboard features the standard black and red. This motherboard’s integrated Intel Z170 chipset provides the board with the support that is needed for the latest Intel LGA1151 Skylake Processor line, as well as the Dual Channel DDR4 memory.
The Asus ROG Maximus VII Formula offers 28 integrated LEDs that provide ambient lighting and can be adjusted to your specific preferences so that you can truly customize the motherboard to your liking. The LED lighting is scattered throughout the motherboard and is located in various locations that are not traditionally lit, such as the MOSFET cooling hardware. ASUS uses Aura 4 pin LED headers, which allows you to use and control the standard 5050 RGB LED light strips with a maximum power rating of 2A, or 12V. It comes with one extension cable, but RGB LED strips do have to be purchased separately. Control of these and the onboard LEDs is done via the Aura lighting control software that is located in Windows. The control of the onboard LEDs and RGB headers are separate, which gives you a lot more flexibility when you are tuning the lighting effects.
Another key feature of the ROG Maximus VII Formula is that it is designed to offer exceptional overclocking capabilities. It offers water cooling, which keeps the system cool and stable on a constant basis.
This motherboard offers three full-length PCle slots; the top two are either x16 for one or x8 / x8 for two. This setup makes it possible to create Tri-Crossfire X setups or quad-SLI (two dual GPUs). Additionally, there are three x1 slots that are located between the x16 slots.
In regard to storage, there is a total of six SATA 6 Gbps ports and two SATA Express Ports, in addition to a single M.2 slot and a U.2 slot. All of these are controlled by the native Intel chipset. The two additional SATA 6 Gbps ports are controlled by an ASMedia chip.
The LAN is controlled by the latest and most advanced NIC from Intel, the 1219-V. The NIX and supporting software offer traffic shaping, which allows for the most exceptional online gaming experience possible, as it prioritizes traffic for the game instead of other items that may be using the bandwidth that your PC offers.
An ROG Supreme FX 2015 and Realtek ALC1150 CODEC handle the audio. You have the ability to tweak the setup as much as you want, thanks to the Sonic Studio II software that the motherboard comes with.
There is a total of 14 USB ports; six of them are 3.0 ports (four mid-board); four USB 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.1 ports (Type A and Type C), all of which are controlled by the Intel chipset. Additionally, there are another two USB 3.0 ports, which are driven by an ASMedia 3.0 chip.
Lastly, one of the most prominent features of this motherboard is the Aura software. This software is designed to allow you to control your LED lighting with ease. It controls both the onboard LEDs and any LED lighting strips that are plugged into the port along the bottom of the board.
- Exceptional storage capabilities
- Superior customization
- Seamless integration
- One click set up
- Exceptional and long lasting cooling powers
- Has a high price tag
- Isn’t as powerful as the Maximus IX Formula
Gigabyte ATX DDR4 Intel LGA 1151 SATA E (6Gbit/s) Motherboards (GA-Z170X-Gaming 7)
The Gigabyte ATX DDR4 Z170X – Gaming 7 is one of the highest specified Z170 motherboards that is currently offered by Gigabyte. Packing a super impressive LAN, two M.2 SSD slots, and a variety of other high-end features, including multi-color lighting that you can easily customize to suit your needs, and offering the performance that you need to push the other components of your PC to their absolute limits, and you can’t go wrong with this motherboard.
Without a doubt, one of the most notable features of the Gigabyte ATX DDR4 Intel LGA 1151 SATA E (6Gbit/s) Motherboards (GA-Z170X-Gaming 7) is the Trace Path LED lighting, which allows you to see a strip of light run around parts of the top of the board, and also provides you with down lighting near the rear of the IO panel. This means that you won’t need to grab a flashlight when you want to plug in your peripherals, and it also just creates a really cool effect. Additionally, the color of this lighting can be changed to suit your specific taste preference, so you will easily be able to match it to the lighting scheme of the rest of your system.
The Extreme Intel USB 3.1 Controller is another key feature that sets this motherboard apart from the crowd. It uses 4 PCIe Gen3 lanes and offers a total bandwidth of 32 Gb/s. This allows for uncompromised transfer speeds of up to 10 Gb/s per USB 3.1. This is twice the bandwidth compared to the previous generation. That, coupled with backward compatibility with USB 2.0 and 3.0, the improved USB 3.1 protocol is really something special.
This motherboard is outfitted with a USB Type C, which is a new reversible connector that is loaded with tons of useful features, including the USB 3.1 support for 10 Gb/s transfer speed and Display Port 1.2 support to connect 4K monitors.
The Gigabyte Z170x Gaming 7 motherboard is equipped with the exclusive Gigabyte AMP-UP Audio Technology. This technology provides the industry’s highest level of onboard audio features and technologies. It provides the clearest, crispest and most realistic sound effects possible while gaming, and it also provides you with the richest sound experience possible while you are listening to any other audio, such as your favorite tunes or movies. Add to that the Creative Sound Core32 Quad-Core Audio Processor, and you really will have a hard time believing that you aren’t listening to live-action sound!
The Killer E2400 Gaming Network / Intel Gigabit LAN is a high performance, highly adaptive gigabit Ethernet controller. It offers improved performance for both online gaming and media performance compared to other options. It delivers a number of features that enhance your gaming performance,e such as advanced interrupt handling to help reduce CPU overhead and Jumbo Frame Support for extra large data packets.
A 2-Way SLI / 3-Way CrossFire Multi-Graphics configuration provides improved graphics performance for those gaming enthusiasts who really want to have the highest frame rates possible without compromising on resolution.
The cutting-edge one-piece stainless steel shielding design of the Ultra Durable PCle Metal Shielding reinforces the PCle connection to ensure that it has the extra strength that is necessary to support those heavy graphics cards.
- Offers top of the line, industry leading performance
- Packs tons of features
- The layout is super easy to configure and work with
- It has a less than appealing design
- It only offers six USB ports on the rear IO
MSI Enthusiastic Gaming Intel Z170A LGA 1151 DDR4 USB 3.1 ATX Motherboard (Z170A Gaming M7)
Powered by the Intel 170 Skylake Processor, the MSI Enthusiastic Gaming Intel 170A is another one of the premium motherboards available for the Intel Skylake processor. This motherboard offers all of the bells and whistles that you could want so that you can really take advantage of your gaming experience, including a customizable lighting setup, state of the art sound quality, exceptional overclocking capabilities, and, it’s super easy to use. Whether you are a novice who is just getting started with setting up your first PC build, or you are an experienced builder, you will definitely be sure to appreciate the benefits that this MSI motherboard has to offer.
There are a ton of features that this MSI motherboard offers, but we want to dive in and talk about some of the biggest and best features that it offers.
Offering unrivaled memory performance and stability, the MSI Enthusiast introduces the DDR4 Boost technology, which has optimized traces and fully isolated memory circuitry. This design ensures that the memory signals will remain pure and will thereby provide the optimal performance and the stability that you can rely on. Additionally, there is an XMP LED, which highlights the active Extreme Memory Profile, allowing you to have the best memory speed and stability setting possible.
This motherboard also offers 2 times faster MSI USB 3.1 Gen2, so transferring your favorite games, music, and movies over USB has never been easier or faster. USB 3.1 Gen2 allows for lightning fast transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s! Plus, thanks to the Gen3 x 4 Turbo M.2, you will be able to take advantage of speeds that are five times faster than a regular SATA III connection. You won’t have to wait for your system to boot up because you will have an instant loading of all of your applications and games with this motherboard.
This MSI motherboard is outfitted with Gaming Device Ports, which means that it is optimized to deliver the very best connectivity for high-end gaming so that you can take full advantage of its speed. You can also totally customize the polling rate by using the easy to use Mouse Master software, which means that you will have much faster and smoother mouse response in your games.
Audio Boost 3 provides studio-grade sound for your audio pleasure. Audio Boost 3 is powered by Nahimic Sound Technology and provides absolutely crystal clear, crisp, seamless sound and music via 8 channel HD audio or high independence headphones.
If you are interested in more overclocking power, you will definitely get it with this MSI motherboard. It offers Game Boost, which provides a one-second overclocking option. All you have to do is simply turn the dial and your PC will get a huge push of power and will increase its performance to up to 5GHz!
A 15KV anti-surge protection ensures that your LAN will be totally protected when there are any issues, such as a strike of lighting or a run-in with static electricity. LAN Protect is a LAN connector that is designed to provide you with the best networking experience possible.
- Super speed
- Exceptional sound quality
- Easy to use
- Fantastic memory power
- Does not offer as much overclocking power as the other motherboards listed here
Improved Battery Life
Intel has worked really hard to create CPUs that offer a wide range of power envelopes, and they have been able to do so by creating a wide range of power efficient chips. The chips in the Skylake family of processors have the ability to reach levels that are as low as 4.5 watts for their Core M chips. This translates to greater power efficiency, which allows even high-end systems to consume less energy and powers their power costs and their supply needs. On top of that, it means that you will have much longer battery life.
Dedicated Photo Processor
Another major advantage of a Skylake processor is that it is designed to support cameras. In fact, the U and Y series Skylake chips are outfitted with a dedicated Image Signal Processor. Traditionally, this type of job would be handled by a dedicated GPU; however, systems that have those low power envelope chips tend to have integrated graphics. Those Skylake chips that offer an ISP support up to four 13 megapixel cameras… And they can capture the streams from two different cameras at one time!
Goes Up to 11!
If you are someone who considers yourself an enthusiast in regard to computing, you will be very happy to know that with a Skylake processor, unlocked chips are back again, and they offer more overclocking than ever before. The unlocked Skylake chips are designed to offer better and more advanced customizable clock ratings, which means that you will have the ability to scale by as little as 1 MHz at a time.
Is Upgrading to a Skylake Processor a Good Idea?
Given all of the benefits the Skylake processor is designed to offer your PC, you may be wondering if upgrading to this processor is worth your while. To be honest, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer to that question, as it really is a matter of personal preference. However, there are some questions that you can ask yourself before you commit to buying or building a new PC with a Skylake processor. Remember that CPUs remain relevant for several generations, especially since the jump in performance from year to year is pretty minimal, and Skylake processors aren’t any different, in regard to this aspect.
With that said, if an upgrade is something that you think will be worth your while, it is definitely a wise idea to purchase a Skylake processor. Since they are more power efficient, and since they are rich in features, it just makes sense to upgrade to a Skylake if you are going to do a new build.
Now, if you are going to upgrade to a Skylake processor, you need to make sure that you also purchase a motherboard that will support it. Motherboards that support Skylake processors boast an LGA 1151 socket, and they also introduce widespread support for DDR4 memory. The vast majority of socket 1151 motherboards offer support solely for DDR4 memory, though some do offer support for DDR4, as well as DDR3; but, only one type of memory can be installed at a time.
Also worth noting is the fact that socket 1151 motherboards feature Intel 100 series chipsets. The first boards that were released featured the Z170 chipset, though other chipsets that are featured in these boards include the H170, the Q170 and the B150.
Intel issued two initial Skylake CPUs; the Core i7-6700K and the Core i5-6600K. Additional Skylake processors were released closer to the end of 2015 and included the Core i5-6600, the Core i5-6500, as well as a few Pentium processors. It’s also important to point out that Skylake chips are compatible with motherboards that are outfitted with the Z270 chipset.
While can rest assured that choosing any of the three Skylake Processors listed in this review will provide you with outstanding results, we still want to let you know that you should dig a little deeper before you decide on one to purchase. You want to make sure that you are choosing the best processor to suit your individual needs, and as such, you are going to want to do your homework and do some additional research to ensure that you truly do make the best decision. With that said, any of the three processors that we highlighted in this list will provide you with outstanding performance.
Overall, the Intel Skylake Processor will definitely allow you to get the most out of your PC. If you are going to take advantage of this processor, you have to invest in a motherboard that will accommodate it. The motherboards that we have listed in this review are all top of the line and are designed to allow you to get the most out of your Skylake processor and your PC. Whether you are a gamer, someone who enjoys watching movies on your PC, or you are just looking to boost your productivity to the maximum level possible, you will not be disappointed by any of the motherboards that we have highlighted in this review.