Last Updated: December 2017
Intel is an ever-changing company, which is good news for gamers because it means that they have the opportunity to improve their gaming experience. With the introduction of the newest flagship, the Kaby Lake range of Intel i7 and i5 CPUs, you may have decided that its time to upgrade your system, which will include a new and improved motherboard for gaming that comes with a z270 chipset.
The Kaby Lake processor comes with a new and improved chipset – the 200 series. Offering air cooling, we have witnessed some of the i7-7700K CPUs reach frequencies that exceed 5GHz. If you are a gaming enthusiast who has a fondness for overclocking, Kaby Lake is an absolute must. The 200 series motherboards offer refinements that have been improved upon from the 100 series chipset, and it also offers completely new features that set the bar even higher.
In this review, we will take a detailed look at the core features that apply to the Z720 motherboards, including the best options that are currently available, so that you can choose the best Z270 motherboard for your specific gaming needs.
In a hurry? Then check out our best Z270 motherboard recommendation: ASUS Maximus IX Formula LGA1151 DDR4 Z270 ATX Motherboard – You can learn more about this motherboard right here.
Z270 Chipset vs Z170 Chipset
Before we dive in and share our picks for the best Z270 series chipset motherboards, let’s take a look at what it offers above its predecessor, the A170 series.
The backend DMI bandwidths are exactly the same in both motherboards and they both have a max theoretical bandwidth of 40 Gbps. There are some changes to the front end of the Z270 chipset series motherboard, though; it gets a total of 30 high-speed IO lanes, as compared to the 26 high-speed IO lands that the Z170 offers. Both platforms are able to reassign an identical number of lanes to storage devices; however, due to the availability of fewer resources, if you enable an M.2 X4 slot, you will lose two SATA ports on the Z170 series. With the Z270 series, you can utilize an M.2 slot with an X4 PCIe SSD without having to give up any SATA ports. Though this isn’t a huge change, it does give you a bit more flexibility when it comes to configuring your storage options.
Inclusive Cooling Controls
Just like the Z100 series, the Z200 series motherboards offer plenty of cooling controls for water pumps and system fans, including:
- A full PWM (four pin) or a DC (three pin) support
- A dedicated water pump header for AIO coolers
- Automatic calibration
- A high amperage heater for ultra high-speed fans
- Exclusive control over each header through software or firmware
When you build on that impressive feature set, three pin and four pin fans will be automatically detected by all onboard headers. This makes the setup process a cinch.
Additionally, the 200 series motherboards are capable of mapping GPU core temps to system fans. They also have the ability to assign up to three different thermal sources to each fan header, which is done in a really clever manner: Both the firmware and software are coded so that they can compare the temperature of each sensor, which allows them to automatically react to the one that is running the hottest. This means that no matter what the system is doing, everything is efficiently cooled.
Exceptional Overclocking Options
The Z200 series offers users with everything that they could possibly need to overclock a platform, including automated and manual overclocking options in both firmware and software that are designed to be used by both novice users and those who have tons of experience.
New users will really enjoy the 5-way optimization software that ingeniously tunes system performance by running stress tests and then gradually making changes to voltages and multiplier ratios. This provides an overclock that is custom tailored to your specific system. Additionally, the cooling profiles have been pumped up in the 5-way optimization process; each system fan receives a custom speed curve that is based on its particular location and characteristics.
If you are an overclocking enthusiast, you will find that the Z270 series chipset has something to offer you, too. You have the ability to configure two CPU core frequency targets straight from the firmware. There’s one for lighter application loads, including games, and there is also one for those more complex loads. Both of these overlock targets have the ability to be assigned different voltage levels, as well as temperature targets, which allows you to run your games at higher frequency levels than workloads that create higher levels of heat.
The Best Z270 Motherboards Available
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*5 Star Rating: this is based on the percentage of consumers who rate the product 10/10.
Now that we have compared the difference between the Z100 series and the Z270 series motherboards, it’s easy to see why upgrading to a Z270 series is a wise idea. But, which Z270 motherboard should you choose? We have tested out several options and compared them against one another. After doing so, we found that there were some options that were far superior to others. In this section of our review, we will highlight the Z270 chipset series motherboards that we think are the absolute best.
ASUS Maximus IX Formula LGA1151 DDR4 Z270 ATX Motherboard
The ASUS Maximus Formula series has become synonymous with hardcore gaming, in regard to motherboards. The latest introduction of the ASUS Maximus IX Formula is based on the recently released Intel Z270 series chipset, and it is loaded with the newest and the best Republic of Gamers (ROG) features.
With this motherboard, you don’t have to be an expert in order to take your gaming performance to a whole new level. Thanks to the five-way optimization, all of the complex settings are sorted out for you with a simple click of a button, providing you with an instantaneous and highly controllable boost in your performance. The exclusive ROG technology that is offered in this motherboard dynamically optimizes all of the essential aspects of your system, which is based on real-time use. This allows you to get superior CPO performance, along with exceptional savings on energy use, super stable digital power, and whisper quiet cooling fans, as well as networking settings that are custom tailored for whatever apps you may be using. In other words, the 5-way optimization prepares your computer so that it is perfectly prepared to be used for all of your gaming needs.
When your computer is outfitted with this Z270 motherboard, your games will run as swiftly and smoothly as possible with the highest performance and most prioritized bandwidth possible. Any stutter is completely eliminated, which allows for the smoothest running of your apps, even when you are running the heaviest loads.
Advanced fan and water pump controls make it possible to play quieter and cooler, which means that you will never have to endure the annoying sounds of loud fans interrupting your game experience. Onboard thermal sensors and hardware level 4 pin/3 pin PWM/DC mode detection, every fan will achieve the best possible balance of cooling performance with the lowest level of noise possible.
Whether you are new to the PC world or you are an advanced overclocker, you will certainly enjoy the EZ and Advanced modes, which will help you find what you are looking for, quickly and easily. This motherboard also uses the latest in USB connector technology, the USB-C, and you can put it right where you want it. An ASM 2142 USB 3.1 controller runs at PCle 3.0 x 2 and features an onboard USB 3.1 front panel connector. As such, you will be able to achieve the highest data transferring speeds available, and you will be able to do so easily.
Outfitted with LANGuard, this motherboard will ensure that you have the safest, most reliable connection possible for all of your gaming needs. The advanced signal coupling technology and premium surface mounting processes work together to protect the connection of the motherboard. It also provides protection from electrostatic and surge protected components, allowing for 1.9 times more tolerance to static electricity and 2.5 times improve protection against surges.
Thanks to the next level 802.11 AC WiFi with 2×2 dual band 2.4/5GHz antennas, which provide up to 867 Mbps transfer speeds, and the newest multi-user multiple in / multiple out technology, you can ensure that every user who is connected will have the best wireless connection and online speed possible.
A thermal protection cover blocks heat from graphic cards and keeps the system running at lower temperatures, which means a more enhanced performance. Additionally, the steel, electro-galvanized, cold rolled coil construction of the backplate enhances the strength of this motherboard to prevent bending.
ASUS Prime Z270-A LGA1151 DDR4 Z270 ATX Motherboard
The Asus Prime Z270 motherboard is the latest evolution of the ASUS motherboard. This motherboard has been expertly
designed to maximize performance, provide stability and offer compatibility so that you can have the absolute best gaming experience possible on your PC.
With one click overclocking, all of the complex tunings will easily be taken care of. The 5-way optimization helps to make your PC even smarter and it dynamically optimizes the essential aspects of your system, based on real time usage. In other words, you will get exceptional CPU performance that will allow your games to run smoothly and swiftly with the highest performance possible, as well as a prioritized bandwidth and crystal clear sound.
The third generation ASUS T-Topology allows for memory frequencies that are higher than they have ever been before – exceeding 3866MHz! This really enhances the experience of overclocking with signaling that is time aligned, providing you with superior stability and compatibility. The latest ASUS SLI HB bridge boosts the available transfer bandwidth, providing you with the smoothed possible surround gaming.
Offering backward compatible USB 3.1 Type A and reversible USB 3.1 Type C ports, you will have the ability to experience the best possible flexibility with your connection, as well as super fast data transfer speeds of up to 10 Gb/s. The smoothest, most sleek mouse-controlled graphical BIOS has been enhanced, making it even more appealing. Both beginner PC users and veteran overclockers will be able to take advantage of the EZ and advanced modes so that they can achieve what they set out to quickly and easily.
The Aura Sync takes RGB lighting to a whole different level. It combines and controls the LED of any Aura-enabled products from a single application, which allows you to perfectly synchronize your lighting and make sure that it is in perfect harmony. The Intel Ethernet provides you with greater throughput and less CPU usage so you can have the best possible gaming experience. A SafeSlot has been engineered to provide the best possible retention and shearing resistance. Made in one single step and fortified with metal support, the SafeSlot is firmly anchored and is strongly designed.
Another feature that gamers will really enjoy is that the dedicated 3D mounts that this motherboard offers, which allows you to easily fit 3D printed parts so that you can truly make it your own customized machinery.
Backed by extensive testing that exceeds the standards that are set forth by the industry, and supported by high-quality components to deliver the best possible protection, this ASUS Z270 motherboard is one of the best on the market.
ASRock Z270 Extreme4 Motherboard
ASRock really brought their A game when they designed this Z270 when they designed this Z270 motherboard.
There is a total of five PWM/DC mode fan headers on this motherboard. Two of these fan headers support up to 1.5 A current and are designed to double as water pump headers. The remaining three fan headers provide 1 A current. You have the option of choosing between PWM 4 pin or DC/Voltage 3 pin operation modes for your fan, either through the UEFI or through the ASROCK’s A tuning application in Windows.
The Extreme 4 delivers RGB lighting in two different ways: Onboard lighting and support for external RGB strips through a header. What’s really unique about this is that ASRock RGB LED utility can either be downloaded directly or from an all in one utility ASROCK Live Update and App Shop. Another feature that is worth mentioning is the Dual M2 ports, both of which are capable of running at PCI Express Generation 3.0 4X speeds.
Purity Sound 4 will allow you to enjoy the purest sound possible with the ultra high definition. This unique technology combines several hardware and software audio solutions. A 7.1 CH HD audio with the most current Realtek ALC1220 audio codec, an individual PCB layers R/L audio channels, a 120 SNR DAC, and other technologies allow this motherboard to deliver the clearest, crispest sound effects possible.
PCI-E Steel Slots are packed with a solid cover, which prevents the interference of signals with graphic cards. Additionally, it ensures that the heavy graphic cards are safely and well installed in the PCI-E slots. The free bundled, new SLI HB Bridge is compatible with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 graphic cards, which doubles the transfer bandwidth that is available and provides super strong and stable gameplay so that you can experience gaming at its absolute best. The Intel LAN offers the best throughput performance with lower CPU utilization and enhanced stability so that the motherboard is capable of delivering the ultimate network experience.
Dual USB 3.1 (one of which is Type A and one of which is Type C) are located on the rear i/o so that they can support next generation USB 3.1 devices and can deliver up to 10 Gbps data transfer rates. The UEFI offers the smoothest, easiest to use mouse-controlled BIOS has been enhanced to make it more user-friendly. Advanced mode provides users with a more comprehensive environment that is designed for those who enjoy overclocking and want to have maximum control over the hardware of their PC. The EZ mode is a dashboard that contains various readings of the current status of the system, so you can quickly and easily check on the most critical information of your systems, such as the frequency of the DRAM, the CPU speed, the fan speed and the SATA information.
A 10 Power Phase Design allows this motherboard to deliver power as smoothly and efficiently as possible. It also offers unrivaled overclocking capabilities and improved performance at the lowest temperature possible. The 45A power chokes boost the saturation current, making it up to three times better, which allows the motherboard to provide improved Vcore voltage. A premium alloy choke is very magnetic and heat resistant, which means that it is capable of delivering power that is more stable and reliable to the motherboard and the memory modules.
This motherboard utilizes next generation digital Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) design, which allows CPU Vcore voltage more efficiently and smoothly, which allows for a serious improvement in the stability and the lifespan of the motherboard.
GIGABYTE AORUS GA-Z270X-Gaming 5 Motherboard LGA1151 Intel Z270 2-Way SLI ATX DDR4 Motherboard
Gigabyte is another well-known producer of motherboards, and their AORUS’ 200 series motherboards provide a seriously advanced experience. Offering one of the most sophisticated LED systems on the market today, exceptional customization capabilities and an easy to use and intuitive UI, thanks to the RGB Fusion App, you will have a lot of fun putting your mark on your AORUS.
If you are a LED enthusiast, you will have more options that you have ever had before with the AORUS 200 series, as you will be able to customize multiple zones independent from one another. The multi-zone light show design offers the following:
- 8 M RGB colors
- 3 light zones
- 4 programmable sections
- 7 different lighting effects
- 1 RGBW light strip pin header
- An accent LED light with an interchangeable overlay
- An advanced mode, which allows for serious customization
Thanks to the GIGABYTE RGB Fusion mobile app, you will be able to watch as you control the lighting in your PC. This feature provides you with easy access to the motherboard as you try to adjust the colors and speeds for different modes, which can be done away from the monitor and the keyboard of the PC.
If you find that the lighting isn’t bright enough, you have the option to install a standard 12 V external RGB, RGBW or RGB/UV light strip on the RGBW pin header, which you can control from the RGB Fusion software. By using an RGBW light strip that has a dedicated white LED light, you will be able to experience more vibrant and brighter colors.
Outfitted with a Smart Fan 5, you have the ability to ensure that your PC will be able to maintain its maximum performance while still staying cool. With Smart Fan 5, you can interchange fan headers so that they will reflect different thermal sensors at different locations on the motherboard. In addition to that, more PWM Voltage mode fans have been added in order to make the motherboard more liquid cooling friendly.
The fan pin headers are all hybrid and they can automatically detect the type of cooling device, whether it is a fan or a pump with different PWM or voltage mode. This motherboard supports up to 2 amps that have built in over current protection, which is an absolute must for high end, high current fans. You also have the option to choose from different fan modes, from Quiet to Full Speed, so that you can match your unique system usage scenario.
If you are on the market for a Z270 motherboard, you will not be disappointed with any of the options that have been listed in this review. All of them are expertly designed to deliver exceptional performance and enhance your gaming experience. When you outfit your gaming PC with one of these motherboards, you will see a huge difference in your performance and have the best possible experience when it comes to gaming.