The Skylake i7 6700k, with its 4 cores and 8 threads, does a great job at handling 4K 60 gaming, but first comes the choice of motherboard. Ostensibly, the selection of a motherboard is regarded as a secondary matter when compared to say, ordering the mystical gaming mouse that will enhance your aim 10 times.
But this could not be further away from the truth. Without the right selection, your rig will be held up like mere jelly and will fail to deliver peak performance. So, we’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of 5 motherboards with LGA 1151 sockets for your Skylake processor which will allow you to harness and use maximum functionality.
Unveiled at the 2017 CES, the Asus ROG Maximus IX Extreme is the first to have an integrated water cooling monoblock. Developed in collaboration with Bitspower, Asus has made overclocking a walk in the park for all the enthusiasts out there. The preinstalled monoblock comes with a built-in flow rate meter along with a leak detector that triggers a configurable shutdown timer if needed. The Bitspower monoblock allows cooling of the CPU, VRMs, and M2 as well as to prevent SSD asphyxiation.
The build, as aesthetic as it is, is also sturdy with metallic shielding on its slots and copper-plated edges for full protection. You’re given 3x PCI-E 3.0x slots and as a result, can entertain your two-way SLI and three-way CrossFireX dreams with this board. The dual-channel memory slots will support up to 64 GB of DDR4 RAM giving you up to 4133 MHz speed. At this price, Asus is giving a pre-built WiFi module as well for connectivity.
Asus has spared no expense in making it as appealing as they could. The vast spectrum of colours with the RGB lights is just the cherry on top that you need with ROG’s unique sleek design. AURA sync enables you to fully immerse in the domain and take full control, making your rig look as attractive as possible with the endless stream of colours. Add that with the ability to synchronize the colour scheme with the Aura sync enabled products and games and you are set.
The addition of USB 3.1 ports is a neat feature, cementing your purchase with the potential of future upgrades in these ports. The audio bay, you’ll notice, has no standard colours on its jacks. That is because the audio jacks on Maximus IX Extreme are RGB color-coded which light up corresponding to the correct pins.
The dual BIOS capability of this board is an added benefit. If the need arises, the backup BIOS will allow you to revert to your previous version without suffering any damages. The 5-Way Technology makes overclocking easy- with just a click of a button, you can overclock using the pre-defined configurations.
The audio chip is there to further give you that crisp sound you’re looking for that’ll help you immerse yourself in the environment of the game. Asus really went all out with their excellent onboard audio, allowing you to customize and auto-tune different applications. This chip delivers an exceptional 120dB SNR on the line-out connections.
The water cooling monoblock is no doubt the best feature about this motherboard however with the added mount comes the price of size to pay. Maximus IX Extreme’s form factor makes it a bit larger than the commonly used one, as a result, users must be extra careful when selecting a tower.
While the Maximus IX Extreme will satisfy all the desires of the extreme overclocking enthusiasts, it will prove to quite an overkill for the users looking to just harness their CPU power as it is. That coupled with the fact that it is extraordinarily pricey should make the non-OC users think twice about its purchase. Despite this, ROG Maximus IX Extreme proves to be unparalleled and delivers like no other.
2. GIGABYTE AORUS GA-Z270X Gaming 7
Best RGB Lighting
- Flawed Killer LAN software
- Thunderbolt 3 compatibility
- Glitchy software presets
- USB booting is troublesome
- Random noise in the headphone jack
Socket: 1151 | Chipset: Z270 | Graphics Output: HDMI/DP | Audio: Creative Sound Core 3D | Wireless: N/A | Form Factor: ATX
Up until now, Aorus was reserved as a separate entity under Gigabyte, responsible for gaming laptops. However, Aorus has now jumped in on the ever-changing and dynamic gaming wagon, expanding their horizons from just gaming laptops. Aorus’s innovation and passion for the gaming industry have produced the GA-Z270X-Gaming 7 motherboard which has made it to our list, taking the spot of number 2.
Moving in for a closer look for this board, there are 4x DDR4 dual-channel memory slots which can give up to 4133MHz (OC). There is support for ECC memory as well which allows for detection and correction of common kinds of internal memory hinderances. The Z270X, like the previous Gigabyte boards, makes use of 15 micro inch gold plated socket to utilize maximum contact and therefore the performance of the CPU.
The reinforcing of the PCI-E Express, memory slots and the added subtleties for ease in diagnostics are bonus points. The Z270X uses the much approved standardized 8+3 (8 for core and 3 for GPU) phase design for power. Dual heatsinks connected with a copper pipe cover the MOSFETs. Just beside the SATA ports is another solid heatsink responsible for cooling.
The operational amplifier used offers an impressive 120dB SNR. In the back, I/O connectors, Aorus, along with the standard USB and audio jacks, provides 2 USB 3.1 ports as well.
Gigabyte’s BIOS ends up supplying more voltage to the Vcore than what is required resulting in a 94 Celsius temperature. This will cause throttling and, as a result, give reduced clock rates. This set back can be resolved manually however, with a price and brand like this, you’d expect Gigabyte to not have had it slid by under their noses.
Resolve the temperature control manually and you have a solid, sturdy and well-structured board to work with. Gigabyte, with easy OC, follows that here too giving the users pre-defined as well as custom settings to work with. For what the Z270X offers, Gigabyte is quite generous with their price tag as well. This motherboard is a worthy one and Aorus have proven themselves to be worthy competitors in the motherboard market.
3. ASUS Z170 Pro Gaming
- Lots of USB3.0 ports
- Overclocking with multiplier is not thrown off balance
- Non vertical SATA ports
- BIOS update only works with Kaby Lake
- Low strength PCB used
Socket: 1151 | Chipset: Z170 | Graphics Output: HDMI/DVI-D/RGB/DisplayPort | Audio: Supreme FX 8 | Wireless: N/A | Form Factor: ATX
Asus has made some changes and taken a step back from the exquisite design of their ROG series. The Z170 may not possess the flashy over the top mechanics that Asus have taken with their ROG Maximus, but this motherboard has still made it to our list as number 3 for good reason.
Asus is consistent with one thing in their boards, maximizing functionality and inoperability of their motherboards in terms of memory. Regardless of this being an entry-level motherboard aimed at the mainstream gaming community, their philosophy holds true here as well. You can be sure that this motherboard will hold true to its claim and be functional with every type of memory that you decide to go for.
The Z170’s 4x DIMM slots are capable of supporting a maximum of 64Gigabits of DDR4 RAM allowing up to 3466 MHz speed. The 10+1 digital phase VRM is responsible for the processor and the integrated GPU. Also, a key bonus is the addition of a couple extra PCI-E 3.0 ports allowing the users to tap into Quad-SLI and Quad CrossFireX Technologies. On the networking side, Asus’s ROG GameFirst III will allow you to tune up corresponding to whatever network-oriented task you have to do.
The Z170 is comprised of an audio chip with an incredible 115 SNR stereo playback output. High-quality capacitors and OP-amps paired with this audio processor allow for negligible interference during any sound-centric experience. The ESD TVS diodes guard the components against high temperatures, electricity and help isolate signals to prevent interference.
While the Z170 Pro Gaming offers the excellent sweet spot between performance and price, the aesthetics of the board itself is a very risk-free, tried and tested design in the “do it yourself” dominion. It is relatively satisfying since the black colour works well with almost all designs however; the board lacks the flexibility and controls the RGB lighting offers.
Another feature- or lack of feature- that stands out is the omission of metallic reinforcing plates on RAM slots and the PCIe ports. The heatsinks are constructed using the push-up ideology unlike the screwed in structure as you’d find in Asus’s ROG line.
The Asus Z170 Pro Gaming works well to serve the new builders as well as the seasonal PC enthusiasts. The architecture of this motherboard robust and a joy to look at. The construction of this version of the motherboard was intended towards the more average gaming population but overclocking with this is still a cinch and can be done with a touch of a button. All these coupled with its very moderate price makes it a phenomenal choice for all tiers of builders.
4. MSI Z170A Krait Gaming 3X
- Bang for buck performance
- Stable temperatures while overclocked
- Solid PCB design prevents bending
- Sometimes low volume and random audio cutouts
- M.2 stick disables SATA 5 and 6
Socket: 1151 | Chipset: Z170 | Graphics Output: HDMI/DVI | Audio: Realtek ALC1150 Codec | Wireless: N/A | Form Factor: ATX
While the top 3 spots of this list have been taken over by the more high-end and pricy motherboards, it seems as any compilation addressed towards the gamers is incomplete unless the needs of the ones sitting in the middle are talked about. The MSI Z170A Krait Gaming is there to pat the backs of all those who want the sweet gaming nectar but are not looking for the enthusiastic, OC driven experience. So, let’s take a look at what MSI has to offer for their 30-year anniversary.
The new line up of MSI boards has now unlocked Military Class 5. What that basically means is that the new boards, including the Z170A Krait Gaming, can now withstand 5 times more temperature rises, and the working longevity of the components has been drastically improved. Apart from this, this board features dual-channel 4 DIMM DDR4 slots allowing up to 3600MHz. The placement of the M.2 port is one to be praised because its strategic placing makes it benefit greatly from the airflow of the CPU fan.
MSI’s magnanimity put in 2 USB 3.1, 2 USB 3.0 and 4 USB 2.0 and 2 CPU fan headers which will come in handy when using a standard heat sink or a liquid cooler. The two heatsinks perpendicular to each other cover the MOSFETs, however, are not connected to each other in any way. The spotlight of the design, however, is taken by the large heatsink covering the Z170 chip with exceptional finishing.
For their audio, Krait uses Audio Boost 3 combined with OPA1652 operational amplifiers. These paired with the Nahimic Audio enhancer, and isolated audio solders work together to deliver a more than decent SNR and on-board audio. Using the 8 phase VRM configuration, the Z170A packs quite a hefty punch with its low-price tag.
What went through the minds of the engineers when designing the placings of the SATA ports is a mystery. The ports are facing outwards which is confusing- to say the least, in terms of cable management. As a result, unless your cable management capabilities are perfect, you may not be able to install a second GPU.
Krait decided to cut the extra over the top features with this model however they still have succeeded in delivering a terrific board with a very friendly tag on its price. The Z170A is an excellent entry priced board perfect for gaming which was very well what Krait was aiming for. This is a must-buy for those who are looking to enjoy the top-notch features without spending too much cash and burning a hole in their pockets. It’s solid, well thought of design along with its simple yet somehow unique black and white design has attracted many a gamer.
5. ASROCK Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4
- Top of the line capacitors
- Efficient placement of SATA and PCIe slots
- Audio jacks in front are hard to reach
- No RGB lights
- No support for Nvidia SLI
Socket: 1151 | Chipset: Z270 | Graphics Output: HDMI/DVD-D | Audio: Realtek ALC1150 | Wireless: N/A | Form Factor: ATX
Making its way on number 5 in our list is the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4. In the market for valued driven motherboards for the folks who want to sit back and enjoy some casual gaming, the name of this motherboard most definitely pops up. Designed for people on a budget, this board still has quite a kick to it, delivering on all the vital features while keeping up its common, yet pleasing to the eye nonetheless, look.
ASRock has talked about it a lot and has now implemented the 12k Nichicon capacitors which, as the claim says, last about 20% longer than the other high-end capacitors in the industry. The 10-phase power design with the heatsinks on the VRM and the MOSFETS help efficiently do the cooling job. The Purity Sound 3 is a neat addition for the crisp onboard sound supporting 7.1 audio. The amplifier goes up to 600 Ohms to drive even the most demanding headphones.
There’s a PS/2 slot for the traditional keyboard and mice fanatics as well. The board also comprises of 3 PCIe 3.0 ports, therefore, supports CrossFireX. As for the memory, 4 DDR4 RAM slots offering 3866MHz, at overclocked, for users looking to dip their toes in some medium-weight overclocking.
The KillerLan E2400 Gigabit LAN port, as always, lived up to its expectations and was able to do its job without hindering simultaneous internet-oriented tasks. The BIOS allows for easy, on the go overclocking capabilities with pre-defined presets. Despite the card being targeted for low budget setups, ASRock does not slack off in the sturdiness of the design. Although the standard red and black colour scheme, the construction of the design (such as the heatsinks being screwed in to ensure durability) does a pretty secure job. The Nichicon capacitors and the black fabric glass PCB serve to future proof this board.
The ASRock Z170 Gaming K4 does lack the ease of modification along with some other hefty features you’d want for the design but with that price tag, this board is perfect for the users who are looking to shop on the buck. Even with a price as low as this, the Z170 does not fail to deliver what it promises and stands tall in the jungle of gaming giants.