Date: Tuesday , July 25, 2017
GIGABYTE is the world's largest motherboard manufacturer and given the excellence of the products I've used over the last year or so, it isn't hard to understand why. GIGABYTE has been a premium brand for a very long time, but it is in the last couple of years where GIGABYTE has really begun to eclipse its peers. GIGABYTE has earned its place by producing innovative designs that are not only unique, but reliable. GIGABYTE offers products matching or exceeding the performance of its peers. In addition to motherboards, GIGABYTE also makes graphics cards, laptops, tablets, cases, power supplies, desktop PC’s, and computing peripherals which gives the company a diverse product portfolio. Despite this, GIGABYTE remains a motherboard manufacturer in the eyes of the general public, and in enthusiast circles.
In the past GIGABYTE has made some questionable aesthetic choices and not all of its motherboards have been winners. I’ve often experienced some of their older hardware as being solid but quirky in some of the best cases. Over the last two or three years, GIGABYTE has really come a long way and their success in passing ASUS in motherboard volume shipments is a well-earned and deserved victory. Gone are the days of frustrating mouse or keyboard issues in UEFI/BIOS and other oddities of days past.
Today we are taking a look at GIGABYTE’s Z270X Ultra Gaming motherboard. For years, the term "Ultra" has been used to denote the top end of the product spectrum. As usual, GIGABYTE's marketing strategy and naming schemes make no sense to me in that it has used this term on what amounts to a stripped down Z270 Express based motherboard with a minimal feature set and bundle. While the Z270X Ultra Gaming is based on Intel's Z270 Express chipset, that's all you can take from the naming convention. Of course, most of the features provided by the chipset are supported on the Z270X Ultra Gaming. This includes Intel's 6th and 7th generation Core i3, i5 and i7 CPU families that are compatible with Intel's LGA 1151 socket. Other features such as USB 3.1, USB 2.0, SATA 6Gb/s, U.2, M.2, NVMe, PCIe 3.0, and DDR4 are also supported.
The Z270X Ultra Gaming gives you 7 power phases, at least one of which is used for the integrated GPU leaving you with 7. This means that the number of phases is somewhat anemic compared to the higher end motherboards we are used to seeing. It isn't a totally stripped down motherboard in every sense of the word. We get the ALC1220 CODEC instead of the older ALC1150. You get the full complement of RGB LED lights, AMP-UP audio, USB DAC UP 2 with adjustable voltage, Smart Fan 5, and GIGABYTE's Ultra Durable design. GIGABYTE even extends the use of its Ultra Durable PCIe Armor to the Z270X Ultra Gaming motherboard. While I've argued that this is primarily for marketing and cosmetic purposes, I think it can truly help with thinner PCB's like the one this motherboard uses.
Main Specifications Overview:
Detailed Specifications Overview:
The packing is basic and it shares the same art style as the bulk of GIGABYTE's other offerings. There is too much color on it for my tastes. The colors make me think of a clown throwing up just before committing suicide by throwing themselves into a wood chipper. The next craze in computing will be for manufacturers to start outfitting the boxes with RGB lighting. (I expect royalties if any board manufacturer decides to do that.) In any case the packaging is basic but it got the job done. Our sample arrived intact, and with the following accessories: User manual, driver disc, G-Connector, I/O shield, 4x SATA cables, and a quick installation guide. It’s one of the leanest bundles I've seen to date without so much as an SLI bridge included in the box.
The general layout is good with no major areas to complain about. The CMOS battery is even located in a good spot. I'd like to see the M.2 slot moved to where the first PCIe x1 slot is, but that's not something that I see very often so it isn't as though I expected GIGABYTE to do that here. The Z270X Ultra Gaming has five fan headers on the PCB as well as Thunderbolt 3 add-in card provisions. For a somewhat stripped down offering, the Z270X Ultra Gaming has a lot going for it.
The CPU socket area is clear of obstructions. Mostly because the heat sinks are anemic and there aren't any power phases or chokes to get in the way. As usual, the DIMM slots are closer to the CPU socket than I'd like, but nothing can be done about that. The MOSFET coolers aren't screwed in place. They are clipped in place using plastic pins and springs to provide tension. These feel extremely loose. For better or for worse, I often grab motherboards by their heat sinks rather than the contact points or even the PCB in some cases. These aren't strong enough to do that with.
The GIGABYTE Z270X Ultra Gaming has four 288-pin DIMMs supporting up to 64GB of memory. The memory slots feature GIGABYTE’s steel armor which prevents PCB warping during RAM installation. It also adds an aesthetic quality that makes the board look somewhat classy. Unfortunately, GIGABYTE didn’t bother to color code these slots to denote proper dual channel memory mode operation. That said, this isn’t hard to figure out and the uniform color is more aesthetically pleasing in the eyes of many enthusiasts.
The chipset is cooled by a black anodized heat sink similar in construction to the MOSFET coolers. It's flat enough to avoid creating clearance issues with the expansion slot area. Unfortunately, its secured as badly as the MOSFET coolers. It uses the same plastic push pins and spring tensioners to hold it in place. That said, it isn't as floppy as the MOSFET coolers but that's no doubt due to the shape more than anything. Behind the heat sink, you'll find the expansion slot area. In front of the chipset, you'll find the SATA 6Gb/s ports and the U.2 port. To the left of the chipset you'll find the front panel headers and USB headers.
The expansion slot area is well designed and laid out in an optimal configuration for multi-GPU systems. The CMOS battery is out of the way of the primary graphics card. The slots intended primarily for graphics cards are fitted with GIGABYTE's "Steel Armor." The armor is made of a single piece stainless steel bracket that distributes the weight load of the GPU or installed card across a larger area of the motherboard.
The I/O shield of the Z270X Ultra Gaming is what you'd expect from a motherboard like this. Given the price point, the DVI-D port isn't unusual. You also have an HDMI port for video as well. Four USB 2.0 ports are on the back plane along with 2x Gen 1 USB 3.0 ports. The GIGABYTE Z270X Ultra Gaming also has a Gen 2 USB 3.1 Type-A port and a Type-C port. Naturally, the motherboard sports an RJ-45 port and 5x mini-stereo jacks for analog audio. These ports are color coded for convenience. Lastly, there is an S/PDIF port instead of a 6th mini-stereo jack.