[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ is a top mid-range socket LGA1151 motherboard based on the new Intel Z170 chipset, supporting the sixth generation Core i processors. It brings high-end network and audio interfaces, three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, eight SATA-600 ports (allowing three SATA Express connections), eight USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.1 ports, being one of them Type C, and a front panel with more tho USB 3.1 ports. Let’s take a good look at it!

The new Intel Z170 chipset was launched with the LGA1151 socket, targeted to the sixth generation Core i “Skylake” CPUs. The main difference between LGA1151 and LGA1150 platforms is the compatibility with DDR4 memories.

The Z170 chipset is the first model to be launch on the new 100-series, and it is also the higher-end chipset on this family. The main differences between the Z170 and its predecessor, the Z97, are the DMI 3.0 bus to communicate with the processor (it offers twice the bandwidth, that goes from 2 GB/s per direction to 4 GB/s), the presence of ten USB 3.0 ports (against six on the Z97), and the support to 20 PCI Express 2.0 lanes controlled by the chipset (Z97 has only eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes.)

Like the Z97, the Z170 supports six SATA-600 ports, Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.

You can see the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 9.6” (305 x 244 mm).

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 1: ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ comes with three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots and three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots. There is also an M.2 slot supporting both PCI Express 3.0 x4 and SATA-600.

The two first PCI Express x16 slots work on x16/x0 and x8/x8 configurations, which means the first slot work at x16 if the second one is unused, but it it is occupied, they will both work at x8. The third PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot works always at x4 speed.

An interesting feature is that the PCI Express x1 slots have open endings, so you can install PCI Express x4 or x16 on them. Of course, they will work only at x1 speed in this case.

The motherboard supports CrossFire with up to three video cards, and SLI with two video cards.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 2: slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

Intel socket LGA1151 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

These CPUs are compatible with both DDR3L (up to 1,600 MHz) and DDR4 (up to 2,133 MHz) memory. So, it is the motherboard that defines which memory type (DDR3 or DDR4) can be installed, since DDR4 slots are physically different from the DDR3 slots. According to ASRock, the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ supports DDR4 memories up to 3,866 MHz.

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ has four memory sockets. You can install up to 64 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 16 GiB modules.

In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+, the first and third memory sockets are red, while the second and fourth are black. When installing two memory modules, use two sockets with the same color.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 3: memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]

The Intel Z170 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). Two of those ports are shared with the M.2 slots. The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ comes with two additional SATA-600 ports, controlled by one ASMedia ASM1061 chip. The SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards will not block them.

Notice that the four left SATA-600 ports are grouped in two pairs, and each pair can be used as a SATA Express port.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 4: the six SATA-600 ports controlled by the and the two SATA-600 ports controlled by the ASMedia chip

The Intel Z170 chipset supports four USB 2.0 ports and ten USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ offers four USB 2.0 ports, available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are eight USB 3.0 ports, all of them controlled by the chipset, being six of them at the rear panel, and two available through one header. There are also two USB 3.1 ports, one Type A and one Type C, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1142 chip.

One of the USB 2.0 ports (the top-most one on the stack containing the PS/2 port) is a “Fatal1ty mouse port”, which allows you to manually configure its polling rate between 125 Hz and 1 kHz.

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt ports.

This motherboard supports 7.1 audio format, i.e., eight channels. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC1150 codec, which is an excellent audio codec, providing 115 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specifications are good even for the user who wants to work professionally by capturing and editing analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.)

The codec chip is shielded against electromagnetic interference, and the audio interface is equipped with a TI NE5532 amplifier for the frontal headphone output. The analog audio outputs are independent only if you use a 5.1 analog speaker set. If you install a 7.1 analog speaker set, you will need to use the “line in” jack.

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Atheros Killer E2400 chip, a high-performance Gigabit Ethernet controller.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, two USB 3.0 ports, Clear CMOS button, DVI-D output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, four USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one USB 3.1 Type A port, one USB 3.1 Type C port, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 5: motherboard rear panel

[nextpage title=”Other Features”]

The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ comes with clear CMOS (on the rear panel), reset, and power buttons, shown in Figure 6.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 6: power and reset buttons

This motherboard comes with a POST diagnostics display, so you can see, through a two-digit code, which component is preventing your computer from turning on. There are also two BIOS chips, selected by a jumper.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 7: POST diagnostics displays and the two BIOS chips

One of the highlights of this motherboard is a panel to be installed at a free 5.25” bay, with two USB 3.1 ports, one Type A and one Type C. This panel must be connected to a SATA Exoress at the motherboard. Figure 8 shows the panel and its cables.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 8: panel with two USB 3.1 ports

In Figure 8, you can see the other accessories that come with the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 9: accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ has 12+1 phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses an Intersil ISL95824 controller chip (digital design). Each phase uses two MOSFETs, but we were not able to identify the models.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+Figure 10: voltage regulator circuit

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ uses high-end capacitors from the Japanese brand Nichikon (a.k.a. 12K Platinum capacitors) and all coils on this motherboard have 60 A specification.

If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ include:

  • Socket: LGA1150
  • Chipset: Intel Z170
  • Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6791D
  • Parallel ATA: none
  • Serial ATA: six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) supporting one SATA Express connector; and two SATA-600 ports controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip
  • External SATA: none
  • USB 2.0: four USB 2.0 ports, available through two headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: eight USB 3.0 ports, six on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header, controlled by the chipset
  • USB 3.1: two USB 3.1 ports, one Type A and one Type C, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1142 chip
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
  • Thunderbolt: none
  • On-board video: controlled by the CPU; one DisplayPort and one HDMI connectorsOn-board audio: produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC1150 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 115 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
  • On-board LAN: one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Atheros Killer E2400 chip
  • Buzzer: no
  • Infrared interface: no
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x0 or x8/x8), one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (working at x4), three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots, and one M.2 slot compatible with PCI Express 3.0 x4 and SATA-600 SSDs
  • Memory: four DDR4-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-3866, 64 GiB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: two four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, and four four-pin connector for auxiliary fans
  • Extra features: two BIOS chips, POST diagnostics display, power and reset buttons, front panel with two USB 3.1 ports
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
  • Programs included: motherboard utilities and drivers
  • More Information: http://www.asrock.com
  • Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 200.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ is a very complete motherboard, targeted to the enthusiast that is building a gamer computer or workstation, using a sixth generation (“Skylake”) Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 CPU, but do not want to spend a small fortune on a high-end motherboard.

Actually, offering a high-end audio and network interfaces, eight USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.1 ports, eight SATA-600 ports (supporting up to two SATA Express connectors), and an M.2 slot (accepting both SATA-600 and PCI Express 3.0 x4 SSDs), the only thing that lacks on the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ to be called a high-end motherboard is a slot configuration that could support SLI with three or four video cards and Crossfire with four video cards.

The motherboard also comes with an amazing panel with two USB 3.1 ports (one Type A and one Type C) to be installed at a 5.25” bay, using a SATA Express connection. Notice that there is another version, the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6 (without the “+”) that is the same motherboard, but does not come with this panel.

So, if you are building a desktop computer based on a sixth generation Intel Core i CPU, and don’t intend to install more than two video cards, the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6+ is a great motherboard.