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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 Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 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 SATA-600 ports are grouped in pairs, and each pair can be used as a SATA Express port, except for the ports on the top right, which are controlled by the ASMedia chip.

Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7Figure 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 Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 offers four USB 2.0 ports, available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are nine USB 3.0 ports, all of them controlled by the chipset, being five of them at the rear panel, and four available through two headers. There are also two USB 3.1 ports, one Type A and one Type C, controlled by an Intel “Alpine Ridge” DSL6540 chip.

Gigabyte claims that the two USB3.0 ports (yellow ones) on the rear panel provide a low-noise power, for use with audio and other DAC interfaces.

The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt ports.

One of the highlights of this motherboard is the professional-grade onboard audio, generated by a Creative Sound Core 3D chip (5.1 channels, 24 bit sampling, 102 dBA SNR at the analog outputs and 101 dBA SNR at the analog inputs). This chip is covered by a gold-plated shield, which helps to reduce induced noise. All the audio section is physically separated from the other circuitry by a line that glows in red (there are some LEDs at the solder side of the board, near the semi-transparent line). All the capacitors on this circuit are bi-polarized audio models from the Japanese manufacturer Nichicon. The analog audio outputs are independent and gold-plated, and the motherboard also comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output.

The operational amplifier (op-amp) of the analog audio section is replaceable. You can use the Burr-Brown OPA2134PA op-amp that comes with the board, or buy a kit with a different amplifier and an IC extraction tool, to adjust the audio nuances to your personal taste. There is also a small switch that allows you to set the gain of the main audio output.

Figure 5 shows the audio section of the motherboard, without the plastic cover that protects it.

Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7Figure 5: audio section

The portrayed motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by an Intel I219V chip and the other one controlled by an Atheros Killer 2400 chip, which is a high-performance Gigabit Ethernet controller.

In Figure 8, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, two USB 3.0 ports low-noise ports, DisplayPort output, HDMI output, three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type C port, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one USB 3.1 Type A port (red), optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.

Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7Figure 6: motherboard rear panel

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Rafael Otto Coelho is a physicist with a master’s degree in Education, and is a college professor in Brazil.