The Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 is a top/mid-range socket LGA1151 motherboard based on the new Intel Z270 chipset, supporting the sixth (“Skylake”) and seventh (“Kaby Lake”) generation Core i processors. It brings LED illumination, three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, six SATA-600 ports (allowing three SATA Express connections), U.2 port for high-performance SSDs, nine USB 3.0 ports, and two USB 3.1 ports, one of them Type C. Let’s take a good look at it!
The recently launched Intel Z270 chipset is the high-end model of the new 200-series. The main differences between the Z270 and its predecessor, the Z170, is the 24 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, while the Z170 has 20 PCI Express 3.0 lanes. Another improvement is the support to the future Intel Optane technology, which is a new standard for high-end SSDs.
Like the Z170, the Z270 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.
Another highlight about this motherboard is that it uses the AORUS brand. It is a “gamer” brand from Gigabyte, used by their high-end hardware.
You can see the Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 9.6” (305 x 244 mm).
Figure 1: Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 motherboard
The Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 comes with three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots and three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots. There are also one 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 and, according to the manufacturer, shares its lanes with the second M.2 slot.
The motherboard supports CrossFire with up to three and SLI with two video cards.
The PCI Express x16 slots are covered by stainless steel shields, that work as a shield against interference, and also improving mechanical strength of each slot.
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 Gigabyte, the Z270X-Gaming 7 supports DDR4 memories up to 2,400 MHz.
The Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 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. When installing two memory modules, use the first and third memory slots to enable dual-channel mode.
There are LEDs between the memory slots, covered by acrylic diffusors, so the memory modules are illuminated when the motherboard is powered on.
Figure 3: memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance
[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z270 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). The motherboard comes with the six ports, all of them 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.
There is also a U.2 connector (formerly known as SFF-8639), for installing high-performance SSDs that use this connector.
Figure 4: the six SATA-600 ports and the U.2 connector
The Intel Z270 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and ten USB 3.0 ports. The Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 offers four USB 2.0 ports, available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are nine USB 3.0 ports, five on 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 JHL6540.
The USB 3.1 type C port is also compatible with Thunderbolt 3 connections and DisplayPort monitors that use this connector.
The Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 does not support FireWire 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 resolution, 102 dBA signal-to-noise ratio at the analog outputs and 101 dBA signal-to-noise ratio at the analog inputs). All the audio section is physically separated from the other circuitry by a line that reduces the interference and helps the audio section to achieve its nominal signal-to-noise ratios. All the capacitors on this circuit are 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.
There is also a removable TI Burr-Brown OPA2134 operational amplifer with selectable gain.
Figure 5 shows the audio section of the motherboard.
Figure 5: audio section
The portrayed motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by an Intel I219V chip, and one controlled by a Rivet Killer E2500 chip, which is a high-end ethernet controller.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with two low-noiew USB 3.0 ports (yellow,) a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, DisplayPort output, HDMI output, three USB 3.0 ports (blue,) one USB 3.1 Type C port, one USB 3.1 Type A port (red,) two Gigabit Ethernet port, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
Figure 6: motherboard rear panel
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The Z270X-Gaming 7 has two BIOS chips, selectable by two switches at the edge of the motherboard.
Besides that, it has RGB LEDs all over the motherboard. The color of the lights and even a flashing pattern can be set in the setup or using an application that comes with the product.
There is also a display that informs the error code in case of unsuccessful boot, shown in Figure 7.
Figure 7: BIOS select switches and POST display
Other features include the presence of an on/off, reset, and clear CMOS buttons. There are also an ECO button (that enables a low-consumption mode) and an OC key that loads an overclocking setup, and points to measure the voltages.
Figure 8: buttons
In Figure 9, you can see the accessories that come with the Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7. Besides the traditional ones, there are velcro straps to menage the cables and two temperature sensors.
Figure 9: accessories
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 has 11 phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses an Intersil ISL95866 controller chip (digital design). Each phase uses one Vishay SiRA12DP and one Vishay SiRA18DP MOSFETs.
Figure 10: voltage regulator circuit
The Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 uses high-end “black” solid capacitors (a.k.a. 10K capacitors) and all coils on this motherboard are ferrite ones.
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 Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z270
- Super I/O: ITE IT8686E
- Parallel ATA: none
- Serial ATA: six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) supporting three SATA Express connectors; one U.2 port
- External SATA: none
- USB 2.0: four USB 2.0 ports, available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: nine USB 3.0 ports, five on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers, controlled by the chipset
- USB 3.1: two USB 3.1 ports, one Type A and one Type C, controlled by an Intel JHL6540 chip
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
- Thunderbolt: one USB 3.1 type C port compatible with Thunderbolt 3 on the rear panel, controlled by an Intel JHL6540 chip
- On-board video: controlled by the CPU; one DisplayPort and one HDMI connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by a Creative Sound Core 3D chip (5.1 channels, 24-bit resolution, 102 dB SNR for the outputs, and 101 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output, and audio amplifier for analog headphones with replaceable operational amplifier (OPA2134PA)
- On-board LAN: two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by an Intel I219V chip and one controlled by a Rivet Killer E2500 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 two M.2 slots compatible with PCI Express 3.0 x4 and SATA-600 SSDs
- Memory: four DDR4-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2400, 64 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: two four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, and six four-pin connector for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: two BIOS chips, RGB LED lights, overclocking buttons, POST status display
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
- Programs included: motherboard utilities and drivers
- More Information: http://www.gigabyte.com
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 240.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article.
The Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 is a resourceful motherboard. It does not bring more SATA and USB 3.0 ports than those offered by the chipset, but they are enough for the majority of the users. We could even list as a limitation the fact it allows up to two video cards in SLI or up to three in CrossFire, but it is actually not even recommended more than two video cards.
The audio and ethernet interfaces of the Z270X-Gaming 7 are high-end ones, but the programmable RGB LEDs around the motherboard are the real highlight.
Bringing two M.2 slots and on one U.2 connector is also an advantage, since high-end SSDs that use these standards are getting relatively popular. The overclocking capabilities of the motherboard are also interesting.
So, if you want a robust and resourceful motherboard to build a gaming PC or workstation, based on a sixth or seventh generation LGA1151 Intel CPU, intend to overclock it and has a case with a transparent window to enjoy the lights, the Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 7 is an excellent choice.