Picking Some Favorites

General performance of these Z170 motherboards was similar, leaving them to be mostly differentiated by their features and price.

Looking at the most featured-packed boards, it was a close fight between the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7, Asrock Z170 Extreme7+ and MSI Z170A Gaming M7. We feel Gigabyte delivered the goods this time and we're glad we made the decision to purchase the Z170X-Gaming 7. The Gigabyte board is slightly cheaper than both the Asus ROG and Asrock Z170 Extreme7+ while delivering similar features. In fact, we'd argue that against the ROG Maximus VIII Hero it comes with a lot more offering dual Gigabit LAN, a better audio solution and greater storage support.

Asrock Z170 Extreme7+ Asus ROG Maximus VIII Hero Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 MSI Z170A Gaming M7 Supermicro MBD-C7Z170-SQ EVGA Z170 FTW
Price $240 $230 $220 $210 $200 $190
Dual PCIe x16 x8/x8 x8/x8 x8/x8 x8/x8 x8/x8 x8/x8
Triple PCIe x16 x8/x8/x4 x8/x8/x4 x8/x8/x4 x8/x8/x4 x8/x8/x4 x8/x8/x4
Quad PCIe x16 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
mini-PCI Express Slot 1 0 0 0 0 0
SATA 6Gb/s 10 8 8 6 6 6
SATA Express 3 2 3 2 0 0
M.2 3 1 2 2 1 1
M.2 Supported Length 30, 42, 60, 80 and 110 mm 30, 42, 60, 80 and 110 mm 30, 42, 60 and 80mm 60, 80 and 110 mm 60, 80 and 110 mm 42, 60 and 80mm
eSATA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Storage Interfaces 16 11 13 10 7 7
Max Usable Interfaces 16 9 8 7 7 6
Audio Purity Sound 3
Realtek ALC1150
SupremeFX 2015
Realtek ALC1150
SoundCore 3D
Creative CA0132
Audio Boost 3
Realtek ALC1150
Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC1150
Wired Network Dual Gigabit LAN
(Intel I219-V & Intel I211-AT)
Single Gigabit LAN
(Intel I219-V)
Dual Gigabit LAN
(Intel I219-V & Killer E2400)
Single Gigabit LAN
(Killer E2400)
Single Gigabit LAN
(Intel I219-V)
Single Gigabit LAN
(Intel I219-V)
Wireless Network N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
I/O Panel USB 3.0 4 2 5 2 2 6
Total USB 3.0 8 6 9 6 6 8
Total USB 3.1 4 2 2 2 1 0
Display Outputs DisplayPort, DVI-D, HDMI DisplayPort, HDMI DisplayPort, HDMI DisplayPort, HDMI, HDMI DisplayPort, DVI-D, HDMI DisplayPort, HDMI
Form Factor ATX 305 x 244mm ATX 305 x 244mm ATX 305 x 244mm ATX 305 x 244mm ATX 305 x 244mm ATX 305 x 244mm

There isn't much to dislike about the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7. Its audio implementation impressed us the most, and it's probably the best on board audio we have ever heard. While we would have preferred dual Intel NICs, the Killer E2400 is about as good but it means features such as Teaming are off the table. The multi-color lighting is awesome and the software to control it works well. I'm still not sure if I like the look of the Z170X-Gaming 7, but the customizable lighting is winning me over.

Asrock's Z170 Extreme7+ is the most feature rich motherboard in our roundup and you have to pay a very small difference to get it all. The flexible storage options are great and we enjoyed having 10 SATA 6GB/s ports as well as the dual Intel NICs. Purity Sound 3 also proved to be one of the better implementations of the Realtek ALC1150. The front panel USB 3.1 module that uses an onboard SATA Express port works well and is a valuable addition to the package that affords the Z170 Extreme7+ four USB 3.1 ports.

The Asus ROG Maximus VIII Hero is in our opinion the best looking motherboard in terms of aesthetics, but it falls short of the Z170X-Gaming 7 and Z170 Extreme7+ when comparing features. Although the SupremeFX 2015 provided a similar audio experience to that of Asrock's Purity Sound 3, Asus slipped up in other areas. For example, there's only one M.2 slot, a single Gigabit LAN port and six USB 3.0 ports, while the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 offers more of everything for the same price.

Supermicro and EVGA's boards are pretty bare and don't offer much to support the Z170 chipset. Considering triple PCIe x16 Z170 motherboards start at just $140, neither Supermicro or EVGA did much to justify their ~$200 price tags. The Asrock Z170 Extreme4, MSI Z170 Krait Gaming and Gigabyte Z170XP-SLI all offer the same level of features and quality for $140 to $150.

Nevertheless, we will say that the Supermicro C7Z170-SQ proved to be a solid Z170 solution and the LatencyMon result was the best of any tested.

At the end of the day, Gigabyte has put the best package together with its Z170X-Gaming 7. It's a well rounded motherboard that at $220 has no real drawbacks. For a little more, the Asrock Z170 Extreme7+ offers greater storage options and better USB 3.1 support, but lacks the higher quality Creative audio solution. If you already have your own discrete sound card then perhaps the Asrock Z170 Extreme7+ makes more sense.