• Socket: LGA 1151
  • Chipset: Intel Z170
  • RAM Slots: 2
  • Memory: 3400(O.C.)/3333(O.C.)/3200(O.C.)/3100(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2933(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2600(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133 MHz Non-ECC DDR4
  • Ports: 1x PS/2, 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 1x LAN, 2x USB 3.1 Type-A, 4x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 5x Audio ports, 1x Optical (SPDIF), 2x WiFi antenna port, 1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16, 2 x SATA 6Gb/s, 1 x SATA Express port, M.2 SATA
  • Pros:
  • Performance
  • Wireless AC
  • Cons:
  • Can’t fit large CPU fans
  • Limited RAM and PCIe slots
  • Benchmark Results
  • PCMark 8 Home: 5,012 points
  • PCMark 8 Creative: 5,393 points
  • PCMark 8 Work: 4,085 points

Tiny Wonder

PC components are getting a form of resurgence in recent years, owing to a new generation that grew up gaming. People want to build their own PCs again, with some preferring compact setups. This is where mini-ITX boards like ASUS’ Z170I Pro Gaming come into the picture.

The small Z170I Pro Gaming is designed to best fit mini-ITX casings, allowing users to build super compact PCs that have high-end features. It’s definitely considered premium, as ASUS has included not just the standard accessories (including backplate), but also a 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter.

Despite its size, ASUS’ Z170I Pro Gaming doesn’t lack in back I/O. First, there’s the dual-antenna ports which connect to the Wi-Fi adapter included in the box, then there’s an Intel Gigabit LAN port as well for network and internet connectivity. There’s a surprising amount of USB ports available too. In fact, there are eight of them, with two of them being USB 3.1 Type-A to make the motherboard futureproofed. In addition, ASUS has included a HDMI port and a DisplayPort for video output, as well as the standard five audio jack plus optical out for audio.

Compromises begin to show inside, evident with usual lack of RAM and PCIe slots found on mini-ITX boards. Firstly, it only has two DDR4 RAM slots, though it supports up to 32GB and a maximum clockspeed of 3,400 MHz. Secondly, there’s only one PCIe slot, which means no CrossFire or SLI. The limitation also means that PCIe SSD or soundcards are out, unless you are willing to sacrifice the use of a good GPU. It’s also tough for those who run multiple hard drives will have a tough time, because this motherboard only has two SATA III and one SATA Express port. Fortunately, there is an M.2 SATA socket at the back of the board to make up for that.

ASUS has ensured that users will not be short-changed on features. With version IV of GameFirst, users can prioritise network traffic. Since it’s beta version, there were some bugs so Another feature is the ASUS Pro Clock, which is designed to overclock Intel Skylake processors. We easily managed to push our Core i7-6700K up to 4GHz, but for those who have liquid cooling it’s theoretically possible to reach a maximum of 5.2GHz.

Of course, bells and whistles are nice but are only bonuses to performance, something the Z170I Pro Gaming delivers in spades. Benchmark scores showed that it outperformed the Maximus VIII Formula we reviewed a few issues back, which is an impressive feat.

CHIP CONCLUDE: Great performance and enough features for all but the fanciest PC setup. If only the pricing was average too, then we would have been more confident in naming this our top choice for anyone looking to upgrade to an Intel Skylake-based system.

(previously published in issue May 2016)

ASUS Z170I Pro Gaming