Gradually, the niche of compact PCs is becoming more and more popular among users. Thanks to the efforts of chipmakers, the abundance of various interfaces no longer requires many third-party controllers on the surface of the motherboard. Small board builds were once seen as the backbone of the living room entertainment center, but recent trends are calling for a complete rethink, especially as CPU cooling now stands out from other system components. For enthusiasts, an important issue is the ability of babies to work in extreme conditions, that is, with overclocking of the CPU and RAM. ASUS experts presented the Z170I Pro Gaming board to the public, which, as planned, is capable of meeting all such requirements, and the asking price is much lower than that of the products of the Impact series.
The device is already equipped with a wireless network adapter, has a compact M.2 socket, and the sound subsystem received a lot of attention. For a better understanding of the potential of the board, I suggest studying the table with its characteristics.
|Model||ASUS Z170I Pro Gaming|
|Official product page on the Web||asus.com|
|Processor socket||Socket 1151|
|Processors||Core i7, Core i5, Core i3, Pentium (Skylake-S)|
|Memory||2 DIMM DDR4 SDRAM 2133/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/2933*/3000*/3100*/3200*/3333*/3400*(OC), 32 GB maximum|
|PCI slots||1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16|
|M.2||1 x PCI Express 3.0 x4 (Key M, 2242 (adapter included)/2260/2280)
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 (Key E, 2230 – for Wi-Fi adapter)
|Integrated video core (in the processor)||Intel HD 510/530|
|Video connectors||DisplayPort, HDMI|
|Number of connected fans||3x 4pin|
|PS/2 ports||1 (keyboard/mouse)|
|The port is USB||2 x 3.1 Gen2 (2 connectors on the rear panel, ASM1142)
6 x 3.1 Gen1 (4 connectors on the rear panel, Z170)
4 x 2.0 (2 connectors on the rear panel, Z170)
|SATA Express||1 (Z170)|
|Serial ATA||4 x SATA 6Gb/s (Z170)|
|RAID||0, 1, 5, 10 (SATA, Z170)|
|Built-in sound||SupremeFX (7.1, HDA):
Texas Instruments RC4580
|Networking||Intel I219V (Gigabit Ethernet)
Qualcomm Atheros QCNFA364A (Qualcomm Atheros QCA6174 (Wi-Fi 2.4/5GHz (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.1))
|Dimensions, mm||170 x 170|
|Additional features||Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED), dual-band remote antenna kit|
|Retail price, $||185|
Packaging and equipment
The board occupies the top tier in the box, it is additionally protected by its own pallet. At the bottom are various accessories. The packaging dimensions are unusual for PC components.
On the back of the package there is a photo of the product, a table with characteristics and a schematic picture of the location of the I / O ports on the rear panel.
The package included:
- user manual, which illustrates and describes the UEFI sub-items in detail (in English);
- quick multilingual user manual;
- an additional booklet with information on the need to comply with a number of safety measures when assembling and operating the system;
- disk with drivers and proprietary software;
- company logo sticker;
- set of twelve labels for labeling SATA cables;
- proprietary plastic retainer for processors;
- mounting screw and stand for M.2 devices;
- extension plate with screw for mounting M.2 type 2242 devices;
- plug for the body, complete with a black sticker with the symbolic designation of all sockets. The reverse part is pasted over with noise-absorbing material;
- four SATA 6Gb / s cables, two of which have an L-shaped connector on one of the ends;
- remote Wi-Fi antenna with the ability to fix only one position, equipped with a stand with a built-in magnet;
- an adapter for convenient connection of ASUS Q-Connector case connectors.
The layout is similar to full-weight boards: the CPU socket is shifted closer to the top edge, the chipset is located a little lower. Literally the entire surface is covered with all sorts of electronic components.
There is nothing around the holes for mounting the cooling system, while the rest of the rear surface is generously replete with all sorts of electronics. The sound subsystem is equipped with a backlight in the face of five juicy red LEDs.
The system logic heatsink has no illumination, it is a simple element with a decorative plate. Nearby there is an indicator of network activity, it is also a red glow.
For the needs of the disk subsystem, a SATA-E socket is provided, which includes a pair of SATA, there are also two more conventional pads of the most popular type of drive connection.
A compact M.2 completes the package, it is located on the back of the board.
Auxiliary microcircuits are located in different places, the multicontroller is small, soldered closer to the rear panel. There is an external clock generator, a chip with firmware one, removable.
Responsibly approached the implementation of the sound system. The codec is located under the screen, there are also several LEDs, thanks to which the SupremeFX inscription can be highlighted. We took care of the presence of special capacitors, there is also an operational amplifier. A little lower is the VGA_LED indicator from the Q-LED proprietary solution. The LEDs are dispersed throughout the board, they will allow you to understand the essence of the hitches during the problematic passage of the equipment initialization stage.
In total, three coolers can be connected to the product. Radiators are low, completely compact, they can in no way be an obstacle in the process of installing a cooling system.
To understand the power circuit, just look at the back of the board. There are six small external drivers and a couple more elements a little more. Those who like to count the “phases” on the chokes will rely on the number eleven. Clockwise, we get: one voltage channel for the CPU IO, followed by another one for the CPU SA, then a pair for the processor itself. A total of four power assemblies sit under a smaller heatsink. The fifth choke is tied to the input +12 V. The sixth and seventh, as well as the accompanying pair of elements, close the circle of participants in the CPU Voltage stabilization circuit. There are four channels. They are followed by a couple for the needs of integrated graphics. Two more channels do without external drivers, this time – memory power. PWM controllers ASP1400B and ASP1103 are used. Assemblies were chosen: for the main channels – CPU and GPU – BSG0812ND from Infineon Technologies, and for the secondary ones – IO, SA and DRAM – NTMFD4C86N from ON Semiconductor. In the bottom line, we get four power elements on one of the radiators – CPU IO, SA and half of the circuit of the CPU itself. The other will serve the remaining pair of CPUs and two more memory assemblies if using a discrete video adapter. Such an engineering solution deserves sympathy, it remains to study the operating temperatures of the system.
The filling of the rear panel fully meets the expectations from a modern motherboard, the lack of a symmetrical USB socket of the latest generation type C spoils the general trend a little, there are only two high-speed type A standards.