At a launch event in Thailand recently, ASUS unveiled its Z170 lineup of motherboards aimed at Intel’s LGA1151 socket. The world’s second largest motherboard vendor is sticking to categories that are familiar to its user base: there’s the enthusiast-focused Signature line, the Maximus series aimed at gamers, and the TUF line of boards that are designed to withstand harsh conditions.
Intel’s first two Skylake CPUs — the Core i7-6700K and the Core i5-6600K — are both targeted at the enthusiast segment, offering unlocked cores and significant headroom to overclock. ASUS is looking to capitalize on that by offering easy-to-use overclocking features that first-time users can take advantage of. ASUS is also touting its 5-Way optimization utility that allows you to quickly optimize hardware settings for various scenarios. When set to gaming, the tool boosts CPU clocks, increases fan speeds and prioritizes network bandwidth. When you’re just looking to browse the internet, the utility dials the fans down and reduces the CPU clocks to save you energy.
The boards also feature support for NVMe, both in PCIe and U.2 iterations. The technology is in its nascent stages, but with SATA increasingly unable to accommodate the faster storage drives due to its 600Gbps bandwidth ceiling, new connectivity standards are the way forward.
ASUS is bundling USB 3.1 ports, going with one Type-C port and a backwards compatible Type-A connector. The boards come with a dedicated water pump header that allows you to monitor and tweak the fan settings for liquid-cooled configurations. Other features in the Z170 series include a new UEFI BIOS, which has options for monitoring hard drive status through S.M.A.R.T., as well as detailed information about video cards. ASUS mentioned that the BIOS can now be flashed via a smartphone connected through USB, and is also touting its new HyStream screen mirroring feature that allows you to mirror your monitor’s screen to your phone.
The manufacturer also talked about its latest motherboard accessory aimed at overclockers, OC Panel II. The accessory comes with a 2.6-inch display that gives you a real-time overview of the status of your system. It can be slotted in a standard 5.25-inch drive bay, or used as an external console. The VGA Hotwire feature allows you to check thermals of your video card, V1, V2, DRAM and other voltage information.
With the launch of the Z170 series motherboards, ASUS is looking to boost its momentum in the motherboard segment, with the new additions aimed at giving the manufacturer an edge over Gigabyte, which is currently in the lead in terms of overall sales this year.