Gigabyte Z170X Designare motherboard review
Does the latest UEFI BIOS rejuvenate this Z170 Intel ATX mobo?
- Solid construction
- Full connector set
- Fast default and automatic overclocked performance
- Handy on-board buttons
- Z720 boards now available
- Only one M.2 port
The Designare does everything, is fast, robust and looks good too. It beat Z720 boards in our tests but it's still an expensive, last-generation board in the current market.
Price$ 349.00 (AUD)
The Z170X is our new test rig. As such it’s ground zero for our latest motherboard coverage and the benchmark against which everything else will be tested.
Our motherboard reviews are for the general populace who understand a bit about motherboards but who aren’t fussed about intricate levels of advanced overclocking. There are other titles (and plenty of forums) dedicated to that. We’ll stick with what’s important in terms of features, value, and performance (which will include the onboard, automatic, performance-boosting, overclocking features that most people will stick with).
Test rig: Gigabyte Z170X-Designare Socket 1151 motherboard, 4GHz Intel Skylake i7-6700K CPU, 2 x 8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 2400MHz C16 DDR4 RAM, Samsung 960 Pro M.2 hard drive, Corsair H80i v2 Hydro Series, Corsair Platinum Series AX1200i 1200W Digital ATX Power Supply, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, Windows 10, Dell 2715PQ monitor.
Key hardware features
USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 compatible
3 x PCIe X16 slots running at x16, x8 and x4; 3 x PCIe x1 slots
Two-digit status indicator
Hardware buttons for CMOS reset, restart, OC and Power
M.2 and U.2 ports (up to three NVMe drives including one using PCIe can run together)
Reinforced PCI slots and I/O ports
Dual Gigabit LAN ports
G-Connector - front-panel header handler
LED lighting strips
(Full feature List here | Full connector list here)
Key UEFI/BIOS features
CPU Upgrade setting: easy, automatic CPU overclock
The first thing that hit us with the Designare was the Ultra Durable monicker and the nature of the reinforced connectors. To anyone that’s fumbled around with plugging and unplugging leads in the I/O ports, having a solid metal band surrounding them is a bonus.
We also like the lack of heatpipes and clutter – we’ve suffered from overheating-related crashes with complex cooling technologies in the past. The remaining heatsinks aren’t oversized and shouldn’t get in the way of most coolers or cables.
A full complement of connectors is present. A second M.2 port would probably be preferable to the U.2 port but back when this board first came out this looked like a reasonable solutions.
The UEFI (modern BIOS) is simple enough to use. There are plenty of settings for hardened tweakers but the most important two for regular users – XMP (eXtreme memory profile) and automatic performance-boosting overclocking – are simple to find and adjust.
The on-board hardware buttons for power, reset, CMOS clear and OC won’t be frequently used by anyone other than benchmarkers but they’re nice to have there.
All in all it’s got it where it counts.
Read more: Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2400 RAM review
We tested the Designare with three processors at default clock speeds and with maximum, automatic overclock settings – which it managed stably. For our Skylake (6th Generation) Core i7 6700K processor it pushed the default 4GHz clock to 4.6GHz. The latest F21 UEFI/BIOS provides support for Intel’s 7th Generation Kaby Lake processors (which essentially are tweaked 6th Gen processors) and allowed our i7 7700K Skylake chip to automatically overclock stably up to 5GHz from a stock 4.2GHz. It also pushed our 4.2GHz dual-core Core i3 7350K up to 4.6GHz.
The results can be seen in the following tables and graphs:-
The Designare ocerclocked our 6700K chip to near 7700K performance in both PC Mark and 3D Mark. While the Kaby Lake i3 chip saw some impressive performance boosts, the i7 7700K, despite comfortably striding ahead of the field, didn’t achieve too much of an overclock boost despite the push to 5GHz. Perhaps a newer, Z270 chipset motherboard could make more of this?
We tested the same chips on an Asus Strix Z270 motherboard and quickly saw the benefits of the Designare. All default speeds were lower on the newer board and we saw major freezes when using the basic, EZTune overclocking system on the Asus. In the end we settled on a default 9% overclock on it and PC Mark actually ran slower than the default speed. The overclocked score in Time Spy matched the Designare. Things may improve as the drivers and UEFI/BIOS mature but for now, that’s pretty poor performance.
So the Designare is quick and stable even by current standards.
Naturally we’re reviewing this late and so there are many caveats associated with a purchase decision, but we’ll press ahead in a spirit of giving it a fair review. Having also had the ability to test the latest “F21” UEFI/BIOS with Kaby Lake in addition to a Z270 board has given us an advantage over previous reviews – but has it affected the board’s value positively or negatively?
At $349 is not cheap but it’s got everything and runs stably even with a hefty default overclock from 4GHz to 4.6GHz on our Core i7 6700K Skylake processor. However, with the price of a Kaby Lake 7700K being the same as the 6700K ($490) it’s probably only worth considering if you already have the older processor now – even though the architectural difference between Skylake and Kaby Lake is relatively minor – there’s still a noticeable performance boost.
Having said that, performance on this board was all-round noticeably better than the newer Asus Z200 Strix. We’ll have to find a better Z200 board to recommend right now.
Tweakers will get a lot more out of the Designare and while it will be overkill for many buyers, if your main requirements is a full complement of the fastest connectors, very solid construction quality and simple to use overclocking that runs stably, this is a fine choice if you already have a Skylake CPU. However, if you’re buying a new board with new components, the new Z270 models, with their potential for future performance upgrades to things like M.2 drives plus Intel “Optane” support carry with them a bit more future proofing.
But if you just want the core component of a new PC that works fast and stably right now and will last for years, it’s well worth keeping the Designare in mind.
Join the newsletter!
Apple iMac Pro
Cartier Calibre de Cartier Diver Watch
Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 3000
Ballistix Sport AT
Samsung QLED 8K TV
Bang and Olufsen Beoplay A9 Speaker
Toys for Boys
ESET Internet Security
Little Bits DROID Inventor Kit
Tivoli PAL BT
ESET Cyber Security Pro for Mac
Nix Pro Colour Sensor
ESET Smart Security Premium
Oregon Pro WMR500 Weather Station
Osmo Coding Awbie Game
SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3
Ikea RIGGAD work lamp with wireless charging
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker
Naztech Xtra Drive Mini + 256GB microSD Card
TimeFlip Magnet Simple Time Tracking Device
Technology is revolutionising the way we do things and that includes in the kitchen where a wealth of must-have gadgets and appliances are the making life easier for home cooks.
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Galaxy Watch review: Brilliant but not quite a breakthrough
- 2 HP Omen 15 (2018): Full, in-depth review
- 3 HP Envy x360 13 (Ryzen): Full, in-depth review
- 4 Dell G5 review: Easy to live with
- 5 D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD DSH-C310 review
Latest News Articles
- CES 2019: Mad Catz strike back
- CES 2019: Razer expand PC case lineup
- CES 2019: Intel to ship new Nervana neural network processor in 2019
- Razer have announced their first console keyboard
- New AMD processor spotted in Xbox console leak
PCW Evaluation Team
Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications
I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)
It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!
The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.
I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.
If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.
- CES 2019 Round-Up:
- Razer Phone 2 review: One for the fans
- Samsung’s Galaxy S10 will launch on Feb 20
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies