GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 LGA 1151 Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE’s mid-range Z170X-UD5 has some impressive specifications, a lengthy feature set, and comes in with a sub-$200 street price. This motherboard has all the ingredients for a spectacular enthusiast option on paper. But how does it do in the real world when you put it to the test? It actually does very well.

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Subsystem Testing

NOTE: For all Subsystem Testing, an Intel Core i7 6700K (4.0GHz / 4.2GHz Turbo) and 4x 4GB Corsair Dominator Platinum (3600MHz DDR4 18-19-19-39-2T@1.35v) memory modules running at DDR4 2133MHz speeds (stock testing, up to 3600MHz overclocked) were used. The CPU was cooled with a Koolance Exos 2.5 and CPU-370 water block. A Diamond Multimedia Radeon HD 7970 reference card running Catalyst 15.8 drivers was used for discreet video. Windows 10 Pro (x64) was used straight from the .ISO with no updates. A script was run to disable telemetry and other non-essential services.

Sound Hardware

For onboard audio, the GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 integrates the Realteck ALC1150 HD audio CODEC into its design. While this CODEC isn’t particularly high end it’s actually quite capable of excellent sound output given the proper implementation. This implementation follows the current industry trends, making use of an isolated PCB area for the audio components. It shouldn’t shock anyone but the Z170X-UD5 also has a Tron style light to highlight where the PCB isolation occurs showing the divide between the audio subsystem and everything else. The Z170X-UD5 utilizes purpose built audio grade capacitors and a built in amplifier.

The following specifications were taken from the manufacturer’s website:

Realtekآ® ALC1150 codec

High Definition Audio

2/4/5.1/7.1-channel

Support for S/PDIF Out

There isn’t much else to say, the specs and information on GIGABYTE’s website is pretty sparse on the audio subsystem. It’s basically the same as everyone else’s. I don’t consider this a problem by any means, as today’s average onboard audio is pretty damn good on enthusiast motherboards like this one. I found the general sound quality to be quite good on the Z170X-UD5 although it’s just par for the course. It’s certainly not in the same league as it’s more expensive cousin, the Z170X Gaming G1. I wouldn’t expect that either given the price gap of nearly $300.

Audio آ– Subjective Listening

For subjective listening you want to listen to something that covers a range of sound types. For this portion of the review I went with Five Finger Death Punch’s American Capitalist CD.

CD audio was flawless as I expected.

Audio آ– Microphone Port Testing

The onboard audio MIC-IN port was tested using a Logitech Internet Chat Headset. Spoken words were recorded from the Windows Sound Recorder found under the Accessories folder in the start menu within Windows. The recording was using the highest quality settings available in the control panel for the audio device being used to record.

With the microphone boost option enabled, the audio playback was clear and generally distortion free. The levels were really low with the microphone boost option disabled and I couldn’t really hear any distortion, as the sample was nearly inaudible.

DPC Latency

Deferred procedure call latency or DPC testing is something that we’ve been asked about and this is the first article we’ve done which integrates that type of testing. For those who may not know what DPC is I’ll explain. Deferred procedure calls are a function within Windows that allows higher priority tasks such as device drivers to defer lower priority tasks for execution at later times. It’s an interrupt and reassignment of sorts performed by the operating system.

DPC latency varies from board model to model and brand to brand. DPC issues show up in the form of audio dropouts and streaming video issues. Naturally this is something that the enthusiast would want to avoid. Fortunately, there is a nice tool for checking this which doesn’t even require and installer. I used the LatencyMon and let it run for 10 minutes to graph the results.

I thought it necessary to look at some systems which I wouldn’t have suspected of having any DPC latency issues around my house to get some baseline numbers for comparison. The utility graphs out the data nicely and tells you what your latency results mean in terms of the real world problems you might encounter with the current system configuration. I went with my own personal machine which uses the ASUS Rampage V Extreme’s onboard audio and Windows 10.

ASUS Rampage V Extreme

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Our baseline system has an absolute maximum interrupt to process latency of 262آµs. This means that you shouldn’t experience any drop out issues with audio or video on this system.

GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5

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We’ve been reporting on the various motherboard manufacturers having DPC latency issues recently. ASUS, MSI, and now GIGABYTE have all been experiencing the same problem. With their respective manufacturer specific utilities running on the systems, the DPC latency on several models has been unacceptably high. The motherboard manufacturers are aware of these issues and we know fixes are in the works. The latest version of the GIGABYTE software from their website, as well as what came on the driver disc didn’t resolve the problem. Disabling the App Center and making sure EZ-Tune was shut down didn’t change anything on the Z170X-UD5. I did disable the Realtek audio manager which did show me some improvement, but sadly only for a short time. We normally run the DPC latency test for around 10 minutes or so. Between the 7 and 13 minute mark the DPC latency would shoot up from the 40-70 range all the way up to 1368آµs. The two images you see are actually the difference between disabling the GIGABYTE software and the Realtek audio manager and running with both those applications running in the background. As you can see, there is no perceptible difference in the graphs. Although, the DPC latency is reduced for a short time when you disable these options. A BIOS update sometimes resolves DPC issues, but that wasn’t the case here either. Both F5f and F5g had the same issue.

Drive Performance

To test the capabilities of the on board USB 2.0 connections, we used an ACOMDATA HD060U2FE-72-USB 2.0/FireWire HDD connected first to the USB port. USB 3.0 functionality was tested using a Super Talent USB 3.0 SuperCrypt 32GB Flash Drive. SATA drive tests were performed using Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX hard drives on all SATA headers. The SATA drives were used for testing in RAID 0 16k block size configurations on all applicable controllers. Testing was also conducted using the same model SATA drives in a stand-alone SATA configuration on all applicable controllers. All drive benchmarks were done using the freely available CrystalDiskMark program, run with both 50MB and 100MB sized test sets.

Given that motherboards are now supporting UASP and various USB 3.0 boost methods on many models, we’ve updated our testing methodology to include a UASP test. The USB 3.0 implementation that some manufacturers are using does allow for a performance boost with non-UASP compliant hardware as you’ll see using what these companies call "turbo" mode. Granted the difference isn’t as pronounced as it is when enabling UASP on a device that supports it. The USB 3.0 Flash drive tests are essentially the same as these have always been since we started doing these tests, but with the added turbo mode test to showcase the feature in action. The USB 3.0 SSD UASP Enabled / Disabled tests are utilizing a Corsair Force GT 60GB SATA 3 SSD plugged into a Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking port which uses a USB 3.0 connection. This device was selected due to having UASP compatible firmware.

Storage Configuration

The storage configuration of the Z170X-UD5 is pretty simple. You have two SATA controllers support all 6Gb/s ports. The primary is the Intel Z170 Express chipset’s built in controller. The secondary is the ASMedia ASM1061 controller we’ve encountered on dozens of motherboards. The ASM1061 is not RAID capable and just handles AHCI volumes. For USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports we’ve got the standard controller built into the chipset. For USB 3.1 support GIGABYTE relies exclusively on Intel’s Alpine Ridge controller. This controller also supports Thunderbolt 3.0 which is passed over the USB 3.1 Type-C connector. However, the Z170X-UD5 isn’t Thunderbolt certified, although GIGABYTE does offer a slightly more expensive Z170X-UD5-TH that does.

50MB Test Set

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The performance of the onboard drive controllers was pretty much what we expected across the board. In fact, this generation has shown more consistency across board models and brands than I’ve ever seen before. The exception to that is with regard to USB 3.0 speeds which can vary quite a bit depending on the specific implementation. Currently the ASUS motherboards are showing significant leads over other manufacturers in this area despite not using UASP protocols to do it.

In the 50MB sequential read test our AHCI standalone volume on the Intel Z170 Express chipset was the fastest configuration tested at 452MB/s. The ASM1061 wasn’t far behind at 438MB/s. RAID 0 performance on the Z170 controller suffered slightly here as RAID 0 always does. This controller had a result of 352MB/s. USB 3.0 performance was about 30-40MB/s behind what we saw on the ASUS motherboards but is still ahead of the older Z97 motherboards. In the 50MB sequential write test, the write speed of the drives is far more limited than the BUS for each is. The AHCI standalone volume tests were virtually identical with a slight lead going to Intel. The Z170 RAID configuration showed nearly 100% scaling while USB 3.0 performance was slightly higher than normal. USB 2.0 performance was the same as it is on pretty much every motherboard we’ve tested in the last year.

100MB Test Set

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In the 100MB sequential read test, RAID 0 is able to stretch its legs giving us a result of 341MB/s. The AHCI standalone tests were still close and still favored the Intel controller. USB 3.0 performance was again better than what we saw with Z97 based motherboards, but still behind the ASUS motherboards which use a different controller for USB 3.0. USB 2.0 was unchanged compared to the other test results, and indeed most motherboards we’ve tested lately. In the 100MB sequential write test we saw identical results between the ASM1061 and Intel Z170 controllers in the AHCI standalone tests. We saw exactly 100% scaling from the RAID 0 controller here as well. USB 3.0 numbers were predictable and oddly, USB 2.0 numbers were slightly lower than expected here.

All in all, I never had any problems with the storage subsystem. Everything worked as it should have with no major surprises.

Network Utilization Tests

LAN Speed Test software was used with Windows Task Manager to determine the performance levels of the onboard network interface. LAN Speed Test was used to measure bandwidth and transfer speeds, while Windows Task Manager monitored CPU utilization on the test system. For the testing, a 800MB file test was used with the default packet configuration for the application. The test was run three times with the middle result chosen. Results were captured for the low, medium and high transfer rates. The test was performed using a plenum rated category 5e crossover cable to bypass any traffic, routing or other transfer issues and possible packet loss or corruption that can be caused by a router/switch or hub. The cables were connected between two test machines, one using the onboard NIC(s) of the board being reviewed and the other is an Intel EXPI9400PT 10/100/1000Mbps PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet adapter installed into a test machine using an Intel D5400XS motherboard.

Wireless network testing, if applicable was performed using an AdHoc connection between the review system and my own machine based on equipped with an Atheros AR9002WB-1NG wireless adapter which is integrated into my ASUS Rampage III Black Edition motherboard. The control panel used all the default settings save for the AdHoc 11N setting which was enabled on both systems.

GIGABYTE’s Z170X-UD5 has two network controller options from Intel. The first is the i219v which seems to be the defacto standard on most enthusiast oriented motherboards these days. The second is the entry level server adapter, the i210-AT. Both controllers are capable of 10/100/1000Mbit speeds and teaming.

LAN1 (Intel i210-AT)

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In the write or upload test, we saw an average transfer rate of 42.77MB/s. In the read or download test we saw speeds of 65.81MB/s. The minimum transfer rates were 40.07MB/s in the write test and 64.08MB/s in the read or download test. In contrast, the maximum transfer rates were 55.29MB/s (write) and 66.97MB/s (Read). CPU utilization during the write test was a steady 3%. In the read or download test, CPU usage was again only 3% but suffered from the occasional spike in usage.

LAN2 (Intel i219v)

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In the write test we saw an average transfer rate of 38.50MB/s. In the read test we saw a transfer rate of 62.31MB/s. The maximum transfer rates were 46.33MB/s (write) and 63.14MB/s (read). Our minimum transfer rate in the write test was 27.94MB/s and 61.21MB/s in the read or download test. CPU usage in the write test was a somewhat jumpy 2%. That is to say there were many fluctuations between 1 and 3%. However, the read or download test CPU utilization was a steady 3% as it was for the other controller.

Benchmark Test Systems

The following system configurations were used for the Sandra memory benchmark graph, as well as all graphs listed under the Application and Gaming Benchmarks sections:

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SiSoft Sandra

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Note that all results above were obtained running the installed memory in dual-channel or quad-channel memory modes where applicable.

In our Sandra memory bandwidth test the Z170X-UD5 achieved a result of 30.67GB/s which places it near the bottom of the pile in this test.

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In the Sandra CPU test, the Z170X-UD5 came in at 223.49GIPS or just behind the other test systems.

Hyper Pi

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Given that we are talking about fractions of a second, the Z170X-UD5 results were in line with our expectations.

wPrime

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In this test the Z170X-UD5 was right in the middle. Again, the Z170X-UD5 was off by a small fraction of a second compared to the fastest system.