GIGABYTE Z170X Designare LGA1151 Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE has continually impressed us with its offerings as of late. GIGABYTE’s Z170X Designare is poised to continue that trend and add another motherboard to the budding Designare legacy. We are still not fully sure of what exactly "Designare" actually is, but at this point, we see it as GIGABYTE building a solid new brand.

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Motherboard Overclocking Software

Like other manufacturers, GIGABYTE includes a suite of software and utilities with the motherboard. The Z170X Designare uses GIGABYTE’s App Center and associated utilities. The application hasn’t changed all that much over the past year or so. That said, the App Center launcher was recently reinvented and is more user friendly. There are a lot of things that can be done from the software, so we will largely concentrate on the overclocking, fan control and hardware monitoring aspects of the software for the sake of brevity.

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When launched, the EasyTune software will prompt you with a disclaimer. You do have the option to check "Do not show this dialog again" if so desired. Once done you can access the utilities functions. After you deal with the disclaimer, you can actually do some tuning. Initially you are presented with the Smart Boost screen which allows the user to select from preset profiles such as ECO and OC. These profiles are relatively conservative compared to what one can actually achieve with this type of hardware. The auto-tuning function is something I’ve used many times and although GIGABYTE has improved it, this aspect of the software comes up short a lot of the time. I’ve yet to see this feature do better than the 4.4GHz preset found in the OC button here in the tool. The auto-tuning will not alter memory frequencies either, so those always have to be adjusted manually. This can be further complicated by your IMC as it may or may not handle given memory speeds at certain clock frequencies.

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When using the software, you will find some basic PC health information at the bottom of the application window. This is very similar to how ASUS’ AI Suite III is laid out. The application however visually appears more like a clone of ASRock’s software, though it functions like the older version of EasyTune that predates it. At the top of the application you’ll find categories which correspond to other features or groups of settings. In addition to the basic hardware monitoring found at the bottom of the application window, a satellite dialog box can be brought up which displays far more comprehensive PC heath data. Voltages, fan speeds, clock speeds and multipliers are displayed here. You can also expand the basic information at the bottom of the application window for more detailed data.

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The advanced CPU OC menu gives you access to the tuning capabilities of the motherboard. For the most part anything you could want in the UEFI BIOS can be found here. There are lots of voltage options accessible via simple drop downs and sliders. Any changes made highlight in orange but aren’t applied until the user hits the apply button. The advanced DDR OC menu shows DDR timings and frequency settings for the RAM. Ordinarily, the advanced power menu gives you access to the motherboard’s power phases. You can control frequency response, phase protection and duty cycles. In this case there is only a limited amount of voltage adjustment for the load-line calibration. I can only assume GIGABYTE limits the Z170X Designare primarily for market segmentation more than anything.

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The HotKey menu gives you the ability to enable performance profiles and activate them via a hot key. It’s a simple system really but it works. Preferences can be set in the upper right hand corner, which allows you to retain the settings after rebooting and on power up.

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The system information viewer has a misleading name. It does provide system information, but also primarily handles fan controls. System information is broken up into four sections and easy to understand. Fan control is a bit more complicated. There are performance presets for it the same as there is for the CPU. Smart fan controls allow you to configure the fans via smart or fixed RPM modes. Auto-tuning for the fans is supported as well using the calibration function. The system alert options give you the ability to generate alerts based on monitoring thresholds for temperatures, fan RPM ranges, or voltages. You can also record health data for trending and diagnostic purposes.

Ambient LED

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The ambient LED application allows for control of the onboard ambient LEDs. Visual effects and time change intervals are controllable here. You can also change the colors if desired. It is simple and intuitive which is all you can really ask for.