BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review


Price / Where to Buy:

US – Approx. US$165 – 
PH – TBA/ Approx. Php7990

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7

In this era where the “gaming” title is usually the centre focus for the big 3 brands, its difficult to find something different aside from what those big brands are offering. To stand out, you either compete at the same game or you chase a different path. That latter choice is where BIOSTAR has decided to go and after dropping their GAMING line, the new flagship brand for BIOSTAR is now the new RACING series of products. BIOSTAR is in full racing mode and even their marketing reflects this but its only when we feast our eyes on the actual products that we see just how well-executed their theme is. While we’re used to seeing guns and dragons and other stuff on motherboards, its easy to assume BIOSTAR is going to dump wheels and engines in their RACING series but thankfully that’s not the case. In this review, we’ll take a look at the BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7, the flagship RACING series product right now and is arguably the best board BIOSTAR has created yet in terms of balance in both style and features.

BIOSTAR logo

Read on to find out more about the BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7!

Features

  • Supports 6th Generation Intel® Core™ Processor, enables overclocking on Unlocked Intel Core Processors
  • Intel Z170 single chip architecture
  • Support 4-DIMM DDR4-3200(OC)/ 2133/ 1866 up to 64G maximum capacity
  • BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Technology inside
  • Support USB 3.1 Type-C
  • Support PCIe M.2(32Gb/s)
  • Support SATA Express(16Gb/s)
  • Support HDMI true 4K resolution

Intel Skylake CPU

Intel has opted to stagger the launch of the Skylake CPUs with the flagship Core i7-6700K and Core i5-6600K unlocked processors debuting at launch together with the Z170 chipset. Further SKUs were released after launch for the lower end of the product stack.

Intel Skylake CPUs presents a new microarchitecture using the 14nm process seen in Broadwell processors. Intel Skylake CPUs will feature improved efficiency numbers and IPC performance together with a new IGP. As with all launch CPUs, these top-end unlocked processors are aimed at enthusiasts and support multiplier overclocking.

Also in the platform is support for DDR4. The new processors fully supports dual-channel DDR4 memory with the new DDR4 modules supporting higher default memory of 2133MHz at only 1.2v. Some motherboard makers may also opt to use DDR3 still as the processor still retain support for that.

The Intel Z170 Chipset

Accompanying the Intel Skylake 6th-gen processors is the new 100-series chipset, codenamed Sunrise Point. As the primary consumer chipset for the 6th-generation Intel Core processors, the 100-series chipset is available in various chipset series from the mainstream H110, H170 and Z170 and the business-class  B150, Q150 and Q170. Intel has decided to stagger the release of their Skylake processors which made the release of the other chipset only happen recently. While it’d take an entire post to describe the finer details on the difference of each chipset, to sum it up really quick the chipsets differ in features: with the Z170 offering the most in terms of expansion and support as well as PCI-e lanes with lower model chipsets reducing on what’s offering the business-class ones expanding to include Small Business Basics and Small Business Advantage.

For the most part of what we’re reviewing we’ll take a look at the Z170 chipset, the top-end chipset for desktop and offers the most features and support for multiplier overclocking.

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One of the primary changes from Z97 to Z170 is support for a newsocket, the LGA 1151. LGA 1151 supports Intel Skylake CPUs and is not compatible with LGA 1150 processors and vice versa. Mounting holes for the 115x range have remained the same though so your old LGA 1156/1155/1150 will still be compatible with the new LGA 1151 motherboards.

Support for DDR4 memory is also one of the changes that comes with the new chipset. Connectivity between CPU and chipset also utilizes DMI 3.0 allowing a full 20 PCI-e 3.0 lanes which is up to the motherboard maker on how they utilize it.

Closer Look

With a new product line comes a new set of visuals and as the theme is racing for the new series from BIOSTAR of the same name, its only appropriate that we’ll see very familiar design cues from the packaging alone. The main box itself is a full-colored cardboard package printed with carbon fibre texture for the top flap and sides. The top flap has a big print of the motherboard model with Intel marketing icons to denote support for the new Intel Skylake processors as well as having an Intel Gigabit LAN NIC inside. The back of the box highlights the new features of the motherboard with the new focus features of the RACING series including the VIVID LED DJ and I/O Armor.

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

Contrary to the previous flagshop, BIOSTAR decided to scale back with this one so we’re back to a DVD installation disc, SATA cables, an I/O shield and the manuals. A cool inclusion is an RGB 5050 LED strip which can be connected directly on the BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 or any of the RACING series board with 5050 connectors onboard. This can be controlled via the VIVID LED DJ software.

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

BIOSTAR’s new theme is heavily represented in the board and while it doesn’t sport wheels and notable car parts, its racing inspiration for visuals is represented with heavy usage of carbon fibre textures and checkered flags. The rear I/O shroud has the GT-R “R” emblazoned with racing flags adorning it vertically. Carbon fibre textures go on top of the VRM heatsinks. The BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 is the new top-end board for the company so its got some big shoes to fill with its big brother the GAMING Z170X setting the pace for this generation’s component setup.  The BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 features a 9-phase power delivery design, a bit shy of its predecessor’s 12-phase design. This isn’t a big concern if you ain’t overclocking to break records and is decent enough to deliver stably to a daily OC of around 4.6Ghz.

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The upper right corner of the board is home to the DIY features of the board but first let’s point out that this motherboard supports up to DDR4-3200 and while that isn’t spectacular by any means, this is a heavily vanilla Z170 board so its understandable that BIOSTAR didn’t want to go with 3rd-party chips in their first outing with a new series. Back to the DIY features, we can see the Debug LED, touch buttons and the LN2 switch in this side.

BIOSTAR’s new onboard buttons feature touch controls but stick to basic controls like profile switching as well as reset and power. The Eco profile and Sport profile can be tweaked in the BIOS and allows the board to switch between performance modes and power saving mode. This removes the need for non-technical users to learn how to overclock or tweak settings to get more out of their system. While its surprising to see an LN2 switch here, keep in mind that since the Z97 boards BIOSTAR has been including them in their high-end boards. This slows down the CPU to 800Mhz and allows going past Windows boot screens to set users up for an extreme benchmarking session in Windows or just to get verification.

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

Internal I/O storage is a triple array of SATA Express connectors. This allows a maximum of six (6) SATA ports to be connected to this board.

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

An M.2 slot support X4 speed is present and is placed just between the 3rd and last PCI-e slot which is a great location given the heating issues that some M.2 SSDs are known for when placed in the same space as the GPU slot.  This board has four(4) PCIe x16 slots configured to run at x16 x8 x4 x4 which means this board can run up to 3 AMD Radeon graphics cards in Crossfire configuration. Sad news for NVIDIA owners as this board does not have SLI support.

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

The BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 has plenty of video display output with dual-HDMI, DVI and VGA support. All the USB ports from the back are USB3.0 with a single USB3.1 Type-C port for newer devices. Legacy PS/2 support is present with a single LAN port from the Intel i219v chip is in here protected by BIOSTAR’s surge protection chip.

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

BIOSTAR uses an ALC898 audio chip backed by Japanese capacitors to give the audio a bit of strength. We feel this approach is getting a bit dated especially with BIOSTAR’s focus in audio.

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

The upper half of this board is decked out in connectors with the CPU fan connectors located just below the lower vertical VRM heatsink along with the 5050 LED connector.

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

The PCH heatsink which lights also. Yes, its the R from the GT-R logo.

Some component close-ups of the primary chips used in this board.

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

BIOSTAR allows switching between the dual-BIOS feature of this board. BIOSTAR opted for this manual approach to remove the possibility of an infected or corrupted BIOS being copied to the secondary one. You can run 2 BIOS versions on this board but you’ll need to manually flash each to your desired one first. The out-of-box BIOS are of the same version.

VIVID LED DJ

Performance Testing

Test Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 6700K
Motherboard: BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7
Memory: Kingston HyperX SAVAGE DDR4-3000
Storage: Kingston HyperX FURY 240GB
PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower 1000w
Cooling: Custom loop (XSPC Raystorm block, EK DCP 4.0, BlackIce Stealth GT 360 rad)
Monitor: LG 42UB820T UltraHD TV
VGAZOTAC GTX 980 Ti Arctic Storm

For a full-hardware workout, visit http://www.futuremark.com for our benchmarks of choice.

Performance Testing – Synthetic

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Performance Testing – 3D Benchmark

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Power & Temperatures

We check to see how motherboard makers tune their default BIOS settings and see how it impacts temperatures and power consumption. The system is left to idle for 30 minutes before readings are taken and load data is taken 30 minutes while AIDA64 stress test is running. Power readings are taken for the entire system from the socket. Power draw for the entire system is captured for this test via an outlet wattmeter and temperatures are recorded via Intel Extreme Tuning app.

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Conclusion

BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review
BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 Motherboard Review

Let’s break it down for the BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7:

Performance. The board performs as with any of the Z170 motherboards in our database give and take a few points in some of the benchmarks when it comes to overclocking. Speaking of which, the board does score some points for retaining the LN2 switch just in case anyone into some extreme overclocking chances on this board for their extreme needs. But even enthusiasts planning to push past the average air and water records can use this nifty utility to get some good results.

Build Quality. The board is definitely a step forward in terms of quality for BIOSTAR. While it doesn’t feature the large shroud of the GAMING series, its board design and features are simple a whole different level. Board layout is clean and well thought of and there’s just nothing we can find to complain about this board. We do feel the BIOS still needs work and this has been something BIOSTAR needs to improve on in the future.

Functionality. The motherboard is surprisingly feature-rich despite its price tag and its feature isn’t necessarily all fluff. While the VIVID LED DJ and lighting are more cosmetic than anything else, the rest of BIOSTAR’s new Super 5 feature set does set the board on a higher level than its older brother. We do want to note that as a high-end board, we expected a better audio solution but with only an ALC898 chip here, there’s really a large room for improvement there.

Bundle. Some regions may receive a free 5050 RGB LED strip. Check with your seller first if its included. Otherwise its a basic bundle.

Value. At $164, this is one of the more competitive Z170 motherboards out right now. If ECS hadn’t released the Lightsaber, this would be the only sub-$200 board with support for up to 3 GPUs in Crossfire and with the RX 480 offering a good option for those looking for high-performance mainstream graphics with a more reasonable price tag, AMD Crossfire is looking like a decent option vs. the GTX 1060. Feature-wise, there’s plenty to like about this board for the price like the RGB LED strip support, integrated heatsink lighting that allows customization, onboard buttons with profile switches, and USB3.1 Type-C connector.

BIOSTAR may not be offering super high-end board these days but this new Z170 flagship is a sign that BIOSTAR is serious in positioning itself as the most competitive in the budget range in terms of providing features for the price. While it directly competes with the big boys entry level Z170 boards, these products from ASUS, GB and MSI are either priced higher to compete with the BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7.

In true BIOSTAR fashion, the BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 is one tough product to beat in its price point. With a good set of features, excellent performance and rich connectivity, its simply tough to pass-up especially if the look appeals to you. Its simply a board with it a unique appeal and a price that can’t be beat.

We give the BIOSTAR RACING Z170 GT7 our B2G Silver Award and B2G Best Value Seal!

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