Features and Motherboard Layout
Courtesy of ASUS
- 5-Way Optimization: One click to optimize your entire system; plus a dedicated onboard water-pump header
- ASUS Pro Clock Technology: Extends base clocks and improves stability for extreme overclocking
- Crystal Sound 3, Intel LAN and Turbo LAN: Flawless audio and low-latency networking
- USB 3.1 onboard: One Type-A port plus a reversible Type-C port
- 5X Protection II: Advanced hardware safeguards
The ASUS Z170-A motherboard features the black and white theme of the Z170 channel board line with blue and silver accents on the chipset heat sink and rear panel cover. The VRM heat sinks are black-chrome colored, tying in well with the board's aesthetics. The audio separator line glows white when the board is powered in line with the board's look. All components easily fit in the board's form factor with adequate work space around all components.
The back of the Z170-A motherboard has the normal traces and solder points, as well as several small chips in close to the CPU socket. The most worrisome is the chip directly above the socket that could come in contact with the CPU back-plate, depending on the manufacturer's hold down design.
The Z1770-A motherboard features the following ports integrated into its rear panel assembly: a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.1 ports (1 Type-A and 1 Type-C), one RJ-45 port tied to the Intel I219-V controller, DisplayPort video port, HDMI video port, DVI-D video port, VGA video port, an optical audio port, and five analogue audio ports. Both blue colored USB 3.0 ports are controlled by the Intel Z170 controller. The two USB 3.1 ports are controlled by the integrated ASMedia controller.
The USB BIOS Flashback button can be used to re-flash the BIOS without having to boot the system into the UEFI BIOS interface or DOS. Simply plug in a USB drive containing the proper BIOS file in the root of the drive into the upper USB 3.1 port (teal colored) located just under the RJ-45 port and power on the system. As the BIOS is updated, the LED flashing frequency increases. Once the LED goes out, the flash operation is completed and the board can be booted. Note that if the BIOS Flashback LED flashes for 5 seconds and then glows solid, it means that something went wrong with the flashback operation. Check the USB drive for the the BIOS file in the root and make sure that the BIOS file is named correctly. BIOS Flashback looks for a specific filename and file format when attempting to replace the on-board BIOS. According to the user manual, the BIOS file in the root of the flash drive must be named Z170A.CAP for the BIOS Flashback applet to successfully re-flash the board's BIOS.
The Z170-A motherboard has a total of seven PCI-Express device ports – three PCI-Express x16 slots, three PCI-Express x1 slots, and one PCI slot. For the PCI-Express x16 slots, the board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card and x8 / x8 bandwidth with cards populating the primary and secondary PCIe x16 slots. Notice that ASUS designed the board so that at least one of the PCIe x1 slots remains usable with multiple GPUs populated in the board.
To the right of the primary PCIe x1 slot are two 4-pin chassis fan headers and a specialized 4-pin header for powering an AIO cooler system pump (white colored port). The integrated Thunderbolt device header is located to the lower left of the secondary PCIe x16 slot. The Thunderbolt header is used to connect to the optional ThunderboltEX II PCIe card using the USB extension cables bundled with the card.
ASUS integrated latest revision of their audio subsystem, Crystal Sound 3, into the Z170-A motherboard. The audio subsystem lives on an isolated PCB to minimize line-noise and distortion from other integrated components. The PCB separator line glows white along its length when the board is powered, keeping to the board's black and white color scheme. The front panel audio and S/PDIF output headers are located in the upper left corner of the audio PCB, to the lower left of the audio chipset.
In the upper left quadrant of the board (and along the outer edge of the tertiary PCIe x16 slot) are the front panel audio header, the S/PDIF output header, a serial port header, the power button, and the trusted module port header.
The BIOS Flashback header, trusted module port header, Thunderbolt header, and USB 2.0 headers are located towards the lower end of the tertiary PCIe x16 slot. The BIOS Flashback header is used to connect the optional USB BIOS Flashback card to the system, allowing for updating of the board's BIOS without need for UEFI entry or system boot int an O/S. The Thunderbolt header connects to an ASUS ThunderboltEX card for use and monitoring of Thunderbolt-style devices with the board.
The USB 2.0 headers, a USB 3.0 header, external fan header, chassis fan header, front panel header, EZ XMP and TPU switches, Direct Key header, and clear CMOS jumper are located in the lower left corner of the board. The DirectKey header can be connected to a case button, triggering direct board boot in to the UEFI BIOS on next reboot. The EZ XMP switch allows you to activate the memory XMP speed and setting specifications when enabled, overriding any current active BIOS settings. The TPU switch enables BIOS assisted overclocking with two modes available. In mode 1, only the CPU ratio is changed. In mode 2, both the CPU ratio and the base clock values are changed.
The M.2 PCIe x4 port is located to the upper left of the SATA port block, to the left of the Z170 Express chipset heat sink. The board supports M.2 PCIe SSDs up to 110mm in length. Note that the M.2 and the SATA-Express slots share bandwidth, configurable via the UEFI settings.
The Intel Z170 Express chipset is covered by a large white colored, low-profile, aluminum heat sink with the ASUS corporate logo emblazoned across its surface.
ASUS designed the Z170-A board with a total of four SATA 6 Gb/s ports and a single SATA-Express 10 Gb/s port. All drive ports are located directly under the chipset. The SATA-Express ports house two SATA 6 Gb/s ports each that can be used as stand alone ports as well, adding an additional two SATA 6 Gb/s ports to the board.
The on-board DDR4 memory slots are located just below the CPU socket in the lower right section of the board. Dual Channel memory mode is enabled by seating memory modules in like colored slots with slots 2 and 4 (the gray colored slots) being the primary memory slots. The board supports up to 64GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 3400MHz. Note that memory speeds above 2133MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications. Directly below the memory port block are a USB 3.0 header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, and the MemOK! button. The MemOK! button can be used to reset memory-related BIOS settings to defaults, useful when the system doesn't boot because of memory options set over-aggressively.
To the right of the DIMM slots are three 4-pin fan headers – a chassis fan header, the CPU fan header (white colored header), and the secondary CPU fan header.
The CPU socket area is clear of obstructions allowing for use of most coolers without issue with the board. The board comes standard with 8+2 power phases for CPU power delivery, more than enough to push your CPU to its limits. The VRMs are cooled by large passive aluminum heat sinks to the upper and right sides of the CPU socket. The CMOS battery is located to the left of the CPU socket, out of the way of most components.
The single 8-pin ATX12V power connector and the CPU overvolt jumper sits to the upper right of the CPU socket and VRM sinks.