GIGABYTE Z170X-Gaming 3 Motherboard Review

Author: MAC
Date: April 14, 2016
Product Name: Z170X-Gaming 3
Part Number: Z170X-Gaming 3
Warranty: 3 Years
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Auto & Manual Overclocking Results

It wouldn't be an HWC review if we didn't include some overclocking results, so we thoroughly tested this motherboard's capabilities, especially its auto-overclocking functionality. There won't be any ground breaking insights on how to overclock on this new Skylake platform, but our personal pointers are to increase the vCore up to around 1.40V if you're cooling can handle it, while increasing the VCCIO up to 1.20V, and the System Agent voltage up to 1.25V. If you are trying to achieve the highest possible DDR4 memory speeds, increasing the VCCIO to 1.25V and vSA to 1.35V might be worth trying out. These last two are really only needed if you plan on seriously pushing the Uncore/cache frequency or the memory frequency. On the memory front, we are sticking with 1.40V in order to alleviate any possible bottlenecks and to stay inline with all our previous DDR4 reviews. By the way, if you have an unlocked K-series processor, there's no reason to go crazy increasing the BCLK if you can achieve similar results by just tweaking the various multipliers instead.

Auto Overclocking

The Z170X-Gaming 3 features four types of automatic overclocking, two software based and two BIOS based. Within the EasyTune utility there is an OC preset and the more intelligent and supposedly more capable AutoTuning feature. The OC preset is super simple; you just click on the icon, the system reboots and the overclock is applied. This increases the core clock to 4.4Ghz, which is fairly minimal increase that isn't really worth much additional testing, so we focused on AutoTuning instead. AutoTuning is a "smart" auto-overclocking feature in that it doesn't utilize presets. Instead, AutoTuning slowly increases the system frequencies and does some stress testing at each level until it finds the limit, and then reboots to lock-in the overclock. The whole process takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

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Although it won't blow anyone away, from a stock 4.0-4.2Ghz to a steady 4.6Ghz in the time it takes to reboot it still pretty cool. However, AutoTuning failed to recognize our memory kit's XMP profile and as a result kept memory frequency and timings at default levels. While AutoTuning on the cheaper Z170-HD3 achieved identical results at 1.28-1.30V, on this model the process set a fairly high vCore of up to 1.38V. This is high enough to require a very capable air or even liquid CPU cooler. The system passed all of our stability tests, but users should try manually decreasing that voltage a few notches since temperatures are otherwise going to be needlessly elevated.

Next let's check out the two BIOS-based automatic overclocking options.

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Within the BIOS, the first setting that you encounter in the Advanced Frequency Settings menu is Performance Upgrade, which consists of a drop down menu that contains options ranging from Auto to 100% Upgrade. Naturally, we went straight to the 100% Upgrade option that set a 4.7Ghz CPU frequency and DDR3-2133 memory speeds. Unlike on the Z170-HD3, this option worked perfectly and became our preferred automatic overclock method on this motherboard. While the CPU core voltage topped out at 1.32V, but it usually loitered around the 1.27-1.28V range, which is quite reasonable given the core clock. Once again, the memory and cache frequency were left untouched and kept at default levels.

Last but not least, from within the M.I.T section of the BIOS there is an option called "CPU Upgrade" that lists a variety of overclocks based on what CPU model you have installed. We decided to try it out and selected the highest option for a Core i7-6700K, which is 4.60hz. Let's see if it worked:

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As you can see above, the CPU Upgrade feature delivered on its promise of a 4.60Ghz overclock. Once again, the CPU core voltage topped out at 1.32V, but it usually loitered around the 1.27-1.28V range. We do once again wish that it had applied some kind of memory or cache overclock.

Manual Overclocking

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When it came time for some hands on overclocking, we experienced no problems pushing our i7-6700K up to its full potential, which is about 4.85Ghz at 1.40-1.41V. No fancy tricks were required, we just increasing the CPU multiplier to 48X, gave the BCLK a tiny bump up to 101.05Mhz, and selected the DDR4-3600 memory speed option. We managed to increase the cache/uncore frequency from the stock 4000Mhz to 4250Mhz without having to touch any other voltage settings. Overall, we didn't encounter any overclocking issues on this motherboard, and whenever we did push things too far, it recovered without issue.

Since we couldn't max out both the core clock and memory frequency at the same time, we decided to do a separate test to determine the highest stable memory frequency that we could run on this motherboard.

Memory Overclocking

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As you can see, despite only officially supporting overclocked memory speeds up to DDR4-3466, we managed to hit an impressive DDR4-3824 on this motherboard. We utilized our excellent Corsair DDR4-4000 8GB memory kit, so clearly the motherboard was still the limiting factor in this equation. Specifically, GIGABYTE's bizarre decision to limit VCCSA voltage to a maximum of 1.30V is the cause of the bottleneck in our case. On other motherboards, we have used between 1.35V to 1.38V in order to achieve over DDR4-4000. Having said that, we wouldn't recommend running above 1.30V for day-to-day use, but we do wish that they allowed more headroom just for some occasional 'extreme' overclocking fun.

Although we didn't try finding the limit, we are happy to report that the Z170X-Gaming 3 had no problems running our G.Skill TridentZ DDR4-3600 16GB memory kit at its rated speed. This is impressive because many motherboards don't handle large high-speed memory kits very well.

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