ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 Motherboard Review
Along with the launch of the two Intel Kaby Lake-K processors today, we have been blessed with a whole slew of new motherboards thanks to the simultaneous introduction of a next generation chipset. While Kaby Lake does make use of the venerable LGA1151 socket, and is indeed backwards compatible with Z170 motherboards via BIOS updates, there are always incremental platform improvements to be made. The star of the show is codenamed "Union Point", but will more commonly be referred to as the 200-series chipset. This 200-series platform controller hub (PCH) includes multiple variants such as the B250, Q250, Q270, and H270, but it is the Z270 that we are primarily interested in since the Z variant is once again the only one that supports overclocking and multi-GPU setups.
Mirroring the minor differences between Skylake and Kaby Lake, the Z270 chipset doesn't bring that all that much new to the table when compared to Z170. Obviously, there's out-of-the-box support for 7th Generation Intel Core processors, but the only notable changes are an additional 4 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, an upgrade to version 15 of Rapid Storage Technology (RST), and support for Intel's upcoming Optane technology. These additional PCI-E lanes should ensure that more high speed storage devices can be run in full speed PCIe 3.0 x4 mode, while RST 15 should ensure that all those devices can placed in a RAID array. RST 15 will surely also have a hand in the implementation of Optane technology, which on this platform will be ultra-fast SSDs that utilize Intel’s 3D XPoint memory. Intel is staying mute on this topic though, so we regrettably don't have much information to share.
With our introduction of the new chipset out of the way, let's take a look at the motherboards. In this review, we are going to be focusing on the ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6, but since we're publishing multiple articles today we highly recommend that you also check out our reviews of the AUROS Z270X-Gaming 5 and the ASUS Maximus IX Hero. While the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 is not the flagship model in ASRock's Z270 range it certainly doesn't leave any features on the proverbial shelf.
This model will retail for about $180 USD and for that price you will be getting just about everything you could want in a modern motherboard, except for any form of wireless connectivity. However, unlike every other time we have mentioned a lack of onboard Wi-Fi, this time there is an easy solution. ASRock have actually been extremely thoughtful, and they have outfitted this model with an M.2 Key E slot that supports M.2 Wi-Fi cards. Not only that, but they have integrated two antenna cutouts into the rear I/O panel. With these two additions, adding Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth to this motherboard is an exceedingly easy and seamless procedure. Other manufacturers should definitely take note.
Going down the specs list, we see that the Z270 Gaming K6 features a 12-phase CPU power design, high-quality 12K Japanese capacitors, three steel-reinforced physical PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or 3-way CrossFireX, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots which are open-ended to accept longer expansion cards, eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, and two full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slots – at least one of which will support Intel’s upcoming Optane SSD product line. There are also two high-speed USB 3.1 ports, one Type-A and one Type-C, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.0 headers, three USB 2.0 headers, an RGB LED strip header (more on that below), and since we’re talking about headers, it also has both a CPU-OPT fan header and a system fan header that support water pumps.
This model also has two Intel-powered gigabit LAN ports, which is actually fairly unusual at this reasonable price point. Those who plan on utilizing Kaby Lake's new HD Graphics 630 integrated GPU will have to make due without a DisplayPort, since video output assortment is limited to DVI-D, HDMI 1.4, and old-school VGA. Rounding things out, you will find small extras like two physical BIOS chips, a debug LED display, and a rich software suite that we will be taking a closer look at later. Much to our surprise, ASRock have also bundled a SLI HB Bridge to ensure optimal performance when running two GeForce GTX 1070's or 1080's in SLI. This high bandwidth SLI bridge retails for $30 USD solo, so it is a very nice addition.
Hopefully, we’ve kept the best two features for last. This model has been outfitted with an onboard audio solution – dubbed Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 3 – that is based on the brand new, never-seen-before Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel codec, which is linked to an array of Nichicon audio-grade capacitors, a headphone amplifier, and a physical PCB-level audio separation line that protects the audio components from EMI. Given the gaming focus of this motherboard, ASRock have also licensed the feature-rich Sound Blaster Cinema 3 utility from Creative, which will give gamers a great deal of audio effect tweaking capability.
Following the industry’s trend, ASRock are also debuting the AURA RGB LED lighting effects feature. There are RGB LEDs under the Z270 chipset cooler, under the shroud covering the audio subsystem, and integrated into the MOSFET heatsink cooler. There is even a header on which you can plug an LED lighting strip. All of these lights can be controlled from within the BIOS or via an included utility. They can be adjusted to any number of different colours and customized to create cool lighting effects, like pulsating with the beat of your music, ‘breathing’, strobing, cycling through all the colours, statically displaying one colour, or just totally disabled if that is your preference.
Overall, the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 is showing a ton of promise on paper, and we are here to see if it can deliver. If everything is as well implemented as it should be, this motherboard is going to be an easy addition to our recommended motherboards list.
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