Best Z170 Motherboards 2017: Compare And Review the Top Boards for Skylake CPUs

Skylake is the codename for Intel's latest processors which were launched in August 2015 as the successor to it's Broadwell CPUs. Skylake is Intel's sixth-generation CPUs and feature a number of improvements over Broadwell processors. Skylake CPUs, such as the Core i7-6700K, were designed to work with 100 series chipsets such as Z170. Read on as we go through our list of some of the best Skylake motherboards.

In a hurry? For your convenience, here is a link to the top Z170 motherboards for Skylake CPUs on Amazon.

Before you see the details of each motherboard here is a comparison table of the top 3 Skylake motherboards:

List of the Top Z170 Motherboards for Skylake CPUs

Image/Name Learn More Max Memory Expansion
Slots
Rear Ports
Asus Maximus VIII Formula

Asus Maximus VIII Formula

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Up to 64 GB Dual
Channel DDR4 3733 OC
3 PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
1 PCIe 3.0 x1 slot
6 SATA 6Gb/s ports
2 SATA Express ports
1 M.2 socket
1 U.2 socket
1 PS/2 port
1 DisplayPort
1 HDMI port
1 LAN / RJ45 port
2 USB 3.1
8 USB 3.0
1 Optical S/PDIF out
5 Audio jacks
1 Clear CMOS button
2 Wi-Fi antenna ports
1 USB BIOS flashback button
Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7

Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7

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Up to 64 GB Dual
Channel DDR4 3866 OC
3 PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
3 PCIe 3.0 x1 slot
6 SATA 6Gb/s ports
3 SATA Express ports
2 M.2 socket
1 PS/2 port
1 DisplayPort
1 HDMI port
2 LAN / RJ45 ports
2 USB 3.1
5 USB 3.0
1 Optical S/PDIF out
5 Audio jacks
MSI Z170A GAMING M7

MSI Z170A Gaming M7

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Up to 64 GB Dual
Channel DDR4 3600 OC
3 PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
4 PCIe 3.0 x1 slot
6 SATA 6Gb/s ports
2 SATA Express ports
2 M.2 socket
1 PS/2 port
1 DisplayPort
2 HDMI ports
1 LAN / RJ45 port
2 USB 3.1
2 USB 3.0
3 USB 2.0
1 Optical S/PDIF out
5 Audio jacks
1 Clear CMOS button
1 USB BIOS flashback port

Motherboards that support Skylake processors feature an LGA 1151 socket, and introduce widespread support for DDR4 memory. The majority of socket 1151 motherboards have support solely for DDR4 memory while some support DDR4 and DDR3, however only one type of memory can be installed at one time.

Socket 1151 motherboards contain Intel 100 series chipsets, with the first boards to be released featuring the Z170 chipset. Other chipsets to feature in these boards include H170, Q170 and B150.

Intel released 2 initial Skylake CPUs, the Core i7-6700K and the Core i5-6600K. Further Skylake processors were released towards the end of 2015, including the Core i5-6600, the Core i5-6500, and some new Pentium processors. Skylake chips are also compatible with motherboards that have the Z270 chipset.

Read on as we review and compare our top 3 motherboards that are a perfect pairing for your Skylake CPU. Each motherboard has a short review followed by a link that shows you more reviews and prices.


Read More: Best Motherboards for Intel Core i7 CPUs

Read More: Best X99 Motherboards


Asus Maximus VIII Formula

Asus Maximus VIII Formula
Motherboard Asus Maximus VIII Formula
Socket Type Intel LGA 1151
Chipset Z170
Form Factor ATX
Year Released 2016
CPU Support Skylake / Kaby Lake
Expansion Slots 4 PCIe, 6 SATA, 2 SATA Express, 1 M.2, 1 U.2
RAM Slots 4 x DDR4
Maximum RAM 64GB

The Asus ROG Maximus VIII Formula is one of the more expensive Z170 motherboards. However the design, feature set and build quality make this a motherboard that will stand the test of time.

One thing that sets this board apart from others in its class is the ability to have the board any color you wish, so you will have no problem fitting it into your color scheme. Total color customization is possible thanks to the RGB LEDs that are strategically placed around the motherboard, such as the shield and heat sinks.

Another feature which helps to justify the price tag is a full VRM waterblock that has been designed in collaboration with EK Water Blocks. Unlike other integrated waterblocks that attach to the heatpipes, the CrossChill waterblock actually makes direct contact with the VRMs. Air or liquid can be used to cool, however when you use liquid you can decrease MOSFET temperatures by 23˚C.

The Amazon reviews speak for themselves, with 157 customer reviews at the time of writing, with 66% giving it 5 stars. If you pair this with your Skylake based Core i7 6700K or Core i5 6600K, you will be in gaming heaven. Asus have also confirmed that this motherboard is compatible with Kaby Lake CPUs, making it a future proof purchase that will be a top motherboard choice for years to come.

Pros Cons
3-Way CrossFire and Quad SLI support One of the more expensive Z170 boards, but the feature set and design help to justify the cost
Integrated EK CrossChill Waterblock for both air and liquid cooling  
Intel Gigabit Ethernet controller with LANGuard and GameFirst technologies  
Three-way RGB illumination, Aura 4-pin RGB-strip header & lighting control  

Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7

Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7
Motherboard Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7
Socket Type Intel LGA 1151
Chipset Z170
Form Factor ATX
Year Released 2015
CPU Support Skylake / Kaby Lake
Expansion Slots 6 PCIe, 6 SATA, 3 SATA Express, 2 M.2
RAM Slots 4 x DDR4
Maximum RAM 64GB

The abundance of features and options make the Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7 motherboard a high end beast that is a favourite with gamers and casual users alike. It is priced in the mid to high end of the scale, but if you are serious about gaming you really need the best tools at your disposal.

With Dual M.2 slots, 3 PCIe x16 slots and 3 SATA Express slots, this board has almost endless connectivity options. Throw in dual Gigabit Ethernet controllers (one being a Killer E2400), a Thunderbolt 3 connector with bandwidth up to 40 Gb/s and a Creative Sound Core3D Quad-Core Audio Processor, and you start to see why the price is justified.

With 550 customer reviews on Amazon and 64% of those giving it 5 stars, the Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7 motherboard is a popular choice among Z170 boards. Add in the fact that it is compatible with Intel’s Kaby Lake line of processors, the Gaming 7 will likely remain a firm favourite for the foreseeable future.

Pros Cons
Triple CrossFire and Quad SLI support UEFI fan control is not as extensive as other Z170 motherboards
Intel Thunderbolt 3 certified, with USB Type-C connector that delivers 40Gb/s bandwidth  
Creative SoundCore™ 3D Gaming Audio and Killer E2400 Networking port which prioritizes game traffic  
Very affordable Z170 motherboard  

MSI Z170A GAMING M7

MSI Z170A GAMING M7
Motherboard MSI Z170A GAMING M7
Socket Type Intel LGA 1151
Chipset Z170
Form Factor ATX
Year Released 2015
CPU Support Skylake / Kaby Lake
Expansion Slots 7 PCIe, 6 SATA, 2 SATA Express, 2 M.2
RAM Slots 4 x DDR4
Maximum RAM 64GB

The MSI Z170 Gaming M7 is a motherboard that has been designed for gamers. From the eye-catching red and black aesthetics to the abundance of features, this board will pair up nicely with your Skylake based i7 6700K or even your i5 6600K.

The Game BOOST dial is one of the stand out features of this board. It is an upgrade to the overclock button that was featured on previous MSI boards and it allows you to automatically overclock through 8 stages. Just turn the dial to whatever stage you want and reset the PC, and the overclock will apply. For those of you who prefer overclocking manually, you can still do this in the BIOS.

Again, this is a very popular choice among Amazon customers with 267 reviews, and 61% of those giving it 5 stars. A lot of the positive reviews rave about the build quality of this MSI motherboard, and I have to agree. It feels heavy for a motherboard, this is due to the fact that MSI seem to have reinforced it, and that is a good thing when you consider some of the other boards that can bend quite easily. You won't be disappointed with this motherboard, and MSI have confirmed that it is also compatible with Kaby Lake CPUs, adding more value and increasing the lifespan of it.

Pros Cons
3-Way CrossFire and 2-Way SLI support

Gameboost dial with overclocking capabilities of up to 5GHz
One of the more expensive boards, but the large feature set makes it worth the price
7.1 CH HD audio powered by Realtek ALC 1150 codec with Audio Boost 3 and Nahimic Audio Enhancer  
Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet controller which prioritizes game traffic  
Steel Armor PCIe slots for better protection and cooling  

Choosing the Correct Z170 Motherboard for Your Skylake or Kaby Lake CPU

If you own an Intel Skylake processor, then pairing it with a decent motherboard will complement and bring out the best in your Skylake computer set-up. The Skylake line of CPUs from Intel have dominated the computer market since their release, they are the sixth generation of Intel core micro-architecture processors.

The Skylake chip has new improvements and features that will offer you faster clock speeds like never before. It promises and delivers 4K support, up to 30% better battery life, improved graphics and support for DDR4 RAM. Despite this, if you do not equip your Skylake PC with a top of the range lga 1151 motherboard, it will fall short of performance and expectations.

We all know motherboards tie the links to allow communication between electronic components of a computer system. It answers the fundamental question of what your PC can or cannot run. A motherboard that does not measure up to the quality of your computer processor will limit its optimization. Therefore, ensure that you optimally utilize these state of the art and expensive drives, overclocked CPUs and graphics cards by supporting them with the best motherboards.

Below, we will take you through the necessary features you should be on the lookout for, when purchasing a motherboard to pair with your Skylake CPU.

Features Of Z170 Chipset Motherboards to Look for

Since the motherboard of a PC is the body through which other parts of the PC fit in, it must be compatible with those other components. Intel's Skylake CPUs demand specific features from their motherboards to ensure optimum performance and motherboard manufacturers are starting to produce Skylake models. Here is a guide that explains all compatible features and specifications to get you to understand what to look for when buying a Skylake motherboard.

Best Motherboards with Z170 Chipset:

  • The 1151 motherboard line-up for Skylake CPUs were shipped with the following chipsets: Z170, H170, A170, B150, Q150, and H110.
  • Asus ROG Maximus VIII Formula
  • Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7
  • MSI Z170A Gaming M7
  • Asus Z170-A ATX
  • ASRock Fatl1ty
  • MSI Z170A SLI Plus
  • Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 3
Asus Maximus VIII Formula

Size

This is the first criterion you should consider when purchasing a motherboard for your Skylake processor. There are three standards for sizes of motherboards and each of them have different number of slots to insert cards such as tuner cards, graphics card wireless NICs and display adapters.

ATX is a desktop personal computer size motherboard. The micro-ATX is smaller than the ATX by two inches and offers less PCI slots than the ATX. Although it still provides openings to install two graphics cards. Moreover, some micro ATX boards have as many features as its bigger ATX models. The mini ITX drops more lowly in size than the micro ATX. It has one PCI-E slot. This means it can only accommodate one PCI-E SSD or one graphics card or other expansion card. This option also limits your memory slots to two and it will only give out 32GB of RAM.

Memory

DDR4 memory is the standard for Skylake motherboards. It has a higher MT/s, a higher capacity of 16GB per stick and is more energy effective. Your Skylake computer will make broader use of the DDR4 memory. However, manufacturers are making good progress in tightening the timings of this memory.

Some Skylake motherboards also support DDR3 memory if DDR4 is out of your price range. DDR3 is cheaper, slower and consumes more power. Skylake CPUs also provide support for DDR3 and DDR4 sockets to aid conversion. Nevertheless, you cannot run both types of memory at a time, only one.

Slots and Connectors

There are many connectors and slots on motherboards and these are worth paying close attention to if you intend to get the correct Skylake motherboard for your needs. The PCI slots, which dominate the middle of the motherboard, accommodate the networking cards, sound cards, SSDs, and graphics cards. PCI slots are of many types, which include PCI, PCI-Express x1, PCI-Express x4, PCI-Express x8 and PCI-Express x16.

PCI-Express x16 with sixteen pathways offers the highest bandwidth and is the longest. The high bandwidth makes it suitable for graphics cards. PCI-Express x4 usages are common in RAID cards and SSDs. PCI-Express x1 are popularly used for wireless NICs and expansion cards such as SSDs and sound cards due to their smaller size. High-End Skylake motherboards will have three or four PCI-Express x16 slots, and several other PCI slots.

There are plenty of sockets and ports on most motherboards to satisfy users, but you should be more attentive to the type of CPU you have. If you have a CPU that require sufficient cooling, or if you plan to overclock, then make sure your motherboard has many fan connectors. In addition, not all boards will handle hard disks in large numbers or run multiple graphics cards.

Storage connectors

The best Z170 motherboards will have any of the following three storage connectors: standard SATA connector, SATA express or M.2. The standard SATA connector provides large bandwidth to satiate SSDs and standard hard disks. SATA Express, which is an improvement on standard SATA offer faster speed through PCI lanes. These two types are limited in function due to compatibility issues. You should find one or two of them on motherboards.

The M.2 connector, which takes a resemblance to a stick of RAM and fits flat on a motherboard, is the most general formats for SSDs of the next generation. The drives on use here run at faster speeds compared to SATA based SSDs because they use PCI lanes too. Decent motherboards will have one or two of these.

Best LGA 1151 Motherboards by Intel:

  • Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7
  • MSI Z170A Gaming M7
  • Asus ROG Maximus VIII Formula
  • Asus Z170-A ATX
  • ASRock Fatl1ty
  • MSI Z170A SLI Plus
  • Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 3
Gigabyte gaming 7 z170x

Firmware and on-board features

If you are a gamer or love tweaking, you should consider some on-board features such as on-board reset and power buttons, BIOS, LED POST displays and robust voltage regulator modules. The on-board reset and power buttons come in handy for a quicker reset if over-clock does not work. The voltage regulator modules will help to handle additional power draw. The LED POST display shows codes that help with troubleshooting problems. Higher-end boards are more tempting in their features for a serious over-clocker.

Conclusion

While Intel has provided Skylake CPUs, the onus is on you as a user to equip this processor with a motherboard it deserves.

In all, purchasing a Z170 motherboard should pose no problem for you if you take the above features and specifications into consideration.