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ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 Review

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    Posted: 03 Jan 2017 at 3:23pm



Today I have the great pleasure of introducing you all to ASRock's brand new Z270 Gaming K6!

Right out the gate it is clear that there have been some major design changes over it's Z170 stable mate. Lets dig deeper and see what's new, what's improved and what, if anything, could be better.


Lets start off with some specs:

http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/Fatal1ty%20Z270%20Gaming%20K6/index.asp




I must note that there is an * on the box specs regarding DDR4 3866 support that claims it is only applicable when a single RAM module is installed. This does not mean you will not be able to achieve this speed in Dual channel with 2 modules but that ASRock does not guarantee you will be able to. I am not sure why this is included if it is only tested with a single module but for those looking for more extreme overclocking it is useful to know. I also suspect that as faster RAM kits become available at lower voltages (1.2 default vs 1.35) and latencies we will see this become more commonly possible for 2 DIMMs.


Now given the Z270 has just been released I will break it down a little here to highlight some improvements over Z170:




The Z270 provides additional 4 HSIO Lanes over Z170 which equates to more IO options. In addition we also have an extra four PCIe 3.0 lanes form the PCH. Perhaps one of the more interesting differences is "Optane" support. Not much info is available on intel's Optane technology yet but it is a fairly safe bet that, given that is just about the only notable addition to Kaby Lake over Skylake, intel think it will be a game changer. If the current hype is true Optane could herald in some unprecedented performance improvements and efficiency. Read more here:


http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/architecture-and-technology/non-volatile-memory.html (copy paste link)


All in all, Z270 looks to be a refined, more feature rich platform than it's older Z170 sibling. If Optane can deliver on both it's performance claims and intel's hinted affordability then things could get interesting.




So how does the Z270 Gaming K6 stack up against the older Z170 Gaming K6/+?


Take a look:



If you were considering purchasing a Z170 Gaming K6 and have not done so yet then you will definitely be interested in the Z270 Gaming K6. It sports all the same features and more and is topped off by the addition of RGB lighting options.




ASRock recently unveiled new logos for their product lines and here we can see the Gaming logo prevalent on the front of the product packaging. The large "G" for gaming covers the entire face of the box with the Fatal1ty logo letting you know in no uncertain terms that this board is aimed at the hardcore gamer. On the bottom right corner we see the usual list of tech logos this product supports, HDMI, Nvidia SLI, AMD Crossfire, Intel 7th Gen LGA 1151 CPU support, Z270 chipset and intel Core inside.


When I opened the shipping container and saw this staring back at me I have to admit I got a bit excited??




The back of the box is well laid out and highlights some of the more noteworthy features of the board. Perhaps most notably is the inclusion of not only RGB LED highlights on the board itself but also a controllable RGB LED strip header. I will go over the features and specs a little later on.




Once we remove the decorative sleeve, I love this packaging design, we are greeted by a glossy black box with "ASRock" proudly central on the top. The inclusion of a carry handle, although largely redundant, is pretty neat. While the packaging is not really any better or worse at protecting your kit it does make the product feel more high quality with the extra effort put in to the packaging.




Flipping open the lid on your shiny black box reveals an all black interior with all the extras laid bare for you to see.




The top compartment contains:


3x M.2 mounting screws (one was tucked away in my user manual so I missed it in this pic)

User manual

Service Guide

Driver disk

ASRock case badge

2x SATA 3.0 cables, one with a right angle connector

A rather stylish looking themed IO shield

An ASRock Gaming post card, neat though I



Edited by Xaltar - 21 Mar 2017 at 11:29pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Xaltar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Jan 2017 at 3:24pm

Interestingly, without the flash of the camera the text is all but invisible. This does make reading the header labels difficult but that is what the user manual is for and if I am being honest, I rather like the cleaner look it provides.




Here, already nestled into the shiny new Z270 Gaming K6 we see the brand new intel Core i5 7600K. This is great as it will allow me to perform an apples to apples comparison to the previous generation Core i5 6600K.




Zooming out a bit we can see the 12 phase power system covered by two heatsinks connected via a heatpipe. It is worth noting that even the capacitors are black to fit the black and red theme of the board. We can also clearly see the impressive 45A power chokes. The power design on the Z270 Gaming K6 really is overkill and should provide very reliable, stable power to the CPU and memory. This, in theory, should equate to some decent overclocking capabilities but we will get into that later.




Here we get a closer look at the understated yet stylish PCH heatsink. Also, we can see the dual BIOS ROMs are no longer socketed as they have been on previous generations. I did inquire as to why this is and was informed that sadly, the socketed ROMs ASRock had been using on most of it's product range are no longer in production from the supplier they use. Sad as this may be it shouldn't be an issue with the Z270 Gaming K6 as it uses a dual BIOS setup and there is no 8th gen CPU planned for Socket 1151. If there were an 8th gen CPU planned on the platform then there could be issues with the board not containing a compatible BIOS version when purchased with one. Previously one simply acquired a new ROM chip with the appropriate version pre-flashed. Without a socketed ROM this would not be possible. As I said though, this is not the case and as such will not be an issue. It would take an epic user blunder to break 2 BIOS ROMs. Fare well socketed ROMs, you will be missed.




Tell me steel PCIe slots don't look fantastic. Looks aside they are actually a very practical addition and do provide added stability to large GPUs. My Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 960 is a massive card and up till now has always sagged at least a little in the slot, not so with the steel reinforced slots on the Z270 Gaming K6.




The specs list an M.2 Key E slot for adding a wireless card and looking at the board face on it is impossible to spot. Looking from this angle however we see it neatly tucked away partially under the IO Armor. While at first glance it seems to be rather inconveniently positioned it actually isn't. If you plan to use the provided antenna mounting holes on the rear IO shield then you would need to install the card and antennas outside of the case anyway and you have plenty of space under the IO Armor to tuck away any extra cable. I love this, it is a very clever way of using what would otherwise have simply been wasted space. I was not joking when I said ASRock have really packed this board with features.




The back of the board is as boring as one would imagine, not a lot to see really other than the PCIe solder points. I took the liberty of marking the slots, x16, x8, x4 and x1. The Z270 Gaming K6 supports SLI and Quad SLI (dual GPU cards for quad), 3 and 4 way crossfire (again dual GPU cards for quad). It seems that rather than add another PCIe x4 slot with the extra 4 PCIe lanes from Kaby Lake's new PCH they have opted to use these lanes to provide an additional M.2 slot. For those of you that don't know, SLI does not like mixing CPU PCIe lanes and PCH PCIe lanes which is why it would be an additional X16 slot @x4 rather than converting the last x16 slot (currently @x4) to x8.




8 SATA 3 ports are provided with the Z270 Gaming K6 as well as 2 USB 3.0 front panel headers, 24pin power and onboard power and reset switches. These switches also light up with the Fatal1ty logo and label (power and reset) glowing red. The storage IO options on this board are very comprehensive and should meet the needs of all but the most storage obsessed users who, lets face it, would be looking at enterprise/enthusiast products to begin with.





Edited by Xaltar - 05 Jan 2017 at 3:37pm
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The IO Armor in all it's glory. It is a little more extravagant than the IO Armor found on ASRock's 100 series boards but still maintains the same feel. The addition of an RGB LED will make it stand out a little better in a windowed case too.




Here we see the locations of the 2 Ultra M.2 slots. It is very nice to see that ASRock listened to their users and positioned them in such a way that they will no longer be covered by the GPU in a single GPU system. The slot to the left of the PCH heatsink will be covered by larger GPUs in dual GPU configurations however but Dual GPU systems account for a minuscule percentage of users. The odds of a user having dual GPUs AND dual M.2 drives are even lower still. Even in this worst case scenario (with regards to M.2 drive airflow) the slot is located near the bottom edge of even the longest GPUs and will not be subjected to the direct heat generated by the graphics card's GPU.






The Z270 Gaming K6 comes equipped with an XMP switch which, if set to on, will automatically enable XMP for whatever RAM you install. At first I thought it was a little silly, you can do this with a simple click in the UEFI but then sometimes you just want things to plug in and work. I would have preferred it if it was a BIOS selection switch but then, I almost never use that either.  Right next to the switch is the RGB LED strip header, conveniently positioned right at the bottom of the board which should make cable management a little easier.



Lastly we have the rear IO. From left to right and top to bottom we have:


Antenna mounting points

PS2 combo port (still useful IMO)

2x USB 3.0 ports

D-Sub video out

DVI-D dual link video out

HDMI video out

Intel Gigabit LAN

USB 3.1 type A

USB 3.2 type C

Intel Gigabit LAN

2x USB 3.0

Audio connectors including Optical


Again, nothing skimped out on here. It could be argued that D-Sub is redundant and a Display Port would be preferable but that is just knit picking on outputs that will likely never see use outside of troubleshooting anyway. I like the inclusion of a legacy D-Sub connection personally as I have several old D-Sub monitors knocking about that I occasionally use for testing during builds.




UEFI


The UEFI has been updated with a matching theme to the product packaging. I will not be going hugely in depth here but I will break down the main UEFI screens.




This is ASRock's EZ mode UEFI screen that covers all the basics including setting XMP profiles, EZ OC profiles and Boot priority. It also shows the all essential monitoring info.




Switching to advanced mode opens up access to all the fine tuning and tweaks you could possibly want. I always use advanced mode preferentially over EZ Mode as it allows me to customize my settings more precisely.


If you want/need more info about the UEFI and it's settings please ask in the comments and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.



Benchmarks and Testing


Test System:


CPU Skylake: Core i5 6600k

CPU Kaby Lake: Core i5 7600k

Motherboard Skylake: Z170 Pro4s

Motherboard Kaby Lake: Z270 Gaming K6

GPU: Gigabyte GTX 960 G1 Gaming 2gb

CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H105 AIO water cooler

RAM: 16gb (2x8gb) Corsair DDR4 3600 Vengeance LPX

SSD: PNY Optima 240gb

PSU: OCZ Fatal1ty Champion Series 1000w

Case: Fractal Design Define S

OS: Windows 10 Professional


I have tried to ensure as many components as possible remain in common with each test configuration to ensure an even playing field when testing/benchmarking.


CPUz


7600k



6600k






CPUz Benchmarks


I always like to kick off the benchmarks with CPUz's internal benchmark so here we go.






Edited by Xaltar - 05 Jan 2017 at 5:21pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Xaltar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Jan 2017 at 3:25pm

The 6600k stock and 4.2ghz results were obtained on the Z170 Pro4s. I overclocked the 6600k to 4.2ghz to match the frequency of the 7600k for a better apples to apples comparison. If you look at the stock 7600k vs the 4.2ghz 6600k results you will note that there is very little difference. In most of my tests there appears to be less than a 1% improvement in IPC (instructions per clock) between Skylake and Kaby Lake.


The 6600k @4.6ghz was the highest overclock I could manage with the 6600k in the Z270 Gaming K6. The 5.04ghz 7600k result was also achieved on the Z270 Gaming K6 but I will talk about that in the overclocking section of this review a little later. 5Ghz....


All in all what really matters here is the performance of these two CPUs at stock out of the box. Regardless of IPC the 7600k is clearly a faster CPU thanks to it?�s 300mhz higher clocks at both boost (4.2ghz) and stock (3.8ghz). I also have to note that I have tested both systems at factory default UEFI values for both the stock results. The Z270 Gaming K6 has Multi Core Enhancement (MCE) enabled by default and as such the CPU is basically overclocked to it?�s maximum boost across all four cores, 4.2ghz. The same is not true of the Z170 Pro4s which benchmarked at 3.5ghz on the multi core test and 3.9ghz on the single core test. At first I planned to go back and disable MCE on the Z270 Gaming K6 for a more fair comparison but decided not to, this after all is the performance you would get out of the box with this configuration. I did include the 4.2ghz 6600k result for a fairer comparison.


Cinebench R15


Cinebench is hugely popular as a CPU benchmarking tool and one of my favorite benchmarks as it really does put a CPU through it?�s paces.




This is where things get a bit more interesting. I should note that I did test the Z170 Pro4s with MCE both enabled and disabled here but with MCE on the scores were near enough identical to those of the Z270 Gaming K6 with MCE also on. To avoid unnecessary clutter I combined the Z170 and Z270 MCE enabled results.


This is the only test in which I actually saw some IPC difference between the 6600k and the 7600k. If you look at the 6600k with MCE enabled on the Z270 Gaming K6 vs the 7600k on the Z170 Pro4s with MCE disabled you should be seeing a lower score from the 7600k as it is operating at 3.8ghz vs the 6600k running at 3.9 (with MCE). Despite being clocked 100mhz slower the 7600k is performing roughly 3% faster here. Call it 4% without the 100mhz deficit and we still are not seeing anywhere near the IPC improvement we once did from intel generation over generation. What is worse is that I did not see this same difference in other benchmarks which means Cinebench is using something on the CPU that has been optimized better on the Kaby Lake part that isn?�t commonly used in other situations.


Again however we see the 7600k showing significantly better performance than it?�s older sibling.



Geekbench 4


Geekbench has gained quite a bit of popularity since I started using it but sadly, it?�s free version has also become less comprehensive. Regardless, it still shows what we need to see for the purpose of this review.




There isn?�t really all that much to say here, the higher clocked 7600k performs predictably better than the 6600k.


PCMark 8 Basic


Futuremark?�s benchmark suites have long been a staple in the reviewing world so naturally I couldn?�t write a review and not use them.




Again the scores are predictably higher on the Kaby Lake configuration. I have compared the 6600k + Z170 Pro4s and the 7600k + Z270 Gaming K6 and a Z97 system paired with a G3258 Pentium Anniversary Haswell CPU for these results. All three systems shared the same GPU, the Z170 and Z270 shared the same RAM and the Z97 used DDR3 2800 RAM for the closest possible comparison.


Firestrike


This is perhaps the most commonly used benchmark to determine the gaming capabilities of a system.




Again there is not much between the two systems when comparing the overall score but we do see that Firestrike really does like higher clocks as the 7600k manages over 1000 points higher on the Physics test. This only equates to 25 points higher on the combined test however.


Ordinarily I would now get into some gaming benchmarks but after hours of testing, retesting and trying all manner of different settings I was unable to separate these two systems with the hardware I have available. My GTX 960 proves to be a bottleneck long before either system (Kaby Lake or Skylake) even get close to becoming a bottleneck. This is great news for any would be adopter of either platform, I could not force a bottleneck even at 720p on low settings. While my GTX 960 is hardly impressive it isn?�t a total slouch either and yields 60fps and above averages in all the games I play with the settings I use. Needless to say either one of these systems is more than up to the task of handling any gaming workload when paired with a capable GPU.


If gaming results are of interest to you then you can check out my H170 Combo review here:

http://forum.asrock.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=1724&title=asrock-h170-combo-review


The results with my gaming suite were more or less identical to the 6600k scores in that review.



Overall the benchmarks mirror what no doubt many of you have already seen from early Kaby Lake CPU reviews. This is a motherboard review however so I am not going to get into what Kaby Lake CPUs do and do not bring to the table. What I am going to talk about is the fact that this motherboard has been rock stable through weeks of testing under heavy loads and very ambiguous/unrealistic usage scenarios. Throughout my testing I have been impressed with just how stable and reliable the Z270 Gaming K6 has been. Now we move on to the ultimate test, Overclocking!




Edited by Xaltar - 05 Jan 2017 at 3:41pm
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Overclocking


After all my tests ran flawlessly and without hiccup I decided to see just what this Z270 Gaming K6 could do and really put the screws to it in my overclocking tests.


After several days of incremental bumps to the multiplier then voltage I was able to achieve a 100% stable 5.04ghz overclock with the i5 7600k with a voltage of 1.424v. Temps were a little toasty under prime95 load coming in at almost 90c but the system remained completely stable. Once I determined the system was stable I went about running a few benchmarks as you have already seen in the tables above.




I settled on 5.049ghz but am quite sure I can push this CPU even further with this board and cooler, sadly time became a factor and I wanted this review ready for release day.


I wasn't satisfied with just overclocking the 7600k, I had to see if the Z270 Gaming K6 could eek out any more performance with the 6600k than my previous boards. Across 3 boards the best I have been able to muster with the 6600k is 4.4ghz stable and 4.5ghz benchable (BSODs under prime). With the Z270 Gaming K6 I was able to achieve 4.6ghz stable, even under prime and at almost 0.1v lower than it took just to post on the Z170 Pro4s.




The Z270 Gaming K6 really flexes it's beefy 12 phase power design and yielded phenomenal overclocking results. My 6600k sample is has never been the best overclocker but even that was able to achieve 200mhz more on this board. I have seen other reviews/reviewers complain about the lack of automated overclocking features in the UEFI but in my opinion this isn't necessary. Getting to 5ghz was as simple as enabling EZ-OC and setting the system to the 4.8ghz preset, raising the multi to 50 and the voltage to 1.43 (which equates to 1.424 in CPUz). That is literally all it took and I was humming away at 5.0ghz. Raising the BCLK by 0.05 was done simply to get a true 5ghz result as the BCLK fluctuates slightly, which is normal.



General Use


Audio


The ASRock Z270 Gaming K6 utilizes the Realtek ALC1220 sound chip which appears to be an upgrade over the ALC1150. In conjunction with this we also get Creative Labs Sound Blaster Cinema 3 software which must be licensed to a particular product. This is one of the advantages of the Z270 Gaming K6 over it's similarly specced Extreme series counterparts.


The software allows you to set your preferences for 4 different application types: Music, Movies, Games and Voice. This is a very useful feature as it saves you having to adjust presets whenever you switch tasks.


Each preset has the same options so we will look at the movie settings.




Here we have virtual surround. I don't like it, not because it's done badly but because I don't like the way it sounds. I generally turn this down for music and movies as I feel it washes out certain frequencies. When it comes to gaming however I actually found it quite useful, its positional simulation is actually very good and allows for much better immersion in single player titles and gives you a bit of an edge (vs someone without it) in multiplayer FPS titles.




Creative Labs Crystalizer has been something I have loved since my first Sound Blaster Audigy. It brings a crisper, cleaner edge to your highs without adversely effecting mids and lows. I tend to crank this all the way up for most things but a middling setting would probably suit most users best.




I generally set this to off or very low given my 2.1 sound system is very bass heavy as it is. None the less, it does improve the punchiness of your lows on standard stereo speakers or headphones.




Smart volume can be a blessing and a curse. I would advise setting this to off when gaming if you plan to use in game volume controls as it will raise the volume to match system sounds effectively rendering in game volume controls all but useless except perhaps if you set them to 0. If you do not adjust your volume using in game controls then you will want this bad boy on, it can really help in your FPS MMOs by bringing subtler sounds to the fore and maybe giving you that split second longer to react to an approaching adversary. Some call it cheating, I call it my only chance to stay alive Tongue




Now this is my favorite audio setting, ever, in the history of audio settings, period, end of story. Laugh all you like but I know I am not the only one that has wanted to rip out a DVD crush it into a million pieces and stomp on it because the sound effects are loud enough to be deafening and the dialogue is so quiet you have to keep yo-yoing the volume, only to get the life scared out of you by an explosion 2 seconds after you turn it up to hear what people are actually saying. Know what I mean? Well this lovely little setting fixes that. The setting detects dialogue and raises the volume to your preset level so you no longer have to be deafened by stupid sound effects if you actually want to hear what the movie is about. It isn't perfect, there is tiny bit of distortion and noise caused by the way it works but believe me when I say, it is a very slight annoyance in comparison to poorly mixed movies, pretty much all of them since 2000. I know this isn't as much of an issue with 5.1 and larger sound systems but for those of us still using 2.1 audio, this setting is brilliant.



Edited by Xaltar - 05 Jan 2017 at 3:42pm
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LAN


With dual gigabit LAN this board comes well equipped. Not long ago this kind of LAN configuration was limited to workstation and server grade motherboards. The dual gigabit LAN supports teaming so you can effectively double your LAN throughput or alternatively set it up redundantly to lower your chances of latency spikes and drop outs. Obviously this only helps between your system and your switch/router but it is still useful to have and could make this board appealing to those looking for more advanced networking options.


General use


Power saving works brilliantly on this board, for most tasks the CPU drops down to 800mhz or so and sits there sipping power but snaps up to higher clocks as needed so you never feel like the system is unresponsive or slow. ASRock have done a fantastic job with this aspect of the board.


IO Speed and Connectivity


Well, there was rather a lot I wanted to add here but unfortunately I am writing this review in the 11thhour and every PC component store, online or otherwise has been closed here since Christmas Eve. Suffice to say I noted no deficits in performance of my SSDs, Flash drives and other media when compared to the other boards I have used and tested. As and when I get my hands on suitable hardware to test further I will update this review.


Aesthetics and Layout


My only gripe with the Z270 Gaming K6's looks is perhaps the VRM heatsinks, I would have personally preferred them to be black. Aside from this tiny detail the board is brilliantly laid out, has ample fan headers that gave me no issues with regards to fan control settings and even has the added functionality of supporting water pumps. The RGB lighting is vivid yet not excessive and I feel highlights the board very nicely. If you don't like the lighting you can also turn it off. With the steel reinforced slots, stealth labels and unobtrusive color scheme this board looks fantastic in a windowed case.


RGB lighting


I ended up setting up my lighting from within the UEFI as I found it most reliable.




The software simply doesn't work right. Hopefully this will be fixed by the time these new RGB laden boards hit the shelves. The issue is simple, the colors don't come out right. Setting the color where you want results in overly bright, desaturated colors on the board with no amount of adjusting making them correlate. Setting the mode to "breathe" results in the color you selected showing correctly on the second tick of the color change, it then dims all the way to off and brightens and then on the last tick the color goes wrong again. This is not so in the UEFI where I didn't run into any issues at all.


UPDATE!


ASRock have released a new version of the Aura RGB software and it now works correctly. 




In fact it is more precise than the UEFI control thanks to the addition of RGB sliders rather than just a color wheel. All the functions now work brilliantly and the degree of color control is vastly improved with the addition of the sliders. If you think your red color is too orange then you can simply lower the green slider until it looks the way you want etc.


I only wish I had an RGB strip to connect to the board to really test the lighting capabilities of this board. The software is easy to use, works well and allows for a huge variety of color settings to suit any color scheme. Now my daughter wants one so she can finally have purple lighting in her PC LOL


Fan Control


We have seen a lot of complaints on the forums regarding fan controls on various motherboards with various fans so I thought I should add this in here. Below I have listed all the fans that I used with this board throughout my testing. All of them performed as expected and my custom fan profiles have been faultless with this board. This does not guarantee all fans will work but at least covers a fairly broad spectrum of fans and shows that they are controllable on the headers provided.


Tested Fans:

Deep Cool XFan 120

Thermaltake Riing 140

Fractal Design Dynamic GP-14

Corsair SP 120L



Edited by Xaltar - 13 Jan 2017 at 3:56pm
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Final Thoughts and Conclusions




The ASRock Z270 Gaming K6 is without a doubt the most impressive motherboard I have had in my workshop to date. It has taken the already solid Z170 Gaming K6, fitted it with the latest Z270 chipset and addressed most, if not all the issues users had with it's predecessor. Not only that but it has also added more connectivity, RGB lighting and an RGB lighting strip header to bring it up to date with the trends of the now. Love or hate RGB lighting this board should not be overlooked, its impressive set of features, elegant design and quality components set it apart from it's 100 series predecessors. From the steel reinforced PCIe slots to the overkill 12 phase power design and dual gigabit LAN there is very little more anyone could want from a gaming oriented motherboard or any class of motherboard for that matter.


Kaby Lake is not going to lure many, if any from Skylake. There just isn't enough of a performance benefit. Once Optane becomes available we may see that change as I believe you will need a Kaby Lake CPU and motherboard to be able to use it. Those that have held out on upgrading and are looking to do so now however will find Kaby Lake to be quite attractive with its improved IO vs Skylake as well as future-proofing in the form of Optane readiness. If you are using an Ivy Bridge system or earlier, or even AMD, Kaby Lake has a lot to offer both in terms of performance and connectivity.



I must confess this review had me perplexed, I, like many others, was somewhat disappointed with what Kaby Lake brought to the table. Many of us were hoping for something truly groundbreaking on the cusp of AMD releasing Ryzen. Surely intel would have an answer. Kaby Lake thus far is best compared to Haswell Refresh or "Devil's Canyon" in terms of what it brings to the table, higher clocks, better overclocking headroom and scarcely anything else. Optane is the only thing I can see that may be intel's ace up the sleeve, if it turns out to be a game changer it may well be enough to set Kaby Lake apart but in terms of what is available now, Kaby Lake is just a higher clocked refinement over Skylake with a refined chipset that sports marginally better IO. Just as this had begun to get me down I realized something, I am not reviewing Kaby Lake, I am reviewing ASRock's Z270 Gaming K6. ASRock had nothing to do with Kaby Lake's development so why should I be disappointed with the motherboard? As soon as I chose to review the Z270 Gaming K6 as I would any other motherboard and ignored the fact that it is based on a new generation of hardware things started to look up. It wasn't long before I was proved wrong and was ticking along at 5ghz+ on all 4 cores rock stable. The ASRock Z270 Gaming K6 checks all the right boxes, was a breeze to work with and felt solid throughout testing. The board clearly states it is Optane ready and has all the connectivity once only found on enthusiast or enterprise grade products. Try as I might I could find no fault with the board. My only niggles were the lack of socketed BIOS ROMs and the Aura RGB software. The first is beyond ASRock, or any manufacturers control and the second will no doubt be patched in short order. Even if the software were entirely broken you can still set your LEDs from within the UEFI and the experience was quick and painless. Bare in mind that my sample was shipped out to me before the product was released and as such the Aura software should be considered "beta".

The Aura RGB software has been updated and now is a strong point for the product and all others that use it. It is intuitive and offers outstanding control over your color scheme.


You won't be running out to upgrade your Skylake or even Haswell system to Kaby Lake but if you were considering Skylake as an option then Kaby Lake is for you. It is Skylake refined and if the trend holds will deliver significantly higher overclocking and as a result performance over Skylake.


If you do plan to upgrade and have the budget for it I highly recommend the ASRock Z270 Gaming K6.


Overall ratings:


Build Quality: 10

Software/UEFI: 10

Performance: 10

Value: 9


Note:

I rate value as 9 because, as always, when it comes to motherboards one is often best served by a cheaper board with less bells and whistles. While the Z270 Gaming K6 is a fantastic board it does have numerous features that many users could do without in favor of a cheaper price point. When compared to similar specced boards however it's value truly shines.



Edited by Xaltar - 13 Jan 2017 at 3:59pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Xaltar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jan 2017 at 3:36pm
Update 1

So, my parts order finally came through, most notably a 16gb kit of Corsair DDR4 3600. This isn't the fastest DDR4 kit available but it is the fastest I could find locally. The reason I wanted a fast kit was to test the Z270 Gaming K6's memory capabilities. 



Installation was a breeze. I pulled the 8gb (2x4) kit, inserted the new 8gb modules in slots a2 and b2 (furthest from the CPU and second slot from the CPU), cleared CMOS, turned on the XMP switch I mentioned earlier and booted right into Windows at 3600. I didn't even have to enter the UEFI. 

I will be running some benchmarks on the new RAM over the next few days and will update as I have results to show.

Update 2

Here are some Aida64 memory benchmarks for your viewing pleasure.

DDR4 3600



DDR4 3733 



This was the highest frequency I could achieve without getting into timings and voltage tweaks. This is basically a plug in, load XMP profile (via a switch on the board in this case) then set the frequency to 3733 in the UEFI. 

And here is my best result, DDR4 3733 at CL16 timings. 



So, the board lives up to ASRock's DDR4 3733 claim (the listed DDR4 3866 is listed as only being supported on a single module of RAM). I can't help but feel that my DDR4 3600 kit just isn't up to giving me more than 3733. I increased voltages and tried every possible combination of settings yet could not get past this number. Given this is a 3600 rated kit the fact that I can get 3733 at tighter than it's rated timings is impressive!

Looking at the results we can see some pretty impressive gains going from it's stock XMP settings to 3733 @CL 16. All in all I am quite pleased with these results.




Tabulated results of my RAM benchmarks and results. Tighter timings, as I suspected, make more of a difference than raw clock speed in AIDA64.


I decided to see what difference faster RAM would make in Firestrike when using the iGPU. 



This also gives some idea of the iGPU performance. The Graphics score was ~1300 on the i5 7600k and ~1280 on the i5 6600k. Repeated tests put the 7600k just ahead of the 6600k but not enough to make any real difference in actual gaming. None the less both are capable of some very basic gaming at low/lowest settings preferably at 720p. Even Rise of the Tomb Raider was able to run though it was barely playable even at 720p/lowest settings. Still, it should be adequate for most popular MMOs.

As always, if you have any queries let me know in the form of a reply or PM.


Edited by Xaltar - 07 Jan 2017 at 3:43am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Xaltar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2017 at 2:58am
Update 2:

So Nvidia released a new driver version 378.78 which purportedly increases DX12 performance yesterday in a handful of titles, including several of the titles in my benchmark suite so I took to the task of rebenching my entire gaming suite to see if these gains would translate into usable figures. When I initially ran my gaming benchmarks I discovered that my GTX 960 was simply too much of a bottleneck and all my results were 100% GPU bound in all my test scenarios, even at 720p on the lowest possible settings.

Unfortunately the new driver did not provide any better results in the majority of my titles, however, 1 game did yield some usable figures. Gears of War 4 has seen a sizeable boost in performance at the lowest possible settings, enough that I was able to see my GPU bound rating drop for a locked 100% to 98.4% on the i5 6600k. So with this exciting result I proceeded to run the full gamut of tests in GoW4 and tabulate the results for you all.

So, without further ado, here are the results:


Both the i5s were tested at their maximum turbo rating across all cores (MCE on). I did this because the Z270 Gaming K6 enables MCE by default so this is representative of "out of the box" performance. 

For the first time in all my testing I was able to show the performance advantage of the i5 7600k over it's older brother the i5 6600k in a gaming metric. As you can see from the results the GPU bound rating increases by 1% from Skylake to Kaby Lake. Now as I have shown in the review, Kaby Lake and Skylake demonstrate almost identical IPC at matched clocks so this performance increase is a direct result of the 300mhz difference between the 2 CPUs. Overclocking the Kaby Lake to 5.0ghz (my 24/7 OC) we see that figure lock back to 100% once more. I have focused on the GPU bound ratings here because they are the most telling, the fps recorded in my testing were fairly inconsistent and could vary quite significantly from one run to the next, the GPU Bound score however remained constant. None the less, the above results are averaged based on 6 runs with the highest and lowest scores discounted and the remaining 4 results averaged.


So for those of you with higher end GPUs, there is definitely a benefit to be had with regards to gaming performance from upgrading to Kaby Lake over even Skylake. While I still wouldn't recommend it I don't see many Skylake CPUs able to overclock to 5ghz and beyond so if you are one of those gamers that simply must have the best then Kaby Lake should not be ignored. For the rest of us however, overclocking your Skylake i5 will net you much of the same gains without having to fork out for the newer CPU. 

The ASRock Z270 Gaming K6 overclocks like a champ and still has my recommendation even after months of extensive use. I have encountered no issues at all and my system is stable as a rock @5.0ghz under 24/7 use. If you are looking for a very solid Z270 board that comes with a pretty sleek red and black theme then look no further than the Z270 Gaming K6 and if the K6 is a little above your price range then check out the Z270 Gaming K4, it sacrifices a few features but looks very similar and performs quite closely. Bare in mind that the K4 has a weaker VRM section so overclocking may not be quite as good as the K6.

With that I will sign off again. If I find any more interesting news on this product I will update this review again.



Edited by Xaltar - 10 Mar 2017 at 3:43pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote no1yak Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jan 2017 at 12:24am
You spoke of the Bios having two chips but, no switch. Does that mean that if a fault occurs that it will switch to Bios "B" without any intervention for the user. Shame that the chips are soldered.


Edited by no1yak - 13 Jan 2017 at 12:28am
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