Best Z170 Skylake 1151 PC Gaming Motherboards
Is It Worth Upgrading Now?
Intel's Skylake series of processors provide consumers not only with better performance, but energy savings as well. If you're coming from anything earlier than Ivy Bridge, I'd generally say the performance improvements are well worth the money.
Even those who use Ivy bridge who are ready for an upgrade and all the new features that a Skylake motherboard and CPU have to offer may find that the improvements are well worth the price.
What's New with the Z170 Chipset?
While DDR4 memory can be found on Haswell-e based systems, this is the first non-enthusiast based system to have it. DDR4 won't do a lot for you in terms of in-game FPS, but as you move forward you'll likely be glad you have it.
Another really nice new thing you'll get from certain Z170 boards is the Alpine Ridge controller which offers support for USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt. As someone who does some video editing I'm constantly moving data around, so this is a big one for me.
Most Z170 chipset motherboards have additional USB 3.0 ports beyond what were simply in the Z97 boards.
In addition to these big improvements, you'll get Intel Rapid Storage Technology, Intel Clear Video Technology, and Intel Wireless Display Technology on Skylake motherboards.
Looking for Kaby Lake and the difference between the new Z270 and Z270 chipsets? Here's a look at some of the best Z270 motherboards under $200. We've also taken a look at AMD's AM4 Ryzen motherboards which we found to be impressive overall.
5 Good 1151 Z170 Skylake Motherboards for the Money
If you decide you do want to upgrade to a Z170 board, here's a look at a few that I feel give you the best value for your money.
Asus ROG Maximus VIII GENE
In the past I've used ASUS's ROG Maximus series for overclocking. ASUS, a brand that I'd place at the top with Gigabyte for reliability, has more world records for overclocking than any other brand. That prestige, along with features I like to have, has made me a fan. Of course, I've paid a price for that fandom, but in return, I've been able to push the performance of my hardware and get all of the options I need right on one board.
When the Hero Maximus VII was originally released for the Z170 chipset, I jumped in because of the multitude of options and an inexpensive price at just around $200. While I'm not trying to set any world records, this board has given me the ability to tweak things up nearly as high as the Gene series for what amounts to a fraction of the cost.
The Maximus Hero VIII Gene gives you all of that flexibility along with the component quality that you're looking for. Overall, if you're in the $200 price range, then this board should be at or near the top of your Z170 chipset list, assuming you're not planning on a GPU configuration with more than two cards.
The Maximus VIII Hero gives nearly all the features high-end builders are looking for at about 2/3 the price of ROG Gene motherboards. If you're looking for a top-tier overclock, this board will not disappoint.
Skylake Boards Under $150
Another ASUS board with solid performance and features is the Z170-A. It gives you the same compatibility with SATA Express and M.2 while offering support for even the most demanding of gamers with up to 64B of DDR4 3400 memory.
For most, this will offer just as many benefits as the Hero VIII at a lower price. Features like 5-way optimization make it easy to tweak, and exclusive ASUS features like Turbo LAN help as well.
If you're in the $150 price range, then I'd choose between this and something more inexpensive like the Gigabyte GA-Z170 what your actual needs are.
Overall it's a good value for the money, and one I'd put above other competitors in the $150 price point.
Feature-Rich Skylake Boards Under $125
Gigabyte GA-Z170-HD3 and MSI PC Mate
If you're looking for a budget option, then I'd point you in the direction of either the Gigabyte GA-Z170-HD3 or the MSI Z170 PC Mate. Both of these motherboards can regularly be found in the $100 to $120 price range and do a decent job of overclocking.
For most gamers who want a light overclock, this is more than good enough. At nearly half the price of the Maximus above, you may not notice the difference once it's actually in your PC.
A Few Good Haswell Z97 Motherboard Options
Ga-z97-hd3: A $100 Z97 Motherboard
If you're doing a budget PC build, then you'll find a lot of value in the GA-Z97-HD3. With Ultra Durable 4 Plus you get solid capacitors with an extended lifespan and heat resistance. You get the ability to do a decent overclock in a motherboard that won't weigh your other higher-end components down.
The board looks nice, with a blacked-out paint design and quality Gigabyte construction. It comes with support for 32GB of memory and 6 SATA III ports, along with four USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports. In addition, it comes with a 7.1 onboard channel setup and uses the Realtek ALC892 audio chipset. Rear panel ports include a PS/2, D-Sub + DVI, HDMI, and six audio ports.
Overall this board appeals to a lot of budget users, as well as users who just want a slight overclock without having to pay a fortune. For a good deal, look for it at under $100, or around $80 when it's on rebate.
ASRock Z97 Extreme 6: Great Features, Small Price
The fifth and final board I'm mentioning is the ASRock Z97 Extreme6, which features Super Alloy Construction and Ultra M.2. ASRock has been catching up the competition in the last few years in quality construction and interface.
Another reason I feel comfortable recommending this board is that it comes with features found in more expensive boards. These include dual gigabit LAN, Intel 128V, and Realtek ALC1150 audio chipset.
Overall it's worth looking at in the $150 range for those willing to buy a lesser-known brand to get a few more features. Find it on rebate for a substantial price break.
Overall, buy something that meets your expectations and needs. There's no reason to buy a pricey motherboard for overclocking when that's simply more features than you'll even use. For most, that means a motherboard in the $100 to $150 range.
That being said it's important to realize that if you're building a new system, you should go with the newer Z270 platform if it's around the same price. If it's not, consider the Z170 platform for a system that will give you very similar performance results.
Are you building a Skylake gaming PC? What parts and motherboard are you using? Be sure to let me know in the discussion area below.
Interactive Z97 Motherboard Reader Poll
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Brandon Hart