EVGA Z170 FTW Motherboard Review
EVGA is well known to produce high quality computer hardware. In 2008 EVGA began releasing Intel based motherboards, and while some manufacturers release dozens of motherboards for each chipset, making it difficult to pick out the right motherboard, EVGA introduces a few motherboards geared towards key user types. With the release of the Intel Z170 chipset, EVGA currently has three new motherboards that covers three different needs and sizes. The smallest is the Stinger, a mITX; next we have the FTW, a standard ATX; and the largest is the Classified 4-Way, an E-ATX motherboard. EVGA sent us their Z170 FTW, with part number 140-SS-E177-KR
for us to take a look at, which includes a 3-year warranty. This motherboard can be purchased now for $169.99 with free shipping
Being one of three EVGA Z170 motherboards, they geared the Z170 FTW towards the broadest audience of users. Which means implementing the features that the most people will use, rather than implementing every possible feature that the Z170 chipset supports. While we have seen motherboards with 2 and 3 M.2 slots, the average consumer won't use more than one due to the cost; so EVGA has limited the M.2 support to one slot. USB 3.1 and Type-C are new features that have not begun to be widely implement, so EVGA has not implemented them at all.
The M.2 slot that EVGA has implemented on the Z170 FTW is capable of speeds up to 32Gb/s; like most M.2 implementations using a M.2 drive will disable a couple of the six SATA ports. For memory, EVGA has done a good job at enabling four DDR4 slots that will support memory over 3200MHz and up to 4x16GB modules, totalling 64GB of memory. With dual channel memory, it will automatically run at your memory's default speed (typically 2133MHz or 2666MHz), until you enable the XMP profile for the memory kit. At which time the EVGA Z170 FTW will support two XMP 2.0 profiles.
Let's take a quick look at what EVGA tells us about the Z170 FTW before taking a look at the retail packaging and a closer look at the board.
Features and Specifications
- EVGA Vdroop Control
- EVGA E-LEET Tuning Support
- 100% Solid State Capacitors
- Onboard CPU Temperature Monitor
|EVGA Z170 FTW Specifications
||Supports Intel Core i3, i5, i7 Socket 1151
||2-Way + PhysX
||6 SATA 6Gbs
||0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD
||8 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0
||4 DIMM Dual-Channel DDR4 3200MHz+ (up to 64GB)
||1x Intel Gigabit NIC
||8 Chanel High Definition Audio
||1x DisplayPort 1.2; 1x HDMI 1.4
||7 (2PWM, 5DC)
||3 Years (Limited Lifetime Warranty Available)
Let's take a quick look at the packaging for the EVGA Z170 FTW and it's accessories. Then we can take a closer look at the motherboard before getting to installing it.
EVGA Z170 FTW Packaging
EVGA isn't one to go for flashy graphics on their packaging, they go for a more minimalist design. Presenting the model, and a few key specifications such as the Intel chipset, and NVIDIA SLI. Otherwise, the front of the package has the specific model in an eye catching 3D type of font that would cause it to stand out from the brightly colored, graphic heavy motherboards sitting on the shelf at a local retailer.
The front doesn't provide much information, but flip over to the back and we get all the information we could want. Here the specifications and key feature are spelled out, along with a good view of the motherboard itself. Six of the major features got into more detail with pictures showing exactly what they are talking about.
Inside the outer sleeve is a heavy duty cardboard box that when opened you find the accessories, which are all bundled individually. Beneath the accessories tray is the motherboard which is protected by an anti-static bag and some foam that is wrapped around two sides of the motherboard.
The accessory bundle is pretty light with the Z170 FTW. The rear I/O shield, a simple user manual, software/driver disk, two SATA cables, two flexible SLI bridges and the rear I/O key. Nothing too out of the ordinary, it has a few less SATA cables that I usually see with motherboards, but that's not a big issue. My question is though, why two SLI bridges, when the Z170 FTW only supports one SLI connection.
EVGA Z170 FTW Layout
Be sure to remove all the little information tags and protective covers before installing the EVGA Z170 FTW. Most of these come off very easy, just be sure to get all the pieces as they are perforated along the edges. This did pose a little issue on the plastic cover for the Z170 chipset, it came apart just behind the SATA ports, causing me to get a pair of tweezers to take off the little piece between the heatsink and the SATA ports. Overall, the EVGA Z170 FTW has a solid black theme, no colors that can cause issues in making sure your system follows a color scheme.
The EVGA Z170 FTW supports up to 64GB of DDR4 memory in its four memory slots, with speeds over 3200MHz, these are all running in a dual channel configuration. Other than the four DDR4 memory slots, in the lower corner, we can find three of the seven fan headers; PWR_FAN, CPU_FAN, CPU2_FAN. There is also the Reset and Power switch if you are doing testing and do not have a front panel to connect to. Next to the 24-pin main power connector is also the Dr DeBug LED, which also provides an overview of the CPU temperature once the system is up and running.
The other corner on this side contains the Intel Z170 chipset, which is covered by an oversized black heatsink that has a silver band with EVGA's logo on it. A couple other features on this section is the SATA ports that are horizontal to the motherboard, to the right of those is the SYS1_Fan header, and the LED Status Indicators for Power, Memory and Standby mode. Moving to the left edge is the front panel connectors, USB 3.0 internal header, SYS2_FAN and finally the Thunderbolt GPIO connector.
For storage, the EVGA Z170 FTW is fairly light on support. There is the single M.2 slot, and six SATA 6GB/s ports along the front edge of the board. All six of the SATA ports are controlled by the Z170 PCH. If you need SATA Express, the Z170 FTW is not a good choice for you, instead take a look at the EVGA Z170 Classified; let's be honest most people won't be using SATA Express. The SATA ports are numbered from the right 0/1, 2/3, and 4/5 on the left.
Moving up the motherboard to the PCI-E slots, here we have a total of four x16 length slots, and one x4 length. Going from the slot on the left, there is an x16, x4, x16, x8, and x16/x8 on the far right slot. All of the PCI-E lanes are supported through the CPU and PCH, not through PLX, which means there is no lane replication. Nestled between the two x16 PCI-E slots is the M.2 slot which is capable of up to 32GB/s. There is a note on the motherboard that utilizing the M.2 slot, you lose SATA ports 4 & 5 when M.2 is enabled. No mention of lose any PCI-E lanes though. Going up the left edge of the motherboard we have a few connections, just above the little onboard speaker is the EV Gauge which is a physical gauge of the speed of the processor Next is the CHA_Fan header, S/PDIF out, and front audio connector. If running in SLI, there is an additional six pin power connector as well. All the way to the right of the first PCI-E connector is an AUX_FAN header, making the grand total of seven on-board fan connections.
One thing that is hard to tell at this point, is that EVGA split the audio section from the rest of the motherboard to help reduce potential interference. This is indicated by a back-lit LED, which comes through as a yellow line on the motherboard once it's turned on. This is becoming a common feature. I'm not a true audiophile, so I won't attest whether this is really necessary, however it does look nice once the motherboard is powered up.
Nothing too exciting in the last section of the motherboard. The Intel socket 1151 has a standard cover to protect the fragile pins. There is a large heatsink to help cool the MOSFETS and VRM. Just to the right of the CPU socket is the standard 8-pin Aux motherboard power connector.
The Rear I/O panel doesn't give us anything unusual or new that is supported on the Z170 chipset. The first two clusters are two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports. The third cluster is the Intel Gigabit Ethernet, and two more USB 3.0. The next cluster of two USB 3.0 ports rounds the USB 3.0 ports to eight total. A little red CMOS clear button is provided on the back panel next to the two on-board video connections; DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4. Finally the standard audio cluster of five 3.5mm audio jacks and the optical SPDIF out. Sadly, EVGA didn't include USB 3.1 or a Type-C connector on the Z170 FTW.
Legit Reviews Test System
Intel Z170 Test Platform
Here is a quick look at the specific components used in the test system:
|Intel LGA 1151 Z170 Test Platform
||Kingston 32GB DDR4 2666MHz
||eVGA GTX 970 SC
||Intel SSD Pro 2500 180GB
|Hard Drive 2
||Sandisk Ultra II 480GB SSD
||Kingston Predator G2 x4 240GB
|USB 3.1 Type C
||Kingston DataTraveler microDuo 3C
||Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Now for a quick look at the eVGA GTX 970 that we will be using with NVIDIA driver version 355.60.
The above listed components will be installed on an open air test bed. Windows 10 will be a fresh install with all the latest patches, drivers and firmware available at the time we begin the testing.
All testing will be done in a temperature controlled room that maintains a 72F (22.2C). A 24-hour burn in is done to allow the thermal paste time to cure before doing any thermal testing.
Where possible, we will use integrated benchmarks, and run them three times averaging the results. In situations where there are no integrated benchmarks, we will use FRAPS to an analyze the performance, doing the same game run three times before averaging the FRAPS results.
I noticed pretty quickly during installation that the rear I/O cover interferes with the back of the GPU, even without a backplate. While it's not a good idea for anything to be rubbing up against another component, EVGA has placed a piece of heavy duty plastic where the two meet, helping to ensure no shorts can happen.
The EVGA GTX 970 we are using in testing, happens to have the EVGA backplate on it; which increases the width of the card by a little. Once again, it rubs up against the I/O cover, however I was able to install the card as the backplate has a little give, if the screw that is securing it under the GPU isn't overly tight. This is something that EVGA should look into and resolve; other manufacturers have included rear I/O covers without having any issues with touching the back of the GPU.
M.2 Boot Initialization
One little annoyance with the EVGA Z170 FTW, if you are using a M.2 drive, you have to manually enable the M.2 socket. This is done in the UEFI BIOS, under the Advanced menu option "Onboard Device Configuration". M.2 hasn't quite taken over th drive market, so this won't affect many people.
In addition, the Kingston Predator M.2 drives used in this testing do not like to run under the UEFI configuration, so within the BIOS we had to change the Boot Mode from UEFI to Legacy. This is a limitation on the Kingston M.2 drive, however the EVGA UEFI BIOS defaults to booting only in UEFI, there is no "Both" option like there is on many other system; UEFI or Legacy.
EVGA Z170 FTW Overclocking
Previous overclocking this hardware, we have seen the CPU overclock as high as 4.9GHz, but BSOD at 5.0GHz. The Kingston Fury DDR4 memory kit, we have been able to get it to 2933MHz; any further and it would fail to POST.
First, we'll start with the CPU and see what we can do. Utilizing the UEFI BIOS, we adjusted the CPU Multiplier Control to Manual, which then gives us options to adjust the multiplier. We will start out at a modest 42, providing us a 4.2GHz overclock. From there, we will run Cinebench R15, POV-RAY and 3DMark Ultra to check for stability. Assuming it passes all three benchmarks, we will adjust the multiplier by 1, repeating the process until we get a failure.
Following that process, we were able to get the EVGA Z170 FTW and Intel i7 6700K up to a CPU Multiplier of 48 (4.8GHz) before we starting running into issues. At 49 (4.9GHz) it would start to run the benchmarks and fail at various points. We will keep the system running at 4.8GHz throughout all testing phases to verify stability.
A couple of things to point out on the overclocking, there are no built-in overclocking profiles, you can save your own profile if you want though. For somebody new to overclocking or not an expert at it, built-in profiles makes it easy for them to overclock. In addition, the majority of the overclocking options are controlled either by a text entry or using the +/- keys, not a drop down to select from.
As for the memory, the Kingston Fury DDR4 kit has an XMP setting running it at 2666MHz, which is about average for DDR4 memory. Previously 2933MHz has been possible, with failure to POST at 3000MHz. Starting with 2900MHz, we ran the test system through the previous benchmarks, and increased the speed until we get a failure. The EVGA Z170 FTW, successfully ran at 3000MHz, but failed at anything further.
So let's recap; previous maximum overclock of the test configuration was 4.9GHz for the CPU and 2933MHz for the DDR4 Kingston kit. The EVGA Z170 FTW, we weren't quite able to get to 4.9GHz, we had to setting for one notch down at 4.8GHz. However, the Kingston kit was able to go a little higher to 3000MHz. For all testing, these are the speeds which we will keep the test system running.
Value Added Software
The EVGA Z170 FTW driver disk doesn't include much, it has the essential drivers to get you up and running quickly, although it's always best to get the latest driver from their website once you have a network connection. For software, EVGA includes a link to their website for their E-LEET Tuning Utility. In additional a couple other features on the software install disc are for EVGA wallpapers, Adobe Reader and the electronic copy of the user manual. Across the top of the screen are links to EVGA's website; be sure to use the Online Registration process to register the motherboard.
The EVGA E-LEET Tuning Utility is a modified version of CPU-Z that includes a few additional tabs for Overclocking and Voltage adjustments. It is designed for tweaking the voltages to get the desired performance. Increase the voltage for better overclocking, or lower the voltage for better thermal handling. For the Z170 FTW, it did not allow for any adjustments to the CPU clock speed or voltage adjustment. I'm sure EVGA will be issuing a new version that will work better with the Z170 chipset.
I would prefer EVGA to do a single piece of software for all their overclocking, rather than having multiple pieces of software for overclocking both the Motherboard and GPU. Besides the Precision X16 software looks much nicer than the E-LEET utility. Just my personal opinion though.
General Performance Testing
In this section of testing, we will be focusing on how the EVGA Z170 FTW works with the CPU, Memory, Networking and storage devices.
Sandra Memory Bandwidth shows that the Kingston Fury DDR4 kit was running around 31.5GB/s upon initial boot-up. This is slightly slower then the other two Z170 motherboards. Of course, once we forced the memory to a higher clock speed, it received higher scores than the other Z170 motherboards. Going from a base clock speed of 31.5GB/s to 34GB/s is an 8% boost in performance for the memory.
Cinebench R15 focus's on CPU and GPU performance. As we are using the same GPU across all these tests, the difference in scores will be dependent on the CPU. EVGA Z170 FTW received scores in the middle of the Z170 motherboards we have tested. At base clock speed of 4.0GHz it received a score of 882 for the CPU, once it was overclocked that jumped to 1,040; an 18% boost in performance within Cinebench!
PCMark 8 does a good job at giving a general performance rating depending on the user type. Using the Home (Advanced) test, it gives a good idea of how the system should perform doing standard home tasks. Here we see that the EVGA Z170 FTW performed rather well against the other Z170 motherboards. With a range of 4538 to 4793, the Z170 FTW provided up to a 5.5% increase in score. Overclocking increased the score by an additional 5%.
POV-RAY is another good benchmark to evaluate how the CPU process's information. For POV-RAY, the EVGA Z170 FTW based system scored the lowest of the Z170 test systems. With around a 5% difference in performance from the top score. Once we overclocked the Intel i7 6700K the score for the EVGA Z170 FTW went above all others and increased by close to 20% compared to the base clocked score.
The Intel Gigabit ethernet connection on the Z170 FTW received mixed results. The write speed came in at 901MB/s, while the read speed was slightly slower at 898MB/s. This is the inverse of what we have seen on other Z170 motherboards, however, the difference across the various Z170 motherboards is small.
CPUz recently introduced a quick benchmark in their utility. For Single Core performance, the EVGA Z170 FTW received a score of 1631, which is the same as the Gigabyte Z170X-UD5; for the multi-Core benchmark it received a slightly higher score. Both scores greatly increased when the CPU was overclocked to 4.8GHz by 20%.
Gaming Performance Testing
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme
Futuremark's 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme gives a good idea how a system should run for gaming. With a score of 5365, the EVGA Z170 FTW was right in the middle of the three Z170 motherboards tested. The range of the three Z170 systems is less than 1% difference between the lowest and highest score, so this shows the EVGA Z170 FTW should perform similar to other Z170 systems.
Gaming Performance Benchmark Results:
Depending on the game, and your system components will be a big factor on how the EVGA Z170 FTW performs. From our testing, the gaming performance was typically within a 1% difference between each of the systems running at the same resolution. The Witcher 3 is probably the most graphic intensive game included in the bunch, and in this testing, the EVGA Z170 FTW didn't do the best, but was still within 3% of the top performer.
Storage Device Performance
All storage testing will be done using the latest version of Crystal Disk Mark. When testing a specific device, it will be formatted prior to testing, and the test system rebooted. While we have been using the Kingston Predator M.2 for the boot drive, we will switch to using the Intel Pro 2500 for the boot drive so we can test the M.2 after it has been cleaned.
SuperSpeed USB 3.0
For the most part, we are used to seeing similar scores across each test system. A little variance is to be expected. For SATA and SuperSpeed USB 3.0 this hold true. The M.2 performance on the Z170 FTW left a little to be desired though. For the Sequential Read speed, we saw close to a 18% drop in performance, while the Sequential Write speed drop in performance was closer to 45%!
Power Consumption & CPU Temperatures
With our trusty P3 Kill-A-Watt meter we were able to monitor the power the test system was pulling at the wall. We monitored the meter and made note of the lowest and highest readings throughout the entire testing phase.
Legit Bottom Line:
At base clock speeds, the EVGA Z170 FTW was pulling 6W more power than the lowest power hungry Z170 test system. While that is a small amount, it can add up over time if you leave your system on full time. Under a load though, that jumped to 36W more than the lowest full load result. Not surprisingly, once we overclocked the EVGA Z170 FTW power usage went up, but not by a huge amount, idle went up 5W, while the load usage went up 9W.
With the testing environment kept at a constant 72F (22.2C), we used HardwareMonitor to analyze the CPU temperature for each of the test systems.
Legit Bottom Line:
The EVGA Z170 FTW processor temperature was the warmest at all phases of testing. What surprised me was the increase in temperature when the system was under a heavy load, usually a few degrees difference isn't an issue; there was a 10C difference between the three Z170 systems. Of course when overclocked, both the idle and load temperature will increase, the Intel i7-6700K was running dangerously hot at 96.75C when overclocked to 4.8GHz, I wouldn't recommend running a normal system for long at this temperature.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
Overall, I have to say I was impressed by the quality and the aesthetics of the Z170 FTW. It has the key features that people are looking for in a modern motherboard. It is a capable motherboard being able to overclock the processor with the best of them. While we were not able to match our maximum overclock on the CPU, we were able to surpass our previous overclock on the memory. The small 100MHz difference in the CPU overclock did not affect the performance that much. In many cases, the slightly lower overclock, with a slightly faster memory overclock was able to outperform the faster CPU with slower memory.
The EVGA Z170 FTW does not implement any bright colors, instead they go for an all black color scheme, allowing the user to decide the color scheme. While this doesn't affect performance, it is an important factor for many users. EVGA tried to hide the rear I/O cluster with an add-on cover, however this is one of the sticking points. I really like the rear I/O cover when it was in place, however what I do not like is that it rubs against the back of a video card and you can have spacing issues if you happen to have a thick backplate on your GPU. There is some give with the cover, and if you make it's in the right location before tightening the screw down you can mitigate the spacing issue. If you are simply replacing a motherboard with the Z170 FTW you might have to re-do your cabling due to the different location of the 8-pin motherboard AUX power connection and the USB 3.0 header.
The Dr Debug post code display is not unique to EVGA, however I have not seen a display that shows the CPU temperature once it is past the POST stage. Again, while it doesn't do much for many people, it is a nice add-on if you're working on overclocking or troubleshooting a system. Speaking of extra features for overclocking, the tiny clear CMOS button on the back panel comes in handy if you're tweaking the system and something goes haywire, not having to open the case to reset is extremely helpful.
While the EVGA Z170 FTW performed rather well, there are some downsides to keep in mind. Mostly regarding missing features such as no USB 2.0 headers, USB 3.1 or Type-C connections. USB 2.0 while it will use the USB 3.0 ports, most cases are still implementing a pair of USB 2.0 ports along with a pair of USB 3.0 ports. If you don't provide at least one USB 2.0 header, please provide TWO USB 3.0 headers. There are easy way to convert USB 3.0 headers for USB 2.0 ports. USB 3.1 and Type-C is the latest update to the USB specification, and while they are not widely in use yet many people expect Type-C to be very popular soon. Unless you happen to change your motherboard very often, you should want to get a motherboard with all the current features.
The EVGA Z170 FTW is a great high quality, high performance motherboard that should provide the vast majority of the users all the key features they want. Currently, you can purchase the EVGA Z170 FTW for $169.99 with free shipping
after a $20 rebate. Newegg has 60 different Intel Z170 motherboards for sale and over half are available for $149.99 or less, so this board is priced higher than the average despite the rebate. This isn't a bad price for a motherboard of this quality, however there are other motherboards that have more features and similar quailty for around the same price. I'd really like to see this board under $150 for the features that it includes before I could fully recommend it.
Legit Bottom Line:
The EVGA Z170 FTW is a great high quality motherboard that doesn't have all the features that similar motherboards do at the same price. What EVGA focus's more on is the build quality and their customer service, which it is one of the best in the industry.