EVGA Z170 Classified K Motherboard Review

[caption id="attachment_185786" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K[/caption] With a change in Intel Chipsets we get new motherboards based on that chipset.  When the Intel Z170 chipset came out, EVGA provided us one of their three ATX Z170 based motherboards, the Z170 FTW.  We found that the motherboard provided the basic features that we were looking for in a basic Z170 motherboard; good overclocking features, USB 3.0, and M.2 NVMe support.  However, we found that it lacked some of the more advanced features that advanced enthusiasts were looking for; dual M.2 NVMe, and USB 3.1.  For these features, you need to look at EVGA's more advanced Z170 ATX motherboard, the Z170 Classified K. On the EVGA Z170 Classified K, EVGA expanded the  USB offerings to include dual USB 3.1 ports in the Back I/O cluster but also reduced the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports from 8 to 6.  Technically you still have 8 USB 3.0 ports, just two of them are now compatible with 3.1.  Ethernet options were expanded as well, to include dual Gigabit NIC's, one from Intel and one from Killer. The various storage options has been increased, SATA ports include an additional 4 SATA 6G ports, or two SATA-Express, while the M.2 ports were increased from a single PCIe Key-M slot to dual Key-M and a single Key-E.  Memory support has also been updated to include 4x DDR4 up to 3600MHz+. [caption id="attachment_185729" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Motherboard[/caption] EVGA does a good job at keeping your motherboard selection easy, by providing three Z170 ATX motherboards with the same core features but slightly different advanced features.  This is a big change from many motherboard manufacturers that offer dozen options which can confuse potential users.  All of their Z170 ATX motherboards can be purchased at many online locations, and the Z170 Classified K can be found for $229.99 with free shipping while the Z170 FTW is available for a little less at $174.95. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL7pecsSS_g EVGA Z180 Classified K Features and Specifications
Specifications
Chipset Intel Z170
Socket 1151 Processors Supports i3, i5, and i7
SLI 2-Way + PhysX
SATA 10 SATA 6G
RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD
USB 2x USB 3.1 / 6x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0
Memory Support 4 DIMM Dual Channel DDR4 3600MHz+ (up to 64GB)
Capacitors POSCAP/Solid State
Ethernet 1x Killer E2400 1x Intel Gigabit NIC
Audio 8 Channel High Definition + Optical
Video 1x DP 1.2, 1x HDMI 1.4
Fan Headers 7 (2PWM, 5DC/PWM)
PCB 6 Layers
PCI-E Slot Arrangement 3.0 Support 1 x16, 2 x8 + 1 x4 + 2 x1
NVMe Support Yes
Warranty 3 Years
[gallery ids="185724,185723,185725,185726"] EVGA does a good job at packaging their motherboards.  The retail packaging provides a good overview of the motherboard, and lets you know the key features and specifications, along with presenting an overview of the motherboard.  EVGA packages the included accessories individually, and separates the motherboard from the various accessories with a layer of cardboard.  On the bottom of the box the motherboard is in an anti-static bag, and a foam sheet to protect the bottom and the sides.  This is pretty standard packaging for motherboards, and has been shown to be highly effective. [caption id="attachment_185783" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Accessories[/caption] Since this is a motherboard, not many accessories are needed to get it up and running.  A detailed user manual, and a driver/software disk is included to help get you up; it is highly recommended to get the latest drivers from EVGA's website.  In addition, there is a rear I/O shield, two SATA cables, a flexible SLI bridge and the rear I/O key.  For a motherboard that supports up to 10 SATA drives, two SATA cables seem to be a little light, most of us that build computers probably have a pile of them though. One word of warning about the rear I/O shield, if you place a GPU in the first PCIE slot, it will rub against the I/O shield, however EVGA has placed a piece of plastic on that edge to avoid any shorts.  If you use a backplate on the graphics card, you will most likely have issues.  When testing the EVGA Z170 FTW, we found that even though our test graphics card has a backplate, the EVGA GTX 970 would fit if the retaining screw was loosened a little. Let's take a quick look at the Z170 Classified K and the test system before starting it up.

EVGA Z170 Classified K Overview and Test System

[caption id="attachment_185731" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Skylake i3, i5, 17 motherboard[/caption] With only having three ATX motherboards for the Z170 chipset, the Z170 FTW, Z170 Classified K, and Z170 Classified 4-Way, they look nearly identical.  There are differences of course with the change in functionality, but the overall look is nearly identical.  Many of the features on the Z170 FTW are found on the Z170 Classified K, and those have been expanded on.  In the lower right corner, EVGA has  placed a Power and Reset button directly on the motherboard, along with a Dr Debug post code reader, which will also show the CPU temperature once it boots. [caption id="attachment_185730" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Rear I/O Ports[/caption] The Z170 Classified K has a fairly typical layout for the rear I/O cluster.  On the far left, we start out with 2x USB 2.0, then move to 2x USB 3.1.  The first ethernet connection is the Intel i219 NIC, which sits above 2x USB 3.0 ports.  The Killer E2400 NIC is next, which again sits above 2x USB 3.0.  For those that might encounter a BIOS issue, EVGA has an external reset button on the rear I/O cluster.  Video support is provided by Display Port 1.2 and HDMI 1.4.  The audio ports and Optical out are in the final group of ports. [caption id="attachment_185784" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K SATA Ports[/caption] The Z170 Classified K has expanded the SATA offerings from just six SATA ports to now having a maximum of 10 SATA ports!  In addition, the SATA connection cluster has been expanded to also include two SATA Express ports, which will each take up two SATA ports.  Behind the SATA ports, they are numbered from the left, 0/1, 2/3, 4/5, 6/7, 8/9. [caption id="attachment_185732" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K PCIe Slots and M2[/caption] EVGA labels each of their PCIE slots so you know what it's capabilities are.  From the main PCIE slot on the right, it is listed as x16/x8, then we find an x8/x4, x4, x4, x1 and x1.  The first three PCIE slots are powered from the CPU, while the other three on the left come from the PCH.  Nestled between the PCIE slots are two of the three M2 slots, these two are Key M and are both capable of speeds up to 32Gbps.   The third M2 slot is found just above the PCIE slots, and is a Key E slot typically used for WiFi cards, not storage.  All of the M2 slots share their bandwidth with other ports, which will be disabled when using a M2 card, the motherboard clearly lists what will be disabled, otherwise you can reference the manual.

Intel Z170 Test Platform

[caption id="attachment_186084" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Test Bench[/caption] [caption id="attachment_186095" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K CPUz Stock[/caption]
Intel LGA 1151 Z170 Test Platform
Component Brand / Model Live Pricing
Processor Intel i7-6700K Click Here
Memory Kingston 32GB DDR4 2666MHz Click Here
CPU Cooler Corsair H105 Click Here
Video Card eVGA GTX 970SC Click Here
Hard Drive Intel Pro 2500 180GB SSD Click Here
Hard Drive 2 Sandisk Ultra II 480GB SSD Click Here
M.2 Drive Kingston HyperX Predator 240GB Click Here
Power Supply Corsair CX750M Click Here
Operating System Windows 10 Pro 64-bit Click Here
The above listed components will be installed on an open air test bed and will be running a fresh install of Windows 10 64-bit Anniversary edition.  All of the patches, drivers and firmware will be updated prior to beginning the performance testing. Testing is conducted in a temperature controlled room that is maintained at 72F (22.2C), with a 24 hour burn in being completed before beginning testing.  Whenever possible we will use integrated benchmarks, running them three times and averaging the results.  If no integrated benchmark is available, we will use FRAPS to analyze the performance doing the same tasks three times before averaging the FRAPS results.  

BIOS and Overclocking

We have been using the same hardware throughout the Intel 1151 processor testing, we have been successful at overclocking the Intel i7-6700K to a stable 4.9GHz, with a BSOD at any attempt to go faster.  The Kingston Fury DD4 kit we were able to get it 3000MHz, with failures beyond that.  Let's take a look at the process and see how the EVGA Z170 Classified K does with overlocking the test system. [caption id="attachment_186097" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K BIOS CPU Settings[/caption] As we are familiar with the EVGA BIOS after working with the EVGA Z170 FTW, we know exactly what needs to be done in order to overclock this system.  At the main BIOS screen we adjust the CPU Multiplier Control from Auto to Manual, now we can adjust the CPU Mutiplier to do some simple overclocking.  We will adjust the CPU Multiplier to start at 45 (4.5GHz), once we boot successfully, we will run several benchmarks to check for stability.  Assuming these are successful, we will increase the multiplier by 1, until we get a failure. [caption id="attachment_186096" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K BIOS CPU Overclocked to 5GHz[/caption] Following our standard process, we were able to get the Intel i7-6700K to boot up at 5GHz, and successfully run the benchmarks.  Going beyond that, we would have various failures to boot or run the benchmarks. [caption id="attachment_186098" align="aligncenter" width="434"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K CPUz CPU Overclocked[/caption] Taking a look at the Kingston HyperX Fury DDR4 memory kit, we see that it has an XMP setting to run at 2666MHz.  Across all the Z170 motherboards we have tested, we have been able to overclock the memory up to around 2933MHz, however the EVGA Z170 FTW, we were able to have the same memory kit run the benchmarks successfully up to 3000MHz, which has been the fastest we have been able to get the memory to run across all the Z170 motherboards. [caption id="attachment_186454" align="aligncenter" width="427"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K CPUz Memory Overclocked to 3200MHz[/caption] The EVGA Z170 Classified K with the Kingston HyperX Fury DDR4 memory was rock solid at 3200MHz.  It would boot and run at 3333MHz, however we would get random errors and crashes.  Trying to boot beyond that, we would fail to boot and require a BIOS reset to try again. EVGA has ranked their three Z170 motherboards in overclocking friendliness, the Classified K gets their Best Overclocking rating, and it is easy to see why.  First, the CPU was overclocked to 5GHz simply by adjusting the CPU Multiplier to 50.  Then overclocking the memory was just as easy, adjusting the memory clock to 3200MHz we were able to run perfectly stable.  With both of these combined, we have surpassed our previous overclocking record for this test hardware.  For all overclocking testing, we will run the CPU at 5GHz and the Kingston Fury DDR4 memory at 3200MHz.

General Performance Testing

Here we will be using various industry standard benchmarks to test the CPU, Memory, Ethernet and GPU. Sisoftware Sandra CPU Arithmetic Benchmark [caption id="attachment_186448" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Sisoftware Sandra CPU Arithmetic Benchmark[/caption] Sisoftware Sandra Memory Benchmark [caption id="attachment_186449" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Sisoftware Sandra Memory Benchmark[/caption] Cinebench R15 [caption id="attachment_186450" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Cinebnench R15[/caption] PCMark 8 Overall Score [caption id="attachment_186451" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K PCMark 8 Home Advanced[/caption] CPUz Bench [caption id="attachment_186452" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K CPUz Bench[/caption] Toutusoft LAN Speed Test [caption id="attachment_186479" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Totusoft LAN Speed[/caption] Legit Reviews Benchmark Results:  Going over the benchmarks, you quickly notice that the EVGA Z170 Classified K performs exactly as you would expect from a motherboard based on the Intel Z170 chipset.  The performance boost comes once it is overclocked, which we received up to a 22% boost in performance.  

Gaming Performance Testing

Let's take a look at how well the system will handle various popular games along with 3DMark FireStrike Extreme. 3DMark Time Spy [caption id="attachment_186455" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K 3DMark Time Spy[/caption] Grand Theft Auto V [caption id="attachment_186456" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Grand Theft Auto V[/caption] Dirt: Rally [caption id="attachment_186457" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Dirt: Rally[/caption] Thief [caption id="attachment_186458" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Thief[/caption] Witcher 3 [caption id="attachment_186459" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Witcher 3[/caption] Legit Reviews Gaming Performance Results:  In each of the games we tested, the EVGA Z170 Classified K, performed anywhere from 2% to 5% better than the lowest score on the other motherboards.  Overclocking did not provide any significant boost in gaming performance.

Storage Performance

All storage testing will be done using the latest version of CrystalDiskMark.  When testing a specific device it will be formatted prior to testing, and the system rebooted between each test.  Testing of the SATA bus, we will use the SanDisk Ultra II 480GB SSD, that has a rated speed of up to 550MB/s Sequential Read, and up to 500MB/s Sequential Write.  Testing of the M.2 interface, a HyperX Predator 240GB drive, that is rated for speeds up to 1400MB/s Read, and 600MB/s Write will be used.  Finally, testing the USB 3.1 interface, we will use a USB 3.0 hard drive dock, and the SanDisk Ultra II SSD. SATA 6Gb/s [caption id="attachment_186480" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K CrystalDiskMark SATA[/caption] M.2 [caption id="attachment_186481" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K CrystalDiskMark M.2 Performance[/caption] SuperSpeed USB 3.x [caption id="attachment_186482" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K CrystalDiskMark USB 3.x Performance[/caption] Storage Performance Results:  In the various storage benchmarks, the EVGA Z170 Classified K performed as we would expect.  It might not be the fastest for storage, however the differences in speeds were minimal with between a 2% and 5% difference in read speeds.  At these speeds that little bit of a difference would hardly be missed.  

Power Consumption and Temperature

Using a P3 Kill-A-Watt meter, we were able to monitor the power usage of the test system during all phases of testing.  We monitored the meter and kept track of the lowest and highest reading for each test throughout the testing.  Temperatures were monitored using HardwareMonitor which monitored the CPU temperature as reported by the various sensors. [caption id="attachment_186460" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Power Consumption[/caption] At idle, the EVGA Z170 Classified K was pulling the least amount of power.  Once the system went under a full load, that increased by 196W moving it into second position for power consumption.  What was interesting, is that we saw around a 10% difference in power usage between the two version of EVGA's Z170 motherboards.  Which, even when overclocked, the EVGA Z170 Classified K was pulling less power than the EVGA Z170 FTW at stock speeds. [caption id="attachment_186461" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Temperatures[/caption] The EVGA Z170 Classified K wasn't the coolest motherboard we tested, however it's temperatures are right in line with what we would expect.  Once again, we saw a good difference between the EVGA Z170 FTW and the EVGA Z170 Classified K.  Overclocked, the idle temperatures are normal as Intel SpeedStep was engaged, once the system was put under a load though and the system ramped up, the temperature jumped, but still stayed within an acceptable range.  

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

[caption id="attachment_185724" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K Front of Box[/caption] One of the best things that EVGA has done with the Z170 chipset is to keep things simple.  While most of the motherboard manufacturers have a wide range of motherboards based on the Z170 chipset, EVGA has kept it simple with three ATX and one mITX motherboard.  In addition, all three of the ATX Z170 motherboards are nearly identical, but separated with added features. The EVGA Z170 Classified K motherboard is the big brother to the Z170 FTW, there are many similarities between the two boards.  Like the Z170 FTW, the Z170 Classified K performs admirably compared to similar motherboards.  The overclocking capabilities of the Classified K, allowed us to push our Intel Core i7-6700K 'Skylake' CPU and DDR4 memory kit faster than the other motherboards we have tested.  Without doing any fine tuning of the settings, we were able to get a stable 5GHz overclock.  I have no doubts that if we were to do further tuning on the Z170 Classified K we could go further. [caption id="attachment_185729" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K EVGA Z170 Classified K[/caption] As the Classified K is more advanced than the Z170 FTW, the overall look and feel are identical.  However, once you start looking at the specifics of the boards you start to notice the differences.  The differences include multiple M.2 slots (RAID 0 M.2 drives), M.2 WiFi slot, additional SATA (and SATA Express) ports, USB 2.0 header, USB 3.1, and dual GBe ethernet connections one provided by Intel's i219 and the other by Killer's e2400.  For modern motherboards, about the only feature that is missing is a Type-C connection, which really hasn't taken off yet. [caption id="attachment_185731" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVGA Z170 Classified K Skylake i3, i5, 17 motherboard EVGA Z170 Classified K Skylake i3, i5, 17 motherboard[/caption] While I didn't mess with the rear I/O cover this time, it is the same cover that was included with the Z170 FTW.  Yes, there are known spacing issues, however the spacing issue isn't as big of a deal that some make it out to be.  With the proper placement of the rear I/O cover, a graphics card with a backplate should be able to fit.  The EVGA GTX 970sc that has the EVGA backplate fit onto the Z170 FTW once we adjusted the cover a little.  In addition, as EVGA knows that the space is tight, EVGA has placed a piece of heavy duty plastic on the I/O cover to protect against shorts. The EVGA Z170 Classified K is a great motherboard, made of high quality components by a company that knows how to build enthusiast grade equipment.  This is the EVGA motherboard that should be purchased if you are looking for a great Intel Z170 based motherboard that can overclock will be stable and provides all the feature that enthusiasts are looking for.  The EVGA Z170 Classified K costs $229.99 with free shipping, making it around $45 more than the EVGA Z170 FTW, that has a few less bells and whistles. LR Recommended Award Legit Bottom Line:  Depending on your specific needs, either of the EVGA Z170 motherboards will do a great job. The EVGA Z170 Classified K is a great motherboard and one that I would recommend without hesitation as it provides a more advanced feature set for just a little more than the Z170 FTW.  Not to mention the increased overclocking capabilities, and better power management.