The releasing of Intel’s Skylake processors, motherboard producers are scurrying to get new Z170 boards released and on the market. Biostar is not announcing as many boards as ASRock, Asus, Gigabyte or MSI, though, instead pushing out only three boards (like EVGA). Nevertheless, it appears that there are a few problems in the board design.
As far as the specialty set of these motherboards go, not a lot of changes from board to board. For on-board connections, the top end motherboard, the Biostar Gaming Z170X, features three SATA Express connectors, two M.2 Key M slots, and a solitary USB 3.1 Type-C port. The board uses both an Intel i219V and a Killer E2201 for interfacing with the network. The audio sub-system is built around a Realtek ALC898 codec.
It’s likely that Biostar plans to use motherboards incorporating other 100 Series chipsets to target these chassis, but, at least for the time being, the company is leaving this segment of the market unattended. It may disappoint some users to see that Biostar is only shipping Z170 motherboards in the ATX form factor. This strategy is questionable, as Biostar effectively removes itself from competition in the mini-ITX and microATX form factors.
Moving to the last board, the Biostar Gaming Z170T, we see that a few more features are cut. The board drops one SATA Express connector, and USB 3.1 support is also removed. Oddly enough, there are still two NICs onboard, but this configuration changes again to use the Intel i219V and Realtek RTL8111H. The last real change of consequence on this board is the downgraded audio chipset, which is now a Realtek ALC892.
The Z170W board does not really have an issue with PCI-E, as both x16 connectors run off the CPU, allowing for an x8 + x8 configuration. On the Z170T. Nonetheless, the second PCI-E is connected to the chipset. On the one hand, this would be great if Biostar let it have 8 or 16 of the chipset’s PCI-E lanes, but instead it gets tied down to a sparse four lanes.
This handicaps the board and will result in strangling when using a multi-GPU setup between two reasonably high-end GPUs. The end result is typically a board that is still feature rich, as the chips it uses are not bad by any means.