Board Design Layout and Features close up
We will make a round trip of the board. We will start off on the Rear I/O (Input/Output).
On the left, we can see USB 3.0 ports 1 and 2. On the right, we find USB 3.1 Type A (the wider red one on the top) and USB 3.1 Type C (the thinner on one the bottom). USB 3.1 is still relatively new and not totally wide spread just yet but more and more devices are beginning to adapt to them.
USB 3.1 Type A, doubles the speed of USB 3.0 at 10Gbps and can provide up to 100Watts for charging and powering devices and is fully backward compatible. While USB 3.1 Type is is nice, is still suffers from the big draw back from the connection of USB 1.1, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, you will plug it wrong 50% of the time. USB 3.1 Type C however can plug in no matter how it is connected and can even be used to power laptops, carry Display Port and HDMI video signals and still provide a matter of transferring data, it is an amazing technology.
Moving on a little more to the right, we 2 x Ethernet ports and 4 USB 3.0 ports. The left Ethernet port, is the Intel i219 Gigabit Ethernet port and the one on the right is the Killer E2400. The Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet Controller is not just a plain Ethernet adapter, it allows the network adapter to detect and control network traffic to provide more priority to the things that matter to you.
This is the Killer E2400 chip. With the Killer E2400, you can improve (reduce) latency, jitter and video stutters as it accelerates your critical network traffic. The software, in addition to the adapter, provides 2 additional network priority levels and 7 levels of application and website traffic prioritization, but we will go over thing a little more later in the review. The Intel i219 Ethernet controller, while a good controller, is a basic adapter.
The 4 additional USB 3.0 ports, are standard USB 3.0 Ports and then there is a little red button on the bottom right hand corner of the picture. The little red button is an BIOS/CMOS reset button, which allows you to manually reset the BIOS in the unfortunate event that you set a BIOS setting incorrectly. Back in the day, this was done with jumpers on the motherboard, usually near the battery, or manually removing the battery on the board, but this little button saves so much time.
To the right of the BIOS/CMOS reset button, we can see a on the bottom an HDMI 1.4 port and above it a Display Port 1.2 (DP). Mind you, EVGA sells video cards and they more than want you to buy their video cards, but as you are saving to buy one of them they allow you to use the integrated video, of course if the CPU you buy supports integrated video. To the right of that, we can see the 8 Channel Audio, controlled by the ALC1150 controller.
Green is for Left and Right (Stereo) line out, Blue is for Analog Line in and, Black for Surround Left and Right and Orange is for the Sub and Center Channel speaker. The Pink is for a microphone the oddly shaped almost box connector is the Optical connector. The optical connection usually has better audio when paired with a surround sound speaker system that support optical and a nice TOSLINK cable.
Behind the rear audio ports, we find the controller hidden on the board.
To the right of the rear I/O panel, on the board, we find the Key-E M.2 Socket 1. M.2 Key-E is used for devices like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards, an M.2 SSD will not fit here, it is a Key-M slot. Installing a card here will disable PCI-e slot 3, which thankfully is a X1 PCI-e slot right under where the video card would go.
Another cool thing to mention, more in detail later but that green line you see travelling along the side of the M.2 Slot, actually serves for a visually aesthetic purpose. Again, we will go over that a little later in the review, now back to M.2.
This is PCI-e Slot3, the x1.
For a different angle of where it is.
On the bottom left hand corner of the board, we find an oddly placed, 90° angled 6-Pin PCI-e connector. This connector provides additional PCI-e connector provides additional power to the PCI-e slots, designated for 3 or 4-Way SLI configurations, sort of odd they would include it in this board being that it is said to only support 2-way SLI.
Even though the board has 3 physical x16 PCi-e slots, the first x16 slot is a x16 or a x8. It is x16 if it is the only slot populated. The 2nd PCI-e slot is a x8, if there is a card there as well, that is when the 1st slot will switch to a x8, so that both cards can run in SLI. The 3rd physical x16 PCI-e slot is electrically a x1 slot, so it will not be able to run in SLI.
Skylake processors will only support up to 20 PCI-e lanes. The PCH (formerly known as south bridge) will support 24 additional PCI-lanes but those are SATA devices. Being that the PCI-e lanes are taken from the CPU, you can see there is no way a Skylake processor will support 3 x Video cards, even having all at x8.
To the right of the 6-pin PCI-e connector, we find the Front Panel Audio header and the SPDIF_Out header.
To the right of that, we have a Chassis Fan 4 Pin header and a system 2 fan header.
To the right of that, we have the USB 2.0 header, only USB 2.0 header on the board which is a bit disappointing, if you have 4 front panel USB 2.0 devices, but I have a fix for that coming soon.
Next to that we have the Front Panel headers for things like your Power button, reset button, Power LED, HD Activity Light. Here is a diagram off of the EVGA Manual for this board
Very important connecting these when building your PC, which I will go over later.
This one makes me a little happy, but we have 2 x USB 3.0 headers, for 4 additional USB 3.0 ports.
Of course, this would mean you would need 4 USB ports on your case, but if not, you can use this for 2 additional USB 2.0 ports, since EVGA only included a single USB 2.0 header.
This adapter, converts a USB 3.0 header into a USB 2.0 header, you would just connect the USB 2.0 connection from your case to this. This is not included, but clicking on the picture will take you to amazon where you can buy one, or just use this link: https://geni.us/6NAIJBN?QeS8
Coming up on the edge, a small yet very important piece when in need is the diagnostic PC Speaker. This often-forgotten little guy will help you if your PC will not boot in figuring out what exactly is going on. Many times, to save a buck, motherboard manufactures will omit this in favor of having 2 additional pins on the front panel header so that you can connect a separate PC speaker, that you need to purchase separately.
Next to that PC speaker, we find a four pin System Fan, Sys1 Fan.
Moving up from there, we find some SATA ports, but some might look a little odd.
Coming from the left, these 2 SATA ports are the Intel SATA 3 / 6G ports. While they are 6G ports, they are backwards compatible with SATA 2 and SATA devices. These are run off of the Intel Z270 PCH which allows for NCQ, TRIM, hot swapping and RAID 0/1/5/10.
These ports, also part of the Intel Z270’s PCH controller offer something a bit new. While the right four ports are part of the 6 ports on this controller (I showed you the other 2 on the previous picture), this also can utilize SATA Express, but at a bit of a cost as they can be shared ports.
SATA Express, a standard created by Intel as a faster standard to improve the performance of SSDs. The cost is that SATA Express utilizes 2 SATA ports, as well as that additional port on the left. This one collection of SATA ports can only house 2 SATA drives when utilizing SATA Express. A nice feature, but very limiting capitalizing on speed versus function. If you don’t have many SATA devices this might be a nice feature, but if you do have many, you might want to skip this one.
SATA Express also makes use of a special cable, the SATA Express cable and a special drive.
This is the Intel 750 Series 800GB PCI Express 3.0 MLC SSD.
To the right of those SATA ports, we have yet another newer port U.2, no not the band… the port, the technology. This is another iteration of SATA Express but has twice the available bandwidth and a much smaller connection. Like M.2, this utilizes 4 PCI-e express lanes but comes in the form of a 2.5in drive, looks like a regular SSD but you can’t use both M.2 and U.2 simultaneously since they both take up the same x4 PCH lanes.
Above that, we find the AMI BIOS’ tomb. AMI stands for American Megatrends Inc, they make the BIOS. In this coffin lay the AMI BIOS Chip. This makes it a little easier to remove the chip in case the BIOS gets corrupted when flashing or something else occurs. Older types, you would need to use a paper clip to prey the chip our, or a BIOS chip puller, here just pop the doors our and lift the chip.
Just above the BIOS chip, we find the 24Pin ATX connector, pretty basic but I wanted to make mention of it. This is not an angled connector, which might make it great for some cases in tight spots though some might prefer angled.
Above the ATX connection, we find the Debug LED / CPU Temp code reader. This is almost as good as the PC Speaker and equally as helpful. This display shows POST codes (Power On Self Test) during boot up, to let you know if it gets stuck during boot up, what it’s stuck on. When the system is already on though, it displays the CPU Temperature.
A bit long to list here, but in the manual and in the link I provided previously to the manual, EVGA lists the AMI POST Codes.
Coming up from there, we find the RESET, POWER and CMOS buttons. You might find these on some board, but usually they are tiny red buttons, like the CMOS button, but EVGA made them look really nice here. The main purpose for these buttons of course is to reset, power up and to clear the CMOS, but these are usually meant for people that have their boards on a test bench, to easily access the buttons when overclocking.
While a small aspect, it is worth mentioning like the last few, at the very top right-hand corner we find a 4 Pin Power Fan.
To the left, we find the 4 DIMM slots (Dual In-line Memory Module). These are the slots for your DDR4 memory.
To the left of the DIMMs you can find the silk screening of what the DIMM numbers are. If you have 4 sticks of RAM, you can just pop them all in, but if you have 1, 2 or 3 you have to check the manual on how to install them. In this video, I show you how to install RAM onto this board.
Now that we are done with the RAM, to the left of the DIMM slots we find CPU Fan 1 and CPU Fan 2.
Coming over a little more to the left, we find the ATX 8 Pin connection, used to provide additional power to the CPU.
So that is about it for the edges of the board, now let’s discover other aspects of the board.
Under the 8 Pin ATX power, we find the LGA1151 socket.
Removing the CPU pin cover and lifting the CPU retention arm we find the CPU pins. Be careful with these, if you bend/break the pins you have voided the warranty of this board. In a bit later in this review, we will go over how to build a complete PC and with that, I will show you how to install a processor into this socket.
Zooming back out, we will look into the PCI-e slots, so let’s zoom back in.
First off, we find at the very top, another 4 Pin Fan connecter, the Auxiliary Fan.
Just below that, we find a x4 PCI-e slot PCI-e slot 1. If you use the U.2 port, this slot needs to be disabled in the BIOS. Below that, we find the PCI-e x 16/8 slot, PCI-e slot 2. Next up is the PCI-e x 1 slot, which is PCIe slot 3, then the PCI-e x8 slot which is PCI-e slot 4 and finally the PCI-e x 1 slot which is PCI-e slot 5, it looks like a x16 but electrically it is a x1.
As mentioned before, it can handle 2-way SLI and Crossfire, but since the bottom slot is a x1, while it would fit, another video card will function.
Between PCI-e slots 2 and 3, you will see a Key-M type M.2 socket. Placing a card here will require that you disable SATA ports 4 and 5, I will show you a little later not only how to install a drive here but also how to enable it in the BIOS. This will be directly under the video card.
Between PCI-e slot 4 and 5, we find the final (of 3) M.2 slots. It is another Key-M slot and placing a driver here will require disabled SATA ports 0 and 1.
OK, so we have looked at the board and all, but how do you install it?
In this next chapter, I will show you how to build and cable a computer from the ground up using the EVGA Z270 FTW K motherboard.