Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WIFI Review (Page 12 of 12)

Page 12 - Overclocking and Conclusion

Before Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge, overclocking your CPU involved changing half a dozen settings to try to obtain the highest clock speed. This was because there were so many different ways to obtain your maximum frequency, things were a bit complicated even if you are an experienced computer enthusiast. With the latest Skylake processors, you can play around with the base clock like Haswell, but since I got an Intel Core i7-6700K, I simply tuned with the unlocked multiplier. Using a CPU purchased anonymously at a local retail store, I was able to attain 4.5GHz at reasonable voltages on the GA-Z170N-WIFI; which was pretty good. To achieve this, I changed the CPU Loadline Calibration to High, and set every other voltage setting to "Normal". I gave the Vcore an offset of +0.035V to target 1.30V under load. This 500MHz change from stock translates to a 12.5% overclock.

Unfortunately, for what I hypothesize as power delivery issues, the Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WIFI kept throttling my Intel Core i7-6700K back to 800MHz intermittently under Prime95 torture tests. It was definitely not contributed by heat, considering I had a Noctua NH-U14S with two 140mm fans keeping it way below the operating threshold. The CPU would ramp up to full speed for a while, then drop to 800MHz for a couple of seconds before returning to 4.5GHz. The higher the voltage, the more frequently this happens. Therefore, I was very careful in balancing the parameter in maximizing the clock speed without being throttled back under intense workloads. This explains why certain overclocking results came in lower than the non-overclocking configuration in our benchmarks today. Furthermore, I even noticed some throttling occurring even at completely stock settings. I no longer have an Intel Core i5-6600K for testing, but my gut feeling is do not buy the Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WIFI with an Intel Core i7-6700K.

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Featuring an enthusiast Z170 chipset with an Intel LGA1151 socket for the latest Skylake CPUs in the mITX form factor, and a PCI Express x16 slot to accommodate the latest graphics card of your choice, is the Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WIFI a modern day technology interpretation of David and Goliath? At least on paper, the GA-Z170N-WIFI got quite a number of things right. This mITX board is compact yet functional; being made with a layout that is generally organized and accessible. The placement of connectors is not perfect per se, but given the amount of space and features they had to work with, I highly doubt you can do much better. I mean, in addition to the PCI Express x16 slot, there is even an M.2 port for your SSD -- who am I to complain? At the back, there is a reasonably generous and selection of connectors, with four USB 3.0, USB Type-C, dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, dual HDMI, DVI, plus all the digital and analog audio jacks. The Realtek ALC1150 based audio -- which performed well by its own right in our tests -- even has an amplified two channel output! I would have preferred DisplayPort in place of one of the HDMI ports, but this is just a minor complaint. Unfortunately, as much as Goliath may still be a Goliath, the GA-Z170N-WIFI is not quite a David. The BIOS is standard fare for Gigabyte motherboards, which is excellent. But if you are buying the GA-Z170N-WIFI for overclocking, or even planning to drop in a high end processor, then you will run into some trouble. If they had an EPS 8-pin connector instead of an ATX 4-pin, it may improve the situation; I cannot say for sure. What is observable is under very intense workloads, such as those generated by Prime95's torture tests, my Intel Core i7-6700K started to throttle back intermittently to 800MHz, even at completely stock settings. I can definitely say it is not a thermal related problem, given my setup and the reported temperature data. This throttling problem became more frequent and apparent when I started to increase the voltage to overclock. I think this is a pretty serious design flaw with the Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WIFI. Sure, not everyone is going to install the same CPU as me, and you may very well experience no issues if you went with a Core i5 instead. For about $145 at press time, the Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WIFI is a fully featured mITX motherboard with a lot of potential. Just do not pair it with a high end Core i7, use it for overclocking, and for your sanity, do not attempt both concurrently.

Gigabyte provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.

Since April 30, 2007, Number Ratings have been dropped for all CPUs, motherboards, RAM, SSD/HDDs, and graphics cards. This is to ensure the most appropriate ratings reflected without the inherent limits of using numbers. Everything else will continue using the Number Rating System.
More information in our Review Focus.

The Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WIFI is a fully featured mITX motherboard for about $145 at press time. However, you may experience throttling issues if you plan to drop in a high end CPU like a Core i7-6700K, and while you are at it, do not try to overclock that CPU with this board.

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Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Bundle, Chipset, BIOS
3. A Closer Look, Board Layout, Test System
4. Benchmark: AIDA64 CPU
5. Benchmark: AIDA64 FPU
6. Benchmark: AIDA64 Memory
7. Benchmark: PCMark 8
8. Benchmark: 3DMark
9. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 8.0
10. Benchmark: SuperPI 1M, Cinebench R15
11. Onboard Sound Frequency Analysis
12. Overclocking and Conclusion