If you are digging that rugged TUF design and style then ASUS might have the product you want right there. The motherboard is properly functional, offers all tweaking options you need, two M2 slots (albeit the vertical one is a bit of a loss really) and furthermore offers everything you'd need for a proper Z270 platform, including 2x Intel LAN (yay!). So despite my somewhat salted view of Kaby Lake (no real gain over Skylake) in general I do have to say that the motherboard manufacturers did a lovely job with the new ranges being released. This TUF Z270 Mark I for example remains reasonably affordable in that sub 239 USD/ Euro range. It tweaks as good as any 500 USD motherboard would do (hey, we hit 5 GHz stable) and offers the very, in fact the exact roughly the very same base performance when not tweaked. The ease of use with XMP memory rocks, the UEFI BIOS is just very advanced.
If you have upgraded in the last year or two to a new PC, well, the upgrade remains a hard sell. This motherboard however does have aesthetic improvements as well as your platform will be upgraded towards full compatibility with USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) as well as two M.2 slots and sure, a bit of LED bling (albeit little), we do like the ASUS Aura SYNC initiative. Previously, the software was only able to control individual computer hardware such as LED lighting on motherboard and additional RGB LED within the PC case connected to the motherboard. With the new synchronization capabilities, various hardware components' RGB lighting control can be controlled via a single AURA software interface.
Performance & Tweaking
The overall performance for this ASUS Z270 TUF motherboard with a Core i5 7600K I'd rate as "good" for the results as tested with a Core i5 7600K. Temps remain very acceptable (depending on choice of cooling) and temperatures when the CPU is overclocked with added voltage definitely seem to be a notch better opposed to Haswell and Skylake. We have been able to reach 5.0 GHz stable enough on liquid cooling. At that level you are looking at up-to 1.35V needed on that CPU core. Mind you that ALL, seriously ALL Z270 motherboards we have tested reach exactly 5 Ghz on the Core i5 7600K. Meaning the processor and cooling are the decisive factor when it comes to generic overclocking and tweaking, not your motherboard so much.
If we step back and take the Intel reference board with a Sandy Bridge processor (2600K) without a dedicated graphics card, that platform idled at roughly 50 Watts. Once we stress the processor 100% on that platform we'd see ~120 Watts power consumption. With Kaby Lake (7600K) we noticed roughly 40 Watts in idle and 100 Watts with processor load at 100%. Things again remain relative.
The Bottom Line
I've always been a bit of a fan of the TUF series, I like the rugged design. ASUS did this one right (aside from the vertical M2 slot which does not compute in my brain). Otherwise they kept things fairly uncomplicated, you get whatever you need anno 2017 features wise with plenty of USB, display, M2 and storage connectors... oh and fan connectors, LOTS of fan connectors, LOL. There's no expensive Thunderbolt chip in there or an expensive audio codec, and that's all fine really as that makes the pricing more in line to what you guys want. As stated, Z270 is going to be a tough sell, and that's not because of the motherboards. It is just that the Kaby Lake processors simply might not offer enough of a difference of last-gen generation processors. it remains more of the same really, and the tiny bump in perf, is easily tweaked out of these processors. But that fact has nothing to do with the infrastructure underneath it all, the Z270 motherboard as tested today.You'll receive a motherboard with an okay, well definitely nice enough audio solution and accompanying software suite. Love or hate the LED bling, you are going to get it in such a manner that you can disable it as well with the AURA software. We again do however sorely miss AC WIFI and hey gain... why hasn't the industry moved to 10 GBit Ethernet jacks anno 2016 just yet? These two lacking features are a bit of a missed opportunity IMHO. The motherboard otherwise is stable thanks to a really quality build with proper components used, it is mature and comes with a very nice UEFI BIOS as well. I so love my PUMP FAN header (most people these days have some sort of liquid cooling going on). In closing, when you think your system is outdated and you would like to benefit from features such as USB 3.1, proper fast SATA3 ports, nice audio and some LEDs, hey - that's where Kaby Lake with a Z270 motherboard can make sense. Realistically, if you have upgraded of the past year or 2-3 already, you might want to sit and wait for an actual generational improvement or perhaps something from the competition (AMD) that is launching some good stuff in Q1 2017. This review has covered most of the hardware on the motherboard, I do like to mention that ASUS has an excellent software suite allowing to control all these fan headers in software as well. That's what the TUF series is about. Install strong enough fans and perhaps you can change it into a drone even ;)
Whatever rocks your boat, the rugged and somewhat military looking ASUS TUF Z270 MARK I definitely very much recommended.
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