SFF.Network [SFF Network] Intel Z170 motherboards launch

Intel’s new Skylake platform partially launches today, starting at the high-end with two new CPUs (the i7-6700K and i5-6600K) and new motherboards based on the Z170 chipset. The rest of the CPU lineup and the other motherboard chipsets will be released at a later date.

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EdZ

Virtual Realist
May 11, 2015
1,578
2,107
Could be signal path issues. You're now stretching PCIe traces over a significant distance, with multiple bends (starts to noticeably change the path length between lanes), AND those traces end up going through at least two - possibly three depending on final board orientation - inter-board interfaces. Two of which are non-permanent links (so subject to possible mechanical contact issues).
 

BirdofPrey

Standards Guru
Sep 3, 2015
797
493
So, Asus have a 5.25" bay device that connects to an internal Sata Express port and provides USB 3.1 Type-C connectivity, along with the 100w spec for powering devices. This is their way of working around the lack of an internal header at this time.

It's outlined on various overviews of their boards on PCDIY - I've seen it now on the Z170i-Pro and Z170 Maximus VIII Gene.
I didn't even realize the PCIe lanes could be used for non-storage functions.
There's probably a DC-DC converter in that USB 3.1 C bay device though, the 100W power delivery mode is 20V which isn't available in desktop PCs.

I think I'm going to skip this transition generation and wait until 3.1 Type-C is the standard for everything, mainly just phones and computers that don't use proprietary work arounds.
It would be nice to get some real Type C support, I'm sure phones, tablets and laptops will have it soon, but desktops will probably lag a bit. First a desktop would need to start providing 20V power for USB power delivery (There is a max current of 5A so 12V only supplies up to 60W). Second, I am intrigued by the ability of USB C to carry stuff like DisplayPort and Thunderbolt, but that needs integration into the devices that use those alternate specs (eg. to use the full functionality a video card would have to include a USB root device, and possibly an additional power connector if it wants to send out power through the USB)
 

EdZ

Virtual Realist
May 11, 2015
1,578
2,107
Type C, USB 3.1 Gen2, Alternate Mode, and USB Power Delivery are not explicitely linked. A given port can support various combinations of the 4. e.g:
You can have a Type C port that is basic USB 2.0, without power delivery, alternate modes, etc.
You can have a USB Type A port that supports USB 3.1 Gen2 speeds and USB Power Delivery (but not Power Delivery 2.0) up to 100W in preset voltage steps, but no Alternate Modes.
You can have a USB Type C port that supports USB 3.1, Alternate Modes (of which it can support an undefined number and type of modes), but not USB Power Delivery (2.0).

By way of example: the Type C port on the back of the Gigabyte GA-Z170N-Gaming 5 currently works the same as the Type A USB 3.1 Gen2 port. But in the future, the Type C port might support Thunderbolt through Alternate Mode (which the Typa A cannot). Neither port supports USB Power Delivery.
 

BirdofPrey

Standards Guru
Sep 3, 2015
797
493
They aren't explicitly linked, no; in fact, if I am not mistaken a few of the first devices with the C port are only USB 2.
Still, it is going to be a while till the entire feature set of the latest USB specs are available on desktop systems. We're likely to keep seeing A ports albeit upgraded to Gen 2 speeds, for a while.

The larger plugs aren't an issue on desktops, and using alternate modes requires a specialized port which would need to be better integrated, and power delivery can also be done over the A ports, so the only think USB C has going for it in that space is the reversibility. That's likely to slow uptake in desktops where tablets and phones are actually going to be using it for the small size and power capabilities, and tablets and laptops are more integrated and staged to make better use of things like sharing the USB port for carrying video.
 

EdZ

Virtual Realist
May 11, 2015
1,578
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Alternate Mode's 'specialised port' is the Type C port.
Switching to all Type C (even at USB 2.0 or 3.0 speeds) would mean an increase in possible port density on the rear IO panel. The main drawback to this is curently there are no multi-stack Type C ports avaialble, only single-stock, which is why you see the hilarious inclusion of a single compact Type C port sitting in the middle of a huge empty space in the rear IO.

::EDIT::

There is one more Type C use I didn't mention: it can be used as a pure 'Alternate Mode' port, with the only requirement being a USB 2.0 path whose only purpose is to tell the host end what kind of Alternate Mode is supported (or why nothing is working when you plug the cable into a regular Type C port), AKA a Billboard Device class.
 

BirdofPrey

Standards Guru
Sep 3, 2015
797
493
By specialized port, I mean the interface circuitry.
You can't JUST run DP or Thunderbolt or whatever through a standard USB hub or root device. You need something that is actually set up to carry the alternate signal which means the root device for that port has to have the control circuitry for both the USB (if not 3.1 at least 2.0) along with whatever alternate mode(s) you want. Hence the integration issue. Small systems are going to be all over that, but desktops less so, due to their nature as a collection of parts, thus the desirability of the port is likely to be lower until USB C becomes somewhat ubiquitous (because, again, USB A does basically everything else just as well, but also has backwards compatibility)
 

MJVR1

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jun 10, 2015
92
55
Gigabyte just released the Z170mx gaming 5. Matx gaming motherboard with a Alpine controller for two usb 3.1 ports, "upgraded audio", and SLI. All of this with a relatively cheap price of $150 usd. I'm kinda sad that the only Matx board with SLI support is this and the much more expensive Gene from Asus. I'll probably buy this board in the future and see how it stacks up.
 

Vittra

Airflow Optimizer
May 11, 2015
359
90
Be wary of the Gigabyte boards. They mention Thunderbolt 3 in the manuals spec for Alpine Ridge but as per a users experience - a call to Gigabyte had them saying it is not available - this could be a simple misunderstanding as it isn't mentioned on their general specs on the main pages for the boards, but until there's some confirmation from someone I'd be wary of purchasing specifically for Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.
 
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Phuncz

Lord of the Boards
SFFn Staff
May 9, 2015
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I think the "Gaming" variant is new. You know, red accents and marketing crap.
 

EdZ

Virtual Realist
May 11, 2015
1,578
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It's not new, it just took Asus quite some time to put the page up after the board went on sale.
 

Phuncz

Lord of the Boards
SFFn Staff
May 9, 2015
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Ah yes, like that. I thought Asus' mITX board was the Z170i Pro, the Gaming was another version.
 

Vittra

Airflow Optimizer
May 11, 2015
359
90
It looks like some photos of the Maximus VIII Impact are now available:

http://nl.hardware.info/productinfo/324506/asus-maximus-viii-impact/fotos

I believe the official release (or at least announcement) is speculated to be 10/09/2015 - this Friday.

Based on pure visuals, it looks like they went with U.2 over M.2 to actually cram as much onto the board as possible. The UEFI also shows it has an Alpine Ridge control, and seems to imply actual Thunderbolt 3 connectivity through the Type-C connector.
 

Phuncz

Lord of the Boards
SFFn Staff
May 9, 2015
5,836
4,906
Using an Intel SSD 750 isn't really a bad tradeoff against a Samsung 950 Pro, except the extra cables. So I wouldn't figuratively die if I was waiting for the board and it didn't have an M.2 socket. But it would still be a shame for such a board.

I'm not a fan of the huge audio solution, but if it improves on top of the M7I, it might be worth it when you want high-end audio on mITX. It does limit the CPU cooler support though seemingly.
 

|||

King of Cable Management
Sep 26, 2015
775
759
I think they were trying to make it so the people with the M6I monoblocks from EK and Bitspower could still use them when they designed this M8I.

They are not using a lot of the USB...Z170 can support up to 14 2.0 and 3.0 or 3.1 Gen1 ports. The Alpine Ridge should allow for USB 3.1 Gen 2 or Thunderbolt 3 through the Type-C connector, if they have it set up similarly to the M8E.

I was looking forward to this board, but they completely blew it...quite unfortunate. I like that they are using the Alpine Ridge controller, but they got so much else wrong.
 

jeshikat

Jessica. Wayward SFF.n Founder
Original poster
Silver Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
4,969
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I have a hard time imagining Asus felt U.2 was more important than M.2 so I'm hoping it's support somehow. Whether it's hiding on the backside of the board, behind the audio shielding, or using some kind of U.2 to M.2 adapter.

I'm disappointed by the lack of USB ports though, I'd need a hub.
 

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King of Cable Management
Sep 26, 2015
775
759
The Z170 can support up to 3 NVMe PCI-e drives (whether they are M.2, U.2, PCI-e card, the form factor doesn't matter), but it depends on how the High Speed I/O is configured. So there very well could be 1 or 2 M.2 slots on the back (it'd be nice to see an actual use of the auto-extreme process they have beyond bragging).
 

iFreilicht

FlexATX Authority
Feb 28, 2015
3,243
2,361
freilite.com
It looks like some photos of the Maximus VIII Impact are now available:

http://nl.hardware.info/productinfo/324506/asus-maximus-viii-impact/fotos

I believe the official release (or at least announcement) is speculated to be 10/09/2015 - this Friday.

Based on pure visuals, it looks like they went with U.2 over M.2 to actually cram as much onto the board as possible. The UEFI also shows it has an Alpine Ridge control, and seems to imply actual Thunderbolt 3 connectivity through the Type-C connector.

I can't see the U.2 connector, where does it sit? I'm pretty sure M.2 is hiding on the backside, it seems very strange that they would ditch it.
Thunderbolt support is pretty cool, though.
I'm a bit disappointed about the lack of USB ports, though. A lot of wasted potential there.

I think they were trying to make it so the people with the M6I monoblocks from EK and Bitspower could still use them when they designed this M8I.

They are not using a lot of the USB...Z170 can support up to 14 2.0 and 3.0 or 3.1 Gen1 ports. The Alpine Ridge should allow for USB 3.1 Gen 2 or Thunderbolt 3 through the Type-C connector, if they have it set up similarly to the M8E.

I was looking forward to this board, but they completely blew it...quite unfortunate. I like that they are using the Alpine Ridge controller, but they got so much else wrong.

What exactly did they do wrong in your eyes? To me the only bummer is the lack of USB, as long as it isn't confirmed that M.2 isn't on the board.
 

|||

King of Cable Management
Sep 26, 2015
775
759
I can't see the U.2 connector, where does it sit? I'm pretty sure M.2 is hiding on the backside, it seems very strange that they would ditch it.
Thunderbolt support is pretty cool, though.
I'm a bit disappointed about the lack of USB ports, though. A lot of wasted potential there.

The U.2 connector (technically an SFF-8643 Mini-SAS connector with 4 PCI-e lanes electrically on the motherboard that connects with a cable that has an SFF-8639 connector that attaches to a U.2 form factor drive) is the square one between the long covered audio card and shielded WiFi module around the back I/O panel (top of the picture).



What exactly did they do wrong in your eyes? To me the only bummer is the lack of USB, as long as it isn't confirmed that M.2 isn't on the board.

- No USB 2.0 header or rear I/O.
- No Trusted Platform Module (TPM) support, so BitLocker is out of the picture.
- Only two on-board fan headers...you'll need to buy the optional fan extension to get additional fan connectivity from the motherboard.
- No dedicated water pump fan header as the other Maximus motherboards have.
- Only 2x2 WiFi module when other top-of-the-line ASUS motherboards have 3x3.
- The WiFi module is most likely a mPCIe card and not an M.2 card.
- TBD on the M.2 connectivity, but hopefully there is one on the back.