We’ve seen two premium Z270 boards so far, including one from ASUS – the excellent Maximus IX Hero. But what’s going on at lower price-points? Can those seeking an all-round solution find a solid foundation for a Kaby Lake build – and, crucially, one that’s a little more affordable? The Prime Z270-A could be a good bet, promising a compelling mix of features, style and performance. Let’s see what it offers.
The days of mid-range boards being bland and boring aren’t quite behind us, so it’s nice to see the Prime has some styling to offer. The white I/O cover has a sort of sports-car aesthetic to it (a hint of fine-tuning perhaps), and its bright white is matched by that of the PCH heatsink.
Both parts will certainly capture attention, but there’s a bit of a mix of colours going on across the board. The black PCB is set with grey and silver elements, so combined with the white – and the white detailing on the PCB – there’s a little more going on here than we’d like. It’s still smart, but perhaps not case-window worthy for some.
If a window is a given, then the Prime can add a little more flair through Asus’ Aura Sync system. The board really isn’t awash with LEDs’, but there is some lighting along the left-side. This leads from the I/O cover down towards the left-bottom corner, before the light trail cuts in around the audio chip and drops down to the right of the front audio header. That’s the lighting in its entirety, so perhaps suiting those preferring only a little synchronised illumination…or someone dipping their toe in to the LED pool.
The Prime Z270-A provides a maximum 64GB DDR4 in its four single-clip slots, up to a maximum clock of 3866MHz – certainly more than enough for most. To the right of the slots sit two buttons, the total on-bard button count for the Prime: it’s one MemOk! Button and a power-on. Three PCIe x16 slots include one certified ‘SafeSlot’, providing extra structural support. Cost maybe comes into that, but Asus may feel this board will most often see single graphics set-ups. Two-way SLI and three-way CrossFireX are certainly supported though.
The Prime offers two Socket 3 M.2 connectors. The M.2_1 socket is found south of the PCH heatsink and support SATA and PCIe X4 modes. The M.2_2 socket is situated above the top PCIe x16 slot, and supports PCIe X4 mode only. USB 3.1 Type-A and C connectors are enabled by an ASMedia 3.1 controller, and are good to see included. They’re available on the rear I/O panel, with one Type -A and one Type-C alongside four USB 3.0 ports.
This sturdy collection of USB ports is joined by a fairly standard selection of other rear I/O ports: A combined PS/2 port, one DVI-D, one DisplayPort, one HDMI, a LAN port, optical S/PDIF out and audio jacks. Moving back to the mid-board, there are two USB 3.0 ports, and a front-header for two more 3.0 ports. That’s a solid selection we think, and proof that this motherboard is well-suited to anyone demanding some flexibility. Wrapping up key capabilities, the integrated audio is powered Crystal Sound 3 featuring the latest S1220A codec.
Asus is similarly up to date with its cooling options. The Prime Z270-A offers headers for a CPU_OPT – a bonus for dual CPU cooling – two 4-pin chassis fans, one five-pin extension fan connector, and a 4-pin high-amp fan. Certainly sufficient for a range of air cooling options, the inclusion of the CPU_OPT adds some welcome flexibility, as does the AIO pump header.
Given that Asus’ promo materials extol the virtues of a 4.8GHz overclocked 7700K in this board, it makes sense that users may opt for an all-in-one solution. Asus also promotes the ‘5-way optimisation’ this motherboard brings: CPU performance, efficiency, digital power control, it’s Turbo App for gaming and its fan controls. We can get behind good efficiency and smartly boosting a processor, but with overclocking on-hand, fan and cooling capability is definitely a must.
Suffice to say, this motherboard carries these fan and cooling options in its BIOS. The Prime Z270-A utilises Fan Xpert 4, also found on the premium Maximus products and is a strong inclusion. This canny utility makes it simple to maintain and control cooling. Adjustments are easy too, carried out by just clicking and dragging the fan graph.
General impressions of the BIOS are positive too. It’s light, clear and smartly designed, with navigation and options not leaving us wanting. As with the Maximus IX Hero, EZ Tuning Wizard is present. And again, as with the IX Hero, it deemed our set-up worthy of a 15% overclock. That pushed our 7700K sample to 4.8GHz. It delivered stability there too, although we didn’t push our luck given our single tower cooler.
The ease of overclocking with the EZ Tuning Wizard is marvellous. And especially at this price-point, where manual overclocking knowledge isn’t a given for users. However, we must point out that anyone using the wizard should still remain vigilant when it comes to system stability and temperatures.
- Samsung 850 Pro SSD
- 16GB Crucial Ballistix DDR4-3000 kit
- Windows 10 Home Edition
- Noctua NH-U12S
*No graphics card installed
Asus Prime Z270-A – Conclusion
Honestly, we’ve little negative to say about the Prime Z270-A motherboard. Asus has delivered a really good mid-range product, capable of delivering a solid platform for both newcomers and veteran enthusiasts alike. If a Kaby Lake + Z270 build is to be fully-featured but tied to a budget, we’d point to this and wholly recommend it. After all, there’s a little bit of everything here. Asus ticks the boxes for connectivity, expansion, tweaking, cooling, and still getting in a bit of LED lighting. We shouldn’t forget the provisions made for 3D printing either, and there are three mounting areas – perhaps unnecessary, but a bonus for some.
True, this board might not meet everyone’s aesthetic preferences. Yet it can offer some flair through a window, or just as easily sit in a closed system happily delivering. With base or tweaked settings, we’re confident this motherboard can do so stably too. We were impressed with its overall performance, often right up there chasing the Maximus IX Hero in our benchmarks. And if that suggests anything, it’s that Asus has put as much consideration into this motherboard as it has others worth a clear margin more. That, if anything should be cause for positivity, and enough to encourage any user considering a purchase.