Since Intel released the Z270 chipset earlier this year, we are reviewing several motherboards based on it, ranging from the cheap ITX ECS Z270H4-I Durathon 2 to the advanced gaming motherboards from Asus and GIGABYTE. Because literally, dozens of Z270-based motherboards are released, we can not possibly review them all and we focus our choices on products that we believe are attractive to most of our readers. However, one can argue that although the top market is relatively small, it also consists of the most knowledgeable and demanding user, who can not fulfill their wants and needs with mainstream motherboards.
In this review, we see the ASRock Z270 Supercarrier, an upscale motherboard designed for professional designers and elitist gamers. Despite its distinctive ATX dimensions, the Supercarrier Z270 is loaded onto the handle, with a large number of connectors and some features that can not be found on mainstream motherboards. While the price will prompt every casual user / inrush instantly, the Supercarrier Z270 is one of the few options with LGA1151 CPU sockets available for designers and professional gamers who are not satisfied with one or two GPUs.
Supercarrier ASRock Z270 Overview
A simple glance at the motherboard feature list is likely to make most people amazed. If we want to choose the best of the Z270 Supercarrier, this is a 14-phase CPU power circuit, four PCIe × 8 slots for full-size graphics card and AQUANTIA 5 Gbps network controller, all of which are features that can not be found on mainstream motherboards. The number of supported storage devices is huge, with three PCIe × 4 M.2 slots, six SATA connectors and two SATA Express connectors. Each SATA connector can also be used as two standard SATA ports, so the maximum number of regular SATA devices up to 10 if no SATA Express device is installed. There is no U.2 connector and this is one of the few features that the Z270 Supercarrier has. This problem can be easily handled with proper use of M.2 to U.2 adapters.
ASRock Z270 Supercarrier also has a very interesting controller. The onboard audio "Purity Sound 4" has the popular ALC1220 audio controller supplied by Realtek at its heart, powered by a Texas Instruments NE5532 headset amplifier and other hardware. This is not one, not two, but three different LAN controllers. The first is the Aquantia AQC108 5 Gbps controller, which is one of the highlights of this motherboard. Intel supplies two other Gigabit controllers (I219V and I211AT), as well as wireless LAN modules (AC3160). We also found some controllers from ASMedia on the Supercarrier Z270 for additional USB, SATA, and Thunderbolt ports.
In short, ASRock Z270 Supercarrier is a motherboard designed to attract the attention of professional designers, users who usually look for 3-way and 4-way SLI systems with many storage devices. It's a very limited market segment and ASRock engineers are obviously trying to expand it by adding features that will also tease gamers and overclockers on a huge budget. Even in its default configuration, the ASRock Z270 Supercarrier successfully outperforms any other Z270-based motherboards we've tested up to date, while it also demonstrates a very promising overclocking capability during our tests. At this point we should mention that the higher overall performance is not derived from magic tricks, but as we discovered during our tests, by ASRock engineers "cheated" and assigning Turbo multiplier CPUs at level 45 by default, allowing the 7700K processor to reach 4 , 5 GHz without tweaking the BIOS settings or other options.
Quick Board Feature Comparison AsRock Z270 Supercarrier
- Socket : LGA1151
- MSRP at Review : $349 or $140
- DRAM : 4 x DDR4 4 x DDR4
- PCIe Layout : ×8/×8/×8/×8
- BIOS Version Tested : 1.11 or 2.00
- MCT Enabled Automatically? : No / Yes
- USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) : Intel JHL6540
- M.2 Slots : 3 x PCIe 3.0 x4
- U.2 Ports : No
- Network Controller : 1× AQC218 / 1 x Intel I219-V / 1 x Intel I211-AT 1 x Intel I219-V
- Audio Controller : Realtek ALC1220 Realtek ALC892
- HDMI 2.0
Compared to older Z170 boards, the new Z270 board on the basic specifications is almost no different. The Z270 with four additional PCIe lines can be configured on chipsets, new network controllers and new potential audio, and Intel Optane Technology Support. Although the extra four PCIe lanes sound like a big difference, this is an important upgrade for the application of the original M.2 slot (on a Z170-based motherboard, this usually means disabling some other devices / ports on the motherboard). Also, note that Intel Optane drives still work on other chipsets as drives; Z270 only lets them enable their "smart caching" technology.
manufacturers of ndividual motherboards will sprinkle new features into their Z270 products to help transition and deliver other real benefits of the old platform. To read specifically about the Z170 chip / platform and its specifications, we dive deep into what can be found on this link.
A Little Note on USB Naming
One thing we should note is the appearance of Z270 chipset bringing the changes to the naming of USB ports. What we know as USB 3.0 ports is now dubbed as "USB 3.1 Gen 1" and the 10Gbps port is now called "USB 3.1 Gen 2". We first experienced this change while reviewing the MSI Z270 SLI Plus a few months back but it seems that most manufacturers are following, rewriting their website and reprinting their manuals. Users need extra caution when very high bandwidth connector is essential.
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