When Kaby Lake launched, we weren’t exactly blown away by its raw CPU performance, nor its overclocking abilities. While its media engine received a nice upgrade, the CPU cores themselves didn’t seem to have made much ground. What was more exciting was the release of the Z270 chipset, which offered up many more PCIe lanes and widespread support for USB 3.0 Type C and high-speed M.2 drives. This month sees our first review of the next chipset in the Kaby Lake arsenal, the H270. Aimed at a slightly more affordable, mainstream market, what has Intel taken away from the Z270 to save on costs?
When it comes to High Speed IO lanes, both chipsets are identical, with 30 each. However, as we’d anticipated, the number of PCIe 3.0 lanes has dropped a little. The Z270 shipped with 24, while the H270 trims this back to 20. In reality, this means it can support one less M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD, which isn’t a huge deal. What is more concerning is the lack of configurations for the PCIe 3.0 lanes. The motherboard we’re reviewing comes with twin full length PCIe lanes, one of which runs in x16 mode while the other runs in x4 mode. This means there’s no support for Nvidia’s SLI, but AMD’s CrossFire will work fine. Four more x1 slots are included for your less demanding peripherals.
There’s also no official support for overclocking on the H270 chipset, yet ASrock has enabled overclocking on this board. The total number of USB 2.0 ports supported by the H270 is identical to the Z270, at fourteen, yet the number of USB 3.0 ports has dropped slightly, down to eight from ten. They also both support a maximum of six SATA 6Gbps ports. Other than that, it’s all much of a muchness. Both support the same amount of memory, though the H270 defaults to 2133MHz instead of the 2400MHz of the Z270. This is an extremely minor drop though, so performance should be basically identical to the Z270, as there are no other changes.
Now that we’ve dug deeper into the minor differences between the two chipsets, let’s see how ASRock has implemented the H270 into an affordable gaming motherboard. We’ve already covered the physical PCIe slots, but what about storage options? ASRock has stuck with the default number of SATA 6Gbps slots, with six in total. However, they’ve generously delivered twin Ultra M.2 slots, while video outputs are taken care of by HDMI, DVI-D and D-sub.
The LED lighting system isn’t overly complex, with lights on the power circuitry heatsink, PCH heatsink, and the audio system shield. Speaking of audio, the Realtek ALC1220 is beefed up with high-end capacitors and a dedicated TI® NE5532 headset amplifier, all of which is controlled by Creative’s SoundBlaster Cinema 3 software. Intel’s I219V Ethernet controller delivers network connectivity.
As mentioned earlier, ASRock has enabled overclocking of K-class CPUs on this motherboard, and it also supports 2400MHz memory, which should put its performance right in line with more expensive Z270 boards. Given that Intel wasn’t too happy about manufacturers enabling overclocking on the H170 chipset, it’s a pleasant surprise to see that ASRock doesn’t seem too fussed about including it on the successor.
Triple USB 2.0 ports reside next to another two USB 3.0 Type A connectors and a single USB 3.0 Type-C connector. This doesn’t appear to be Thunderbolt enabled; to get this, you’ll need to attach an optional Thunderbolt AIC to one of two connectors on the board.
As usual, ASRock has over-delivered when compared to the competition, and has even pushed the edge when it comes to features like overclocking. Unfortunately we weren’t able to benchmark this motherboard due to a lack of a CPU at the time, but we’re confident it’ll keep up with higher-priced Z270 boards given our experience with ASRock products in the past and the factory memory overclock. If you’re looking for a new gaming board but don’t want to spend more than $200, you really can’t go wrong with this home for your CPU.