The rear I/O got my attention immediately with the new USB Type-C connection. A PCIe Gen2x2 USB 3.1 controller from the previous generation can transfer at up to 10Gb/s but the Intel USB 3.1 Controller used here is rated at up to 16Gb/s because it utilises 2 PCIe Gen3 lanes. In terms of longevity, having a Type-C connector on the rear I/O plate is something that is likely to pay higher dividends later as more compatible devices hit the market. At the moment, devices are still emerging so it won’t be a key ‘need’ for many gamers right now.
We also see the video connectivity of DVI and HDMI but no DisplayPort. This isn’t a big deal as no self-respecting gamer would settle for Intel graphics despite them being more capable than the previous generation. If you’re buying this board, do it justice and give it a decent graphics setup.
Looking at the power connections, we see them on the top edge (CPU power) and the right edge in-line with the RAM slots (24 Pin Power). The fan headers are also in logical places, located at the top edge of the board. The PCIE slot is reinforced and located along the bottom edge of the board as per standard placement.
Memory slots are also in a good spot and the clips are the single sided press release that we see on all premium boards. The trace lighting is configurable to be on all the time, beat the music/sound, pulse/breathe or be switched off entirely.
On the back of the board, we see an M.2 port for an SSD of either 60mm or 80mm in length. Something like the Kingston HyperX Predator M.2 unit would be perfect here. Less cables are always better in a small build so this is a welcome feature.
Things to note
I’m surprised about two variations from the previous (and awesome) Z97N layout that worked so well. The Front USB 3 header is closer to the CPU socket than I’d have liked and the side SATA/SATA Express ports. Both of these design decisions directly impact on useability.
- The SATA/SATA Express ports are oriented at 90 degrees so they come out of the side of the board and not straight up.
- The USB 3 header impacts on the CPU cooler selection and the SATA ports impact on case selection.
The older Z97N Gaming 5 was able to accommodate up to a 140mm tower cooler like the Noctua NH-U14S for near silent operation when overclocking the CPU. This configuration was able to fit in cases like the Fractal Design Core500 and Node 304 without any problem. The Z170N Gaming 5 front USB 3.0 header position means that 92mm coolers, water cooling and stock coolers are still perfectly fine but anything larger might cause a headache.
The side SATA port’s orientation means that you will almost certainly lose access to 4 ports in cases like the aforementioned Core 500 and Node 304 (among others) where the Power Supply is located along that right edge of the motherboard. Thankfully there are other cases available where this constraint doesn’t matter. Cases such as the Thermaltake Core V1, Fractal Node 202 and the new Fractal Define series Nano S will still be able to access those sideways SATA ports.
These factors will not be an issue for everyone but we can’t understand why these changes from the previous layout were necessary and can only speculate that electrical engineering constraints of the components caused some tracing challenges for the Gigabyte design team.