4 mid-range Z170 motherboards review

Four times Z170

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Support for video cards, SLI and CrossFire

Intel's mid range processors have been supporting 16 PCI-Express lanes forever. The high-end Z170-chipset can divide these up, in order to support multiple video cards. However, since the Skylake chipset has much more lanes, it's now possible to provide PCI-Express 16x slots with lanes from the chipset, without sacrificing too much performance.

This is mostly to enable the use of PCI-Express SSDs, because the video cards otherwise will not have access to enough CPU lanes. 3-way CrossFire without sacrificing lanes of the first two video cards also becomes possible with the improvements in the chipset. This whole story doesn't apply to SLI, because Nvidia requires a minimum of eight PCI-Express lanes directly from the CPU to run video cards in SLI.

All motherboards in our test are the same in this area. They all have two PCI-Express 16x slots with lanes from the CPU and a third slot with lanes from the chipset. Therefore they all support 2-way SLI and 3-way CrossFire.

Motherboard x16 slots x16 slots CPU 1 GPU 2 GPUs 3 GPUs 4 GPUs
ASRock Z170 Extreme6 3 2 16 8 / 8 8 / 8 / 4 -
ASUS Maximus VIII Ranger 3 2 16 8 / 8 8 / 8 / 4 -
Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 3 2 16 8 / 8 8 / 8 / 4 -
MSI Z170A Gaming M5 3 2 16 8 / 8 8 / 8 / 4 -

The table down below illustrates which SLI and CrossFire configurations are supported.

Motherboard 2-way SLI 3-way SLI 4-way SLI 2-way CF 3-way CF 4-way CF
ASRock Z170 Extreme6 Yes - - Yes Yes -
ASUS Maximus VIII Ranger Yes - - Yes Yes -
Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 Yes - - Yes Yes -
MSI Z170A Gaming M5 Yes - - Yes Yes -

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