Z270 Micro-ATX review: four motherboards compared

Small Kaby Lakes



The other big chip that is being introduced together with Kaby Lake, is the Realtek ALC1220. The ALC1150 was already very good in terms of audio quality, however the new ALC1220 should be at the level of a decent discrete sound card, according the manufacturers at least. This is reflected by the results in our audio quality test: motherboards with a good ALC1220 implementation achieve a dynamic range that is 11 dB(A) higher than the best scores of an ALC1150 implementation.

The ASUS Republic of Gamers motherboards come with a digital audio codec from ESS, which is responsible for stereo sound while offering even better audio quality than the audio codecs from Realtek. The higher positioned motherboards also come with a headphone amplifier.

The optical TOSLINK output is pretty much universally supported: only the MSI Z270M Mortar does not feature it. DTS Connect is quite rare however. This feature is able to convert 5.1 sound from other sources in addition to 'native DTS' movie sound to an optical S/PDIF signal.

The ASRock Z270M Extreme4 and ASUS Strix Z270G Gaming offer the most functionality. The ASUS also offers an ES9023A for stereo sound and two headphone amplifiers, in addition to the good ALC1220 audio codec, while the ASRock has 'only' one amplifier, in addition to DTS Connect. The Gigabyte and MSI don't offer as many features, as they feature the older Realtek ALC892. The Gigabyte does come with a TOSLINK output though, while the MSI lacks it.

Motherboard Audio codec Amplifier TOSLINK (S/PDIF) DTS Connect
ASRock Z270M Extreme4 Realtek ALC1220 Ti Ne5532 Yes Yes
ASUS Strix Z270G Gaming Realtek ALC1220 +
Ti OPA1688 +
Ti RC4580
Yes -
Gigabyte Z270M-D3H Realtek ALC892 - Yes -
MSI Z270M Mortar Realtek ALC892 - - -

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