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  1. #1
    ROG Guru: Green Belt Array
    Join Date
    Oct 2013

    HardOCP: Intel Z170 Chipset Summary


    Intel’s 6th generation Skylake Core i5 and i7 CPUs wouldn’t be complete without a new chipset to go along with those. Last week Intel introduced its Z170 Express chipset and LGA 1151 socket. In this case the chipset is a necessity given the changes to Skylake’s design architecture. Z170 isn’t by itself a massive improvement over the recent Z97 Express chipset. There are some important platform and design changes, but many of these exist at the motherboard level. I will get to that shortly.

    The biggest change over last generation is DDR4 memory support. Z170 finally brings DDR4 to the mainstream platform and no longer relegates the technology to the expensive and high end X99 platform. The Z170 chipset was long rumored to support both DDR3 and DDR4. This is actually true but most of you won’t be able to utilize your old RAM along with a shiny new Z170 Express based motherboard and Skylake CPU. Support for DDR3 is limited to low voltage DDR3L modules with a maximum safe voltage of 1.35v. We have been told that some motherboard manufactures may at some point introduce specialty models which may circumvent this limitation but at this time we know of no specific models from any vendor. DDR3L isn’t really being embraced by the major motherboard vendors either so you will likely only see DDR3L support in small form factor or mobile applications for the most part.

    Improvements over Z97

    Aside from DDR4 support, the most exciting improvement to Z170 Express is an increased number of PCIe lanes. Z170 now supports a total of 20 PCI-Express lanes at the PCH in conjunction with the CPU’s 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes for a platform total of 36. Last generation’s Z97 Express chipset coupled with Devil’s Canyon or Haswell CPUs only allowed for 24 lanes. All of these from the PCH were PCIe 2.0 compliant. In contrast all Z170’s PCI-Express lanes are Generation 3.0 compliant while retaining backwards compatibility with PCIe 2.0 and 1.0 specifications. Manufacturers will of course have a great deal of flexibility concerning how these are allocated. There will be a lot of additional integrated devices on Z170 motherboards so not all of those PCIe lanes will be free for use by the user via expansion cards. So keep this in mind.
    Last edited by 01 Wolverine; 08-13-2015 at 05:34 PM.

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