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Z270, H270, Q270, Q250, B250 - What is the Difference?

Written on January 5, 2017 by Matt Bach
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Table of Contents:
  1. Introduction
  2. Consumer Chipsets (Z270 & H270)
  3. Business Chipsets (Q270, Q250, B250)
  4. Conclusion

Introduction

Alongside the new Kaby Lake CPUs (Core i3/i5/i7 7xxx), Intel has also released a slew of new motherboard chipsets. While there are not a ton of changes compared to the previous generation, there are still a number of key differences that may impact your search for the proper motherboard. If you are more interested in how these chipsets compare to the previous ones, we suggest viewing our Z270 vs Z170: What is the difference? article. Similarly, if you want to know how the new Kaby Lake CPUs perform, we have various articles focusing on a number of professional applications that you may be interested in:

Consumer Chipsets (Z270 & H270)

Specifications Z270 H270
Processor Support Kaby Lake/Skylake LGA 1151
CPU Overclocking Yes No
Processor PCI-E Configuration 1x16 or 2x8 or 1x8+2x4 1x16
Chipset PCI-E Lanes (Gen)* 24 (3.0) 20 (3.0)
Maximum HSIO Lanes** 30 30
Max PCI-E Storage (x4 M.2 or x2 SATA Express) 3 2
Independent Display Ports/Pipes 3/3 3/3
Mem/DIMMs Per Channel 2/2 2/2
USB Total (USB 3.0) 14 (10) 14 (8)
Total SATA 6Gb/s 6 6
Features Z270 H270
Intel Smart Sound Technology Yes Yes
Intel Optane Technology Yes Yes
Intel Rapid Storage Technology Yes Yes
Intel Smart Response Technology Yes No
Intel vPro Technology No No
Intel SIPP No No

*In addition to the 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes from the CPU
**This represents roughly how many PCI-E devices (LAN, USB, Thunderbolt, etc.) are able to use the available chipset PCI-E lanes

While there are a number of differences between the two consumer chipsets, the first and most commonly known difference is that the Z270 chipset fully supports CPU overclocking, while the H270 does not. Some motherboard manufacturers will likely allow some overclocking capability with H270, but full overclocking (including core multiplier, BCLK, and voltage) should be limited to Z270.  

The second major difference is in regards to how the CPU PCI-E lanes can be used. Of the 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes that are available from all Kaby Lake and Skylake CPUs, Z270 allows you to use them either as one full x16 lane, two x8 lanes, or one x8 and two x4 lanes. The primary use of this feature is to allow for the use of multiple video cards in SLI or Crossfire, but it can also be used to allow for a higher number of other PCI-E add-on cards as well.

The chipset lanes are a bit different: while a few may be used for add-on devices, they are mostly there for additional features the manufacturer has built into the motherboard that are not native to the chipset like WiFi, more USB ports, additional LAN ports, and the new M.2 or U.2 storage drives. The number of lanes available changes based on the chipset with Z270 having 24 PCI-E 3.0 lanes whereas H270 has 20 PCI-E 3.0 lanes. The biggest impact of having fewer lanes is that there is less opportunity for manufacturers to add additional features to the board, although another factor is the number of x4 M.2 devices that can be used on the chipset: Z270 can support 3 such devices while H270 can only support 2.

As far as connectivity goes, Z270 and H270 can both support 6 SATA drives and have the same total number of USB ports (14) - although Z270 can have two more USB 3.0 ports than H270 (10 versus 8). Regarding additional feature sets, both support Smart Sound Technology, Rapid Storage Technology, although only Z270 supports Smart Response Technology (otherwise known as SSD Caching). For business-based customers who need the upgrade stability and security features of vPro and SIPP, it is worth noting that neither of these chipsets support this feature.

Business Chipsets (Q270, Q250, B250)

Specifications Q270 Q250 B250
Processor Support Kaby Lake/Skylake LGA 1151
CPU Overclocking No No No
Processor PCI-E Configuration 1x16 or 2x8 or 1x8+2x4 1x16
Chipset PCI-E Lanes (Gen)* 24 (3.0) 14 (3.0) 12 (3.0)
Max PCI-E Storage (x4 M.2 or x2 SATA Express) 3 1 1
Independent Display Ports/Pipes 3/3 3/3 3/3
USB Total (USB 3.0) 14 (10) 14 (8) 12 (6)
Total SATA 6Gb/s 6 6 6
Maximum HSIO Lanes** 30 27 25
Features Q270 Q250 B250
Intel Optane Technology Yes Yes Yes
Intel Rapid Storage Technology Yes Yes Yes
Intel Smart Response Technology Yes No No
Intel vPro Technology Yes No No
Intel SIPP Yes Yes No

*In addition to the 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes from the CPU
**This represents roughly how many PCI-E devices (LAN, USB, Thunderbolt, etc.) are able to use the available chipset PCI-E lanes

Of the three business-class chipsets, Q270 is the only one that has the ability to split up the PCI-E lanes from the CPU two or three ways. In addition to the more flexible CPU PCI-E lane configurations, Q270 also has a much higher number of PCI-E lanes available via the chipset. Where Q270 has 24 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, Q250 has only 14 PCI-E 3.0 lanes and B250 has just 12 PCI-E 3.0 lanes. This small number of lanes means that Q250 and especially B250 motherboards will likely lack features like M.2, WiFi, or extra USB ports provided through third party controllers.

As far as connectivity goes, all three chipsets can support 6 SATA drives and have the nearly the same total number of USB ports (14 for Q270/Q250, 12 for B250). For the additional feature sets, only the Q270 chipset supports Smart Response Technology and vPro although both Q270 and Q250 support SIPP.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that the chipset is only one of the many factors you should take into consideration when choosing a motherboard. If there is a specific feature you need like CPU overclocking or M.2 support, knowing what each chipset offers gives you a great starting place. But even from there, you still have to sort through the large number of motherboards that use that chipset. If you don't find a motherboard that fits your needs in terms of rear or internal ports, layout, or other functionality, you may even need to look at a different chipset instead. 

For example, while the H270 chipset may sound like the ideal choice for the majority of our customers, we have found that the Z270 motherboards are often a better fit even if a customer doesn't need the extra features present in the Z270 chipset. The main reason is that motherboard manufactures tend to add more additional ports, headers, and features on their Z270 motherboards since that is what is considered the "premium" chipset. Often times, just a couple of additional ports can make the difference between a motherboard working for a customer out of the box or needing to use add-on PCI-E cards to get the wanted functionality.

In general, we tend to recommend the Z270 chipset for users who want to be sure they are getting all the features they may possibly need. However, H270 can be great in small form factor systems (such as our Echo systems) since things like additional PCI-E lanes are not a big deal for mini-ITX motherboards that have only a single PCI-E slot.

Tags: Kaby Lake, Chipset, Z270, H270, Q270, Q250, B250
Andy

B250 has chipset PCI-E 3.0 (Gen3). Proof: https://ark.intel.com/products...

Posted on 2017-01-22 13:34:47
Ian

The Z270 and H270 chipsets also support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10.

Posted on 2017-04-07 12:30:46
Daniel Muñoz de Anda

So, in order of best to worst is: Z270, H270, Q270, Q250 and B250?

Posted on 2017-07-03 03:19:56