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Z270 vs Z170: What is the Difference?

Written on January 5, 2017 by Matt Bach


Alongside the new Kaby Lake CPUs (Core i3/i5/i7 7xxx), Intel has also released a number of new motherboard chipsets. While there are not many exciting changes, we wanted to cover the improvements made to the high-end Z270 chipset compared to the previous Z170 chipset. If you are more interested in how the Z270 chipset compares to the H270, Q270, Q250 or B250 chipset, we suggest viewing our Z270, H270, Q270, Q250, B250 - What is the Difference? article. Similarly, if you want to know how the new Kaby Lake CPUs themselves perform, we have various articles focusing on a number of professional applications that may interest you:

Z270 vs Z170 Chipset Specifications

There are not a large number of differences between Z270 and Z170, but to help make it clear we have marked the few differences with red in the chart below:

   Z270 Z170
Processor Support Kaby Lake/Skylake (LGA 1151) Kaby Lake/Skylake (LGA 1151)
(Kaby Lake requires a BIOS update)
Graphics Support 1x16 or 2x8 or 1x8+2x4 1x16 or 2x8 or 1x8+2x4
DRAM Support DDR4 DDR4
Mem/DIMMs Per Channel 2/2 2/2
DMI Version 3.0 3.0
Intel Rapid Storage Technology Yes Yes
Intel Smart Response Technology Yes Yes
USB Total (USB 3.0) 14(10) 14(10)
Total SATA 6Gb/s 6 6
Additional PCI-E lanes* 24x PCI-E 3.0 20x PCI-E 3.0
Independent Display Support 3 3
CPU Overclocking Yes Yes
Max Intel RST for PCI-E Storage ports
(x4 M.2 or x2 SATA Express)
3 3
Intel Optane Technology Yes No

*In addition to the 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes from the CPU

From a chipset perspective, there is not a whole lot to get excited about. Both Z270 and Z170 should support the same CPUs, although Z270 does support four more PCI-E 3.0 lanes through the chipset. This may not sound like much, but a number of Z170 boards have issues of "if you use X port, it disables Y port". Four more PCI-E lanes should actually go a long way towards curbing this and also opens the door to multiple native M.2 slots. Until recently M.2 has seen relatively light adoption, but the new Samsung 960 EVO and Pro drives are much faster than standard SATA SSDs and are actually fairly cost competitive. We expect to start selling much higher numbers of M.2 drive in the near future so the possibility of multiple M.2 slots on a Z270 motherboard is very attractive.

The only other listed change of note is support for Intel Optane Technology. While you should be able to use an Optane drive as normal storage in Z170 (or H170, X99, and any other modern chipset for that matter), this is specifically referring to being able to use an Optane drive as a temporary cache that is supposed to improve file access times. This is similar to using a small SATA SSD to improve the read performance of a platter drive via caching with Intel Smart Response Technology - only this uses the much faster Optane drives that connect via PCI-E instead of SATA.

Both chipsets support CPU overclocking and Z270 has not received an increase in the number of native USB or SATA ports. As far as their additional feature sets, both Z270 and Z170 support Rapid Storage Technology and Smart Response Technology (otherwise known as SSD Caching).


Overall, the changes in Z270 are quite minor. The extra PCI-E lanes are nice and while the support for Intel Optane has the potential to be significant for some users we have not yet seen any real-world testing done by 3rd parties to see exactly when it will be useful.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that the launch of a new chipset also gives motherboard manufacturers like Asus, Gigabyte, EVGA, ASRock, and others the chance to make other improvements to their current product line. So while Z270 by itself isn't terribly exciting, we have already noticed some great improvements on actual Z270 motherboards such as increased adoption of Thunderbolt 3 (which hopefully will help resolve the driver and firmware issues Thunderbolt currently has on PC), reinforced PCI-E slots, and multiple M.2 slots. This still is not anything game changing and unlikely to warrant an upgrade from Z170 to Z270 on its own, but Z270 does still provide some small - but welcome - improvements so there is little reason not to use it if you are in the market for a new system.

Tags: Skylake, Kaby Lake, Z170, Z270

Thank you for this helpful comparison! I am building a custom rig, and already purchased a Z170 mobo without realizing Z270 was on the way so soon. It sounds like it might not be worth returning it, though, if the changes are so minimal.

Posted on 2017-01-07 17:00:05
Jef Belmans

Well, the new intel optane memory proves to be MUCH faster
So if you play games like bf1 and gta V and want your levels to load quick, the Z270 surely is a step ahead
For the rest, there's not a big difference

Posted on 2017-01-07 23:07:06

Oh, really? I may have to take a look to see if a Z270 version of my mobo (the Gigabyte Z170X-Designare) is on the way... that's sort of what I did with my CPU; I was going to get the i7 6700k, but decided to just wait a couple weeks and get the i7 7700k instead when it came out this week. It's a minor upgrade, but with this being a totally new rig, I figure why not? Thank you for the tip.

Posted on 2017-01-08 00:16:53
Jef Belmans

You're welcome! I also think the I7-7700k is more stable with a Z270 mobo then with a Z170

Posted on 2017-01-08 00:20:12

No it is not...Z170 supports Many Lake the same way Z270 does...There is no difference between the chipset aside from Optane and 4 extra PCI-E lanes...Z170 supports SLI & M.2 all in one system with 20 lanes so the extra 4 are only worth it if your going to use two or possibly more M.2 drives...It's not worth doing though as you could buy a single 960 EVO which is as fast as 4 regular SSDs...Z270 really brings nothing exciting or worthwhile aside from Optane.

Posted on 2017-01-17 22:00:18
Poppy Puppy

No, it's not faster than 4 regular SSD's, it's faster than ALL regular SSD's.
I think what you meant to say is that it is 4 times faster than a regular SSD. Not quite the same thing.

Posted on 2017-02-17 20:51:10

What I meant was 4 regular SSDs in a RAID configuration...The Samsung 960 M.2 SSDs are about the speed of 4 regular 2.5 inch SSDs which max out at about 550mb read/write

Posted on 2017-02-17 20:56:49

Looking at the Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7, it has Dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2. I would like to run 2x Samsung 960 pro's in RAID 0. Not really sure how the maths works out. Is it 4 channels per drive, ( 20 channels ) - 4 - 4 = 12 left? I guess my 1080 Ti will use a few channels? Is 2x M.2 drives not possible in a Z170?

Posted on 2017-05-25 15:25:38

Don't do it...it will be a waste of your money...people have put the 960 Pros in RAId and saw next to no value in it because the bandwidth for such high read/writes isn't there yet....if you were thinking of doing 2 256gb Pros in RAID-0, just get the 512gb 960 Pro...there are Z170 boards that have 2 m.@ slots but it became more prevalent with Z270....you could try to RAID slightly slower and cheaper NVME drives and see if you could push the barrier that way...but you won't see any real gains doing 2 960 Pros because they are just so damn fast that they can saturate the available bandwidth the chipset provides....look up 960 pro RAID on youtube and judge for yourself.

I think if you want to do a NVME RAID, you may be better off doing two 512gb 960 EVO drives....you'll save money and probably get more of a return on the benchmarks.

Posted on 2017-05-26 00:31:30

thx, u might be right. I was looking at 950 raid 0 benchmarks previously, and that is significant, but the 960s are a lot faster. Near the limit as u say. I guess I should be happy going from a traditional SATA SSD, which seemed blinding a few years ago, to a single 960 pro. I do wonder though, if there could be a major interface improvement around the corner, since I guess 960s are already long in the tooth.

Posted on 2017-05-26 08:03:08

I think the next major chipset refresh will bring a lot more bandwidth for sure...the Z270 didn't bring much to the table.

Posted on 2017-05-26 10:10:32
Dave Brown

Isn't it true that with Optane you don't really see a difference with SSD to much, but if you have a HDD It will be more pronounced in speed?

Posted on 2017-09-08 19:18:41

The SSD solution isn't that great...the actual Intel Optane product is but it costs $1500...even then, I don't think you would see the kinds of benefits you would expect on a home machine...in the server world, sure... personally, I'd just buy a Samsung 960 PRO 512gb or if you really need more high speed storage, buy 4 2.5 inch SSDs and RAID them...that could give you up to 2tb (512gb SSDs) and it would be as fast as a 960 PRO.

Posted on 2017-09-08 19:24:55

seeing that you've already bought a Z170 board, you have to make sure that it is shipped with the latest bios to work with a Kaby Lake processor as you're getting i7 7700k. if it's not the latest bios, you're gonna have to borrow someone's skylake processor just to upgrade the bios.

Posted on 2017-01-08 05:55:14

Oh goodness, thank you for saying something, ppapip! Gigabyte just released a huge wave of BIOS updates for its Z170 boards, and I assumed that included my Z170X-Designare. Turns out it did not! Considering this as well as Jef's comments, it looks like a return might be worth it after all... I am still doing some research, but I may exchange it for the Z270X Gaming 7, which looks to be quite comparable (and would actually run my CPU, once it arrives... kind of important). Thank you again! Glad I stumbled across this article.

Posted on 2017-01-08 15:06:27
Rob Yallop

The Z170X has been shipping with the F20 BIOS since at least August 2016 (that's when I got mine), so it can accept Kaby Lake without needing to upgrade the BIOS first.

Posted on 2017-03-02 23:59:50
William Clay

I currently have the Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7 and I couldn't be happier. I love the Gigabyte board. I am building a new rig for a friend will also be picking up a Gigabyte Z270 Gaming 7.

Posted on 2017-04-07 17:25:15

What drives are u running?

Posted on 2017-05-25 15:26:33
William Clay

I have a Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD as OS Drive and a 2TB Western Digital "Black" Performance drive for data as well as a 4TB HGST for backups and media.

Posted on 2017-05-25 15:46:55
Robert Jenkins

Optane isn't that big of a deal. linus benchmarked it and if ualready have an SSD don't bother.

Posted on 2017-05-14 21:27:07
Far left of right

no you won't need to borrow a cpu. Modern motherboards will be able to update bios with no cpu and/or ram installed. just plug the usb stick with the updated bios into the appropriate usb port and follow the manufacturers directions

Posted on 2017-01-18 16:53:17

Is the K worth the extra cost plus a heatsink/fan etc?

Posted on 2017-01-13 18:52:03
Jennifer Trudel


Posted on 2017-06-17 01:55:33

Well, hoping on Optane tech also implies that You would throw in quite some more money for the Optane-capable drives.
Othervise - there is no difference. :)

Posted on 2017-02-01 11:23:48
Lex Barringer

Are you sure about that?


I've tested both as well, as both stock and various overclocked settings. I prefer the 6700K if I had to go with either the 6700 or 7700 series CPUs. There is another two chip sets that Intel is working on after this that will make a difference for gaming and communications over the PCI-e bus line. However, those will be designed for PCI-e 4.0 standards.

The only thing I noticed that's different other than some extra PCI-e lanes available on the 7700K, in CAD / CAM applications it's only slightly faster in redrawing, 2 or 3 seconds faster for really big jobs but the same for small ones. Although, I prefer the X99 chip set for that kind of stuff. So, if you want to believe the hype and throw away money, be my guest.

Posted on 2017-01-09 10:58:58
Drew Parish

haha no it defiantly does not give much of anything, unless you buy the enterprise version of optane. these m.2 drives only show performance if you are running your system on a standard mechanical hard drive. if you run it with an SSD or other m.2 drive it becomes slower

Posted on 2017-12-19 15:37:15

You won't notice anything and you will likely pay extra for the latest model. Based on the article and unless the cost is less for the Z270, Z170 for now.

Posted on 2017-01-13 18:50:06
Harry Allen

'ntel Optane'

Posted on 2017-01-10 14:46:38

No major changes since the P67 Chipset. Still have a Sandy Bridge 2500k on an Asus P8P67 EVO 16GB DDR3 1600 with truly no large gaps in performance/features compared to the Z97 w/ core i5 4690K. All the readings since the Z97 still say no major changes on the Z170 and now with Z270 on its way, reports are no real changes...

Seems fair to say, anything as old as Z77 or newer is just as good a value.

Posted on 2017-01-11 21:05:43

What is new since P67? Lets see: DDR4 memory (with support for larger module sizes), NVMe drives, faster CPUs... those are just the biggest three off the top of my head. There are also more USB 3.0 ports on newer motherboards, along with the addition of USB 3.1 - not in the chipset itself yet, but it is on newer boards and didn't even exist in the P67 days.

It is true that each individual generation between P67 and Z270 wasn't a major leap ahead, but if you look at the sum total of the differences across those releases then it does add up :)

Edit: rephrased the third sentence to clarify what I meant.

Posted on 2017-01-12 17:08:58

You are correct but overall, the performance isn't that much better compared to Sandy days. Likely there would be performance gains if a machine were subject to long heavy duty video processing jobs etc. but for a solo desktop user and having 4k videos running from a machine via HDMI to a 50" TV and watching other 4k videos...there isn't much difference at that level. If the newer vs. the older were put to a gamet of stress test's I'm sure the graphs are going to show differences but for a typical user, they won't really notice any changes. P.S. the board I have does have USB 3.0

Posted on 2017-01-12 17:43:30

Yeah, basic computer usage (internet, videos, music, word processing, etc) doesn't need a lot of horsepower. For a lot of that, a smart phone or Chromebook will even do the trick. That is why lower-end desktops and laptops aren't selling in as large of quantities as they used to: folks don't need to upgrade as often, and some folks are using other computing devices to supplement or replace full-blown computers.

Our focus here at Puget Systems is on workstations, though - for content creation, engineering, and scientific applications in particular. In those type of programs there is a much bigger impact from having modern hardware. For example, going from the Core i5 2500K you have to a Core i7 7700K could as much as double performance in some applications:


Posted on 2017-01-12 18:07:56

To add insult, I've used benchmark data for years to form hardware groups in desktop machines and find that the graphs they produce from product to product seem fair to use in choosing hardware but in the real world and unless a machine is to be used at stressed out levels most of the time, those graphs are best considered vs. the actual performance gain/outcome among hardware.

Memory for example is one sample where 1600 to 2400 speeds won't show much change vs. simply doubling from 4GB to 8GB which will. And those who overclock CPU's, faster memory has less finesse. As you mentioned, add up all the little things and in the end, there is something to be said but it will cost more than likely most folks will put value in. I've built very fast machines and found unless I'm at the races, not really worth the extra money but, building an inexpensive system without combining hardware to work with each other is a waste vs. a computer.

Once the software/applications folks design their products to utilize all cores in the many CPU's then, we will see some speedy changes but from what I have read so far, most apps/software aren't designed for full x64 and complete use of 8 cores for example. There's so much to take into consideration when spending large on each piece of hardware and then, for example, a favorite application won't recognize that. Anyway, since the Z and H Intel chip sets, machines rarely have the issues they did in prior builds. One sourced told me CPU speeds have reached their best speeds and higher speeds won't prevail as much as on chip memory and something else I don't recall. After putting some of that into mind, I recommend buying the latest but not the top of the line/bells etc. Mostly, a few extra ports, slots or fan headers is all that one gains on a motherboard when selecting the higher end vs. basic model. Core i5 vs. Core i7 also has been my recommendations when considering an extra $100+.

Thanks for the input...I'd agree it all depends on where the machine is going to work.

Posted on 2017-01-13 18:45:55


Posted on 2017-01-24 23:02:59

So what's better if I'm getting a new system and need to choose between Z170 or Z270 and i7-7700k or i7-6700k. I want to play games do editing and all the stuff. What should I buy? Im thinking of MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon + i7-7700k. Is the extra £30-$40 worth it than getting Z170 with 6700k?

Posted on 2017-01-28 11:19:48

I have a new system and need to choose between Z170 or Z270 and i7-7700k or i7-6700k. I want to play games do editing and all the stuff. What should I buy? Im thinking of MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon + i7-7700k. Is the extra £30-$40 worth it than getting Z170 with 6700k?

Posted on 2017-01-28 11:17:28
Timothy Allen

Exactly what I needed to know. Im broke and upgraded from a 7870k APU to an i7 6700k and RX480 8GB and I got my 6700k to 4.6ghz on stock volt with a Hyper D92 budget cooler with safe temps... I use a budget board ASRock z170m Pro 4s micro ATX and I keep asking myself could I get to 4.7 or even 5ghz with safe temps if I buy a better motherboard, specifically z270 but it doesnt sound like Id benefit from z270 as much as I would just a higher end board. Thanks for the comparison

Posted on 2017-01-29 17:05:11

You won't get 5ghz with z270...It doesn't overclock any different than z170... Whatever you achieved on your existing setup is what you'll get on the z270...The chipset offers 4 more PCI-E lanes...Other than that it's the exact same as Z170...If your looking to increase speeds, your better off buying a better CPU cooler.

Posted on 2017-02-18 17:07:54
Timothy Allen

I was told I can probably get more stable temps with a higher end z170 orz270 board. As I use a 60 dollar ASrock matx pro4s board

Posted on 2017-02-18 17:12:24
Timothy Allen

As in might get up to 4.7-4.8

Posted on 2017-02-18 17:12:41

If you've already hit 4.6ghz on air cooling, you most likely won't get higher on a different board...Sure, it's possible but I doubt you'll see any more... Skylake/Kaby Lake get very hot under stress...If you want higher clock speeds, the best way would be to get a all in one water cooling setup like the Corsair H115i...When I built my system, my original motherboard went defective after 3 weeks and I had bought a $250 board..When I went to get it replaced, it was sold out...I opted for a cheaper $120 board...My overclocks and stability are exactly the same on the cheaper board...No difference at all.

Posted on 2017-02-18 17:37:42
Adrian Gomez

Hello! I use my PC for doing videos, I use Adobe CC, lately some After Effects with+100 layers
also some low end gaming, but not worried about it.
I am upgrading from a Core 2 Quad q8300 / P5QEPU 8GB DDR2
Big leap right? so I am thinking between i7's 6700/6700k/7700/7700k
about motherboards I am unsure what I would need for it. I have seen many rigs with z170-a work just Fine, I don't want to spend a lot but I don't want my PC to become old so soon, as you can see I keep my PCs running for a long time.
Is there any configuration you recommend?

Posted on 2017-02-04 22:34:06
Parthibaraj Rajasekar

all I want to know is whether z270 will support coffee lake-S or not? who can answer this?

Posted on 2017-02-05 16:46:27

Hasn't been announced yet, but based on Intel's previous track record, I would say no. Coffee Lake will likely use a completely new socket/new chipset, so that means a new motherboard.

Posted on 2017-02-06 03:19:11

are z170 rams compatible with z270's?

Posted on 2017-02-07 18:11:21

Both chipsets use ddr4 memory. The new processors that just came out in the Kaby Lake generation (alongside z270) are rated for up to 2400MHz, while the previous generation was rated for 2133MHz. The older / slower memory will work fine with the newer chipset and processors, though.

Posted on 2017-02-07 19:05:42

can asus z270f support 2X1080 SLI with 7600k along with 32GB 3200Mhz Ram?

Posted on 2017-04-04 08:34:37

We don't use that specific motherboard here at Puget Systems, but Asus' specs page does claim 2-way SLI support - so two GTX 1080 should be fine. They also list 3200MHz memory as supported, but we have found that memory speed makes a pretty small difference in overall performance and that higher speed memory has a much higher failure rate as well. Because of that, we strongly recommend (and only carry) memory speeds which Intel rates their CPUs for. Currently that means 2133 and 2400MHz.

Posted on 2017-04-04 15:36:11

so i5 7600k wont bottleneck the 2 x 1080SLI along with 32 GB DDR4 3200 MHZ memory

Posted on 2017-04-04 15:48:24

That depends more on what you are doing with the computer. Normally a CPU isn't directly going to bottleneck video cards, but if you are playing games at a low resolution then the CPU may be the limiting factor well before the video cards reach their full potential. I would generally not recommend SLI for gaming these days, as it is often overkill. A single high-end card will usually suffice, unless you are running multiple high resolution (1440p or 4K) monitors in surround view.

Posted on 2017-04-04 15:55:19

yes its only for 4k gaming? will it work on that easily without bottleneck?can you suggest few 4k monitors compatible for this build?

Posted on 2017-04-04 16:29:13

For 4K, I would strongly consider a single GTX 1080 Ti instead of dual 1080s. That will cost a lot less, and gives you more video memory (which may help with future games). It also leaves open the option to add a second 1080 Ti as an upgrade in the future, rather than being 'stuck' with two cards already and having to take them out and replace both if you ever want to upgrade.

If you did go with dual 1080s, though, it should work fine - and will give you better performance than a single 1080 Ti (except in games which don't benefit from SLI, which does happen sometimes). And there shouldn't be any issue with needing a 'compatible' monitor: any 4K monitor or even TV ought to work, since the 1080 cards have both HDMI and DisplayPort outputs.

Posted on 2017-04-04 16:51:27

will a 60HZ 4k 1MS monitor be okay for this build? can i5 7600k handle the 1080Ti , wont it bottleneck the CPU?

Posted on 2017-04-04 17:33:25

60Hz is normal, and 1ms response time is good for gaming (though different companies measure response times differently... but anything claiming 1ms should be okay). At a high resolution like 4K the Core i5 processor should not be a bottleneck, especially not one as fast as the 7600K with its 3.8GHz base clock speed.

Posted on 2017-04-04 17:52:48

Thanks for de article. So helpfull

Posted on 2017-07-31 13:05:10
Magnus Thunderson

2 m.2 slots with 2 960 evo in raid zero is not small thing as your C drive

Posted on 2017-12-27 08:04:12
Ray Pearman

Thanks for the guidance about the chipset Z170 and Z270. Acutally,I have bought a motherboard for an Intel i5 6600k processor of chipset Z170. What I love about Intel i5 6600k is that you can overclock it and generally used for the gaming experience. If you want to buy the product, then you can refer to this link: https://www.motherboardgeek...

Posted on 2018-07-31 10:14:23

Still good mobos for low to mid end PCs. Now-a-days, Core i9 and New AMD are used for gaming. The best processor for me is Intel Core i9 9900k. and for them you can look motherboards from here: https://canonballblog.com/best-gaming-motherboard-for-i9/

Posted on 2020-10-14 20:29:00