Early in this review I spoke of a winning formula and how when you find that magical combination you tend to stick with it. This can be something subtle like where to place the benchtop controls or PCI Express slot layout to more encompassing things like taking a snapshot of a previous board and tweaking a few things. I have looked at several EVGA motherboards and they all have a similar feel to the point you know that this is an EVGA product because of the formula used to create the motherboard.
In this review we looked at the EVGA Z170 Classified. This is their top of the line motherboard for the Skylake line of processors and supports high-end features like LN2 overclocking and 4-way SLI along with less interesting tasks like Web Surfing, Podcasting, Gaming, Livestreaming and Custom PC Builds.
Overall the motherboard performed as you would expect with solid performance and surprisingly consistent scores in both our synthetic and real world benchmarks. As was mentioned before the Z170 Classified is one of the few Skylake motherboards to support 4-way SLI with the help of an onboard PLX switch. The PLX takes the 16x Lanes of PCI Express from the processor and splits them to give you 8x lanes of bandwidth across all five video card slots. According to the Mutli GPU Index the board is still optimized for 3-way card operation but will support up to 5 cards assuming they all had single slot coolers.
The UEFI layout is quite good and displays exactly what you need to see. This is an important feature given that many manufacturers tend to overcomplicate the interface in an attempt to show "everything" or do the opposite and hide everything in a list of complex menus. The EVGA UEFI is very straight forward showing you the current state of your system while giving you appropriate menus to make adjustments. Speaking of adjustments, for those worried about flashing the BIOS image you are in luck. Triple BIOS is a standard feature to safeguard against BIOS failure along with the ability to flash the image directly from the UEFI. Simply put the new image on a flash drive, find it using the flashing tool and away you go.
When it comes to overclocking we found the Z170 Classified to be very responsive allowing the 6600K to hit 4.78Ghz with a combination of multiplier and BLCK adjustments. The auto settings also overclocked the memory controller resulting in a fast and stable overclock.
As some of you may have noticed I still test motherboards using Windows 7 and there is a well known issue when running Win 7 on a Z170 motherboard and how USB 3.0 is handled (or not supported) doing the initial install. You can solve this by enabling the Win7 Install mode in the UEFI and installing the USB 3.0 drivers at the desktop. (or you can slipstream them into your install media). While attempting to get Windows 7 installed I ran into two rather troubling issues. The first was a consistent BSOD if the ASMedia controller was left enabled in the UEFI. Disabling this cured the BSOD. The second was a little more cryptic and was related to the USB 3.0 driver on the driver disk. Seems EVGA included the workstation version of the driver instead of the desktop and would corrupt the OS (and BIOS a few times) My solution was to use the USB drivers from my MSI motherboard but you could download them directly from Intel. After that the system was solid and ran like a champ.
EVGA claims the Z170 Classified runs great on Win 8 and Win 10 and given their stance on being progressive this is likely their target market especially given the free Win 10 upgrade promotion during the Z170 launch.
Black Color Scheme
PCI Express Disable Switches
Onboard Voltage Test Points
Oversized VRM Heatsink
Excellent UEFI Menus
Flexible PCI Express Layout
4-Way SLI Support
I really miss the red accents
USB keyboard not ideal for BCLK overclocking
Issues getting Windows 7 installed