Want to throw a whole lot of money at something that’s probably not going to improve your life in any appreciable way? Get into street racing! Or maybe buy a yacht. Or, in my case, put together a performance gaming PC. If you’re going to start an expensive hobby, however, you’ll need a foundation to build off. The street racer needs their car to mod, a carpenter needs his hammer, the yacht owner needs…whatever they need, a sail perhaps. And the PC gamer needs a motherboard.
In this case, I was lucky to give ASUS’ ROG STRIX Z270H GAMING Motherboard a proper workout, one of the company’s moderate options in their Z270 ATX lineup.
First off, let’s get the bad stuff about this board out of the way. Perhaps significantly to some, the Z270H doesn’t have onboard WiFi. It’s not the end of the world as we’re talking about a desktop PC, particularly given the ready availability of USB and expansion card-based options, but it’s still a nice feature that’s not present here. If onboard WiFi is a make-or-break feature for you, you might want to consider the Z270E instead or a cheaper non-enthusiast ATX motherboard, which replaces two of the H’s USB ports with a WiFi antenna. You also don’t get any Thunderbolt 3.0 connectors either, so you’ll have to invest in a separate ASUS ThunderboltEX 3 card for the privilege.
The edgy design of the Z270H actually is finger-cutting sharp; there’s no shortage of fine corners on this thing ready to bite, which can be a literal pain while you’re installing the board and plugging in connections from the PSU. Aside from that, the only real complaint is there aren’t too many bells and whistles here, so don’t expect fancy RGB lighting or whatever; if that sort of thing is something you’re after, you may want to consider an aftermarket lighting option for immediate effect. or the ROG STRIX Z270E GAMING variant.
Enough of the bad stuff, so let’s get to the fun part: putting this thing into a case and getting a working PC! I bought a Corsair 760T as a home for the Z270H and all its associated components. It’s a roomy, full-tower case with a lovely futuristic aesthetic and handy easy-access sides that makes mucking about with the system’s internals a snap without having to tear the whole thing down between upgrades.
I also grabbed a Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO CPU cooler; a standard workhorse that you’ll see on all kinds of builds, and for good reason, since it keeps your chip nice and cool. The brain of the machine would consist of my new Intel Core i7-7700K and my old TITAN X Pascal along with 16GB of Vengeance DDR4-2400 RAM from Corsair, while the guts featured around 8TB of storage spread out between three hard drives and two SSDs. Did I mention I don’t like going small?
Installation wasn’t exactly a “snap”, even for this seasoned gamer. I’ll fully admit that – in the past – I usually pay someone to handle all this nonsense (more out of fear of my own klutziness rather than any sort of snobbish reluctance to do the work myself), so much of this experience was new. In particular, installing the CPU was a little intense, since I knew that dropping the chip would likely lead to some bent pins and plenty of tears; that Hyper 212 EVO cooler is somewhat known for being a bear to get onto the CPU as well, but YouTube came to the rescue here.
This was also the first time that I’d attached the CPU to the case itself. Thankfully, the 760T has enough room to work with that this wasn’t a huge issue. Although I wouldn’t rule out paying someone else to do the job again, if need be.
Once everything was together and I’d earned a pounding headache for my trouble, I tried to power the thing on and…no dice. Whoops. One fitful night’s sleep later and I was able to get everything into working order in the morning, since it turns out I hadn’t quite slotted in the RAM correctly. Correcting this was a matter of opening the rig up, reseating the RAM, and closing it again. Easy as pie. With all of that done, I had quite the machine.
The Z270H’s BIOS is easy to work with, as I’ve come to expect from using ASUS products in the past, and it was a piece of cake to get the system booting off one of my SSDs, running the RAM at the proper timings and so on. There are some easy-to-use auto-overclocking options available that I admit I haven’t messed with too much; word on the street is that these tend to be a little aggressive and can lead to system instability, something I wasn’t interested in signing up for after finally getting the PC up and running.
As for performance, that’s naturally going to vary based on the CPU, GPU, RAM and so on that you plop onto the thing; a nice motherboard will keep you from losing performance, but it’s not going to turn your entry-level Core i3 into a powerhouse either. I’m using gaming-oriented parts (for what it’s worth) so I’m getting higher framerates for my troubles; that’s just how these things work.
In terms of system stability I haven’t encountered any issues, which has come as a bit of a surprise since I would have swore that my fumbling about during construction would have scratched something or shorted something else; fortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Really, the best thing I can say about the Z270H when it comes to performance is that I’ve got room to grow in the future. There’s a second PCI-Express slot for an SLI configuration, for instance, and room for an M.2 drive if I’m interested in that sort of speedy storage.
All things considered, it’s easy to recommend the ASUS ROG STRIX Z270H GAMING Motherboard simply because it hasn’t given me any problems during and after installation! Again, the biggest part of your PC’s performance is going to come from what you install rather than the board itself, but it’s nice that you can pick up a board with all the slots and expansion capacity you’ll need for around $170.
It also doesn’t look that bad, either. If you want fancy bells and whistles like RGB lighting, tons of M.2 slots or such, you might want to consider stepping up to one of ASUS’ higher-end boards like the ROG STRIX Z270E GAMING or anything else in the MAXIMUS series. But for the money spent, the Z270H does everything reasonably if you’re more interested in actually playing games then looking at your case.