Z170 vs Z270: Everything You Need To Know

Austin
| Last Updated: April 13, 2021

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Are you having trouble choosing between Z170 and Z270 motherboards?

You are not alone, and their striking similarity doesn't make things any easier. This article makes a direct comparison between the Z170 and Z270 to help you understand the differences and select the best one for your build. 

We have found that one is a versatile chipset suitable for users with a generous budget, and the other is a more affordable chipset that still offers the most important advanced features and capabilities.

Let's get started.

Z170 vs Z270

Z170

Z270

Pros

Pros

More affordable for users on a limited budget

Supports both Kaby Lake and SkyLake processors

Offers most features of Z270 chipsets

Has four extra PCI-E lanes

Faster and more reliable than its predecessors

Compatible with 5th, 6th, and 7th generation CPUs

Cons

Cons

Only supports SkyLake processors

More expensive than previous chipsets

Lacks Intel’s Optane Technology


Best For

Best For

Z170 motherboards are ideal for CPUs that run common applications and light gaming.

Z270 motherboards are ideal for CPUs that run heavy apps and workloads.

A Z170 chipset is best suited for users looking for an advanced motherboard on a budget.

A Z270 chipset is best suited for users looking for an advanced motherboard regardless of the price.

What is Z170?

Intel Z170 is a chipset used on your device's motherboard, used as a socket to run sixth-generation Intel i7 processors.

The chipset, formerly known as SkyLake, was released during the third quarter of 2015.

It is designed to operate on specific intel processors and work with new models via firmware updates.

Motherboard manufacturers indicate the type of chipset used on the board so you can get a basic understanding of its capabilities.

The vertical segment of the chipset is designed to work on 6th generation desktops. It comes as an architecture of two chips: a southbridge chip and a northbridge chip.

Z170 controls communication between your device's main components attached to the motherboard like peripherals, CPU, graphics processing unit, and memory.

It determines the type of models and speeds of your CPU that you can install on the board.

The chip also dictates the amount and type of RAM you can install, and governs user options regarding USB ports, graphic cards, and sound cards.

The Z170 platform comes with integrated graphics and the ability to add GPU expansion cards to your board.

It requires the latest BIOS update to run Intel's 7000 series processors. However, users are advised not to attempt the update without the help of a professional - this could cause severe consequences on your device's system.

Some features of Z170 motherboards include LGA 1151 socket, DDR4 DRAM support, twin-DIMM per channel, DMI version 3.0, bus speed (8 GT/s), 22-nanometer lithography, 14 USB compatibility, and overclocking capability.

What is Z270?

The Z270 chipset succeeded the Z170 model and was released by Intel during the first quarter of 2017.

Designed as an upgrade to the Z170 chipset, the Z270 has more CPU options than Z170 including core i3, i5, i7 processors, and four PCI-E 3.0 lanes.  

Although made to work on specific computers, the Z270 chipset has many similarities with its predecessor.

Formerly known as Kaby Lake, Z270 chipsets work on seventh-generation desktop processors.

Like Z170, Z270 chipsets come with integrated graphics and capabilities to add a GPU expansion card on your motherboard.

The Z270 platform supports Intel's Kaby Lake CPU, which comes with 14-nanometer microarchitecture. 

Some upgrades on the Z270 platform include increased PCI Express lanes support. While Z170 supports 20 lanes, Z270 supports 24 lanes.

Another significant upgrade on Z270 chipsets is the ability to support intel Optane technology to improve file access times.

Some features of Z170 motherboards include an LGA 1151 socket, DDR4 DRAM support, twin-DIMM per channel, DMI version 3.0, bus speed (8 GT/s), 22-nanometer lithography, 14 USB compatibility, overclocking capability, and Optane technology.

So, there are no major upgrades on Z270 chips, but they provide some welcome improvements.

Relevant Characteristics Between Z170 and Z270

Z170




Z270

LGA 1151

Socket

LGA 1151

Kaby Lake/Skylake (LGA 1151)

(Kaby Lake requires a BIOS update)

Processor Support

Kaby Lake/Skylake (LGA 1151)

DDR4

DRAM Support

DDR4

6 Watts

TDP

6 Watts

2

Number of DIMMs per channel

2

3.0

DMI Version

3.0

20

PCIe Lanes

24

6

Total SATA 6Gb/s

6

Desktop

Vertical Segment

Desktop

8 GT/s

Bus Speed

8 GT/s

22 nanometers

Lithography

22 nanometers

14

Number of USB ports

14

Yes

Supports Overclocking

Yes

3

Displays Supported

3

Yes

Intel Smart Response Technology

Yes

Yes

Intel Rapid Storage Technology

Yes

1×16 or 2×8 or 1×8+2×4

PCI Express Port Configurations

1×16 or 2×8 or 1×8+2×4

Up to 10

USB 3.0 ports

Up to 10

Up to 14

USB 2.0 ports

Up to 14

No

Intel Optane Technology

Yes

Similarities and Differences

Although similar in many ways, Z170 and Z270 motherboard chipsets have distinct characteristics.

Let's have a look at the various similarities and differences between the two chipsets.

Z170 and Z270 Differences

Codename

One major difference between the two chipsets is their code names or the Intel processors they support. The Intel Z270 Chipset's codename is Kaby Lake and Intel Z170 Chipset's code is SkyLake.

It's important to note that Z270 supports both Kaby Lake and SkyLake processors. Z170 mainly supports SkyLake processors but you can enable it to support Kaby Lake processors through a BIOS update.

Launch Date

Both chipsets were launched on different dates. Z170 was released during the third quarter of 2015 whereas Z270 was released during the first quarter of 2017.

PCI-E Lanes

PCI-E lanes are a set of signal traces of four wires on your motherboard used to communicate and control your PC's functions.

Both chipsets support different numbers of PCI E lanes for your motherboard.

Photo credit: youtube.com

The Z170 platform is designed to support a maximum of 20 lanes whereas the Z270 platform supports 24 lanes.

Unless your PC uses PCI-E SSDs and an external graphics card simultaneously, having four extra lanes on your Z270 platform does not guarantee any added advantages or improved performance.

However, you might encounter issues with your Z170 chipsets with PCI E lanes because using one disables the other. Z270 chips come with lane extensions that help to overcome this restriction.

Intel Optane Technology

Intel's Optane technology is a system designed to improve and enhance your computer's storage speeds.

It works by caching your device's regularly used processes into your hard drive to offer greater endurance and lower latency.

Z270 chipsets come with Optane technology, but Z170 doesn't.  

While each chipset is distinct with varying characteristics, they do not have many differences.

Z170 and Z270 Similarities

Z170 and Z270 chipsets have many similarities which include the following.

Socket

A CPU socket or slot contains components that provide an electrical and mechanical connection between your computer's printed circuit board (PCB) and microprocessor.

The computer's socket also allows you to place and replace your CPU without soldering. Although the sockets are designed to support different processor models, some chipsets support both.

Both Z170 and Z270 chipsets are built with LGA 1151 sockets (also known as socket H4) that support Kaby Lake and SkyLake processors. However, for Z170 chipsets, you need a DIOS update to support a Kaby Lake processor.

DRAM Support

Your computer comes with a Dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) used to store data in memory cells that consist of a transistor and capacitor.

Many DRAM options exist (DDR, DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, DDR5, and DDR6) and they determine your PC's transfer speeds and performance.

Both Z170 and Z270 motherboards use DDR4 RAM.

DIMMs Per Channel

A Dual in-line memory module (DIIM) or RAM stick is a PC component containing one or more RAM chips with pins that have DRAM circuits.

Both Z170 and Z270 chipsets come with two DIMM modules.

Thermal Design Power

Your computer's Thermal Design Power or Thermal Design Point (TDP) refers to the optimum heat your machine generates during workload, which your cooling system is designed to dispel.

A high TDP means more power consumption, which in turn requires a better cooling system.

Both Z170 and Z270 chipsets emit a thermal design power of 6 Watts to conserve power during workload.

Photo credit: msi.com

Bus Speed

Bus Speed refers to the amount of data or information that's movable simultaneously across your PC's bus or front-side bus (FSB).

It's your FSB's speed connecting your CPU to the northbridge, measured in megahertz that influences your machine's performance.

Both Z170 and Z270 chips operate at similar bus speeds of eight Giga transfers per second (8 GT/s).

Lithography

The process of imprinting pattern designs on semiconductors for use in circuits is what we refer to as lithography - measured in nanometers.

Lithography metrics are useful because they are used to judge how powerful your CPU is - the higher it is, the more powerful your PC is.

Both Z170 and Z270 chips come with lithography capabilities of up to 22 nanometers, making them more powerful than most options available on the market.

USB Ports

Z170 and Z270 platforms tie on their USB capacities. Both chipsets support USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 technologies, with the ability to support up to 14 ports.

Both platforms support up to 10 ports using USB 3.0 and the rest using USB 2.0 standard.

Overclocking Capabilities

Overclocking refers to the ability to set your CPU and memory to perform and run at higher speeds than they are originally designed to run.

It is meant to enhance your computer's speed, which can be useful particularly for game PC users looking to boost their PCs.

However, if your device's heat capacity doesn't withstand the heat generated after the upgrade, overlocking can cause serious problems to your machine.

So, if done right, overclocking helps you unlock new capabilities for your device.

Both Z170 and Z270 motherboards support overclocking.

Advantages of Z170

Most of the features you get from a Z270 chipset are also available on Z170 chipsets.

Many computer experts advise users that upgrading from a Z170 to a Z270 is not entirely necessary unless you require a specific feature only offered by a Z270 board.

Some notable wins of using a Z170 include:

Affordability

Z170 chips are cheaper than Z270 chipsets.

You don't necessarily get better features or enhanced performance from a Z270 because both deliver quite similar features and capabilities. So, if you are on a tight budget while looking for a chipset, Z170 is an ideal choice.

Versatility

Though there are better and more advanced motherboards on the market, Z170's are still very relevant and useful. As one of the earliest Z versions, Z170 still offers many features that make it a versatile motherboard.

You can use it on SkyLake processors and Kaby Lake processors through a BIOS update. So, they are ideal chipsets for PCs that run memory-intensive applications. It makes an excellent gaming motherboard.

Advantages of Z270

Some major wins you can expect from your Z270 chipsets include:

Photo credit: stealthmachines.com

Processor Support

Z270 chipsets support both Kaby Lake and SkyLake processors without experiencing any issues. This is unlike Z170 motherboards that are only designed to support SkyLake processors.

To enable your Z170 chipset to support Kaby Lake processors, you must perform a BIOS update. It's highly unrecommended by many computer experts to avoid the update if you are not conversant with it. If you must perform it, get help from a professional computer expert.    

More PCI-E Lanes

Your Z270 chipsets come with a total of 24 PCI-E lanes compared to Z170's 20 lanes. The quantity of accessible PCIe slots and types relies upon the motherboard, however, the all-out number of accessible lanes relies upon the processor and chipset itself While more lanes don't necessarily mean better speeds, it influences your CPUs performance.

So, expect slightly better performance from a CPU with a Z270 chipset than from a Z170 chipset.

Optane Technology

Finally, Z270 motherboards are designed with Intel's Optane technology, which boosts your PC's speed. Z170 chips lack technology.

So, you experience better speeds on a CPU with a Z270 chipset as compared to one with Z170 chipsets.  

What About Z370?

Z370 motherboards were launched in the last quarter of 2018 alongside Intel's eight-generation processors.

Meant to succeed in Z270 motherboards, Z370 motherboards come with more advanced features than their predecessors.  

Some of the advanced capabilities and features of Z370 motherboards include better performance, quick PC response to your commands, immersive visual graphics, increased storage capabilities, and many more.

Z370 motherboards have many features that you cannot find in Z270 chipsets or earlier versions.

Available tools like Intel's hyper-threading and turbo boost technology enhance your CPUs performance, making it an ideal chipset for a gaming motherboard.

The chipset comes with an Optane memory to boost application response times and smart sound technology that offers you high definition audio capabilities.

Z370 motherboards support USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 that come with a port-disable feature, which allows you to enable or disable your ports as needed.

With high-speed storage interfaces, your Z370 chipset supports 6 Gb/s transfers for fast and maximum data access.

Moreover, the motherboards have platform trust technology that provides enhanced security against malicious attacks and viruses.

Like Z170 and Z270 motherboards, Z370's support overclocking options, PCI express storage, PCI 3.0 interface, and Optane technology.

Photo credit: highgroundgaming.com

In a nutshell, the Z370 motherboard is an upgrade of the Z270 chipset used in PCs that run heavy applications and workloads.

Z170 and Z270 are both excellent for gaming PCs, but if you are looking for a chipset that offers cutting edge features, a Z370 is a better choice. However, it costs more than the previous versions.

When and Why Would I Use Z170?

Z170 motherboards are ideal for you if:

You Want a Versatile Motherboard

Though there are better and more advanced motherboards on the market, Z170's are still very relevant and useful. As one of the earliest Z versions, Z170 still offers many features that make it a versatile motherboard.

You can use it on SkyLake processors and Kaby Lake processors through a BIOS update. So, they are still capable of running memory-intensive applications and gaming.

You are on a Budget

As an earlier version motherboard, Z170 comes at a lower price than Z270 and other higher versions. Upgrades on Z270 motherboards don't necessarily mean that you get better experiences than Z170 motherboards. Z170s come with almost all features of Z270's and at a better price.

Photo credit: Gigabyte.com

When and Why Would I Use Z270?

Z270 motherboards are ideal for you if:

You Want a More Versatile Motherboard

One of the most impressive features of Z270 motherboards is their ability to work with a variety of processors. You can use sixth & seventh-generation processors with different cores (i3, i4, i5, i6, and i7) without any problems.

This is unlike Z170 chipsets that support a single processor, SkyLake. If you want to include Kaby Lake, you must perform a DIOS update, which is risky.

You Want Better Performance

Ideally, both Z170 and Z270 motherboards offer users similar features and capabilities. However, Z270 chipsets come with Optane technology that improves storage speeds and slightly improves the overall performance of your CPU.  

Price is not an Issue

If the price is not a major concern, getting a Z270 makes better sense than getting a Z170. The fact is most users don't notice the 'better performance' it's meant to offer over Z170 chipsets.

However, a Z270 motherboard offers you versatility and compatibility with many processors – an added advantage in the dynamic computer industry.

Bottom Line

Both Z170 and Z270 motherboards come with similar features and the difference between them is minimal.

However, there are some differences, particularly concerning the processors they support. While Z270 supports two processors (Kaby Lake and SkyLake), Z170 only supports SkyLake. Users have to perform a risky BIOS update to enable it to support Kaby Lake processors.

Photo credit: play3r.net

Z270 comes with more PCI-E lanes than Z170, but that doesn't necessarily translate to noticeably better performance. However, it's Optane technology enhances your computer's storage speeds.

In short, there are no major differences between the two motherboards. However, if you don't mind spending a few extra bucks, Z270 chipsets are worth having over Z170 chipsets.

People Also Ask

Can I Use 6700k On Z270?

You can use 6700k on a Z270 motherboard. 6700k is designed for sixth-generation computers so it works just fine. You also don't need a BIOS update. However, you'll need a BIOS update if you want to use the 7th generation on a Z170 motherboard.

Does Z170 Support 8th Gen? 

The Z170 does not support the 8th generation. Z170 motherboards use LGA 1151 and 8th generation computers are not backward compatible. You need an H310, Z370, B360, or Z390 motherboard if you intend to use an 8th generation device.

Will I9 9900k Work With Z170?

The i9-9900K works with Z170 motherboards at a clock speed of 5.5 GHz. However, you will need an adapted BIOS and a robust water cooling system to overclock the i9-9900K. It is important to note that this adaptation is usually unstable and as such, you would need the assistance of someone who has done it successfully. If you are not so tech-savvy, doing it on your own may be quite frustrating.

Austin

When the tech company I worked for restructured and I ended up jobless, I decided to put the wealth of knowledge and management skills to use somewhere new. I’d checked out a few buyer’s guides on the site in the past and reached out to the previous owner. A few months later, here we are. Now, I get to be behind the scenes, helping people find the best tech.