Asus Z170 boards keep cool with fancy fan controls

Skylake is here, and Asus has unleashed a torrent of motherboards for Intel's new processor family. The company's Z170-based boards all feature enhanced fan speed controls, which Asus claims to be the very best from any motherboard vendor.

The new fan controls include support for up to eight fans, including those connected to the company's optional Fan Extension Card. That add-on card connects to a PWM fan header, and it can control four fans independently using the Fan Xpert 3 utility in Windows or through the host motherboard's firmware. For more information, Asus has posted a guide for the new controls on YouTube.

Now, for the motherboards themselves. At the high end, the Republic of Gamers Maximus VIII and Pro Gaming boards feature enhanced audio in the form of Asus' SupremeFX 2015 hardware and software suite. The 2015 incarnation includes an ESS DAC, a dedicated clock, higher-quality capacitors, and an auto-sensing headphone amp with support for high-impedance cans. The ROG boards also include enhanced auto-tuning utilities that should allow the system to settle on a more reliable boosted configuration, which Asus has also outlined in another YouTube video

The ROG Maximus VIII series includes two more ATX boards—the Hero and Ranger—plus the microATX Gene and the E-ATX behemoth Maximus VIII Extreme. That last board comes with some extra special sauce for overclockers, and an onboard Thunderbolt 3 port. All of the boards pack in dual SATA Express ports, M.2 slots with 4 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, Intel Gigabit Ethernet, and USB 3.1 with one Type-C connector. The ATX Z170 Pro Gaming and Mini-ITX Z170I Pro Gaming have many of the same hardware features, but they lose a SATA Express port and some of the bling.

Just below that, Asus' Signature series includes eight boards, from the Wi-Fi-toting Z170-Deluxe to the Micro-ATX Z170M-E D3. All of these boards include M.2 slots with four PCIe Gen3 lanes and Realtek audio codecs. The upper echelon, which includes the Z170-A and Z170-AR, get USB 3.1 with a Type-C connector and Intel Gigabit Ethernet. The lower-end boards lose goodies like SATA Express, and they trade Intel's Gigabit Ethernet controller for a Realtek chip.

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