Asus's Z170 Pro Gaming motherboard made regular appearances in our system guides this last year, showing up in our coveted "sweet spot" category as a solid choice for builders working with Intel's Skylake processors. Asus has announced that board's successor today: the Z170 Pro Gaming/Aura. The updated motherboard retains the features that caught our attention last year while adding some novel aesthetic options.
Like last year's model, the Z170 Pro Gaming/Aura is an ATX motherboard with an LGA 1151 socket. Gamers living the multi-GPU dream can mount up to three graphics cards on the motherboard (even if Nvidia is moving away from the technology), and they can also trust Asus's SafeSlot metal-reinforced PCIe connectors to keep the cards upright and secure. The motherboard supports DDR4-3466 RAM, a slight increase from the last model, and it ditches the older board's SATA Express connector for six regular SATA ports. It also houses Intel's latest I219-V Ethernet controller, four USB 3.0 ports, and two USB 3.1 ports (one Type-A and one Type-C).
While Asus didn't change the basic hardware much, it did add some options for customizing the motherboard's looks. First is Asus's Aura RGB LED lighting control system, which offers twelve different lighting schemes that can be run in sync with other Aura-compliant devices. More intriguing is the suggestion that users can 3D print their own parts for the motherboard. For example, Asus will provide the template needed to 3D-print a nameplate that can be mounted in the board's M.2 socket. This option does prevent the socket from being used for an actual M.2 drive, of course, but there are bound to be builders interested in placing a personalized logo in a novel location.
Asus hasn't indicated when the motherboard will be available, but did state that the board is currently in production. Last year's Z170 Pro Gaming motherboard sold in the neighborhood of $150, so the Z170 Pro Gaming/Aura will likely find a home in the same pricing tier.