Asus' Republic of Gamers brand has become one of the best-known in gaming PC components, and ROG motherboards tend to be some of the fanciest and most innovative around at the dawn of each new socket generation. The downside, if there is one, is that ROG boards tend to go for a pretty penny. You want the best, you gotta pony up.
Not every PC builder can spare the scratch for a full-on ROG Maximus IX Formula or similar board, so Asus has recently broadened the availability of entry visas for the Republic of Gamers with the Strix family of motherboards. These boards might not offer as much RGB LED lighting, "thermal armor," or exotic port and cooling options as their highest-end cousins, but they bottle up some of that ROG magic for the critical $200-and-under price brackets. On the bench today, we have Asus' top-end ROG Strix board: the Z270E Gaming. At $199.99, the Z270E Gaming slots in right under the $200 mark that we consider the threshold for diminishing returns with mainstream motherboards.
Asus' designers have turned to neutral palettes of late thanks to the rise of RGB LEDs, and the Strix carries that DNA in its muted silver heatsinks, dark gray I/O fascia, and a gray PCB with silkscreened accents in a lighter gray.
The chipset heatsink gets a chrome ROG logo on a sort of fractal lenticular background for some visual interest, but the overall presentation of the board is quiet.
In fact, the Z270E features only one onboard concession to the RGB LED craze: a delta of multicolor lighting on the I/O fascia diffused with frosted plastic. This diffuser hides the individual glare of each of the eight or so LEDs underneath, making it look like a single uniform light source. I've long believed that diffusion and directional control are critical to making RGB LEDs look their best, and Asus goes the extra mile here to achieve quality over quantity.
Skylake or Kaby Lake CPUs drop right into the Z270E Gaming's LGA 1151 socket. The Z270E feeds the CPU with a 10-phase power design that should be more than adequate for all but the most extreme Skylake or Kaby Lake overclocking adventures. As always, we've measured some of the critical distances around the socket so that builders can get a sense of what coolers will or won't fit into the Z270E's socket area.
The brushed-metal heatsinks ringing the socket are massive, but their aggressively-sloped design means they shouldn't interfere with large tower coolers. A couple rows of capacitors left of and above the socket might run afoul of some liquid cooler pump head designs, but they're low-profile enough that we doubt they'll cause an issue in practice.
Asus outfits this board with the usual quartet of DDR4 DIMM slots capable of holding up to 64GB of RAM. The Strix only has multipliers for overclocked RAM ranging up to DDR4-3866, so be aware of that limitation if you're shopping some recent RAM kits running over 4000 MT/s. Mere mortals probably won't have reason for concern from the Strix's memory overclocking department. From this view, we can also see the Strix's USB 3.1 Gen 2 front-panel connector. Those whose cases don't have cabling for this connector will have to run the front-panel USB 3.0 header to the bottom edge of the board, a potential inconvenience.