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I/O and audio

Our tour of this board's I/O options begins with the antenna connectors for the Z270E's built-in wireless card. This is a Qualcomm Atheros QCNFA364A radio, better known as the Killer 1535 (but implemented here without Killer branding). This chip offers 802.11ac wireless support, as well as the usual laundry list of older standards on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. For local periperhal connectivity, this Atheros chip also supports Bluetooth 4.1.

Directly to the right of the wireless radio, we get two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports: one a Type-A, the other a Type-C. These ports both draw connectivity from an ASMedia ASM2142 chip connected to the Z270 chipset.

Although it seems unlikely that anyone will be running integrated graphics on a $200 motherboard, Asus gives builders three options for connecting to an Intel IGP. The Z270E has a DVI-D port that can run 1920x1200 displays at up to 60 Hz. Directly beneath this port is a DisplayPort 1.2 connector with a maximum resolution of 4096x2304 at 60 Hz. Rounding out the trio is an HDMI 1.4b connector with support for 4096x2160 displays running at 24 Hz.

The port cluster continues with four USB 3.0 ports from the Intel Z270 chipset. One pair is topped off with an archaic PS/2 port, while the other shares space with the connector for the Intel I219V Gigabit Ethernet NIC. I'd have rather seen the PS/2 port (and the DVI port, for that matter) dropped in favor of more USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 ports. The five USB Type-A ports the Strix offers will quickly be overrun by even a basic Oculus Rift and Touch setup, not to mention the three-camera Oculus setup needed for a true room-scale experience. I doubt many gamers are carting PS/2 keyboards or mice over to new system builds these days, not to mention DVI monitors.

For audio, Asus taps Realtek's S1220 codec as part of its SupremeFX audio suite. Although there's not much documentation about this codec online, it supports the usual bevy of stereo and eight-channel surround sound outputs for analog audio, as well as digital output through an optical S/PDIF port. Asus claims its implementation can achieve a 120-dB signal-to-noise ratio for playback and a 113-dB SNR for recording. The S1220 codec itself sits beneath an EMI shield for reduced noise, and Asus includes some premium Nichicon capacitors in the signal path for potentially better sound.

SupremeFX also includes an Asus software suite with ROG Sonic Studio and Sonic Radar utilities. Sonic Radar is an on-screen overlay that can use positional audio cues to show where opponents and enemies are coming from in games, at least so long as they're making noise. I'm dubious that Sonic Radar is any more useful than a good headset to begin with, but it's there for those that want to play with it.

Sonic Studio offers a suite of DSP effects for "smart volume," "voice clarity," "bass boost," "treble boost," "reverb" and "surround." Blessedly, Asus leaves its Sonic Studio enhancements off by default, but I found them subtle even when I enabled them by choice. If you like simulated surround sound and other mild DSP tweaks, Sonic Studio's might be worth toying with. The software also has an "advanced mode" for routing the output from various applications to the Strix's various outputs. If you'd rather not have certain applications broadcasting over your speakers, for example, you can route them only to the outputs you'd like to hear them from.
In use, SupremeFX sounds about as good as other high-end Realtek audio codecs. I felt the default voicing of the analog output was a bit mid-heavy, but that's a common complaint I've had with the S1220, and it's an easy fix with some gentle EQ. Even out of the box, however, the SupremeFX suite is more than good enough to obviate a low-end sound card.