Intel has launched their latest chipset codenamed “skylake” and along with some nice new processors along come new motherboards with new chipsets to support one another. Consumer grade chipsets come in 3 main flavours, Z170 and H170 with a budget H110 chipset coming later down the line. Performance and feature wise the H110 sits at the bottom of the pile while the H170 finishes second and the Z170 takes gold however with manufacturers offering many variants of each chipset models and chipsets will cross over – more on that later.
For the purpose of this article we are going to pretend H110 does not exist and to be fair, it doesn’t (yet). Many users that will be looking to migrate from an older chipset and processor are going to have their eye on these “enthusiast” grade H170 and Z170 chipsets anyway.
As far as the history of the new chipsets go, the H170 naturally replaces Intel’s H97 chipset whilst the Z170 replaces the Z97. As time processes (end of 2015) H97 and Z97 won’t exist leaving only the new flavours.
Before I talk about the core differences between H170 & Z170 chipsets I will highlight what the similarities are simply because the are far more similarities than differences;
|RAM Support||DD3 & DDR4 (motherboard dependant)||DD3 & DDR4(motherboard dependant)|
|Max DDR4 RAM Support||64GB||64GB|
|USB 3.0 Support||Common**||Common**|
|USB Type C Support||Common**||Common**|
|M.2 Socket Support||Common**||Common**|
|SATA Express Support||Common**||Common**|
|Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 technology||Yes||Yes|
** = motherboard model dependant
As you can see both chipset share a lot of the common important futures together.
|DDR4 Ram Speed||2133Mhz||3466(O.C.)/3400(O.C.)/3333(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3200(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)*/2666(O.C.)*/2400(O.C.)*/2133|
|Max Native USB 3.0 ports||8||10|
|PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots||One x16||One x16 or Two x8|
|PCI-E Configuration||16 x 3.0||20 x 3.0|
* = Processor dependant
That’s it! Not a lot eh?
It is pretty much the same scenario Intel have historically gone through, the same was said about H97 Vs Z97, H87 Vs Z87 etc. We are not surprised, why fix something that isn’t broke right?
This is the main feature that is going to define your choice when making your H170 vs Z170 choice. Its fairly self explanatory but if you haven’t been in the motherboard choosing game long or are not up to scratch then in English it means that a Z170 based motherboard will allow you to unlock the multiplier on your CPU in order to significantly overclock it provided you have an installed unlocked multiplier CPU AKA ‘K’ Series (Intel i5 6600K & i7 6700K). A H170 based mother board will not allow you to unlock the multiplier on your CPU in order to significantly overclock it irrelevant of what CPU is installed.
DDR4 Ram Speed
This feature almost borders on the similarities table simply because both chipsets natively support 2133Mhz RAM. The difference comes because of the overclocking feature, provided you get a good overclock you can set your RAM to run at a faster speed or install faster RAM in combination.
Native USB 3.0 Support
The Z170 supports 2 extra native USB 3.0 ports.
PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots
This could catch a few out – Thankfully it will only be a few as many are not going to try and scrimp on a motherboard when running multiple graphics cards. If a particular H170 motherboard comes with a second PCI-E x16 slot don’t go planning on installing another graphics card – the second PCI-E x 16 is a 2.0 port rather than a 3.0 port and also only runs a x4 speed. H170 only supports one PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot.
This should now make it fairly clear what you choice is when you think Z170 Vs H170 – Do you want to overclock or run multiple graphics cards now or in the future – If you answered yes to either then a Z170 is going to be your choice. If you don’t plan on overclocking and running multiple graphics cards then the H170 would be the obvious choice between the two however I would urge you checkout a H110 motherboard – you could save yourself a few pennies.
Z170 comes at a small premium so make sure you budget accordingly but given it’s only a small premium the choice is a no brainer if overclocking or SLI/CrossfireX is lurking at the back of your mind.
As always with motherboards, they vary considerably from model to model so make sure you checkout each models spec carefully. Some manufacturers may use a third party add in card to add a load of USB 3.0 ports for example.