Asus Skylake Z170 Motherboards: Maximus VIII Gene vs. Z170-A

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Like the BIOS, the included software is mostly the same as Asus' previous generation of Intel motherboards. The main utility is AI Suite, which has many different modules inside with varying functionality. In the past I found installing AI Suite after updating Windows and installing all the necessary drivers impossible due to a strange error but this seems to have now been corrected. With both boards, the installer off the website didn't work, but loading it off the support disc did the trick, much to my delight.

The default menu is called "Dual Intelligent Processors 5" and is actually a bundle of the five major modules jammed into one interface with the addition of a a "5-Way Optimization" button at the top that automatically tweaks each module for optimal performance and energy efficiency. It automatically overclocks, alters voltages, tunes fans, optimizes power regulation, and tests for stability.

The modules within offer the same settings as in the BIOS but with sliding controls for better visual feedback. Regardless of what module you're in, the bottom quarter of the screen is reserved for showing sensor information, e.g. frequency, voltage, temperature, fan speeds. There's also a graphing option but with so little screen real estate, it's of limited value.

From a silencing perspective, Fan Xpert 3 is the jewel of AI Suite. Each controllable fan has its own panel on a rotating carousel. Clicking the graph lets you alter the speed behavior while clicking on the graphic next to it brings you to a labeling menu where the fan can be given a name and assigned a position in the case for later reference.

After tuning the fans, Fan Xpert assigns minimum fan speeds so the automated fan control doesn't accidentally turn them off completely by running it too slowly. Again, you get the same functionality as in the BIOS but with some graphical assistance, as well as a fixed RPM mode for setting fans to a single non-changing speed. Furthermore, non-CPU fans running on DC control can be turned off completely.

Asus also provides software outside of AI Suite, but the only notable thing that works out of the box on the Z170-A is TurboLAN, which enables network traffic prioritization and monitoring. The Maximus VIII Gene has a different utility with similar functionality called GameFirst.

One other major title offered by Asus is Wi-Fi GO!, which offers some wireless connectivity features like turning your PC into a DLNA device to share multimedia across your network, remote desktop capability and sending/receiving files from your phone/tablet. This duplicates some of the capabilities of Gigabyte's Cloud Station utility which was previously discussed in our Gigabyte X99-UD4P review. There's one major difference as Gigabyte's software works if the desktop is only hooked up to the network with a wired connection. Wi-Fi GO! doesn't function unless the PC has a wireless NIC which is not included in either of these Z170 models.

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