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These Gigabyte mini-ITX motherboards don't really skimp on features compared to larger models with the exception of the lack of USB 3.1 on the WIFI model. Obviously there are fewer DIMM slots, expansion slots, and fan headers, but those are common tradeoffs in mini-ITX. Both the Z170N-Gaming 5 and Z170N-WIFI offer six SATA 6 Gbps ports, a PCI-E x4 M.2 slot, a SATA Express option, as well as a capable integrated wireless card/antenna. Energy efficiency under normal loads is also fairly good and they're freakishly frugal when sitting idle or doing mundane things like watching video.
However, being Z170 motherboards, we have higher expectations. The main benefit over B150 and H170 boards is the ability to overclock but this is out of the question for the Z170N-WIFI. Our i7-6700K processor at stock speeds buckled under the pressure when taxed with synthetic loads or a combination of heavy duty real world applications. My guess is the lack of a VRM heatsink has something to do with it; whatever the reason, the issue cripples its potential. A Z170 model that can't overclock is no better than a H170 model, which puts the Z170N-WIFI's very existence into question.
The Z170N-Gaming 5 fared better under the same circumstances, staying stable throughout all of our tests, but that's hardly worthy of a compliment. Our synthetic stress testing caused the Gaming 5 to draw more power and produce more heat than any Skylake model tested previously. While it has a two-piece heatpipe cooler, the VRM heatsink is surprisingly small, and this coupled with the board's relatively simplistic 5-phase power regulation design are likely to blame.
The Z170N-Gaming 5 and Z170N-WIFI are currently selling for approximately US$150 and US$135 respectively, making them among the most affordable Z170 mini-ITX models on the market. However, if you can't use the chipset to its full potential, as is the case of the Z170N-WIFI, you might as well downgrade to a cheaper H170 or B150 model. The other option is to go in the other direction spending an extra US$15 is certainly worthwhile to acquire the more capable Z170N-Gaming 5. It has everything most DIYers need for a compact PC, though if cooling is a big concern, you may want to take it a step further and select a pricier model with better power regulation and bigger heatsinks.
Our thanks to Gigabyte for the Z170N-Gaming 5 and Z170N-WIFI motherboard samples.
The Gigabyte Z170N-Gaming 5 is recommended by SPCR
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Articles of Related Interest
Asus Maximus VIII Impact Mini-ITX Skylake Motherboard
Intel Core i7-6700: Skylake i7 at 65W
Skylake Memory Scaling with Kingston Predator DDR4-3000
Asus Skylake Z170 Motherboards: Maximus VIII Gene vs. Z170-A
Intel Core i7-5775C: Broadwell for Desktops
Skylake: Intel Core i7-6700K
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this article in the SPCR forums.
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