For a lot of people, the idea of spending $300 on motherboard is bordering on the surreal. Even the very idea of spending $200 is a bridge too far as that means going with a less powerful video card(s), less ram, or other noticeably large cuts in a new system build…. all for extra features that may not even be used. Put bluntly, motherboards are the one area of a new system that spending a lot of money does not necessarily mean getting a noticeably ‘better’ board. As we have shown in the past, with the MSI KRAIT, there are a lot of good deals to be found if you know what to look for. Of course there are more bad ‘deals’ than good, so the trick is knowing how to tell the difference between the two. On first glance the BIOSTAR RACING Z170GT7 appears to be another great example of the former and not latter.
Based on literally decades of experience in building systems with all manner of budgets, there is a fairly easy way to separate the wheat from the chafe when it comes to entry level motherboards. Basically by focusing in on just a few keys areas, areas that consumers should not skimp on, the ‘good’ motherboards quickly become noticeable and a short list can be compiled. Then all it takes is paying careful attention to a few reviews on them to then further narrow down the choices. These areas loosely group as: overall layout and aesthetics, power subsystem, storage features, sound subsystem, BIOS, and value added features. Each consumer will place more (or less) emphasis on each of these sections depending on what they want to do, but these are the key areas that most experienced builders will look at. For example, someone looking for an overclocking friendly system will care a lot more about the VRMs and power controller than the number of SATA ports, whereas someone looking for NAS will not care about how robust the power subsystem is but will care a lot about the number of SATA ports and how easy it is to add even more. What this means is that a true value motherboard has to be good at all of these areas; but does not necessarily have to knock any one out of the park as long as it does not disappoint in another to do so.
Put another way, a great value motherboard has to be highly adaptable and more a jack of all trades; rather than a master in any one key area. This is what the Biostar Racing Z170GT7 seems to offer. While not draped in plastic fascia, or other aesthetic boosting options this motherboard has a nice clean look that includes a nice racing motif silk-screened on a custom black PCB. As an added bonus it offers built in LEDS, an impressive LED lighting controller, and comes with a LED light strip. More importantly these added features do not come at the expense of a clean layout, instead all the various components are easy to use. The power subsystem may not be Gigabyte ‘Super OverClock’ levels, but a multi phase desing built upon 10K caps is still darn good and above average compared to many in this price range. Mix in six SATA ports, three SE ports, a four lane capable M.2 port, a decent BIOS, and some nifty little features we will go over in this review, and this motherboard appears to be a veritable diamond in the rough. Today we will see if this is indeed the case.