Building a Z170 Desktop System with a Core i7-6700K Skylake Processor

Back when I started at SQLskills in May of 2012, I built myself a pretty nice Z77 chipset system with an Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge processor and 32GB of RAM, running Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. This system uses an ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe motherboard, with one 512GB OCZ Vertex 4 SSD. It was about the fastest mainstream system that I could build 3.5 years ago. It is mildly overclocked, to 4.3GHz, and it has been extremely reliable over the years as I have used it for much of my daily work.

Some basic information about this system is shown in Figures 1, 2 and 3 below:


Figure 1: CPU-Z CPU Tab for Z77 Core i7-3770K System



Figure 2: CPU-Z Bench Tab for Z77 Core i7-3770K System



Figure 3: Geekbench 3.3.2 Scores for Z77 Core i7-3770K System


Even though this system is still pretty fast, I felt like I could do better in some areas, with a current generation Z170 chipset system with an Intel Core i7-6700K Skylake processor and 64GB of RAM. Last Saturday, I built this new system, and got Windows 10 Professional installed.

Here is the parts list for this system:

  1. Fractal Design Define R5 case
  2. Seasonic SS-660XP2 power supply
  3. ASRock Z170 Extreme 7+ motherboard (Micro Center’s web page has it mislabeled as an Extreme 7)
  4. Intel Core i7-6700K processor
  5. Scythe Kotetsu CPU cooler
  6. (2) 32GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 2666MHz DDR4 RAM kits
  7. (2) 512 GB Samsung 850 Pro SATA III SSDs in hardware RAID 1
  8. 400GB Intel 750 PCIe NVMe storage card

Initially, I’ll be using the Intel integrated graphics, but I may end up using an EVGA Geforce GTX 960 video card. But then again, I may not, since I want to reduce my power usage and have more PCIe lanes available for storage use.

I spent a couple of hours putting this system together, doing a pretty careful job with the cable management. When I had it ready to turn on for the first time (without putting the case sides on, which is always bad luck), I was rewarded with the CPU and case fans spinning, but no visible POST or video output at all. Luckily, the ASRock motherboard has a built-in LED diagnostic display, which was showing a code 55 error. Looking this up in the motherboard manual, I discovered that this was a memory-related issue. I removed two of the 16GB DDR4 RAM modules, and powered it back up, and this time I got a POST.

Going into the UEFI BIOS setup, I discovered that my ASRock Z170 Extreme 7+ motherboard had the initial 1.4 BIOS, while the latest version was 1.7. One of the fixes listed for version 1.7 is “improve DRAM compatibility”. I was able to flash the BIOS to 1.7 using the Instant Flash utility in the UEFI BIOS setup, and then I was able to use all four 16GB DDR4 RAM modules.

Next I created a RAID 1 array with my two 512GB Samsung 850 Pro SSDs, using the Intel RAID controller that is built-in to the Z170 chipset. I made sure the Intel 750 was not installed yet, and then I used an old USB optical drive to install Windows 10 Professional on to the RAID 1 array. Windows 10 Professional installed default drivers for the dual Intel 1GB NICs, so I was able to get on the internet and download and install all of the latest Windows 10 64-bit drivers for this motherboard from the ASRock web site. Then I used Windows and Microsoft Update to get Windows 10 fully patched.

Windows 10 recognized the Intel 750 using the default Microsoft NVMe drivers. I will benchmark using those drivers, and then compare the results to the native Intel NVMe drivers. So far, I have benchmarked the new system using CPU-Z and Geekbench 3.3.2. The basic information and scores for the new system is shown in Figures 4. 5, and 6 below:


Figure 4: CPU-Z CPU Tab for Z170 Core i7-6700K System



Figure 5: CPU-Z Bench Tab for Z170 Core i7-6700K System



Figure 6: Geekbench 3.3.2 Scores for Z170 Core i7-6700K System


Keep in mind, that beyond enabling XMP 2.1, I have not overclocked the new system yet. The new system is about 10-20% faster than the old system, from a CPU and memory perspective, depending on which benchmark you choose. In some respects, this is disappointing, but the real advantage of the new system is having twice the RAM, and a lot more potential I/O bandwidth with the Z170 Express chipset. With Windows 10 Professional, I have Hyper-V support (and the Core i7-6700K supports VT-x and VT-d), so I can run more VMs simultaneously. I also have two Intel 1GB NICS, which I plan to use together with NIC teaming in Windows 10.

I plan on getting at least one of the upcoming 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2 NVMe cards (and this motherboard has three Ultra M.2 slots) when they are released in October/November, so I will have plenty of disk space and I/O performance for the VMs.

System CPU-Z Single Thread CPU-Z Multi-Thread Geekbench Single-Core
Core i7-3770K 1573 5920 3680
Core i7-6700K 1711 6815 4404

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other articles

Imagine feeling confident enough to handle whatever your database throws at you.

With training and consulting from SQLskills, you’ll be able to solve big problems, elevate your team’s capacity, and take control of your data career.