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While the Skylake LGA1151 platform mainly focused on the Z170 chipset, it’s the B150 PCH that’s been widely adopted by motherboard industry as a budget alternative to the Z170. Although this means that the motherboards would have less capabilities, like the lack of overclocking, it’s only plausible that budget gamers won’t be inclined to overclocking. If we were to pick one sole motherboard that was the Cream of the Crop that is the B150, we’d have to go with the Asus B150 Pro Gaming/Aura. This budget model is the younger sibling of the Z170 PRO GAMING we covered earlier.

It’s also worth mentioning that in the world of Automobiles, it’s a given that every beast of a machine would have an equally aesthetically pleasing exterior. And the same can be said about PC hardware, especially high-end GPUs. Usually you can’t expect much flare from budget oriented hardware. But the new budget-oriented gaming Motherboard announced by Asus, the B150 Pro Gaming/Aura is a black sheep. Before we get to what makes this Motherboard special, let’s take a look at the usual aspects you’d expect from one.

The motherboard is built based on the traditional full-size ATX form factor of 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm / 12.0-in x 9.6-in, so there shouldn’t be any problems when it comes to finding a suitable case for it. This model features a matte black PCB has been spruced up with the addition of some red trace lines coming out from the CPU and the chipset, kinda like the ROG line. But the lines are merely painted on the PCB.

Now let’s get to the specifications of the AURA

For connectivity there’s four USB 3.0 and a pair of USB 2.0 to round-up the USB connectivity. But for even faster speeds, the B150 Pro Gaming motherboards feature two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports. One Type-C port and one Type-A port. These ports are capable of transfer speeds up to 10 Gb/s. The Intel Gigabit Ethernet port comes with the Asus LANGuard protection as well as support for the company’s GameFirst III packet prioritization and optimization software.

Signal-coupling technology and premium surface-mounting ensure a more reliable connection and better throughput, plus electrostatically-guarded and surge-protected components (ESD Guards) for 1.9X-greater tolerance to static electricity and 2.5X-greater protection (up to 15KV) against surges. Thanks to the Exclusive GameFirst IV software, game-related packets are prioritized and allocated more bandwidth to games, eliminating laggy gameplay, streaming stutters and file-sharing slowdown, giving you an extra edge during frags. With Multi-Gate Teaming, you can Team all your network gateways for maximum bandwidth and assign connections to every application for the smoothest-ever gameplay. You’ll also enjoy the all-new intelligent mode, which automatically compiles a database by parsing new app data to ensure that every game is optimized for the best performance. The software allows you to choose from Optimization, Game, Media Streaming or File Sharing presets.

For your media needs, the mother board also offers flawless audio thanks to the SupremeFX audio technology. The Premium Nichicon® audio capacitors and Fine-quality Japanese-made components help produce a warmer, natural sound Near-lossless audio quality with a remarkable signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 115dB is guaranteed with a shielded design, electromagnetic-interference (EMI) cover and voltage-protected 5V power supply. With high quality components like the trusted Realtek ALC1150 codec, the motherboard allows you maximize acoustic performance and eliminate interference. The 300Ω- Texas Instruments R4580 headphone amplifier will let you drive some of the very best headphones available for exceptional gaming-audio and music-listening experiences. Thanks to the Illuminated red line shielding, analog interference is negated and eye-catching, customizable lighting effects are visible.

Surprisingly, Asus decided to use the same 10-phase DIGI+ VRM CPU power design found on many of the Z170 models, this is quite generous since this motherboard doesn’t allow for overclocking and thus will never be subject to particularly heavy loads. This model features four DDR4 memory slots and supports up to 64GB of system memory, which is the hard-limit for Skylake processors. Memory speed is locked to DDR4-2133 due to the B150 chipset. Six SATA 6 Gb/s ports provide plenty of storage options, and an M.2 type 2242/2260/2280/22110 slot supports SATA or NVMe SSDs. There is one PCIe 3.0 x 16 slot, and another x16 slot running at x4 mode, supporting Crossfire.

As for the build quality, it’s pretty high level. We get durable, high quality components such as the Digi+ VRM, Durable capacitors engineered to resist extreme temperature variations of between -55°C and 105°C and Superior chokes. There’s also plenty of protection for the motherboard. DRAM over-current protection, ESD guards on the IO area, Stainless Steel back I/O, Q-shield, Q-slot, Q-DIMM and Q-LEDS for diagnostics.

As for the Bundled Software’s,

The included Sonic Radar II software is specifically tailored for gamers and displays a stealthy overlay that shows the status of your opponents and teammates on the battlefield, all managed via a simple control panel and customizable game list. See the direction and origin of key in-game sounds, and practice your enemy-pinpointing skill, plus Audio Enhancement technology clarifies every last sound so you hear the distant sound of footsteps, giving you an edge over your enemies.

And there’s AI Suite 3, Thanks to it you can max out performance, which means maximum Frames per second ! With AI Suite 3’s exclusive dashboard-style control panel you’ll fine-tune almost every aspect of your B150 Pro Gaming/Aura-based system. You can create the best balance between performance, cooling, stability, efficiency and aesthetics. All via a simple and intuitive interface.

As for system monitoring/maintenance. There’s FAN Xpert3. With it, gaming on the B150 Pro Gaming/Aura is quieter and cooler than on other motherboards. Advanced fan and water-pump controls allow you to achieve ultimate cooling for your system. With five on board thermal sensors and hardware-level four 4-pin/3-pin PWM/DC mode detection, Fan Xpert 3 makes sure every fan achieves the best balance of high cooling performance and low noise, with no hassle, Ideal for liquid-cooling setups.

There’s also RAMCache, which can be helpful to speed up game loading times. The Uniquely intelligent technology effectively caches an entire storage device so that favorite games and apps launch at breakneck speeds, getting to work the moment it’s activated. RAMCache turns milliseconds into microseconds to boost game-load times to stratospheric levels!

It’s worth mentioning that the BIOS design is pretty amazing as well. It’s smooth, slick and a mouse-controlled graphical BIOS which has been improved to make it even more appealing. Whether you’re a PC novice or a seasoned veteran, the EZ and Advanced Modes help you find your way. In EZ Mode you can get set up very quickly, applying the date and time, fan profiles and Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory profiles. Switch to Advanced Mode to set up favorites and shortcuts, record and review recent changes with Last Modified or make notes in Quick Notes.

Now that we’ve talked about most of the motherboard, it’s time to go back to why this Motherboard sets itself apart in terms of Aesthetics.

The ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA is a new class of motherboard that features an array of LED illumination. While many motherboards over the last 1-2 years have had static uni-color LEDs lighting up the PCB audio isolation line, on this model the lighting surrounds the processor socket, PCH, and some of the edges of the motherboard. Using the native Lighting Control utility, it can be customized to virtually any color and has 6 different illumination effects. The always on Static effect, The Fade in and out Breathing effect, The Flashing on and off Strobing effect, The Color cycle effect and the Music effect where the lights pulse to the beat of your music. The LEDs can also be set to change shades to indicate CPU temperature. With this extensive amount of lighting, you can certainly create unique and eye-catching visuals. Even if you’re going to be using only a single color throughout. Once you do make use of the vast amount of customizability, you can create some very striking visuals that will add a ton of personal flair to your rig.

For a motherboard of its price point, the ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA is a steal. The onboard SupremeFX audio is distinctly above-average for a motherboard in this price range, highlighted by an excellent onboard headphone amplifier, and support for the Sonic Radar II in-game sound detection feature. The Intel-powered gigabit LAN port ensures best possible throughput and reliability, while the hardware-based LANGuard protects from EMI and power surges. Those who want additional networking control and monitoring capabilities will be well served by the included GameFirst III packet prioritization utility.

While it’s true that there are Z170 motherboards in the same price range as the B150 PRO GAMING/AURA, but none can parallel the onboard audio or networking capabilities, or USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C, or water pump and thermal sensors headers, or high-end aesthetics with fully adjustable AURA RGB LED lighting that is offered with the ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA.

If you don’t mind its limitations, and can make use of its perks, this is definitely a motherboard worth buying.
If you can spare a bit more cash, go for the ASUS Z170 PRO GAMING.
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