1. Introduction

Micro-Star International Co., Ltd or MSI is a Taiwanese multinational information technology corporation founded in 1986, headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan. It designs, develops and provides computer hardware, related products and services, including laptops, motherboards, graphics cards, All-in-One PCs, servers, industrial computers, PC peripherals, car infotainment products, and so on.



Official product link:

2. Packaging and accessories

The MSI Z170A TOMAHAWK motherboard is packaged in a green box with red, black & white accents.
The front side of the box is meant to resemble a military case, in the middle there are printed both the manufacturer’s logo and the model of the motherboard. On the lower side there is the MSI Gaming emblem.


On the sides of the box we find printed both the name and logo of the manufacturer and the name of the product with its specifications.

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The back of the box presents in detail the product and enumerates the specifications & features of the motherboard using a diagram.



The product comes with the following accessories:
–    1x Manual
–    1x SATA Cable Labels
–    1x Quick Installation Guide
–    1x Drivers & Utilities DVD
–    1x Thank You! card
–    2x SATA cables
–    1x I/O shield


3. Specifications

CPU SUPPORT: 6th Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors and Intel Pentium/Celeron Processors for Socket LGA-1151
CHIPSET: Intel Z170 Chipset
FORM FACTOR: ATX Form Factor (30.4 cm x 22.4 cm)
INTEGRATED GRAPHICS: Dependent on Installed CPU
MEMORY: 4x DIMM, Max. 64 GB, up to DDR4-3600+(OC)
Supports DDR4 3600(OC)/3200(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400/ 2133 MHz
BIOS: AMI UEFI BIOS with 64 Mb Flash ROM
Expansion Slots:
–     2x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16, x16/ x4 modes)
–     3x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
–    2 x PCI slots
–    1 x M.2 Wi-Fi module slot
–    6x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (SATA5~6 ports will be unavailable when installing the M.2 module in M.2 (M2_1) slot)
–    1x M.2 slot
–    Supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 for SATA storage devices
NETWORKING: 1 x Realtek RTL8111H Gigabit LAN controller
–    1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse port
–    2 x USB 2.0 ports
–    2 x USB 3.1 Gen2 ports
–    1 x DVI-D port
–    1 x HDMI™ port
–    1 x Clear CMOS button
–    1 x LAN (RJ45) port
–    2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
–    1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
–    5 x OFC audio jacks
AUDIO: Realtek® ALC892 Codec 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
FAN HEADERS: 5x 4-pin
DIMMENSION: 30.4 cm x 22.4 cm – ATX Form Factor


–    Supports DDR4-3600(0C)
–    DDR4 Boost: Give your DDR4 memory a performance boost
–    GAMING LAN: The best online gaming experience with lowest latency
–    Audio Boost: Reward your ears with studio grade sound quality
–    Military Class 4: Top Quality & Stability
–    Guard-Pro: Improved Protection and Power Efficiency
–    MULTI-GPU with VGA Armor: VGA Armor PCI-E slots. Supports AMD Crossfire™
–    Click BIOS 5: Secure and Reliable UEFI BIOS solution
–    EZ Debug LED: Easiest way to troubleshoot
–    Overvoltage Protection: Prevent Unforeseen Damage
–    4K UHD Support: Ultra-high Definition Visual Experience
–    GAMING CERTIFIED: 24-hour on- and offline game testing by eSports players for the best gaming experience


4. Visual inspection

The MSI Z170A TOMAHAWK model has a design similar with higher priced motherboards, boards such as MSI Z170A Gaming M7 and MSI Z170A Gaming M9 and a color black-silver-red color combination.
The look of the motherboard’s heatsinks is pleasant due to their shape & used colors.



The motherboard features 5(five) 4-pin Molex PWM connectors, their position is the following:



The VRM heatsinks have an angular design in two layers. The base black layer and over it there is a second metallic layer with two colors, red and white. In the top left corner of the motherboard we find the CPU 8-pin power connector.

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Between the CPU socket and the RAM slots we see the white traces.

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On the right side there are positioned the 4 DIMM slots that support DDR4 RAM modules with speeds up to 3600+(OC). The motherboard supports a maximum of 64GB.



Next to the RAM slots there are three Debug LEDs these are for (CPU, DRAM and VGA).



Below the CPU socket there is placed the M.2 SATA slot while above there is the M.2 Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth slot, this is being used for installing a Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth module, the module is optional.

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MSI Z170A TOMAHAWK features two internal USB 3.0 ports, the top port is oriented vertically while the lower port is right oriented for an easier connection. These ports are positioned below the ATX power connector.



The motherboard uses two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots supporting (x16, x16/ x4), three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots and two PCI slots.



On the left side there is the PCI ASMedia ASM1083 controller.



Between the two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots there is the Bios battery and two jumpers: the JBAT1 jumper is used to clear the CMOS while the JCI1 jumper is used to detect a Chassis Intrusion.



On the lower part of the motherboard next to the two PCI slots there is the NUVOTON NCT6793D controller responsible for system monitoring and controlling the connected fans.



The audio system is isolated from the rest of the PCB, this is highlighted by a yellow line traced on the PCB when the system is turned on the line is illuminated by a red LED. The capacitors used in the audio system are manufactured by Chemicon.



The audio system uses the Realtek ALC892 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio codec.



The MSI Z170A TOMAHAWK model features 6(six) SATA 6Gb/s ports. The SATA5~6 ports will be unavailable when the M.2 slot is being used.



The chipset heatsink uses a similar angular design as the VRM heatsinks, also this heatsink features a three color design while in the middle there is the manufacturer’s logo.

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On the back side we have the I/O panel.
The I/O panel is as follows (from left to right):
–    1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse port
–    2 x USB 2.0 ports
–    2 x USB 3.1 Gen2 ports
–    1 x DVI-D port
–    1 x HDMI™ port
–    1 x Clear CMOS button
–    1 x LAN (RJ45) port
–    2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
–    1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
–    5 x OFC audio jacks



5. Final thoughts

For a budget oriented motherboard, the MSI Z170A TOMAHAWK offers some important features often found on higher priced motherboards, options such as the Debug LEDs, the isolated audio system, two USB 3.0 ports, the option of using a M.2 type SSD or the support for AMD CrossFire.
The look of the motherboard is pleasing, using well-proportioned heatsinks while the ATX form factor makes the installing process easier. The build quality is good starting from the PCB to the VRM and Chipset heatsinks.

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