MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM

msi-logo

 

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.

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Official product link:

https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/Z170A-XPOWER-GAMING-TITANIUM-EDITION.html#hero-overview

2. Packaging and accessories

The motherboard is packaged in a white box with red and black accents.
On the front side of the box there is printed the model of the product, the background consists of an overview image of the motherboard. On the top side there are printed both the name & logo of the manufacturer.

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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.

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Accessories

The product comes with the following accessories:
–    1x Manual
–    1x MSI GAMING door hanger
–    1x Quick Installation Guide
–    1x SATA Cable label pack
–    1x Driver CD
–    1x I/O Shield
–    6x SATA Cables
–    1x USB 3.0 Angle Adapter
–    1x OC Dashboard
–    1x CPU Delid bracket
–    1x MSI Gaming Dragon badge
–    1x Voltage measuring cable kit
–    1x SLI Bridge

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3. Specifications

CPU SUPPORT: 6th Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors and Intel Pentium/Celeron Processors
SOCKET: LGA 1151
CHIPSET: Intel Z170 Chipset
POWER DESIGN: 10+4+2+1 Phase
FORM FACTOR: ATX Form Factor (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm)
INTEGRATED GRAPHICS: Dependent on Installed CPU
MEMORY: 4x DIMM, Max. 64 GB, up to DDR4-4000(OC)
BIOS: AMI UEFI Dual BIOS with 64 Mb Flash ROM
Expansion Slots:
–    4x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16/0/0/x4, x8/0/x8/x4 or x8/x4/x4/x4 modes)
–    3x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots

HDD CONNECTVIITY:
–    6x SATA 6Gb/s ports*(SATA1~6)
–    2x SATAe ports (PCIe 3.0 x2)
–    2x M.2 Key M Socket supports type 2280/2260/2242 storage devices in both PCIE Gen3 x4 & SATA mode

NETWORKING: 1x Intel® I219-V Gigabit LAN controller
PORTS:
–    1x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
–    3x USB 2.0 ports
* 1x HOTKEY port
* 1x BIOS FLASHBACK+ port
–    1x Clear CMOS button
–    2x HDMI™ ports
–    1x DisplayPort
–    2x USB 3.1 Gen2 ports
–    4x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
–     1x LAN (RJ45) port
–     1x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
–     5x OFC audio jacks

AUDIO: Realtek ALC1150 7.1 Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
FAN HEADERS: 5x 4-Pin

Features:

–    Supports 6th Gen Intel® Core™ / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1151 socket
–    Supports DDR4-3866+(OC) Memory
–    OC DASHBOARD: Experience easier on-the-fly overclocking under the most extreme condition.
–    DDR4 Boost: Give your DDR4 memory a performance boost
–    USB 3.1 Gen2 2X FASTER: USB 3.1 Gen2 offers performance twice as fast as a regular USB 3.0 connection
–    Twin Turbo M.2 64Gb/s + Turbo U.2 ready + USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A + SATA 6Gb/s
–    GAMING LAN with LAN Protect, powered by Intel®: The best online gaming experience with lowest latency
–    Audio Boost 3: Reward your ears with studio grade sound quality
–    Nahimic Audio Enhancer: Immersive sound quality that pushes the limits of reality
–    Game Boost: This one goes up to eleven; 8 levels of easy overclocking
–    GAMING Hotkey: Assign macros, launch your favorite games or do real-time overclocking using a single button
–    Designed for overclocking: with OC Essentials and OC Engine 2
–    Military Class 5: The latest evolution in high quality components featuring the brand new Titanium Chokes
–    MULTI-GPU with Steel Armor: Steel Armor PCI-E slots. Supports NVIDIA SLI™ & AMD Crossfire™
–    Click BIOS 5: Award-winning brand new Click BIOS 5 with high resolution scalable font
–    BIOS Flashback+: Easy BIOS recovery without the need of a CPU, memory and VGA card
–    GAMING CERTIFIED: 24-hour on- and offline game testing by eSports players for the best gaming experience

4. Visual inspection

The XPower Gaming Titanium model uses a black-white-gray chromatic. The motherboard’s PCB is white and on the middle of it there is applied a gray lightning strike which continues on both the Chipset heatsink and the VRM heatsink, being embossed on them.

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The motherboard features 5(five) 4-pin Molex PWM connectors, their position is the following:
Also the motherboard measures 305mm in height and has a width of 244mm.

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The VRM heatsinks mounted on the motherboard have a minimalistic design, being completely white and having perforated lines on the sides. In the top left corner of the motherboard we find the CPU 8-pin power connector, next to it we have the additional 4-Pin power connector for the CPU.img_1768 img_1772 img_1778img_1792img_1789

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

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  On the right side, we find the 4 DIMM slots that support DDR4 RAM with speeds up to 4000+(OC). The motherboard supports a maximum of 64GB.

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Next to the DIMM slots we have a header for monitoring voltages in real-time using a multi-meter.img_1788

Below there is a slot for MSI’s OC Dashboard, this can be used to Overclock the CPU directly from the motherboard, the panel includes functions such as: modifying the CPU multiplier and BCLK and basic functions such as Clearing the CMOS, system reset or Slow Boot Mode. img_1787 img_1851

The OC Dashboard can be connected to the motherboard using a USB 3.0 cable included in the accessory bundle, this feature is necessary in the case of LN2 overclocking, the OC Panel being at a distance from the CPU and motherboard.

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The motherboard features two USB 3.0 ports, both are oriented vertically, the top port is a USB 3.1 Gen1 connector while the lower port is an internal USB 3.0 port.

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The motherboard uses four PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16/0/0/x4, x8/0/x8/x4 or x8/x4/x4/x4) slots and three (3) PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. The first and third PCIe ports are reinforced with metal in order to support graphics cards with any type of cooling system, this feature is useful when moving the system.

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The Bios battery is located between the middle PCIe 3.0 slots.img_1824

Below the CPU socket and the VRM heatsinks there is an extra 6-Pin power connector for the PCIe slots. img_1819

Located between the first two PCIe slots, we find one of the two M.2 SATA slots.  img_1823

The second SATA M.2 slot is positioned between the last two PCIe slots. img_1826

On the left side of the motherboard, next to the PCIe slots there is the Nuvoton NCT6793D I/O chip, this among others, has the PWM function of all connected fans. img_1831

The audio system is isolated from the rest of the PCB, this is highlighted by a black 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.img_1828 img_1836 img_1906

The Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM model uses 8 (eight) SATA 6 Gb/s ports, and two SATAe ports.img_1797

The chipset heatsink uses a similar angular design as the VRM heatsingks, also the chipset features the end of the gray lightning bolt that is on the main PCB, this stretches across the radiator also having a black background. In the middle there is the MSI dragon while lower we have the manufacturer’s logo. img_1816

On the lower left part of the motherboard we find the POST display, during the boot sequence it displays different messages/error codes and while the system is running it displays the Package temperature of the CPU.img_1807 img_1907

Next to the POST display there are three switches PEGSW1 which allow the user to shut down the PCIe slots, on the right we have the Hot Key switch. This enables MSI’s Gaming Hotkey feature which allows each keyboard button to be a Macro button.img_1807

The “Game Boost” knob for automatic overclocking is similar to the “OC Genie” button found on the motherboards from previous series.
This knob goes from 0 to 11, this is a reference to the 1984 “This Is Spinal Tap” American rock music mockumentary comedy film.
The “Game Boost” function can be used from the knob or from the bios. In the bios each level (0-11) represents one overclocking profile for Skylake CPUs: i7-6700K and i5-6600K.img_1801 img_1802

On the left of the Game Boost knob there are the Power & Reset buttons.img_1800

The Bios switch is located below the Chipset heatsink.img_1804

On the back side we have the I/O panel.
The I/O panel is as follows (from left to right):
–    1x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
–    3x USB 2.0 ports
–    1x Clear CMOS button
–    2x HDMI™ ports
–    1x DisplayPort
–    2x USB 3.1 Gen2 ports
–    4x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
–     1x LAN (RJ45) port
–     1x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
–     5x OFC audio jacksimg_1837

Bios

The Bios of the new Skylake motherboards has received a new introductory section which allows the modification of base settings without changing important settings such as the CPU voltage.
This section is named “EZ Mode” and includes settings such as: boot order, fan speed, XMP Profiles and automatic CPU overclocking.

msi_biosmsi_ezmode

Like the MSI Gaming line motherboards the XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM model uses a bios which offers numerous options, the UEFI interface offered by MSI is quite different from other manufacturers when we talk about the layout of the bios.
The main window of the Click Bios 5 displays the 6 main sections of the bios, these are placed on the sides of the window. On the upper side of the main window we find general information about the system such as the components & peripherals installed on the motherboard and various temperatures.

Software

The MSI Gaming line motherboards come with a rich software bundle, these pieces of software are meant to make things easier for the user.
Included in the software bundle we find a couple of applications with the purpose of allowing the user to customize the system settings and to increase performance. These applications can manage everything from controlling the fans connected to the motherboard up to overclocking and Bios update.

MSI Command Center

commandcenter

comandcenter1

MSI | Intel Extreme Tuning Utilityintel

MSI Eco Centerecocenter

CPU-Z MSI Branded

Other applications included in the bios have a different role, they take care of the sound system, the Lan and wireless networks and starting the system directly into the bios.

Nahimic Audionahimic

Killer Network Manager

gaminglan

5. Testing

The following system was used to test the motherboard:
–    CPU: Intel i5 6600K Stock / @ 4.5 GHz
–    RAM: Patriot Viper 4 8GB DDR4 2400MHz
–    GPU: MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC Gaming
–    HDD: Samsung SpinPoint F3 500GB
–    SSD:  Samsung 840 EVO 120GB
–    PSU: In Win Green ME 750W
–    CPU Cooler: NZXT Kraken x61
–    Display: AOC i2769VM
–    Case: Fractal Design Define R5
–    OS: Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1

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The processor was used with the stock turbo frequency of 3.9 GHz and overclocked to 4.5 GHz with a core voltage of 1.256.
The RAM memory was used at its default frequency.cpu-z1

Software used for testing the motherboard:
–    3D Mark – FireStrike, CloudGate, IceStorm.
–    CineBench r11.5
–    SuperPi mod 1.5
–    wPrime v1.55
–    Grand Theft Auto V
–    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
–    Tomb Raider 2013

The test results are as follows:

3D Mark

Overall Score

3dmark-overall

Fire Strikefirestrike

 

Cloud Gatecloud-gate

 

Ice Stormicestorm

 

CineBench r15cinebench

 

SuperPi mod 1.5superpi

 

wPrime v1.55wprime

 

Grand Theft Auto Vgtav1

 

The Witcher 3: Wild Huntwitcher3

 

Tomb Raider 2013tombraider

 

6. Final thoughts

MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM is designed for overclocking and for users who are looking for a unique motherboard.
The white PCB combined with the shape of the heatsinks give the motherboard a unique design, being a welcomed changed compared to the usual black-red color combination being used by most of the motherboards manufactures in the last years.
The performance in both manual & automatic overclocking is excellent. The “Game Boost” knob is ideal for users who want a fast and stable overclocking.
Also the motherboard offers numerous overclocking features such as, the OC Dashboard, a dual Bios configuration, voltage check points and the possibility of individually turning off the PCIe express slots. Also in the accessory bundle there is a Delid bracket to use on a CPU with the IHS removed.
In conclusion, Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM it is a product that addresses a wide range of users, offering options for both regular users and overclocking while having at the same time a unique design.

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