MSI Z170A GAMING M5 (LGA1151) Motherboard Review
John Williamson / 4 years ago
A Closer Look
The Z170A GAMING M5’s black PCB and two-tone colour on the heatsinks makes for an absolutely breathtaking finish. Furthermore, the visually striking accents near the DIMM slots adds something special to the motherboard’s styling. The fan layout accompanies high-end cooling hardware in a seamless way and allows for extremely clean cable management. MSI’s Steel Armor has a greater number of solder points on the PCB to protect against electromagnetic interference. Furthermore, the metal shielding reduces GPU droop and helps stabilize heavy GPUs.
MSI have deployed Military Class 5 components to aid stability and prolong the product’s lifespan throughout extreme usage scenarios. This model opts for a 12 phase power design and titanium chokes with a higher thermal tolerance compared to industry standard alternatives. This allows the titanium chokes to run at 220 degrees Celsius and feature a 40 percent higher current capacity. Furthermore, there’s a 30 percent reduction in power consumption. MSI’s 10K rated dark capacitors provides a low Equivalent Series Resistance and should last well beyond the estimated 10 year life cycle. Overclocking potential is also enhanced by the DIGITALL Power processor and overvoltage protection.
As previously mentioned, the motherboard is capable of powering up to 64GB of memory and access huge speeds via MSI’s DDR4 Boost technology. DDR4 Boost fully isolates the memory circuitry and uses optimized traces to create a pure signal while reducing electromagnetic interference. Theoretically, this provides additional headroom to attain higher overclocks on the memory. Another exemplary choice revolves around the USB 3.0 header which opts for a right-angled orientation. Thankfully, MSI has taken the correct approach because this makes cable management much cleaner and obscures the unwieldy USB 3.0 chassis cable.
The motherboard contains a number of voltage checkpoints to accurately monitor incremental changes during the overclocking procedure. This is a wonderful addition for professional overclockers because they can use a multimeter to observe the PCH, VCCIO, VCCSA, DDR, GPU and CPU voltages at any time.
MSI have taken every possible step to protect the PCB against environmental damage and electro static discharge. For example, the multiple layers and impressive shielding results in excellent circuit protection. On another note, the PCB is designed to cope with high temperatures and varying humidities.
Here we can see the huge connectivity options in the form of 6 SATA ports, 2 SATA Express and 2 M.2 connectors. The PCI-E layout is designed to house either 2-way SLI or 3-way Crossfire configurations. Enthusiast overclockers will definitely find the Slow Mode switch a valuable tool when benchmarking extreme frequencies. Simply flicking the switch will temporarily reduce the core ratio below stock settings and allow your system to boot. The LED post is essential when diagnosing booting problems and trying to fix instability errors. I absolutely adore MSI’s LED post because it displays the CPU temperature after a successful boot. I cannot fathom at all why other manufacturers have not implemented this on their entire product range.
The audio segment is positioned on an isolated section of the PCB to reduce electromagnetic interference. The HD processor is protected by an EMI shielded cover. MSI have deployed premium Nippon Chemi-Con audio capacitors and dual headphone amplifiers. These can drive high-end audio equipment up to 600 Ohms. The gold-plated audio jacks offer the best possible signal over time and adds a premium touch.
Connectivity-wise, the rear I/O includes a PS/2 port, two USB 2.0, DVI-D, USB 3.1 Type-A, USB 3.1 Type-C, four USB 3.0, HDMI, RJ45, S/PDIF out and 5 audio jacks.