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MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK (Intel Z170) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Sep 7, 2015 3:09 pm
TweakTown Rating: 91%Manufacturer: MSI

Z170A GAMING M9 ACK Circuit Analysis Continued




This quarter of the board is covered in amplifiers, DACs, ADCs, and high quality electrolytic audio capacitors; it's also probably responsible for a quarter of the cost of the entire product. MSI went back to the basics of implementing a sound card on a motherboard by literally implementing a sound card on the motherboard. There are multiple analog filter stages, many different types of operational amplifiers, and two sets of digital to analog converters (DACs) and analog to digital converters (ADCs), one set is for the back panel outputs and the other for the front panel header.





The audio is based on a CMedia CM6632A audio processor found on many sound cards. It uses USB 2.0 as its interface and PMC PM39LV010 1Mbit CMOS provides flash memory and is located on the back of the PCB. For the front panel, there is a Cirrus Logic CS5346 analog to digital converter, an ESSTech ES9016K2M SABRE digital to analog converter, a Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 high fidelity audio amplifier, and two National Instruments LM4562 HiFi dual audio amplifiers located on the back of the PCB. The back panel IO outputs use a Cirrus Logic CS5346 analog to digital converter, an ESSTech ES9006AS SABRE digital to analog converter, nine Texas Instruments FET-Input OPA1652 operational amplifiers, and three National Instruments LM4562 HiFi dual audio amplifiers.




The flash memory and amplifiers pictures on the right are located on the backside of the PCB and are some of the audio hardware referenced earlier. There are 13 red LEDs that light up the PCB divide, which isolates the audio card from the rest of the motherboard.




A Killer 1535 provides Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1. The Wireless AC is 2x2 so it tops out at 867Mbps.




MSI is known for using re-drivers on their USB ports, and here we see two ASMedia ASM1464 re-drivers for the vertical USB 3.0 internal header to help increase signal integrity for longer USB 3.0 internal header cables. On the right, there is an ASMedia ASM1142 USB 3.1 controller, and a Texas Instruments HDS3212 type-C switch to ensure working compatibility with type-c devices.




There are numerous ASM1480s scattered along the bottom half of the PCB and they are PCI-E gen3 quick switches to switch SATA and PCI-E bandwidth around the board. The M.2 slots share some bandwidth with some SATA ports, and the middle 16x PCI-E slot (4x electrical) shares its bandwidth with the PCI-E 1x slots. There is a single 128Mbit BIOS ROM from Winbond, and a few of these nuvoTon NCT5605 and other unknown ICs act as secondary superIOs/ECs for the OC features (BIOS Flashback and auto OC wheel) and fan control.




The main SuperIO is the nuvoTon NCT6793D which provides fan control and temperature and voltage monitoring as well as the PS/2 port on the backpanel IO. An NXP PTN3360 acts as a level shifter for the HDMI output.




Four main ASMedia ASM1480s switch 8x of bandwidth from the first PCI-E 16x slot to the third.

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