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MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM ED. (Intel Z170) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Oct 19, 2015 2:11 pm
TweakTown Rating: 92%Manufacturer: MSI

Packaging and Overview

 

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I am going to apologize in the advanced for some of the photos as it is very hard to photograph this motherboard and its box because they are so close to the white background. Nevertheless, the silver is very close to white, and it looks quite stunning in person. The mixture of white and red on the box is a bit telling of the colors when the board is on (red LEDs against silver/white PCB). All the accessories as well the motherboard are packaged securely.

 

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MSI includes a lot of gaming accessories, you get the same poster, cable stickers, driver DVD, door hanger, installation guide, and manuals as the premium gaming series motherboards from MSI. Perhaps the most exciting accessory is the OC-Dashboard, a separate PCB that houses buttons and switches for overclocking (and it comes with an extension cord). There is also a CPU installation tool, v-checkpoint wires, 6x SATA6Gb/s cables, case badge, extended SLI bridge, and a gaming series IO shield.

 

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The MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION has five fan headers. The two CPU fan headers circled in red are PWM headers, and the three headers circled in blue are voltage mode connectors (but 4-pin headers). The motherboard's aesthetics are unique among Z170 motherboards, the silver PCB can be seen as silver or as white depending on viewing angle, but the heat sinks are silver. The heat sinks match the PCB very well. When the motherboard is installed and powered the audio LEDs are red, and the contrast is quite nice. MSI also has designed the board with DDR4 Boost trace markings, which are supposed to represent MSI's commitment to memory overclocking (the printed on traces aren't the real memory traces). The back of the motherboard is quite bare, and you can see a pure white silkscreen around the PCI-E slots and memory DIMMs which can help determine the true color of the board from pictures.

 

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The IO panel features a ClearCMOS button, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1x Intel Gbit NIC, 2x HDMI, DisplayPort, PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse, 3x USB 2.0 (vertical port is for BIOSFLASHBACK+), and 7.1 gold plated audio outputs with TOSLINK. The RJ-45 LAN port and two USB 3.0 ports under it are illuminated by red LEDs when the system is powered on.

 

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There are four full-sized PCI-E 16x slots, but only three are hooked up to the CPU. The first and third full sized slots both have a metal shield that helps reinforce the physical integrity of the slots, and these two slots operate at 8X/8X when two cards are installed. The second full sized slot in-between the two shielded slots are also hooked up to the CPU PCI-E lanes, and when running three GPUs, you can use that slot or the last PCI-E slot that is routed to the PCH. You can operate at 16x/0x/0x/4x (last 4x is routed to the PCH), 8x/0x/8x/4x, or 8x/4x/4x/4x. The last full sized slot shares its lanes with the three PCI-E 1x slots. There are two M.2 ports, and they both can run at 32Gb/s, but if either slot is occupied they disable some of the SATA ports. Slot M2_1 will disable SATA1 and SATA2 (and, of course, the SATA_EX1 port), and slot M2_2 will disable ports SATA4 and SATA5.

 

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There is a single right-angled USB 3.0 internal header for front panel case headers and a single right-angled USB port located on the PCB for open-air test benches. The board carries a total of eight SATA 6Gb/s ports. An ASMedia controller powers the two leftmost SATA ports, but the rest are all powered by the Z170 PCH. Two SATA Express connectors provide 4x SATA when not using SATA Express.

 

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MSI has loaded the Z170A XPOWER with premium OC features as well as their standard gaming OC features. MSI's new GAME Boost knob is used for novice users who want an automatic overclock; there are ten different levels users can choose from. A power and reset button are located in the lower right-hand corner as is a switch to change between the main and backup BIOS. A post code display, PCI-E disable DIP switches (for the top three PCI-E lanes), and a hot-key switch are located at the bottom of the motherboard.

 

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The OC DASHBOARD is unique to this model. BLCK +/- and Ratio +/- buttons are located on either side of the board along with many more OC features. A second set of power and reset buttons, a discharge button (clear CMOS), slow mode switch (reduce CPU/cache multipliers to 8x on-the-fly), and a GO2BIOS buttons are located on the OC DASHBOARD as well. Voltage read points are located at the top of the board (some other read points are located right under the CPU socket but are tiny). A USB BIOS Flashback button is located at the top of the motherboard as well.

 

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Being a top of the line overclocking motherboard the Z170A XPOWER GTE needs to remove power restrictions. An extra 4-pin CPU power port and a 6-pin PCI-E power port are located on the board to supply extra CPU and PCI-E power.

 

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MSI's audio area is isolated from the rest of the PCB, and the isolation line is illuminated with red LEDs when powered.

 

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The heat sinks make excellent contact with the motherboard. The VRM heat sink cools down the inductors as well as the power stages.

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