MSI Z270 Gaming M7 Walkthrough
The accessory package offers a lot regarding getting your system setup. M-Connectors make using the front panel headers much simpler, the package includes more SATA cables than most people will need, and cable labels let you track what cables are attached to what ports.
The IO shield is fully labeled as well, and an RGB LED Y-Cable allows you to attach two RGB LED strips to the onboard RGB header. One other unique aspect of the Z270 Gaming M7 is its color scheme. It has a very neutral color scheme, so you can choose whatever color theme you want to go with. I chose red. The motherboard also has six fan headers that offer PWM/DC modes of operation, two of which can auto sense PWM/DC mode.
The IO panel has a few features worth noting. First is a clear CMOS button, which is easy to press in case your system fails to boot. I also like how MSI has used their red LED illuminated LAN port, so you can easily find it in the dark. The USB 3.1 type-A and type-C ports are gold plated as are the audio connectors. The motherboard offers a good amount of storage with the six native SATA6Gb/s ports, a U.2 port, and three M.2 slots.
The M.2 slots are all reinforced, the metal shield around the port is for EMI protection. There are two USB 3.0 internal headers situated in different positions in case your cable isn't very long. The motherboard also offers two USB 2.0 internal headers, which can be useful for hooking up accessories like Corsair Link.
MSI has designed a hybrid audio/PCI-E slot cover, and each slots front section is illuminated. Under that cover are two hidden secrets. The first secret is that MSI used two ALC1220 codecs so that both the rear and front audio headphone jacks get 120dB SNR through the built-in amplifier in each codec (first time I have seen anything like it).
The second secret is a VR Boost EMI cover that covers up some circuit to improve signaling to rear USB for VR devices. Under the bottommost PCI-E slot is the RGB LED header we will connect our RGB strip to. The PCI-E slots are also reinforced with a metal shield that is supposed to help reduce damage from heavy GPUs and offer EMI protection. The RGB LED header has an eFuse protection chip, so if you screw up the polarity of the RGB strip, the motherboard will be protected.
The new USB 3.1 type-C internal header is not as common as you might think; MSI's Z270 Gaming M7 is one of few motherboards to offer this new header. A right-angled USB 3.0 header helps improve the look of the system by allowing the USB 3.0 internal cable to peek out instead of loop into the motherboard. MSI also offer USB BIOS recovery through their BIOS Flashback+ feature, all you have to do is insert a USB stick with the BIOS file into the right angled USB 2.0 port on the IO panel and press the FLASHB1 button to recover a corrupt BIOS.
The Z270 Gaming M7 also offers many overclocking features. The POST code display located at the top of the motherboard provides diagnostic capabilities during boot up, but after boot, it acts as a temperature meter for the CPU.
One of the more overlooked features of the motherboard comes in the form of the four jumpers grouped into eight pins. They are labeled OC_FS1, OC_RT1, JSLOW1, and LN1. To enable any of the features, you can attach a switch to the jumper pairs. The jumper OC_FS1 forces you into the BIOS upon reboot, OC_RT1 will reapply your settings and try to boot again, JSLOW1 will take the CPU and cache into x8 mode, and JLN1 is used to boot under extreme cold. Many of these jumpers are for extreme overclocking, but they are nice to have in case you want to get into more extreme overclocking down the road.
The Game Boost knob is located in the lower corner of the motherboard, and near it are two LEDs to indicate SW or HW control mode. In HW control mode, you can turn the knob to engage one of many overclocking profiles. Power and reset buttons are also provided for users who will use the motherboard on a test bench. You might have also noticed that the motherboard screw ports have an interesting solder design around them, and that is to improve ESD protection by increasing the motherboard's ground layer contact with case metal through the standoff screw.
The motherboard uses an 8+2 phase design for the CPU VCore and iGPU; this is more than enough to ensure proper Kaby Lake overclocking. MSI's VRM is based on MSI's Military Class V technology. Titanium (Ti) branded chokes, Dark Cap, and Dark Chokes makeup MSI's Military Class V feature group and offer high longevity. A single 8-pin CPU power connector provides 300W of power, MSI's increases this to 450W by adding an extra 4-pin CPU power connector. The extra power connector is not required for operation.
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