With the Intel Z170 chipset, all motherboard manufacturers are bringing their A-game, and it isn't a coincidence. The Z170 chipset is leaps ahead of any previous Intel chipset. Not only does it provide PCI-E 3.0 across its outputs, but it also offers many more connections, even compared to the X99 chipset. This means that third-party controllers aren't very important or very common, so motherboards mostly have the same specifications allotted in different ways. In the past, specifications were enough to set brands and models apart, but with Z170, motherboard manufacturers have to bring unique features of their own not related to connectivity, and that is where things get interesting.
MSI has revamped their gaming lineup naming scheme to match that of BMW and even Intel, with the M3 being at the bottom and the M9 at the top. I don't mind this naming scheme, and it further differentiates MSI's offerings from that of other brands that use the word "Gaming" and the same numbers. Other than naming, MSI has changed a lot of things about their new Z170 gaming motherboards, so follow me as I explore the Z170A GAMING M9 ACK.
The Z170A GAMING M9 ACK is loaded with gaming features. MSI is using Killer's DoubleShot Pro where both Killer's latest NIC and latest Wireless AC card can be teamed. MSI has also really improved their audio section with new features and Nahimic software. There are six SATA 6Gbps ports and two M.2 slots and some bandwidth shared between them. The board supports USB 3.1 both Type-A and Type-C, and there are six total USB 3.0 ports (4 through two internal headers), which are referred to as USB 3.1 Gen. 1 (same as USB 3.0). The board supports 2-way SLI and 3-way CrossFireX as well as many PCI-E 1x lanes.
The MSI Z170A GAMING 9 ACK is one of the most expensive Z170 motherboards at $400. In fact, it's the second most expensive Z170 motherboards, $100 less than the most expensive. At that price, it should offer features above and beyond those offered by the chipset. Most of the cost associated with this board is from the custom audio implementation and gaming features, and not 4-way PCI-E connectivity like other motherboards in the price range.
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- Page 1 [Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing]
- Page 2 [Packaging and the Z170A GAMING M9 ACK]
- Page 3 [MSI Z170A GAMING M9 ACK Circuit Analysis]
- Page 4 [MSI Z170A GAMING M9 ACK Circuit Analysis Continued]
- Page 5 [BIOS and Software]
- Page 6 [Test System Setup]
- Page 7 [Overclocking]
- Page 8 [CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks]
- Page 9 [System IO Benchmarks]
- Page 10 [Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption]
- Page 11 [What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts]