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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

This is where you can fast forward to the final section of the review, and get a quick recap and points on the MSI Z170A GAMING M9 ACK.


What's Hot


HiFi Audio Implementation: I have reviewed other MSI boards in the past which had greatly upgraded audio sections compared to other motherboards, but I think this implementation might be MSI's best yet. MSI literally took a sound card and implemented it on the motherboard, and they didn't seem to bat an eye at the sheer amount of space required. This audio implementation requires a lot of circuitry considering it has dedicated AMPs, DACs, and ADCs for the rear and front audio systems. There are countless rows of amplifiers and many Nichicon Gold capacitors. The final result is an excellent audio implementation which sounds as good as it looks. It's one of the best I have seen on a motherboard.


UEFI and Fan Control: MSI's Z170 UEFI is strong. Not only does it provide a sleek and easy to use interface, but it also has all the features you need to overclock and setup your system. Fan control in the UEFI is one of the best I have seen, the GUI is useful, you can visualize the temperature used in the SMART fan scheme, and you can pick if you want to use the CPU or system temperature.



Wi-Fi and LAN Teaming: Killer's DoubleShot Pro allows for the teaming of Killer NICs to Killer Wi-Fi units, which is something unique. If you saturate your wired connection then DoubleShot Pro would be useful for getting around bottlenecks. Regardless of your view on Killer's software, MSI's NIC implementation is better than most other boards regardless of NIC brand. MSI is using the "Killer Shield" which is just a brand name hardware LAN filter, which uses transformers to improve signal quality, provide isolation from high voltage spikes, match impedance, and reduce noise.


OC Features: At $400, you expect to have OC features and MSI does please with the inclusion of all basic OC features and some extras. The standards POST Code, voltage read points, power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons are all present. MSI also provides USB BIOS flashing to recover a corrupt BIOS, a slow mode switch, and a dial for automatic overclocking.


Aesthetics: MSI brought out some of their better designs for the Z170A GAMING M9 ACK. For starters, all the shields are metal, and the designs are contemporary so they are easier to match. For reasons I can't easily explain, I actually really like the red trace path silk screen around the DDR area. MSI also provides red aluminum modular case screws that really add that final touch of red to round out the look of your system. MSI also has LEDs everywhere, even in the heat sinks. If you love red and black, then you will love the way the Z170A GAMING M9 ACK looks.


What's Not


Very High Price: At $400, it is the second most expensive Z170 motherboard, and it doesn't support 4-way SLI/CrossFireX like other boards at this price range. Instead, it offers a very nice audio card built into the motherboard, and that is something you have to think about before you spend your money on this board. If you could deal with less impressive audio or you have an external DAC, then the Z170A GAMING M9 ACK might not be worth it for you.


CPU fan headers are PWM only: While the system fan headers will work with both PWM (4-pin) and voltage mode (3-pin) fans, 3-pin fans will run at 100% in either of the two CPU fan headers because they only support PWM mode.



Final Thoughts


At $399.99, the Z170A GAMING M9 ACK is the second most expensive Z170 motherboard currently on the market. While the cost of the product is sky high, it does have many cool features that could justify its price. Since the Z170A GAMING M9 ACK is inherently a gaming motherboard, it should have appealing gaming features. These days gaming features on a motherboard refer to audio, networking, aesthetics, and auto overclocking. MSI has implemented one of the best motherboard audio setups I have seen along with solid networking hardware, killer aesthetics, and a good amount of overclocking features. MSI has also paid a lot of attention to detail that isn't easily spotted upon first glance. There are re-drivers for the USB, the LAN has its own filter, red and black colored modular screws are provided, and the auto overclocking has ten levels that can be manually configured.




The motherboard looks and feels high quality as well. The shield on the back didn't really make sense to me until I held the motherboard and felt how stiff it is with the shield. The PCB will definitely not warp under multiple heavy video cards and a big CPU cooler. Just like the BMW M9 will be a powerful engine with a little car added to it, the Z170A GAMING M9 ACK is a powerful sound card with a little motherboard added to it. If you don't need the crazy audio that the motherboard offers, then you should look towards a more affordable product, since the majority of premium of this product comes from the audio section.

Product Summary Breakdown

TweakTown award
Performance (including Overclocking)90%
Quality including Design and Build91%
General Features97%
Bundle and Packaging92%
Value for Money87%
Overall TweakTown Rating91%

The Bottom Line: If price is no issue and you want excellent audio built into a gaming motherboard with sleek aesthetics, then you should give the MSI Z170A GAMING M9 ACK a look.

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