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MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK (Intel Z170) Motherboard Review (Page 3)

By: Steven Bassiri from Sep 7, 2015 @ 10:09 CDT
TweakTown Rating: 91%Manufacturer: MSI

Circuit Analysis


I usually show shots of the back earlier on, but since it was covered up by the large backside shield, I couldn't before. There is a fair amount of backside componentry, and this isn't a bad thing considering there is that backside shield to protect it all. Look at that audio section; there are so many capacitors and amplifiers.


If you count the phases this VRM is a 6+4+1+1 phase VRM (VCC + VCCGT+VCCSA+VCCIO). There are four major input rails to the CPU for Z170; VCC (VCore), VCCGT (Graphics core), VCCSA (System Agent), and VCCIO (CPU IO). Counting the phases from the top left to the bottom right; the first single inductor (choke) is a bit smaller than the rest and it is in charge of VCCSA, following it are six inductors are for the CPU VCore and the other four are for the VCCGT (graphics).

MSI claims that the core material in the inductor's core is Titanium, which is news to me and must be the first time Titanium core inductors have been used on a motherboard. Perhaps it is some titanium alloy or the inductors are coated in titanium or its part of their marketing nomenclature. Titanium does have some interesting properties and is a very expensive metal; it can also handle very high temperatures. The output capacitor bank is a mixture of 10K polymer cans and some tantalums.


The Intersil ISL95856 is a hybrid digital PWM which has a total of 4+3 phase outputs with three integrated drivers. The CPU VCC (VCore) uses three of the four phases, two integrated drivers and a single ISL6625A labeled (5AZ) on the back of the PCB is used for the third driver. Each driver outputs to two sets of MOSFETs and two inductors. The VCCGT (integrated graphics) uses two of the three phases from the second PWM rail and uses a single back-side ISL6625A driver to compliment a single integrated driver. It also has two sets of MOSFETs and inductors for each drivers. The MOSFETs are from NIKO Semiconductor, the PK616BA for the high-side and PK631BA for the low-side PowerPAK MOSFETs for the CPU VCore and CPU Graphics. I should mention that with Z170 there isn't a need for a very powerful VRM for high air overclocks because the CPU doesn't seem to use a lot more power when overclocked compared to stock.


The memory VRM is controlled by a dual phase Powervation digital PWM, the PV3205. The memory VRM uses the same NIKOs power MOSFETs as the CPU VRM. This is more than enough power for any DDR4 configuration. There is an IDT 6V41516NLG clock generator for BLCK overclocking and that inductor there is what outputs the VCCIO power, but I am not able to identify the power MOSFET or POL regulator device used right below it.


The Killer e2400 has become more common as the latest Killer gaming NIC. It was just released a few months ago. MSI has also implemented the "Killer Shield" which is filled with magnetics and acts as a transformer. These LAN filters are usually found on high-end server boards these days. The magnetics improve signal quality, provide isolation from high voltage spikes, match impedance, and reduce noise.

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