Today we are going to dig in and look at a Z170-based motherboard from our friends at MSI. They have been pretty creative with their lineup and themes. From Gaming boards to the more budget conscious Krait line, there is something for everyone. MSI has taken the venerable MPower and XPower lines and added a titanium silver color theme, and a few feature updates on top of typically great overclocking abilities. Welcome to MSI’s stable and to our test bench, the MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium. Not only does it have the standout looks, the MPower and XPower lines are known to overclock pretty well. Let’s see what the added features are and if it still has the gusto to push on your CPU in our performance tests.
The specifications table is sourced from the MSI webpage for the MPower Gaming Titanium. Being Z170 based, we know it will support 6th generation Skylake CPUs like the 6600K or 6700K (see more at the CPU support page). The board has four DDR4 memory slots supporting up to 64GB with speeds up to 3600 MHz (OC) which is on par with most enthusiast level motherboards. Just make sure your IMC can handle it and your memory is rated for it or can overclock there! MSI’s DDR4 boost helps in achieving these higher clocks, so you should be good in many cases with speeds as high and higher than rated. As always, your mileage may vary!
There are a total of three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (top is the only x16 electrical, the other two are x8) and three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. This configuration supports 2-Way SLI and 3-Way Crossfire. If you plan to use the integrated graphics on the GPU with this board, it has a DVI-DL-D port to get a picture on your monitor.
For storage connectivity, the MPower Gaming Titanium has a total of six SATA 6Gb/s ports supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10. It also has two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 (Key M) slots supporting RAID0, and 1. The board fits all lengths from 2242, 2260, 2280, and 22110 though only the top slot supports the 110mm. MSI did include one U.2 port as well. Outside of the missing SATA Express ports (is there really much loss there?), you are well taken care of in the storage area. Just be aware both the M2_2 slot and U.2 port share the same bandwidth. See the manual for more details.
When talking USB, there are plenty of ports and options. Based off the ASMedia chipset, the board gives you two USB 3.1 Gen2 ports. One Type-A and one Type-C (both located on the back panel). There is another Type-C port, however it is USB 3.1 Gen1. Along with them are six USB 3.1 Gen1 ports (two on the back panel, four through internal connectors) and six more USB 2.0 ports with four being on the back panel and two more available through internal USB connectors.
The audio used on the MPower Gaming Titanium is Realtek ALC1150 CODEC based. MSI also includes the Audio Boost 3 powered by Nahimic Sounds Technology through 7.1 channels.
All details can be seen below!
|MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium
|CPU||• Supports 6th Gen Intel® Core&trade i3/i5/i7 processors, and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® processors for Socket LGA1151
* Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.
|Chipset||Intel® Z170 Chipset|
|Main Memory||• 4 x DDR4 memory slots, support up to 64GB
– Supports DDR4 3600(OC)/ 3200(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400/ 2133 MHz
• Dual channel memory architecture
• Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory
– ECC UDIMM memory (non-ECC mode)*
• Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* For the latest information about memory, please visit http://www.msi.com
|Slots||• 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots*
• 3 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots*
* PCI_E6 slot and PCIe x1 slots share the same bandwidth. Please refer to page 30 for PCIe slots bandwidth table.
|Onboard Graphics||• DVI-DL-D port|
|Multi-GPU||• Supports 3-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology
• Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
|Storage||Intel® Z170 Chipset
• 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports*
– Support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10
• 2 x M.2 slots (Key M)*
– Supports up to PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gb/s
– Supports 2242/ 2260/ 2280/ 22110 storage devices**
– Supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 for M.2 PCIe Storage devices***
• 1 x U.2 port*
– Supports PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe storage
• Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology***** M.2 SATAs and SATA1, 2, 5 and 6 share the same bandwidth. M2_2 slot and U.2 port share the same bandwidth. Please refer to page 36 for M.2/ U.2 & SATA combination table.
** Only M2_1 slot supports type 22110 storage device.
*** M.2 PCIe RAID volume can be created with UEFI BIOS.
****This function will be supported depend on the CPU.
|USB||ASMedia® ASM1142 Chipset
• 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) port on the back panel
• 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (Super Speed USB 10Gbps) Type-C port on the back panel
Intel® Z170 Chipset
– 6 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) Type-C port on the board
– 6 x USB 2.0 (High-speed USB) ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB connector)
|Audio||• Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
– Supports S/PDIF output
|LAN||• 1 x Intel® I219-V Gigabit LAN controller|
|Internal I/O Connectors||– 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 2 x M.2 slots
– 1 x U.2 port
– 1 x USB 2.0 connector (supports additional 2 USB 2.0 ports)
– 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports)
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C port
– 2 x 4-pin CPU fan connectors
– 3 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 2 x Front panel connectors
– 1 x TPM module connector
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 1 x RGB LED connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x Slow mode booting jumper
|Back Panel I/O Ports||– 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 4 x USB 2.0 ports
– 1 x DVI-D port
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 port
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
– 1 x HDMI port
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
– 5 x OFC audio jacks
|Dimensions||• 12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm)
• ATX Form Factor
MSI uses what they call “DDR4 Boost Technology” on the MPower Gaming Titanium using optimized traces and isolated memory circuitry. This is said to help with stability and optimal performance of the system RAM which to us should translate to better overclocking.
The Realtek ALC1150 audio CODEC is supported by the Audio Boost 3 and Nahimic software allowing you to tweak the eight channels of sound offered to your ear’s desires. Along with the software the MPower Gaming Titanium uses gold audio jacks, a physical separation from the rest of the board to help reduce EMI, and Chemi-Con capacitors to bring you the best audio experience from an integrated solution.
Intel’s latest NIC, the I219-V, finds its way on this board along with the MSI Gaming LAN Manager software. The combination allows one to shape network traffic for the best experience for whatever activity you are doing at the time. The I219-V has low CPU overhead and high TCP/UDP throughput for better FPS due to less CPU overhead. Typically it isn’t high anyway, however more is always better, as they say! The NIC also has the LAN Protect feature to prevent torching the component due to static electricity. It protects 15kV worth where others are typically about half the value.
Although this board has a debug display, it also has the EZ debug simple light LEDs found by the 24 pin power lead. These LED’s light up through the boot process to show you where you are. There are LEDs for CPU, Memory, and VGA. If you get hung up in the POST process, whatever the culprit is will stay lit up. If you get a bit overzealous with the CPU voltage, there is an over-voltage protection LED which will light up as well and let you know. I didn’t see it at 4.7 GHz with 1.40V or more (up to 4.9 GHz at 1.50V) so there is plenty of headroom.
The MPower Gaming Titanium also meets MSI’s Military Class V certification, which includes titanium chokes which for better efficiency and power stability. The dark caps not only look good, but they have a lower Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR) as well as 10-year+ lifespan.
The last feature to mention here is the Gaming Device Port. This is an optimized USB/Mouse port that is designed to give “…the best connectivity for high end gaming mice to fully utilize its speed.” The port along with the Mouse Master software will give you more control over the device and even smoother gameplay.
For more details and features, please see the MSI page for the Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium.
Retail Packaging and Accessories
Below is a slideshow showing you the retail packaging. We can tell it is from the Titanium line immediately due to the shiny titanium color dominating the packaging. Also pictured on the front of the box is the board in all its titanium glory. The back of the box contains the usual fare of specifications and features.
Opening up the retail packaging you are greeted by the motherboard up top sitting in its anti-static bag. Below the board, and the cardboard partition it sits on, is where the accessories are hidden. The packaging will definitely stick out on a retail shelf!
A Closer Look
Taking a look at the board in the pictures, we see the titanium, almost silver, dominating the theme with black accents throughout. The DIMM slots and PCIe slots are black with the titanium colored shielding around each slot. The heatsinks for the VRM are also mostly black with more of the silver/titanium highlight pieces on top while the I/O and audio cover follows the same theme.
The backside of the board brings a bit of a surprise in the form of a back plate covering most of the board. It looks pretty cool with the MSI Gaming dragon making an appearance and some ‘stick on’ vents. The back plate does give one ample access to the back of the CPU socket as well as the back of the PCH heatsink where its screws are located.
Overall, its a pretty good looking board. As a pleasant surprise, in a world of bling and LEDs integrated into motherboards, the MPower Gaming Titanium has no lighting features other than the isolated audio line and LAN Protect LED. They all have functions! So while the board may not light up like a disco ball itself, there is a four pin header on the board you can use to plug in some case LEDs.
In looking at the bottom half of the board, we first see the cover for the Realtek ALC1150 Audio and some of the Chemi-Con audio capacitors poking out. The Realtek IC is EMI-Shielded according to MSI. Perhaps the faraday cage is in the plastic cover somewhere. Hidden under there are two Texas Instruments Headphone Amplifiers touting “studio level sound quality and up to 600 Ohm delivered.”
The three x16 PCIe slots are x16/x8/x8 max electrically and are supported by MSI’s Steel Armor with more solder points around the PCB for more strength. This is said to protect PCIe signals from EMI. To the right is the PCH heatsink with the MSI Gaming Dragon’s head and the MSI name on its black and titanium/silver plate.
Up top we see a better look at the large heatsink for the VRMs on the left side with a smaller one on top. These are plenty large enough to keep the VRMs cool under the most extreme overclocking conditions. Power is fed to the VRMs by a single CPU 8-pin connector. The DIMM slots are also re-enforced by the Steel Armor giving those a pretty unique look.
At the back I/O area, we see a pretty conventional mix of connectivity there. Everything from a legacy PS/2 port (part of their Gaming port), all the way to USB3.1 Gen2 Type-C. A complete list is as follows:
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x DVI-D port
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 port
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
- 1 x HDMI port
- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
- 5 x OFC audio jacks
When we look where the SATA ports typically reside, we see at the bottom of the board, two lonely SATA 6Gb/s ports. On the side we see the U.2 port and the other four SATA ports. We also see a 90-degree USB front panel header and a side USB Type-C port as well. Again, we are missing the SATA Express ports… not sure anyone is crying over it honestly.
Below is a shot of the CPU socket area showing off the DDR4 Boost traces as well as the VRM. There are a few dark caps around the Titanium chokes, otherwise its pretty clear around the socket… good for easy insulating for sub-ambient cooling.
UEFI BIOS and Monitoring/Overclocking Software
MSI’s latest iteration of their UEFI BIOS, Click BIOS 5, makes its home here in the MPower Gaming Titanium. It starts off in EZ Mode which gives you a dashboard like setup and displays important information about the system. You can also change a few options here as well. Once in advanced, you are greeted with the major headings on the side… Settings, OC, M-Flash, OC Profile, Hardware Monitor, and Board Explorer.
Most know I am a fan of the MSI BIOS layout. Things feel placed where they need to be and moving around by mouse or keyboard was smooth as you expect it to be.
Below are some screenshots of a the Overclocking Settings section where most of us will play often! Plenty of options here for ambient and extreme overclocking for sure:
Test Setup and Results
|CPU||Intel i7 6700K|
|CPU Cooler||Custom Loop with EK LTZ CPU Block, Swiftech MCP655 Vario,
Swiftech MCR320 + PA 120.2, 3x Yate Loon High @ 1K RPM
|Motherboard||MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium|
|RAM||GSkill Trident Z 2×8 GB DDR4- 3000MHz CL15-15-15-35|
|Graphics Card||MSI RX 480 Gaming X 8G|
|Hard Drive||OCZ RD 400 512GB|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic Platinum-1000|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro x64 (Fully Updated)|
|Benchmarks||AIDA64 Engineer (Memory Test)
Cinebench R11.5 and R15
x265 1080p Benchmark (Hwbot)
Super Pi 1M/32M
Below are our results when comparing the motherboards head to head. As we have seen in the past, there is nary a difference between the boards I have reviewed. Everything was right in line here outside of Intel XTU being significantly slower for whatever reason. I didn’t catch any throttling so I am not entirely sure what happened.
If you would like to see the actual results, the thumbnails are below each graph.
Tables of Raw Data from AIDA64 and Maxxmem:
|AIDA64 Memory Benchmarks – Raw Data (MB/s)|
|MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium||42742||44302||38894||44.6|
|MSI Z170X XPower Gaming||43019||44437||38981||43.2|
|ASUS Sabertooth Mark 1||42278||44123||39179||45.1|
|Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7||42522||44458||38929||46.1|
|Maxxmem Memory Benchmarks – Raw Data (MB/s)|
|MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium||27249||34427||33094|
|MSI Z170X XPower Gaming Titanium||27339||34690||33808|
|ASUS Sabertooth Mark 1||27049||34622||34053|
|Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7||26285||34417||33094|
Pushing the Limits
Here we get to push on the processor and make sure the board can take it…not that 4.7 GHz isn’t already a very good clock and test anyway! Typically I am able to get the CPU up to 4.9 GHz and put it through a few heavy benchmarks, however this board really wanted more voltage than any other so far, over 1.5V so I backed off a bit and went with 4.8 GHz which it ran without problem. This board just wants a bit more voltage for stability then the others for whatever reason.
MSI continues to bring out products across their lines which are attractive to nearly anyone who uses a PC. From the enthusiast and hardcore sub-ambient overclocker, to the gamer and non-power user, there is something for everyone to choose. The Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium really blends the enthusiast and hardcore overclocker pretty well with the gamer. MSI’s DDR4 Boost really helps the extreme crowd push on the memory while the premium VRMs easily send the CPU plenty of clean power. The Intel i219-V NIC, good on board audio in the ALC1150 CODEC from Realtek which is supplemented by the Audio Boost 3 and Nahimic audio suite, and the gaming port, focus on the gamer (as well as their software offerings).
I didn’t have too much to complain about for the board in general. The unique Titanium color looks cool, but may not fit every theme. Another minor quibble are the missing overclocking goodies. Gone are the power/reset and +/- overclocking buttons folks. The easy voltage read points are replaced by labeled solder points. Not a huge deal for most, but, it was surprising to see the MPower line without at least some of those features.
The MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium rings up at $239.99 from Newegg.com. The $200-$250 price bracket is really saturated with a lot of quality boards; the ASRock Z170 OC Formula at the top end and the Gigabyte G1 Gaming 7 towards the bottom. The MPower Gaming Titanium is really a solid board all around, but if you are really gun-ho about having the power/reset and other overclocking items, you will have to look to their XPower line. That said, the board seems priced well when looking at features of other comparable boards, with overclocking being solid, but lacking a bit. If you are looking for a jack of all trades and a black and white or silver themed board, look no further than the MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium.
Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)