Our next Z270-based board we will review is from MSI and is their current flagship board: the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium. If you remember our review of the Z170 version from way back in 2015, they managed to merge both a quality gaming motherboard and a very solid overclocking motherboard into one pretty cool Titanium-themed motherboard. While not much has changed going from Z170 to Z270, we’ll look at some of the features on the board and make sure it still performs with the rest of them. Grab a soda, sit back, and enjoy!
Below is our gratuitous list of specifications from the MSI website for the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium. This board, as well as Z170 boards (make sure to update your BIOS for Kaby Lake before upgrading on Z170 friends!!) supports both 6th and 7th gen (Skylake and Kaby Lake) processors. The board has four DIMM slots in dual channel supporting up to 64GB DDR4 at speeds up to 4000 MHz.
The onboard graphics supports the new Iris Plus 630, the board has one HDMI, and one Displayport able to output up to true 4K resolutions. If we talk about discrete cards, which most people will use with a board like this, you are looking at 2-Way SLI support for NVIDIA cards, and 4-Way CrossfireX for AMD based GPUs. The four PCIe lanes break down to x16/x0/x0/x4, x8/x0/x8/x4, or x8/x4/x4/x4 modes.
Storage handled by the chipset equates to six SATA 6Gb/s ports, three M.2 slots (key M), as well as a U.2 port. You are able to RAID the SATA ports (RAID o, 1, 5, 10), as well as the M.2 ports (RAID 0 and 1). The ASMedia ASM 1061 chipset controls two additional SATA 6 GB/s ports bringing your total to eight.
The LAN is controlled by dual Intel Gigabit LAN controllers, an I219-V and an I211AT. They support Intel LAN teaming as well.
Audio is processed by the new Realtek ALC1220 CODEC, MSI’s implementation is called Audio Boost 4, which, on paper, is a superior successor to the ALC1150 we saw on Z170 boards. The Z270 XPower Gaming separates the audio from the rest of the board, uses EMI shielding on the IC, as well as higher end capi-con caps. Nahimic 2, their software to adjust the sound, also makes an appearance on some Z270 boards including the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium.
Please refer to the table below, and at MSI’s website for more specifications and details!
|MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium
|CPU||• Supports 7th/6th Gen Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 processors, and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® processors for Socket LGA1151
* This function will be supported depend on the CPU.
|Chipset||Intel® Z270 Chipset|
|Main Memory||• 4 x DDR4 memory slots, support up to 64GB
– 7th Gen processors support DDR4 4000(OC)/ 3800(OC)/ 3600(OC)/ 3200(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400/ 2133 MHz*
– 6th Gen processors support DDR4 3600(OC)/ 3200(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400(OC)/ 2133 MHz*
• Dual channel memory architecture
• Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Please refer www.msi.com for more information on compatible memory.
|Onboard Graphics||• 1 x HDMI™ port, supports a maximum resolution of 4096×2160@30Hz(7th CPU), 4096×2160@24Hz(6th CPU), 2560×1600@60Hz
• 1 x DisplayPort, supports a maximum resolution of 4096×2304@24Hz, 2560×1600@60Hz, 3840×2160@60Hz, 1920×1200@60Hz
|Multi-GPU Support / Expansion Slots||Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX™ Technology• 4 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16/x0/x0/x4, x8/x0/x8/x4, x8/x4/x4/x4 modes)
• 2 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
|Storage||• ASMedia® ASM1061 Chipset
– 2 x SATA 6Gb/s ports*
• Intel® Z270 Chipset
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports*
– 1 x U.2 port
– Supports PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe storage
– 3 x M.2 slots (Key M)
– Support up to PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gb/s
– M2_1 slot supports 2242/ 2260 /2280/ 22110 storage devices
– M2_2 & M2_3 slots support 2242/ 2260 /2280 storage devices
– Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready for all M.2 slots
• Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology for Intel Core™ processors• Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 for SATA storage devices
• Supports RAID for M.2 PCIe storage devices*
* M.2 PCIe RAID volume can be created with M.2 GENIE.* M.2 and SATA ports maximum support 3x M.2 PCIe SSDs + 6x SATA HDDs or 2x M.2 PCIe SSDs + 8x SATA HDDs.
|LAN||• 1 x Intel® I219-V Gigabit LAN controller
• 1 x Intel® I211AT Gigabit LAN controller
• Support Intel LAN Teaming Technology
|Audio||• Realtek® ALC1220 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
– Supports S/PDIF output
|USB||• ASMedia® ASM2142 Chipset
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) Type-C port on the back panel
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) Type-A port on the back panel• ASMedia® ASM1042 Chipset
– 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) ports available through the internal USB connector)• Intel® Z270 Chipset
– 6 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) ports (4 Type-A ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB connector)
– 7 x USB 2.0 (High-speed USB) ports (3 Type-A ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
|Back Panel I/O Ports||– 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 3 x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
– 2 x LAN (RJ45) ports
– 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports
– 1 x DisplayPort
– 1 x HDMI™ port
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A port
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
– 5 x OFC audio jacks
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
|Internal I/O Ports||– 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 1 x 6-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (support additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
– 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 connectors (support additional 4 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports)
– 1 x 4-pin CPU fan connector
– 1 x 4-pin water-pump-fan connector
– 4 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x 4-pin RGB LED connector
– 1 x 2-pin Slow mode connector
– 1 x 2-pin OC retry connector
– 1 x TPM module connector
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
|BIOS||1 x 128 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI3.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 3.0, ACPI 5.0, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 3, CrashFree BIOS 3, F11 EZ Tuning Wizard, F6 Qfan Control, F3 My Favorites, Last Modified log, F12 PrintScreen, F3 Shortcut functions and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information.|
|Form Factor||• 12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm)
• ATX Form Factor
MSI has a very long list of features, all of which you can see at the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium product page. Below we did our usual and picked out a few to mention here.
It seems like RGB LEDs are what all the people want in their systems these days and motherboard manufacturers have been quick to respond and bring them to market at a dizzying pace. MSI certainly did not disappoint and brought us Mystic Light. This software has been expanded in Mystic Light Sync to control the RBG LED’s on your board or other compatible devices, even from other brands. This would include CPU Coolers, keyboards, mice, and RGB fans. The XPower Titanium here has RGB headers to connect RGB strips which are also controlled by the Mystic Light Sync software.
MSI has brought the user more control over their system cooling by letting you manage temperatures and speeds of the system/CPU fans. These headers use an autodetect function to see if the fan on the other end is DC or PWM controlled. They also use Hysteresis to minimize quick jumps in fan speed and noise. MSI has added a pretty nifty visual feature here with an LED indicator which shows if you have control over various fans in your system. Red is control, while green is not. Seems a bit backwards to me, but, it is what it is! Last but certainly not least, there is a high amp (2A) fan header giving you control over pump speed.
The Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium is Intel Optane ready, so when we see those M.2 parts or DIMMS come out you can drop them right in. Another welcome addition found on this motherboard is the use of an M.2 shield. This shield is a thin piece of aluminum with a thermal pad running its full 80mm length to help keep these hot running devices cool and prevent throttling. Versus not using the M.2 shield, it helped lower temperatures by a few °C. This feature is only found one of the 3x Turbo M.2 slots.
The Z270 chipset brought with it an update from Realtek on the audio side of things, moving from their ALC1150 to ALC1220. MSI calls this their Audio Boost 4. The new CODEC sports a 120db SNR which is a few db better than the outgoing CODEC. MSI has isolated the audio from the rest of the board along with using separate layers of the PCB for left and right channels. They use a dedicated headphone amplifier which auto detects impedance as well. Let’s not forget about the chemi-con audio caps which are said to produce a warmer sound. Not to be mixed up with the Nichicon we have seen on previous boards.
MSI has really worked at optimizing DDR4 memory with the DDR4 Boost on the past couple of generations. This includes all DigitALL power design for better efficiency, thorough memory testing with the most popular brands under “extreme” conditions, which culminates with the Easy XMP button. This button is used to to quickly set the XMP profile quickly from your BIOS. From those that know memory the best (read: not I!) it is said MSI boards are some of the best when it comes to overclocking memory.
The XPower origins really came from the heart of an overclocking board, but has since transformed into a combination that’s for gamers that want to overclock the heck out of anything they put in it. An enviable trait no doubt. MSI has used Premium power phases, their DigitALL power design, have voltage checkpoints on the board in their V-Check Points 2, Slow mode, BIOS Flashback+, OC Engine 2 for BCLK adjustments, and of course their OC Dashboard. Plenty of toys here for the beginning overclocker, all the way up to the LN2 guys.
What good are some of these features if the board can’t take it? MSI stamps the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium with its Military Class V stamp, which is just an umbrella name for many of its features, including the use of those premium power bit parts like the Titanium chokes, Dark Cap, and Dark Chokes. Wrap all this up and you have a stable gaming and overclocking platform.
Retail Packaging and Accessories
Our first set of pictures/slideshow shows us what the retail packaging looks like. As one may have guessed, MSI sticks with the Titanium theme on the packaging as well. On the front is a picture of the board itself, along with the name and high-level features. The back continues to display specifications and features as well as the flip open front panel. The board sits on top protected by a plastic cover. You can see the board through the MSI Gaming Dragon Shield gracing the other side of the flip open box. The last picture shows the included accessories.
Meet the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium
Looking at the overall design, there isn’t too much that is different compared to the Z170 board. The PCH heatsink has a slightly different look to it, there is an additional shroud covering the rear I/O down to the audio section which is new as well. Outside of that, we see the their Steel Armor has made it to all full length PCIe slots. But overall its still the same unique, Titanium colored board with some new features under the hood. The back of the board shows the the electrical breakdown of the PCIe slots, otherwise, there isn’t much interesting there.
A Closer Look
While exploring the bottom half of the board, we see covered on the left side is where all the audio goodies we talked about earlier reside. To the right of it are the four 16x PCIe slots protected with Steel Armor, as well as the three total Turbo M.2 slots. To the right of that is the PCH heatsink and SATA/U.2 ports, while on the bottom you see the power/reset buttons and the infamous Game Boost knob (goes to 11!).
Sliding around to the DIMM area, it’s pretty busy up there with a couple more SATA ports, the 24-Pin ATX connector, the OC Dashboard and its resting place, the V-Check Point 2 voltage read points, and of course the four DIMM slots. The OC Dashboard needs to be removed from the board header and plugged in with the included cord for it to work properly (why?!). Also around that area are some the CPU, AIO/Pump (high amperage), and System fan headers.
Below shows a picture of the rear I/O. Details of which are found above. But it has all the usual suspects from USB slots, 2.0 to 3.0 G2 Type C, video outputs for onboard iGPU use, dual NICs, and audio. The storage portion of the board in the second picture shows the eight total SATA ports, a front USB port, as well as the U.2 port. Plenty of storage options here folks!
The next picture shows MSI’s OC Dashboard a bit closer. It has buttons to change the BCLK and CPU Multiplier, as well as your power/reset buttons and a complete discharge button. To make things easier getting into windows, there is a slow boot switch and a fastboot button to get you right to the BIOS on a reboot (whose function can be changed in the BIOS as well).
Last up we can see the board works with a total of 16 Phases, so it seems pretty well equipped to handle whatever you can throw at it and not skip a beat. When you are getting really serious about overclocking and venture into sub-ambient cooling, you are surely covered and should use the additional 4-Pin CPU power header. Under ambient clocking, you will be just fine with the typical 8-Pin.
UEFI BIOS and Monitoring/Overclocking Software
Next up is a screenshot of MSI’s Click BIOS 5 for the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium. Since there are so many screens and so many options, I just skimmed across the major headings at the top, showing the EZ Mode first.
Next up is a slideshow giving a much more deep dive into the OC section, where many here make their home in a BIOS. As always, there is plenty of functionality and options to mess with to keep the most hardcore enthusiast happy. Maneuvering around the BIOS with either the keyboard or mouse is smooth and everything seems to be in a logical, easy to find location. These features make the Click BIOS 5 one of my favorite UEFI’s.
|CPU||Intel i7 7700K|
|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 Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium|
|RAM||GSkill Trident Z 2×8 GB DDR4- 3866MHz CL18-19-19-39 2T|
|Graphics Card||MSI GTX 1070 Quick Silver|
|Hard Drive||OCZ RD 400 512GB|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic Platinum-1000|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro x64 (Fully Updated)|
|Benchmarks||AIDA64 Engineer (Memory Test)MaxxMEM
Cinebench R11.5 and R15
x265 1080p Benchmark (Hwbot)
Super Pi 1M/32M
As we have seen with the ASUS ROG Maximus IX Formula, there are no significant performance differences between like systems and speeds. Most differences you see here are simply clockspeed/platform differences.
Same goes with our more heavy and productivity based benchmarks… not a big difference between the two at all.
As you guessed it… same with the memory. The MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium falls right in with the other board we reviewed, if not a hair faster overall in AIDA64.
|AIDA64 Memory Benchmarks – Raw Data (MB/s)|
|MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium||42742||44302||38894||44.6|
|MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium||50183||55076||46103||43.2|
|ASUS ROG Maximus IX Formula||49383||55192||45688||44.4|
|Maxxmem Memory Benchmarks – Raw Data (MB/s)|
|MSI Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium||27249||34427||33094|
|MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium||27989||33784||34905|
|ASUS ROG Maximus IX Formula||27858||34048||34809|
Pushing the Limits
With the Engineering Sample 7700K CPU I have, this is just about as far as I can push it with being relatively stable. As time went on from the Kaby Lake review (which is what the screenshot is from), I found the ES I had was pretty below average when it came to overclocking hitting 5Ghz stable at 1.41V. Looks like I will have to buy a retail CPU if I want to bench on this thing and make it worth it! But either way, the board didn’t flinch. About the worst thing that happens is when using XMP, the board sets the System Agent and I/O voltage really high to 1.45 and 1.4V respectively.
MSI has taken what Intel has given them to work from and made another glorious iteration of their XPower Titanium line. From the beefed up 16-Phase power bits, to three M.2 slots – one with shielding to reduce the chance of thermal throttling, Intel Gaming LAN with Bandwidth management and LAN Protect (Static electricity), the XMP and Fan LEDs for quick system status, and even its ever spreading Steel Armor, makes for one heck of a board hardware-wise.
As far as negatives, can’t say I have many! That said, the M.2 shield is pretty flimsy on this board, in that the whole thing comes off very easily. You cannot swap slots with it as the other two are shielded, but, every time I took it off, it fell off (super easy to put it back on). The other item of note is the values the board sets for System Agent and I/O voltage when using XMP settings/profiles… 1.45 and 1.4V. That’s a lot, not harmful note, but typically isn’t needed. MSI does this to make sure more ram and IMC’s are compatible with these high speeds. Note: on my sample, it took 1.25/1.20V respectively to become stable at 3866 MHz on the ram. Just be sure to lower that voltage as/if needed. That’s about it. Otherwise, it was very solid for me throughout my use of it in the Kaby Lake review and this one.
Pricing on this board is $329.99 at newegg.com. This costs well below two other flagship motherboards: The ASUS Maximus IX Formula at $389, and the GIGABYTE Aorus Z270 Gaming 9 at $499, by $60 and $120 respectively. Really, the board has everything one would want and then some from its m.2 shield and three m.2 slots, RGB control, and great overclocking capabilities. I’d like to see it priced around $299 or less though. I’m sure after the inflation of the newest items wear off it will fall there. If you are in the market for a unique looking board that will do it all, you don’t really need to look any further. The MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium has what you need.
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)