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MSI Z170A Gaming M7 Review

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MSI Z170A Gaming M7 Conclusion:

As the board I used to test the 6th Generation Core i7 6700K, I was impressed yet again with what MSI has brought to the table. Constantly evolving the package to improve the brand is the name of the game, and MSI has done that with the Z170A Gaming M7. You get a ton of fully functional features that may seem small, but make a difference in how you use the board.

At the hardware level, MSI uses a six layer PCB that is layered with components based on its Military Class 5 technology using Super Ferrite chokes, Dark Capacitors, DR.MOS, and Hi-C Caps that combine to provide the power for the CPU and DRAM. By using these components, you get a cooler running, more efficient power circuit that should last the lifetime of the board. In fact, I beat on my Z87 GD65 daily with a 4.5GHz overclock and water cooling and have been for a couple years with no issues to speak of. MSI's Guard Pro Tech adds in moisture resistance for the PCB and ESD protection at each and every I/O port. Add in the hardware MSI is using for the Audio Boost 3 sound solution including Chemicon caps, isolated sound hardware, shielded Realtek codec, and dual headphone amps, and MSI has the hardware down pat.

Overclocking on the Z170A Gaming M7 is best described as fun. By fun I mean that there are many different ways to get to the overclocking limits of your installed CPU and memory. Manually tuning the UEFI Click BIOS 5 is fairly straight forward if you follow many of the rules in place for Haswell overclocking. One thing that is new is that now on Skylake is Intel has given us back by-MHz overclocking so you can push the limits without worrying about dividers as long as your hardware can run the number.

Using the Game Boost option to overclock allows the enthusiast to use a dial an overclock feature in both hardware and software modes from the EZ Mode in the Click BIOS 5. There are options from 4.3GHz to 5GHz all by spinning the knob through seven different positions. We can officially say good bye to OC Genie and its limited scope, although it was solid and repeatable. If you would rather tweak in the OS to find your limits, MSI's Command Center lets you tweak away on the CPU with voltage, clock speed, and ratio adjustments. For the memory, you get a much more limited set of options, but you can tweak the timings and voltage for improved performance.

MSI brings along a new fan tuning tool that runs an algorithm to find the best operating characteristic for your fans, or you can tune the fan speed profile manually. A tool that will become more useful as people adopt higher quatities of DRAM in their systems is MSI's RAMDisk software that lets you pull a percentage of your installed memory and make what amounts to a small hard drive you can use to launch games and applications faster.

Overall, I found that I was pleased with the package that MSI put together for the gamer and enthusiast, since this product covers both markets equally well with the combination of hardware and software presented. At $229, the value that MSI brings to the table can't be overstated. You get a sound hardware and software package that may prove tough to beat. If the durability of my Z87-GD65 Gaming board is any indication, this board should take a licking and ask for more!

 

Pros:

  • Game Boost technology
  • Overclocking
  • Performance
  • Options
  • MSI Audio Boost 3
  • Military Class 5
  • OC essentials
  • Click BIOS 5
  • RAMDisk

 

Cons:

  • Nahamic Sound Tech


 

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