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MSI Z170A Gaming M7 Review

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MSI Z170A Gaming M7 Closer Look:

MSI's Click BIOS has evolved over the past few years to become a truly easy-to-use implementation of its UEFI BIOS. The move to the Z170 chipset brings along another revision to Click BIOS 5. The interface has and continues to improve with the addition of an all new EZ Mode that allows the end user to work from a minimalist interface rather than the whole enchilada. Click BIOS 5 is a UEFI BIOS from AMI that is an ACPI 5.0, PnP1.0a, SM BIOS 2.8, and DMI 2.0 multi-language BIOS. A single 64MB IC contains the BIOS. This is a change from the trend we have been seeing with dual BIOS chips to serve as a backup when a flash goes bad. However, MSI has added USB BIOS Flashback functionality to this board allowing you to flash the BIOS with only power, a USB flash drive with the BIOS installed, and pushing the USB BIOS Flashback+ button on the bottom edge of the PCB.

Let's start with a look at the EZ Mode of MSI's Click BIOS 5. At first look it does not look like there is a lot to manage, but when you start hitting the radio buttons the functionality just jumps off the screen. At the top right is the Game Boost button that takes the place of MSI's well known OC Genie tool. This implementation can be managed through software or through hardware, and truly takes OC Genie to the next level. Next to the Game Boost button is how you can enable the XMP profile on your DDR4 memory while in the EZ Mode. Along the top of the screen are the current operating specifications of the package. Along the left side of the Click BIOS 5 page are a series of buttons that allow you to look at the current state of the CPU, memory, storage drives, fans, and a help menu. Under the help menu button there is an explanation of what you can expect from the Game Boost feature when used.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings: The first section is Settings. Here you can see that MSI has redone the interface with a bolder image and HD script. Here you can check the system info under System Status. The Advanced tab is where you manage the IGP settings, enable or disable Intel Rapid Start and Smart Connect Technologies, and set up the power management features. The Boot section is where you manage the boot priority of the installed storage devices. Security is where you can set up an admin password and configure the chassis intrusion settings, while Save and Exit allows for a reset to factory defaults or the acceptance of any system changes.

 

 

 

OC: This section is the area where the performance of the installed hardware can be managed: bclock adjustments; voltages for the CPU, memory, and control circuits; memory speed and timings; bclock strap settings; and DRAM ratios. This area is fairly robust and the window to the right gives a brief description of the line item. If you choose to manually tune the Z170A Gaming M7, this is the area you will spend the most time tweaking for performance. In this section, the BIOS options can be minimized by choosing the Simple option under the OC Explore button. If you want the "Full Monty," choose Expert for the most robust set of options.

 

 

 

 

M-Flash is where the user can flash or back up the latest BIOS revisions. Through the course of testing this board, I flashed the latest BIOS using the M-Flash tool. Using it has proven to be anti-climactic, since as in the past it just worked as intended: put the BIOS file on a flash drive, chose your file, then flash and reboot. What is new to MSI's Click BIOS 5 is the USB Flashback+ feature that you can use with a bare bones setup where the CPU, memory, and GPU do not need to be installed.

 

 

OC Profile: This section allows the user to save up to six distinct profiles, which can be named individually so you can at least remember what each profile was. This way you get easy access without having to reconfigure the BIOS each time you want to change to a more or less aggressive profile. You can save profiles to or from a flash drive for added profile capacity.

 

 

Hardware Monitor: This section opens to show configurable fan profiles and controls for the five onboard PWM fan headers. The current voltages supplied by the power supply are registered on the bottom of the window in small charts. CPU and system temperatures are in the upper right of the window on this page.

 

 

Board Explorer is a pretty cool feature that visually shows which parts of the PCB are occupied with hardware and highlights them in bright red. Using a mouse to roll over the Z170A Gaming M7 image, you get a brief explanation or picture of the items that are installed.

 

 

As a UEFI BIOS, you get full mouse and keyboard support so that you can freely navigate the menus and sub-menus in Click BIOS 5. I found that navigating through this BIOS with both a mouse and keyboard proved to be just as easy as operating within the main operating system.




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