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MSI Z170A GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

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Closer Look: LGA1151 Motherboard

The MSI Z170A Gaming M7 motherboard follows the red-and-black color scheme MSI has used on their previous enthusiast boards. The layout is pretty standard for an ATX motherboard, with the only unusual items being the two m.2 slots (one occupied in this photo) under the first and fourth PCI-E X1 slots.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_straight

The board’s accessories include the usual driver disk and manual, back I/O shield and SATA cables, NVIDIA SLI bridge and quick-connect headers for the front panel blocks. “Gamer” extras include a metal case badge, a door knob hanger, and cable labels, which are nice.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_accessories

At the lower left edge of the board are the audio header, a two-digit POST code display, a trusted platform module connector (does anyone use these?), a system fan header, and the two front panel headers. After Windows has finished booting, the POST code display shows the CPU temperature, which is a nice touch.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_ll_ports1

Next are two USB 2.0 headers, a button for flashing the onboard BIOS, a “slow mode” switch (used to help boot into Windows under liquid nitrogen cooling), and the power, reset, and overclocking buttons.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_ll_ports2

The last item applies a fixed overclock when the ring is rotated off zero; the degree of the overclock depends on the value the external ring is rotated to. Charmingly for all us Spinal Tap fans, the overclocking ring goes to 11.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_goes_to_11

From left to right, the rear I/O panel has a PS/2 style mouse port MSI calls the “Gaming Device Port”, two USB 2.0 ports, a Clear CMOS button, a special vertical USB port for BIOS updates, a Displayport and two HDMI video connectors, gigabit Ethernet, three USB 3.0 ports (oddly, with red tabs instead of blue tabs), and the first USB 3.1 port I’ve seen on a production motherboard. Last is the audio panel. Having only three USB 3.0 ports seems stingy, but at least there’s a USB 3.1 Type C port.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_rear_io_panel

There are three PCI-E X16 slots and four PCI-E X1 slots. The first two X16 slots have metal shields, while the last X16 slot, as you can see, only has contacts out to an X4 length, but that’s fine since that’s all this board will ever allocate to that slot anyway.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_slots

Let’s continue looking at this board in the next section.


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2 comments

  1. Kristijan Vragović

    I have a question about motherboard that really bugs me since i would like to use MSI boards in the future. Fan headers that are on my MSI Z87 G65 gaming motherboard offer PWM control only on CPU header while other 3 offer just voltage control. So. what i wanna know is have MSI changed things a little bit and put PWM control on all 5 fan headers or is the situation the same as i described it for my MB. Thanks

    1. Olin Coles

      It’s going to be different for every motherboard model, and then, making things a bit more difficult, some UEFI/BIOS settings will allow you to change a fan header to turn PWM on or off. You might want to look into the settings on your board to see if this isn’t already possible.

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