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