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MSI Z170A GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

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Z170A M7 Gaming Details

The two m.2 slots on the motherboard can both handle the longest 80mm m.2 SSD variants (2280), and each slot will automatically configure itself to work with either PCI-E or mSATA SSDs.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_m2

Here’s a closer look at MSI’s metal-shielded PCI-E slots. MSI says their “Steel Armor” provides additional mechanical support for heavy GPUs as well as enhanced shielding. I dunno if either of those claims is anything more than marketing-speak, but I must admit they look really cool.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_metal_slots

This “hot key” switch in front of the memory sockets enables some useful utility functions directly from the keyboard when it’s enabled: stuff like incrementing and decrementing the CPU base clock and multiplier, turning the system on and off, or updating the BIOS.

msi_z70a_gaming_m7_hot_keyThe Realtek ALC1150 audio chip is shielded under the (soldered-on) Audio Boost cover and backed with gold-colored Chemicon audio capacitors. MSI says the audio circuitry is electrically isolated from the rest of the motherboard. It looks as if the time for separate audio cards has largely passed.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_audio_capsThere are six SATA 6g connectors; the separate block at the left supports either two SATA Express drives (should any ever actually exist) or four standard drives. Next are two USB 3.0 headers, one pointed outwards and one pointed up.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_sata_portsThe demise of the Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator (FIVR) that Intel introduced on the Haswell CPUs means a cooler-running processor; it also means motherboard vendors can now compete with beefy power regulation sections. Titanium chokes and solid aluminum-core “dark” capacitors are what MSI uses here.

msi_z170a_gaming_m7_chokes_capsIn the next section I’ll look at the MSI Z170A Gaming M7 BIOS.


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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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