Overclocking the Z170A Gaming M7
There are two basic mechanisms used for auto-overclocking on enthusiast motherboards:
- A menu of fixed, pre-configured parameters.
- Heuristic systems that tweak parameters, run stress tests, and reboot. This loop is followed until failure.
MSI’s Game Boost dial uses the “fixed parameter menu” system, and applies pre-configured settings based on the position of the dial. Since these parameters are not editable, you’re stuck with MSI’s choices if you use Game Boost. Here are the settings as shown in the BIOS:
|Base Clock||Multiplier||Core voltage||XMP||Final freq.|
Of course, overclocking is never guaranteed, and to make things worse, I had no available water coolers for this attempt. Still, the monstrous Thermalright Silver Arrow heatsink with its dual fans remains the best air cooler I’ve ever tested, and the Skylake CPUs do run cooler than ever…
I tested the stability of the overclocking settings by running AIDA64’s System Stability Test, which stresses all CPU cores simultaneously. The best I was able to do with the Game Boost dial was Set 2; the system would boot and run under Set 4, but crash or freeze a few seconds after starting the System Stability Test.
I thought the voltage settings were a little conservative– the CPU temperature under load didn’t even hit 60 degrees– so I turned the Game Boost dial back to zero and started adjusting things manually (If the Game Boost dial isn’t on zero, most overclocking settings in the BIOS are locked out).
By setting the core voltage to 1.32v, I was able to get a stable overclock at 4.6gHz by setting the multiplier to 46x and leaving the base clock at 100mHz. The system would freeze a second or two after starting the AIDA64 stress test with the multiplier at 47x. With the 4.6gHz overclock the system was completely stable and the CPU temperature topped out at 63 degrees. My guess would be that a water cooler wouldn’t make any difference here.
With my manual overclock, I was able to beat MSI’s Game Boost by 200mHz, mainly because MSI’s voltage increases are very conservative. Still, the difference between 4.4gHz and 4.6gHz is only 4.5%, so while my manual overclock was better, the real-world performance differences wouldn’t be noticeable.
In the next section I’ll present my final thoughts and conclusions about this motherboard.