MSI Z170A GAMING M7 Motherboard Review


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Overclocking the Z170A Gaming M7

There are two basic mechanisms used for auto-overclocking on enthusiast motherboards:

  1. A menu of fixed, pre-configured parameters.
  2. 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:

msi_oc_settingsHere are the values Game Boost uses for Set 2 and Set 4– which I verified by dropping into the BIOS and checking the OC settings– as well as my own manual settings:

Base Clock Multiplier Core voltage XMP Final freq.
Set 2 100Mhz 44x 1.25v On 4.4gHz
Set 4 102Mhz 45x 1.28v On 4.59gHz
Manual 100mHz 46x 1.32v On 4.60gHz

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.

msi_cpuid_oc_46With 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.


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  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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