Intel Z170A Motherboard Final Thoughts
Intel’s Skylake CPU and its accompanying Z170A chipset represent significant changes from the past generations. The Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator, a touted feature of Haswell, is gone; but the real news is that Intel’s mainstream platform finally gets the extra PCI-E lanes it so desperately needed.
MSI offers no fewer than nine motherboards in their “Z170A GAMING Series”, which can be problematic if you’re shopping. is the Z170A Gaming M7 better than the Z170A Gaming Pro or the Z170A Krait Gaming or the Z170A XPower Titanium? Well, you’ll just have to read the specs and see what you want.
That said, the Z170A Gaming M7 actually slots in towards the high end of the range, and if it eschews built-in 802.11AC wireless and programmable color LEDs on the board itself, it does offer all the goodness Intel’s baked into the Z1709A chipset as well as a slew of next-gen interfaces like m.2, SATA Express, and USB 3.1. Solid enthusiast features like a robust power system and good Realtek ALC1150-based sound with fancy caps just sweeten the deal. Onboard Power and Reset buttons, and a POST code display that doubles as a CPU temperature indicator are nice touches as well.
MSI has put a lot of thought into this motherboard: for example, the m.2 slots can handle either mSATA or PCI-E SSDs, and they’ll automatically configure themselves appropriately. This is the motherboard Benchmark Reviews will be using going forwards in our SSD testing, and it worked great with an mSATA SSD as a system drive (you can see it in the image below) and our first NVMe SSD test, the Samsung 950 PRO.
Although MSI offers fancier motherboards, the Z170A Gaming M7 would be where I spend my money. I am of the perhaps parochial opinion that desktop motherboards should connect with Ethernet and use wired keyboards; and if my aging ears cannot detect the difference between the Realtek ALC1150-based audio on this board and whatever super system is used on the fancier motherboards, well, honestly, I probably couldn’t have detected the difference when I was 20, either.
In the last section I’ll present my conclusion based on the testing and features of this motherboard.