MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review

Manufacturer: MSI
UK price as reviewed: £218.55 (inc VAT)
US price as reviewed: $299.99 (ex Tax)
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At face value, £218 is a lot for what is essentially a mainstream motherboard. The Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition lacks any form of onboard water cooling; something you might expect with a similarly priced Asus ROG offering.

The PCB looks quite sparse too, and while there are a few accessories in the box, we've seen more at this price too with boards such as Asus's Z170-Deluxe, for example.

However, just look at it. The Titanium Edition is quite simply gorgeous and while it might not have the racy lines and colours or large plastic shrouds of other Z170 boards we've seen recently, it's undeniably beautiful and, bowing to the wishes of enthusiasts, the PCB has been given the biggest makeover.

It sports a grey-silver colour that does actually have texture with a metallic flake-like finish that you'll be able to see from some of our closer shots of the board - it's not just a flat grey/white. This is clearly a much more expensive way of doing things but the result, as we're sure you'll agree, is worth it and will likely have owners of white or silver-themed PC cases drooling and reaching for their wallets. Thankfully, the Titanium Edition isn't just a pretty face either.

MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review
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It ports a 16-phase power delivery with additional 4-pin and 6-pin power connectors for the CPU and PCI-E slots respectively if you're thinking of pushing things to their limits and installing multiple GPUs. As well as the colour, the board gets its name from the use of new Titanium chokes, but despite the ample power circuitry, the heatinks are fairly low-lying and there's loads of room around the CPU socket - even the largest tower coolers and waterblocks should have no problem fitting.

MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review
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It's rare that we see enthusiast motherboards with issues on PCI-E slot spacing for multi-GPU setups and as well as there being no problems here, the Titanium Edition is exceptional too. For two-way setups, you use the two aluminium-coated PCI-E slots, which are essentially triple-spaced with two 1x slots and a 16x slot that's limited to x4 bandwidth between them. Needless to say, even if you have two triple-slot cards with monster coolers, you'll be able to run a two-way setup with no problems.

Of course, this does mean that both of the M.2 ports and all the 1x PCI-E slots are located amongst the 16x slots, so if you're intent on using multiple graphics cards, a lot of the expansion slots will end up being blocked, but in reality most people wouldn't need regular access to these slots and ports anyway. Thankfully, MSI also includes a 14cm-long SLI connector to make the long reach between the two primary PCI-E slots.

MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review
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Storage-wise, there's little amiss, with two SATA Express ports and the pair of M.2 ports, which support RAID via the EFI. There's also U.2 support but this is only available using an optional host card. There's no USB 3.1 Type-C port, but two Type-A ports are included on the rear I/O panel as well as four USB 3 ports and two USB 2 ports - enough for most people's needs. There's a further USB 3 port located on the PCB next to the USB 3 header for easy access while benchmarking.

MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review
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Speaking of benchmarking, there's the full complement of overclocking tools too. An LED POST code display, power, reset and CMOS clear switches are present as well as PCI-E slot toggle switches and a multi-BIOS switch. It doesn't stop there though. There's a HOTKEY switch that allows your keyboard to perform functions such as turning off and resetting the PC, as well as overclocking the CPU using the baseclock and multiplier plus it also works as an equivalent to Asus's Keybot, allowing you to create and execute macros. MSI also includes an OC Dashboard connector, which is a separate PCB allowing for control of similar features to the HOTKEY function, such as the baseclock, multiplier, power, reset and activating Slow Mode - the Titaniam Edition should definitely keep overclocking enthusiasts happy, while there's also a Game Boost knob, which automatically overclocks the CPU.

MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition Review
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Software-wise there are some useful features too. MSI has introduced its own version of a BIOS recovery tool called BIOS Flashback+. You're able to flash the BIOS, either to update it or following a crash, with no CPU installed. Included are several overclocking/performance-orientated apps too - the Gaming App can overclock your CPU and graphics card plus overlay frequencies and temperatures in games too. It also offers a RAM drive in the form of RAMDisk, which is similar to Asus's ROG effort allowing you to dump regularly-used programs and files into spare RAM storage. Finally, Command Center provides a more in-depth control over overclocking and fan speeds, which could reduce the time you need to spend in the EFI if all you're doing is tweaking the voltage, multiplier and baseclock.

Specifications

  • Chipset Intel Z170
  • Form factor ATX
  • CPU support LGA1151 compatible (Skylake)
  • Memory support Dual-channel, 4 slots, max 64GB
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1150 Codec
  • Networking Intel I219-V Gigabit Ethernet
  • Ports 8 x SATA 6Gbps via Intel Z170, 2 x M.2, 2 x SATA Express, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 7 x USB 3.0 (1 x internal, two via header), 7 x USB 2.0 ( 4 x via header), 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out, 2 x HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort
  • Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
  • Extras LED POST code read-out, power and reset buttons, clear CMOS button, OC Panel, voltage measuring points, audio gain control switch, game boost dial, isolated audio circuitry

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