Skip to main content

MSI Z170A Gaming M5 Motherboard Review

MSI was among the first to participate in our Z170 review series. Will the now-mature firmware give its $180 Z170A Gaming M5 a lead in the upper-midrange LGA 1151 enthusiast segment?

Software & Firmware

Software

MSI “Gaming App” applies a minor underclock (Silent Mode) or major overclock (OC Mode) in a single click. You’ll be forced to reboot to get that overclock, but the system then pushed our processor to 4.80 GHz at 1.40V. Not wanting to reduce this Core I7-6700K’s life as a review sample, I moved on without further testing.

A description of additional Gaming App functions can be found in our Z170A Gaming M7 Review.

MSI’s RAMDisk utility is now packaged separately from Command Center, and adds a 256MB virtual partition upon installation. It’s adjustable, of course.

Image 1 of 5

Image 2 of 5

Image 3 of 5

Image 4 of 5

Image 5 of 5

Support software also includes the Nahimic Audio application, the Killer e2400’s control software, an MSI-customized version of CPU-Z, MSI’s M-Cloud server application, a 1-year premium upgrade to XSplit’s Broadcaster/Gamecaster, and Live Update 6 to keep the motherboard drivers and MSI’s branded apps up to date.

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

Big and friendly, MSI Command Center provides CPU multiplier and base clock control, CPU core and DRAM voltage, and several in-depth menus for advanced tuning, monitoring and fan control.

Image 1 of 9

Image 2 of 9

Image 3 of 9

Image 4 of 9

Image 5 of 9

Image 6 of 9

Image 7 of 9

Image 8 of 9

Image 9 of 9

The easy-to-measure CPU core and DIMM voltage adjustments work well, but a change in DRAM timings requires a reboot, and after altering timings, its menu becomes slow to open.

Firmware

Following several generations of minor changes, MSI’s Click BIOS 5 is finally proportioned so that it’s easy to read settings menus in advanced mode. Capable of up to 4.60 GHz at 1.30V CPU core, our Core i7-6700K reached 4545 MHz on the Z170A Gaming M5. The missing few MHz of stability resulted from a voltage regulator that “drooped” to 1.28V even after enabling its “CPU Core Voltage Compensation” setting.

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

Most motherboards run a little extra DRAM voltage if only to produce better stability with less-stable memory. MSI isn't the worst offender, as its 1.330V setting produced 1.349V at our DIMM, and was even reported fairly accurately at 1.344V.

Image 1 of 5

Image 2 of 5

Image 3 of 5

Image 4 of 5

Image 5 of 5

The Z170A Gaming M5 provides full control of primary, secondary and tertiary timings, along with several quaternary memory controls.

Image 1 of 5

Image 2 of 5

Image 3 of 5

Image 4 of 5

Image 5 of 5

Other menus include a report of the memory’s on-chip programming, an advanced fan controller, and an OC Profiles menu with six registers plus USB storage.

MORE: Best MotherboardsMORE: 
How To Choose A MotherboardMORE: All Motherboard Content

  • Nuckles_56
    That is a very ice looking board, I really like the red traces coming out from the CPU. I'm a bit disappointed at how it didn't do very well in the CPU overclocking.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    17008801 said:
    That is a very ice looking board, I really like the red traces coming out from the CPU. I'm a bit disappointed at how it didn't do very well in the CPU overclocking.
    That's a little bit harsh, it came up what one-setting short of the record at this voltage?
    Reply
  • Nuckles_56
    To that I reply with the fact that you said that it was a second tier overclocker in your conclusion
    Reply
  • AdviserKulikov
    Could I suggest that Tom's Hardware adds another category for motherboard testing?

    Power isolation: see how much noise makes it through the audio out ports, and how much noise makes it through the USB ports if USB audio is used.
    Reply
  • lbrown
    Maybe this is sour grapes but lately all I see are I7 CPUs in the builds/reviews. How about some I5 CPU builds/reviews? Not all of us get free CPUs to test instead we pay hard earned dollars. :)
    Reply
  • urishima
    Maybe this is sour grapes but lately all I see are I7 CPUs in the builds/reviews. How about some I5 CPU builds/reviews? Not all of us get free CPUs to test instead we pay hard earned dollars. :)

    I second that notion. I plan to save up quite a bit for my next Rig, but it wont have a i7 CPU. Not unless I get a substantial raise next year :P
    Reply
  • bpbarrette
    This board is $150 after a rebate at Newegg and $164 with Prime shipping at Amazon. Heck of a deal if you ask me (which you didn't).
    Reply
  • bpbarrette
    This board is $150 after a rebate at Newegg and $164 with Prime shipping at Amazon. Heck of a deal if you ask me (which you didn't).
    I should point out that it's an MSI rebate, and I have had bad luck with them in the past.
    Reply
  • Onus
    Hmmm, this is a nice-looking board. It overclocks well enough for me (I often run stock anyway), and other features do look good. I prefer smaller systems though, so I'd like to see what they offer in mATX; I'm unlikely to ever run multiple graphics cards.
    Reply
  • Wrought
    Now if only it was micro-ATX...
    Reply