Additional Hardware, Software And Firmware
MSI's inclusion of four SATA cables seams a little generous for a budget board and actually meets our expectations. Once we got over the shock of being satisfied there, we also noticed the inclusion of a flexible SLI bridge.
MSI Command Center provides CPU ratio, BCLK, Core Voltage, and DRAM voltage adjustment, along with automatic and manual mode for the pair of CPU fans and three separate case fans. Another overclocking option, OC Genie 4, sets our Core i7-6700k to 4.40 GHz fixed frequency at 1.33V max, and requires a reboot to activate.
A popup menu adds ring ratio and several component voltage adjustments to the basic controls found on the main Command Center menu. A redundant fan popup is also available, along with memory timing adjustments that work OK the first time, but require a reboot. Furthermore, the DRAM menu takes a full minute to pop up following any initial adjustments.
The "Sensor" button pops up a nice graphic display of temperatures, which can be logged using applications enabled by the "Record" button.
MSI Command Center always includes the Mobile Control applet, yet it requires a wireless connection between the phone and the motherboard's WiFi. Since the Z170A SLI Plus doesn't have WiFi, it went untested.
Various other alarm settings and status displays are available through Command Center's "Warning" button and "Information" tab.
MSI's "Click BIOS 5" includes OC Genie 4 CPU overclocking profile and XMP buttons at the top left corner of its GUI, but the nitty gritty is found in smaller font towards the center. We were able to reach 4.54 GHz CPU core at 1.30V, which is just a little short of the 4.60 GHz zenith reached by higher-priced models.
A wide range of DRAM timings are available to the true memory tweaking enthusiast, and we reached DDR4-3400 with two modules at 1.35V. That 1.35V measurement came at the Z170A SLI Plus motherboard's 1.330V setting.
CPU Loadline Calibration is intended to keep CPU voltage stable under heavy workloads, but it still allowed ours to sag by around 20 millivolts. Enthusiasts often call this vDroop, and we've seen far worse examples on competing products.
One minor annoyance of the M-Flash implementation for this particular motherboard is that it requires a reboot to a special flash mode.
MSI's fan settings firmware menu is just as convenient and useful as the one in software, but doesn't actually require any software. We like that. Other things to like include space on the flash ROM to store up to six custom firmware configurations as overclocking profiles, and/or export these to a USB flash drive.