How We Tested
A switch to LGA 1151 meant we had to start our search for a reference platform all over again. We're already utilizing a full complement of MSI motherboards, so we asked the company to show us what it had planned for Z170...and were impressed. The Z170A Gaming M7 is a beastly piece of hardware, both on its specification sheet and aesthetically.
To be sure, MSI takes full advantage of the platform it's working with. Sixteen lanes of PCIe from the host processor are configurable in x16 or x8/x8 links. The PCH's flexible I/O is set up to accommodate as many as two M.2 slots, two SATA Express connectors (or four SATA 6Gb/s ports), two additional 6Gb/s connectors, six USB 3.0 ports, an additional two 10Gb USB 3.1 ports attached to a two-lane PCIe link, and a host of x1 and x4 expansion slots.
As mentioned, Corsair and G.Skill both sent in memory kits designed to push the capabilities of Skylake's memory controller. It's truly notable that both vendors had no trouble hitting 3200 MT/s (that's already 1066 MT/s beyond the official 2133 MT/s specification) before Intel's architecture even launched. Moreover, we got Corsair's 3600 MT/s kit to 3466 MT/s before it tripped up. Expect companies like MSI to shore up compatibility as quickly as possible.
Most of the benchmarks from today's story were run by Tom's Hardware Germany, using the same hardware that goes into generating our 2015 CPU Charts. In addition to desktop performance analysis, we also go into depth on power consumption, thermals and alacrity in workstation-oriented applications.
|AMD Motherboards||MSI 970 GamingMSI A88XM GamingMSI K9A2 Platinum V2MSI AM1|
|Intel Motherboards||MSI Z170A Gaming M7MSI Z99S XPOWER ACMSI Z97A Gaming 6MSI Z97 Gaming 7MSI Z87 XPowerMSI X79 BIG BANG-XPOWER IIMSI Z77 GD55MSI Z68A GD65 (G3)|
|System Memory||Corsair DDR4-3200 Vengeance LPX (at 2133 MT/s for stock benchmarks)Corsair DDR3-2133 Dominator PlatinumCorsair DDR4-2400 Dominator PlatinumTranscend DDR3L-1600 (Broadwell)|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic Platinum 860W|
|Test Bench||Lian Li PC-T80 Bench-Table|
|Operating System||Windows 8.1 Professional x64 and Windows 10|
|Discrete Graphics||Palit GeForce GTX 980 OC|
|Measurement Equipment||2 x HAMEG HMO 3054, 500MHz multi-channel oscilloscope with storage function4 x HAMEG HZO50 current probe (1mA - 30A, 100kHz, DC)4 x HAMEG HZ355 (10:1 probes, 500MHz)1 x HAMEG HMC8012 digital multimeter with storage function1 x Optris PI450 80Hz infrared camera and PI Connect|