MSI Z170A Gaming 5

MSI Z170A Gaming 5The 6th generation of Intel processors, Skylake, is creating quite a stir among the community. So far the reviews coming in are good, and it’s proving to be a powerful platform, especially the Core i5-6600K. So to take best advantage of a Skylake CPU, you’re going to need a motherboard that can not only perform brilliantly, but also provide you with every advantage the new technology has to offer.

You won’t go far wrong with MSI’s new Z170A Gaming 5 motherboard under the processor. This impressively presented, red and black themed, MSI dragon logo embellished motherboard is a joy to behold. It’s not just the aesthetics that make it stand out from the crowd, though.The four DDR4 RAM slots offer a maximum of 64GB of system memory, with the potential for running at an overclocked 3600MHz. There are three PCI-E x16 slots for multiple GPUs, with each having the MSI Steel Armour upgrade applied that protect against electromagnetic interference, and four PCI-E x1 slots. Fitting two cards will lower the speed of the first two PCIe slots to x8, and a third GPU will offer x4 at the bottom PCI-E with x8 remaining on the first two.Furthermore the Z170A Gaming 5 features six SATA III 6Gb/s ports, and a pair of M.2 ports for either PCI-E or SATA M.2 SSDs. Interestingly we noticed that the M.2 ports on the Z170A are mounted slightly higher than normal. This, we assume, is to cater for newer M.2 SSDs with 3D V-NAND setups, where they’re slightly thicker than previous M.2 drives.The rear I/O ports aren’t lacking in clever designs and features either. You’ll find a PS/2 port, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, DVI, HDMI, optical out, a Killer Gaming gigabit Ethernet port, and four USB 3.1 Gen1 ports including the newer USB 3.1 gen2 Type-A port and a reversible type-C USB port.There’s a lot of attention to detail on the Z170A Gaming 5. The heatsinks are well placed around the CPU to minimise any problems that may arise from over-large CPU coolers, and of course this and the rest of the Z170 range include titanium chokes and better designed capacitors that we’ve come to expect from an MSI board.The list of overclocking and gaming-specific features is quite extensive, and includes such elements as programmable hotkeys that will activate an overclocking profile for an extra in-game boost. There’s also Nahimic sound technology and the Killer Gaming LAN manager with optimised bandwidth and traffic priority settings.The overclocking abilities are immense with an appropriate Skylake CPU fitted, as we’re told it’s almost like going back to the old days of Socket 775. Getting an i5-6600K up to 4.2GHz was a breeze using the MSI UEFI BIOS settings, and that was air cooled. With a more elaborate setup you could easily hit 4.5GHz and probably beyond, depending on the CPU. With an Nvidia GTX970 installed, along with 16GB of DDR4 memory, we managed to clock a decent score of 9901 with the 3DMark’s Firestrike.This is without a doubt one of the most impressively designed and well featured motherboard we’ve tested in some time. There’s loads we haven’t even got the space to mention, and the software suite deserves a review of its own. For around £150, you’ll be getting an extremely capable, state of the art motherboard that’s head and shoulders above the competition. David HaywardQuite a remarkable Intel 6th generation motherboard, with amazing features.

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