December 21, 2016

MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition Overview

By: Low Chern Lin

Both MPower/XPower from MSI are one of the popular ones for overclockers around the world when it comes to choice of motherboards for competitive overclocking and has been endorsed by renowned overclockers i.e Benchbros, Wizerty, Vivi and Zzolio in the community, setting quite a number of impressive records. 

We have tested the X99A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition motherboard few months ago and we must say, it's a pretty impressive motherboard that will satisfy most of the power users, enthusiasts who is always seeking for ways to get the best performance out of their system. The MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition we have here comes from the same series and it's specially designed to bring the best out of the Intel's 6th Gen Skylake CPUs.

As always, we have our special thanks to MSI Malaysia for making this review possible. Let's move on with the article and see what the MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium is capable of.

(The MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium retails at RM 1499) 


The Box

Just as its name suggests, the MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition comes in a titanium silver-ish box just like the Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium and its X99 counterpart, the X99A XPower Gaming Titanium. Prominent features and specifications of the motherboard is highlighted at the back of the box. More of its features can be found on front lid box and a shield-shaped cutout that act as a display window allows potential buyer to take a peek into the box to see how the Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition motherboard looks like.

The Accessories

The accessories includes a door hanger, user manual and quick installation guide, driver CD, label sticker, SATA cables, SLI bridge, MSI Gaming sticker, rear I/O cover.

The MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition Motherboard

At first glance, the MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition looks almost the same as the Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium, especially for the DDR4 steel armor and PCIe steel armor as what MSI has claimed, has more solder points on the PCB for more strength and protects both the DIMM slots and PCI-Express signals against electromagnetic interference to provide better performance over the traditional design. 

Everything looks pretty okay at this point, it'll be even better if MSI would consider to provide the extra rear I/O Titanium shield and the metal back plate at the back of the motherboard just like those on the Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium. It's a XPower board and it's supposed to be more premium that the MPower right?

As a board designed for overclocking, the Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium is equipped with Titanium chokes which MSI boasts to able to withstand high temperature and offers better heat dissipation. The board features a whopping 16 phase digital power solution and it comes with an extra 4-pin to provide that extra juice to the CPU in just case if that overclocker instinct of yours kicks in.

On-board power and reset switch, Q-Code display is definitely something that must not be absent from a high end motherboard, especially one which is marketed as a motherboard made to produce record breaking results in overclocking. Other than the Q-Code display and switches, you'll find the dip switches to disable / enable specific PCIe lanes right next to the Q-Code display, a very useful feature to have, especially for the veteran overclockers when it comes to troubleshooting. 

The MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium comes with an extra perk as well, a dedicated OC Dashboard made to deliver better, hassle free overclocking experience. The Dashboard is equipped with some of the frequently used features such as DirectOC +/-, Slow Mode, Fast Boot and Complete Discharge, which gives extra convenience to overclockers during their record breaking session.

For storage devices, the MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium comes with 4 x SATA III ports, 2 x SATA Express ports, 1 x front USB 3.0 connector and an additional USB port for quick USB flash drive access - overclockers mostly.

At the lower section of the motherboard, you'll find a whopping 4 x PCIe x16 slots that is enough to support 4-way Crossfire / 2-way SLI, 3 x PCIe x1 slots, 2 x M.2 SSD slot that is capable of RAID0 and RAID1. There are also an additional PCIe 6-pin connector to supply extra power to the PCIe in case if you need more juice for your graphics benchmark.

MSI's on-board audio, the  Audio Boost 3 features high quality Chemi-Con Audio Capacitors are used on the isolated audio PCB to provide better audio quality over most on board audio conventional design. It works exceptionally well for gaming when paired with the bundled Nahimic Audio Software.

The rear I/O consists of 1 x P/S2 keyboard mouse combo port, 2 x USB 2.0 ports, Clear CMOS button, USB 2.0 port for USB BIOS flashback function, 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, DisplayPort 1.2, 2 x HDMI port, Intel powered Gaming LAN Ethernet port, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen2 type-A and the audio jacks.

Software: MSI Command Centerv

Similar to most OS based system tweaking software from its competitors, the MSI Command Center software allows you to adjust the necessary parameters such as BCLK/Ratio and voltages for CPU overclock and applying it real-time so you won't have to restart your system in order to get into the BIOS screen just for that purpose. 

You can perform Game Boost via MSI Command Center as well, but applying these preset requires a reboot and the result may vary through the type of CPU used.

Software: MSI Gaming App

If you're not into the advanced tweaking and just wanted to make things quick and easy, the MSI Gaming App is the software you need. Be it adjusting your system performance mode, enabling OSD for benchmark purpose, monitor color adjustment with 'Eye Rest' and the RGB LEDs configuration, all these tasks can be easily done with a single click on the buttons on the UI.

Software: Nahimic Audio Software

The audio software is done by Nahimic, an audio company that helps to develop 360-degree systems for the French military in the past, licensed to MSI to provide a more immersive gaming audio for its users. Other than its preset based audio boost feature, the Nahimic Audio software comes with additional features such as noise cancellation for microphone, as well as a screen recorder for gamers or game streamers to share their gaming experience with the world at ease.

CPU & Memory Overclock Overview

For CPU overclocking, we always start off with the motherboard's auto overclocking feature and things are looking pretty okay for the MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition as we managed to hit a 4.8GHz with our i7 6700K on first attempt. While the result might seem quite impressive for a system determined result, the voltage is pretty high at this point. It still can be lowered to the range of 1.44v and survived benchmarks like RealBench and AIDA64 stability test. 

As for our manual overclocking, we managed to hit a maximum 4.9GHz with 1.47v at most as the voltage required to run the i7 6700K we have here at 5.0GHz produces heat that not even our custom water cooling setup can handle. It managed to survived benchmarks like RealBench and AIDA64 stability test, but the temperature hovers on a rather uncomfortable range 86°C of to 90°C while on load.

Moving on to the memory, enabling the XMP profile with our Apacer Commando DDR4 2800MHz kit doesn't requires any extra adjustment to both the memory timings and voltages. 

The highest frequency achieved with the Apacer Commando DDR4 2800MHz kit is 3250MHz, which requires a little raise on the CPU base clock (BCLK) of 50MHz, adjustments on the memory timings and the relevant voltages. As the CPU itself plays the most important role when it comes to memory overclocking, our i7 6700K here isn't a superior chip and the system refuses to boot if we were to go any higher than 3250MHz on the memory clock.

Final Thoughts
Overclocking wise, the MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium has all the handy features  that overclockers will really appreciate, especially for the OC Dashboard's slow boot mode, BCLK step up button, discharge button to clear off all the settings in one touch, easy recovery with BIOS flashback and PCIe dip switches. One thing to note about the OC Dashboard is that it doesn't actually sits firm on its socket and you will have to hold onto the board when pressing the buttons or it will get disconnected if the board is slanted. 

If you're not familiar with overclocking but still wanted to get some extra performance out of your system, there's the MSI Gaming App and MSI Command Center that will get the job done easily - it's not perfect, but you don't have to go through the tweaking screen in the BIOS which you're uncertain with. The bundled Nahimic audio software too, is another added value which helps to enhance the existing audio for a more immersive gaming, music and movie experience.

Price wise, the MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition motherboard comes with a pretty hefty price tag of RM1499 and it will not be something you would want to invest for if you don't actually utilize any of its features that are made for overclocking in your daily usage. Otherwise, it will be a good investment for those, the enthusiasts who really plans to get every single drop of performance out of their system, or overclockers who wants to take advantage of the features offered on the MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition to improve their result in overclocking.

  • Solid build quality and good aesthetics
  • Very good overclocking friendly feature, especially for the OC Dashboard
  • Good software bundle, especially the Nahimic audio software
  • Use of high quality components
  • Extra 4pin molex power for additional power for the PCIe slots
  • Costly
  • OC Dashboard can get disconnected if it is slanted while the buttons are being pressed