MSI Z170A GAMING M9 ACK
The MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK sits at the top of MSI’s enthusiast-oriented Gaming series of boards. However, a closer look at its feature set shows that it is a board that is geared more toward the gaming crowd as opposed to overclockers.
It features an 11-phase power design – that may seem paltry in comparison with the other boards, but it is the quality and implementation that matters more than the number of power phases. And like the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming G1, the MSI board also has G1/4 threaded fittings built into its VRM heatsinks should you choose to go the water-cooling route.
We also appreciate MSI’s inclusion of a full-length motherboard backplate. It provides some reassuring heft and support to the board and even houses LEDs on the underside, so the board will give you a subtle red underglow when installed in your case.
Another noteworthy feature is something MSI calls DDR4 Boost, which is highlighted by the bright red memory traces on the PCB. By fully isolating the memory circuitry from the other components, DDR4 Boost ensures that the memory signal remains free from interference in order to achieve the best possible performance and stability.
The Gaming M9 ACK has just three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, making it the only board in our shootout to not have four slots. It’s not going to make much of a practical difference to most users, but you could argue that as a flagship board, it should have included a fourth slot anyway. However, it makes up for it by reinforcing the first and third slots with metal, so heavy cards should hold up better in the long term.
In addition, the Xtreme Audio DAC audio solution has been upgraded with components like a Sabre HiFi ESS 9016K2M DAC, and the board now supports high-resolution audio playback at 384kHz/32-bit thanks to the C-Media CM6632A HD audio processor. Nahimic Audio Enhancer technology is supported as well, offering audio enhancements like virtual surround, frequency and voice levellers, and tweaks for voice clarity for clearer in-game communication.
However, overclockers will be more interested in the Game Boost knob that lets you overclock the CPU quickly by just ratcheting up the knob. It does this by tweaking the CPU BCLK, which means you cannot do this on-the-fly and will have to reboot the system before the change can take effect. Still, it’s a convenient way to get a free performance boost for your CPU, although you probably are not going to be able to achieve the maximum 5.0GHz setting without water-cooling.
The memory circuit has been isolated to keep the signal free from interference.
The Game Boost knob lets you overclock your CPU by tweaking the BCLK values.