MSI Z170A GAM­ING M9 ACK

HWM (Malaysia) - - TEST -

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.

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