MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK Motherboard Review: Sharp Dressed, Feature Packed

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Introducing The MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK

We have another premium Z170-based motherboard on the test bench today, by way of MSI. The MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK motherboard is the company’s top end gaming board for use with Intel 6th Generation Skylake-based Core series processors. The MSI Z170A Gaming M9 is packed with a host of premium features aimed at improving and enhancing your experience. Like most gaming enthusiast boards, this one also commands top dollar, but still manages to ring in $100 shy of the wallet-busting ASUS Z170 ROG Maximus VIII we previously reviewed.

MSI Z170A GAMING M9 ACK And Box
Some of the more notable features on this motherboard include a built-in armored backplate and a DoubleShot Pro compatible networking solution from Killer Networking with included software for traffic shaping and network gaming prioritization. The board supports DDR4 memory up to 64GB at a nice 3600MHz overclocked. MSI has also taken audio a bit more seriously with some new features and Nahimic software. Finally, the board sports a host of USB ports (with four internal headers), has support for USB 3.1 with Type-C and Type-A ports, NVMe support via two M.2 slots, onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and multi-GPU support (3-way CrossFire and 2-Way SLI).

Also, like the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming G1 we took a look at recently, the Gaming M9 serves up threaded fittings for watercooling on the board’s integrated heatsink assemblies. Here are the rest of the specs if you'd like the full breakdown...

MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK Motherboard
Specifications & Features
CPU: Intel Core i7 processors - LGA1151
Chipset: Intel Z170 Chipset
Multi GPU: Supports NVIDIA 2-Way GPU SLI Technology 
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX Technology
Memory: 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 up to 3600MHZ OC
Audio: 7.1 Audio with Xtreme Audio DAC 384kHz/32-bit / Nahimic Audio Enhancer
Connectivity: LAN: Killer E2400 Gigabit LAN, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/n/ac Wireless LAN, Bluetooth 4.1
Slots: 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16/x4/x0 or x8/x8/x1) 
3 x PCIe 3.0 x1 Slots
Storage: 2 x M.2 x4 support both SATA & PCIE mode (bandwidth shared w/ SATA)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), 2 x SATA Express port
USB 3.1: 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) 
2 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps) Type-A and Type-C
USB 2.0: 6 x USB 2.0 ports (4x via internal header)
Form Factor: ATX 12.0" x 9.6"
Price: $370.89 Currently At Amazon

We tested the MSI Z170A Gaming M9 with an Intel Core i7-6700K coupled to a 16GB kit of Corsair Vengeance 2666MHz DDR4 memory. Windows 10 is installed on a 256GB Corsair Neutron Series XT SSD and our game files are installed on a 1TB Corsair Voyager Air external drive.

MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK 3

The MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK features a relatively familiar bundle of accessories. Beyond the main motherboard itself, you get a drivers and utilities disc, a user manual, I/O shield, six SATA cables, SLI Bridge for NVIDIA-based multi-GPU support, 2x Wi-Fi antenna, a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module, Quick Start guide, modular screw package, and a quick connector for easily installing system power, reset and other front panel connections.

MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK 2
Built-in Armored Backplate

Now let’s take a closer look at the layout and physical features before we jump into the BIOS and benchmarks with the MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK motherboard.

Asus Z170 ROG Maximus Extreme Motherboard
Specifications & Features
CPU: Intel Core i7 processors - LGA1151
Chipset: Intel Z170 Chipset
Multi GPU: Supports NVIDIA Quad-GPU SLI Technology 
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
Memory: 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 Dual Channel memory architecture
Audio: ROG SupremeFX 2015 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Connectivity: Intel I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s), GameFirst technology
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
Up to 1300Mbps transfer speed
Slots: 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4, gray) 
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray) 
2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1 (black)
Storage: 1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray, 4 ports from 2 x SATA Express
2 x SATA Express port
1 x U.2 port
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
USB 3.1: ASMedia USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, red, Type-A)

Intel USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, , Type-A + Type-C
USB 3.0: Intel Z170 chipset: 
8 x USB 3.0 ports (4 at back panel, blue, 4 at mid-board)
USB 2.0: 6 x USB 2.0 ports (6 at mid-board)
OC Panel II: 2.6 " LCM display
EXTREME/NORMAL mode switch 
EXTREME Mode for subzero OC benching:
- VGA Hotwire, Subzero Sense, Slow Mode, Pause Switch, ProbeIt, ReTry button, Safe Boot button
2 x Thermal sensor connectors
4 x 4-pin extra fan connectors *5
NORMAL Mode for in-chassis usage:
- OC button, FanSpeed control button, LCM backlight on/off button
I/O Ports:
- POWER:1 x SATA power connector
- ROG_EXT port:1 x 18-1 pin data connection port
Form Factor: Extended ATX Form Factor 
12 inch x 10.7 inch (30.5 cm x 27.2 cm)
Price: $484 Currently At Amazon


Asus Z170 ROG Maximus Extreme Motherboard
Specifications & Features
CPU: Intel Core i7 processors - LGA1151
Chipset: Intel Z170 Chipset
Multi GPU: Supports NVIDIA Quad-GPU SLI Technology 
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
Memory: 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 Dual Channel memory architecture
Audio: ROG SupremeFX 2015 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Connectivity: Intel I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s), GameFirst technology
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
Up to 1300Mbps transfer speed
Slots: 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4, gray) 
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray) 
2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1 (black)
Storage: 1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray, 4 ports from 2 x SATA Express
2 x SATA Express port
1 x U.2 port
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
USB 3.1: ASMedia USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, red, Type-A)

Intel USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, , Type-A + Type-C
USB 3.0: Intel Z170 chipset: 
8 x USB 3.0 ports (4 at back panel, blue, 4 at mid-board)
USB 2.0: 6 x USB 2.0 ports (6 at mid-board)
OC Panel II: 2.6 " LCM display
EXTREME/NORMAL mode switch 
EXTREME Mode for subzero OC benching:
- VGA Hotwire, Subzero Sense, Slow Mode, Pause Switch, ProbeIt, ReTry button, Safe Boot button
2 x Thermal sensor connectors
4 x 4-pin extra fan connectors *5
NORMAL Mode for in-chassis usage:
- OC button, FanSpeed control button, LCM backlight on/off button
I/O Ports:
- POWER:1 x SATA power connector
- ROG_EXT port:1 x 18-1 pin data connection port
Form Factor: Extended ATX Form Factor 
12 inch x 10.7 inch (30.5 cm x 27.2 cm)
Price: $484 Currently At Amazon


Asus Z170 ROG Maximus Extreme Motherboard
Specifications & Features
CPU: Intel Core i7 processors - LGA1151
Chipset: Intel Z170 Chipset
Multi GPU: Supports NVIDIA Quad-GPU SLI Technology 
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
Memory: 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 Dual Channel memory architecture
Audio: ROG SupremeFX 2015 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Connectivity: Intel I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s), GameFirst technology
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
Up to 1300Mbps transfer speed
Slots: 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4, gray) 
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray) 
2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1 (black)
Storage: 1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray, 4 ports from 2 x SATA Express
2 x SATA Express port
1 x U.2 port
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
USB 3.1: ASMedia USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, red, Type-A)

Intel USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, , Type-A + Type-C
USB 3.0: Intel Z170 chipset: 
8 x USB 3.0 ports (4 at back panel, blue, 4 at mid-board)
USB 2.0: 6 x USB 2.0 ports (6 at mid-board)
OC Panel II: 2.6 " LCM display
EXTREME/NORMAL mode switch 
EXTREME Mode for subzero OC benching:
- VGA Hotwire, Subzero Sense, Slow Mode, Pause Switch, ProbeIt, ReTry button, Safe Boot button
2 x Thermal sensor connectors
4 x 4-pin extra fan connectors *5
NORMAL Mode for in-chassis usage:
- OC button, FanSpeed control button, LCM backlight on/off button
I/O Ports:
- POWER:1 x SATA power connector
- ROG_EXT port:1 x 18-1 pin data connection port
Form Factor: Extended ATX Form Factor 
12 inch x 10.7 inch (30.5 cm x 27.2 cm)
Price: $484 Currently At Amazon


Asus Z170 ROG Maximus Extreme Motherboard
Specifications & Features
CPU: Intel Core i7 processors - LGA1151
Chipset: Intel Z170 Chipset
Multi GPU: Supports NVIDIA Quad-GPU SLI Technology 
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
Memory: 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 Dual Channel memory architecture
Audio: ROG SupremeFX 2015 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Connectivity: Intel I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s), GameFirst technology
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
Up to 1300Mbps transfer speed
Slots: 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4, gray) 
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray) 
2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1 (black)
Storage: 1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray, 4 ports from 2 x SATA Express
2 x SATA Express port
1 x U.2 port
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
USB 3.1: ASMedia USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, red, Type-A)

Intel USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, , Type-A + Type-C
USB 3.0: Intel Z170 chipset: 
8 x USB 3.0 ports (4 at back panel, blue, 4 at mid-board)
USB 2.0: 6 x USB 2.0 ports (6 at mid-board)
OC Panel II: 2.6 " LCM display
EXTREME/NORMAL mode switch 
EXTREME Mode for subzero OC benching:
- VGA Hotwire, Subzero Sense, Slow Mode, Pause Switch, ProbeIt, ReTry button, Safe Boot button
2 x Thermal sensor connectors
4 x 4-pin extra fan connectors *5
NORMAL Mode for in-chassis usage:
- OC button, FanSpeed control button, LCM backlight on/off button
I/O Ports:
- POWER:1 x SATA power connector
- ROG_EXT port:1 x 18-1 pin data connection port
Form Factor: Extended ATX Form Factor 
12 inch x 10.7 inch (30.5 cm x 27.2 cm)
Price: $484 Currently At Amazon


Asus Z170 ROG Maximus Extreme Motherboard
Specifications & Features
CPU: Intel Core i7 processors - LGA1151
Chipset: Intel Z170 Chipset
Multi GPU: Supports NVIDIA Quad-GPU SLI Technology 
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
Memory: 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 Dual Channel memory architecture
Audio: ROG SupremeFX 2015 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Connectivity: Intel I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s), GameFirst technology
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
Up to 1300Mbps transfer speed
Slots: 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4, gray) 
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray) 
2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1 (black)
Storage: 1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray, 4 ports from 2 x SATA Express
2 x SATA Express port
1 x U.2 port
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
USB 3.1: ASMedia USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, red, Type-A)

Intel USB 3.1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 ports (2 at back panel, , Type-A + Type-C
USB 3.0: Intel Z170 chipset: 
8 x USB 3.0 ports (4 at back panel, blue, 4 at mid-board)
USB 2.0: 6 x USB 2.0 ports (6 at mid-board)
OC Panel II: 2.6 " LCM display
EXTREME/NORMAL mode switch 
EXTREME Mode for subzero OC benching:
- VGA Hotwire, Subzero Sense, Slow Mode, Pause Switch, ProbeIt, ReTry button, Safe Boot button
2 x Thermal sensor connectors
4 x 4-pin extra fan connectors *5
NORMAL Mode for in-chassis usage:
- OC button, FanSpeed control button, LCM backlight on/off button
I/O Ports:
- POWER:1 x SATA power connector
- ROG_EXT port:1 x 18-1 pin data connection port
Form Factor: Extended ATX Form Factor 
12 inch x 10.7 inch (30.5 cm x 27.2 cm)
Price: $484 Currently At Amazon



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