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

MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK Layout & Features

The MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK saunters in with dapper good looks and a striking color scheme, rife with red accents and deeper blacks than what you get with the similarly colored ASUS Z170 ROG Maximus VIII Extreme motherboard. Although it could do with a couple more internal USB headers, from top to bottom this full-sized ATX board is well laid out with suitable spacing between components and clear labeling on all headers and connectors.

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Beginning our tour from the top, we see the red and black colored heatsink assembly, which is ready for a custom water-cooling setup if you so choose. The threads fit standard ¼-inch fittings and are made from copper tubing.  

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The ample spacing around the CPU Socket is intended to accommodate a variety of water-block sizes and shapes. To the right are a pair of fan connectors, four DDR4 DIMM slots, a LED post code error reporter, a single USB 3.1 Gen 1 header, and the 24-pin ATX power connector.

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Migrating leftward we see the Slow Mode Booting switch, another USB 3.0 header, and the compliment of SATA ports. You get a pair of SATA 6Gb/s connectors and SATA Express connectors as well.

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The bottom of the board is lined from right to left with a number of features and connectors. Furthest to the right are trio of “Easy Buttons”. Respectively, these include an automatic OC knob, Reset, and Power buttons. The OC knob handles hardware-based overclocking right on the board and can be set from 0 to 11. Higher numbers equate to more significant CPU clocks. This section is ajacent to the the front panel connections, an internal USB 2.0 header, another system fan connector, a TPM connector and a front panel audio connector.

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At the lower left corner of the board is the EMI-shield covering the C-Media 6632A audio processor, dual headphone amps, Chemi-con audio capacitors and the Extreme Audio DAC and Nahimic audio enhancer with 8-channel audio support (7.1).

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Further up, we reach the Back Panel, which includes a Clear CMOS button, and a PS/2 mouse and keyboard port resting above two USB 2.0 ports. Next to this you get another USB 2.0 port followed by a DisplayPort and a HDMI port. Then we have a single USB 3.1 Gen2 port sitting above a USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port. These are next to the single LAN port, which is atop two more USB 3.1 Gen1 ports. Finally, we have the Audio Ports which includes an Optical S/PDIF-out port.

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At the very top left portion of the board is where you can plug in the included dual Killer Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module. The Killer Double-Shot Pro feature we mentioned earlier can leverage this WiFi adapter and the on-board wired Killer network controller simultaneously, to better utilize all available network bandwidth. Non-prioritized apps, for example, will be moved to the WiFi network connection, while games and other high-priority apps stay on the wired connection. Double-Shot Pro does not load balance between the connections, but rather puts the highest-priority packets on the fastest connection, which is almost always the wired network connection.

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Here we have a shot of the board’s PCIe slots. MSI has included a trio of x1 PCIe 3.0 slots and a set of three x16 PCIe 3.0 slots. To the right of a couple of the x1 slots are the M.2 slots for NVMe storage solutions, like the hot new Samsung 960 series, for example.

Finally, the board is peppered throughout with aluminum core Dark capped capacitors, which we’ve seen in other enthusiast and premium motherboards from competing brands as well.

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