MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION Review @ [H]

FrgMstr

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MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION Review - MSI has a goal to be the number one motherboard maker in PC Gaming. To that end MSI has been rebranding and the Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION motherboard is an example of this shift in focus. This new XPOWER series retains much of its heritage but shifts gears towards being an upper echelon gaming oriented solution.
 

Modred189

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I used to be an ASUS only person until a recent build where they didn't have something in the range I was looking (at the time, they did fill the gap shortly thereafter) and I ended up with an MSI board in my main i5 2500K rig. It seems like UEFI design is an ongoing struggle for them, as even on that G45 board, it is... inelegant. But the board has been ROCK solid since day one, and their website and support has been 10x better than Asus' ever was.

That said, HOLY HELL that is a gorgeous motherboard. I'm glad it performs as well as it looks. Props to MSI.
 

Unstableone

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Good looking board without too much red

but @ $300 wow that costs a lot, almost as much as a 6700k
 

ssnyder28

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Surprised you gave this a gold award tbh... $300 is way too much. The board looks awesome though.
 

FrgMstr

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Surprised you gave this a gold award tbh... $300 is way too much. The board looks awesome though.

Was on the fence between gold and silver. Silver because of the price, gold due to performance. Looking at the vacuum around 300 dollar Skylake boards, I went with my performance feeling. OC-wise, this board is awesome for those wanting to find the hairy edge.
 

xorbe

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That contrast with black on white (or gray or silver or whatever it is irl) looks awesome.
 

Modred189

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I've got no problem with this. This has never been [V]alueOCP. $300 isn't a price I could ever pay for a motherboard but there have been $300 motherboards on the high end for a while so it's nothing new. I agree price should be considered but I don't think it should be weighted enough to cost a board that performs this well a Gold award. Now if it were $400 or something ridiculous then yeah but $300 isn't an unheard of price for a top of the line board.

And given that it does the job really very well, a solid award is warranted, imho.
 

Cobalt35

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Thanks for the review. I'm with others in saying that I've been an ASUS-only guy for a few years now but MSI is doing some really nice stuff lately. Will definitely look at their boards next time I upgrade.
 

rat

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I used to be an ASUS only person until a recent build where they didn't have something in the range I was looking (at the time, they did fill the gap shortly thereafter) and I ended up with an MSI board in my main i5 2500K rig. It seems like UEFI design is an ongoing struggle for them, as even on that G45 board, it is... inelegant. But the board has been ROCK solid since day one, and their website and support has been 10x better than Asus' ever was.

That said, HOLY HELL that is a gorgeous motherboard. I'm glad it performs as well as it looks. Props to MSI.

I've been in the same boat. I used to be an ASUS guy and then I felt like they were dropping the ball. (They have been and still are) Switched to MSI and loved every board I used. Decided to try Gigabyte this time around and been happy with it, too. The graphical (UEFI) Bios is where both brands fall short, but Gigabyte wins over MSI for their implementation of it because it is very, very keyboard friendly whereas MSIs can be a real pain to navigate.

And yeah, that's one surprisingly sexy looking board. Surprised at my saying that because normally the look of the board never strikes me as a factor.
 

MacLeod

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Yeah Asus did nail the UEFI. Even on the entry level board I recent put in a build was great. MSI's was awful for a long time. Glad they're getting better at implementating them.
 

rat

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Finally, an MSI board without a lame Killer NIC.

LOL, that was actually the reason I chose the Gigabyte motherboard over an MSI I was going to put into my current build. The MSI had KillerNIC and I wanted to avoid that crap.
 
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Just a tip for the gaming CPU benchmarks, try using high gfx settings/lowest resolution as almost every game these days uses alot more CPU at higher settings. For example GTAV uses around 30-50% more CPU cycles at max settings vs min. You guys should run a few tests just to try it out and you'll see. At 640x480 max settings isn't going to slow down any fairly decent GPU in any game. (*except maybe arkham knight pre patch heh). I feel like it would give a more realistic picture of cpu/memory/mobo performance while showing more of a performance spread between chips.
 
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magoo

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The board is unique in looks.

I'm glad MSI did away with the "Killer NIC" on this board.

I have to say, I don't think I've seen so many paragraphs of discussion about a board in a long time.
That's either good or bad. Good if the board is praise-worthy, bad if you are trying to convince yourselves that this is a great motherboard.

I guess the proof will be when other top of the line MBs are ready for review.:D
 

Modred189

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Just a tip for the gaming CPU benchmarks, try using high gfx settings/lowest resolution as almost every game these days uses alot more CPU at higher settings. For example GTAV uses around 30-50% more CPU cycles at max settings vs min. You guys should run a few tests just to try it out and you'll see. At 640x480 max settings isn't going to slow down any fairly decent GPU in any game. (*except maybe arkham knight pre patch heh). I feel like it would give a more realistic picture of cpu/memory/mobo performance while showing more of a performance spread between chips.

But not very applicable. I mean, sure, it will increase the deltas so the differences are more pronounced, but the data doesn't mean anything.If CPU A is 2 fps faster at 1440p than CPU B, but 10 fps faster at 640X480, that's nice, but not meaningful.
 

FrgMstr

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Just a tip for the gaming CPU benchmarks, try using high gfx settings/lowest resolution as almost every game these days uses alot more CPU at higher settings. For example GTAV uses around 30-50% more CPU cycles at max settings vs min. You guys should run a few tests just to try it out and you'll see. At 640x480 max settings isn't going to slow down any fairly decent GPU in any game. (*except maybe arkham knight pre patch heh). I feel like it would give a more realistic picture of cpu/memory/mobo performance while showing more of a performance spread between chips.

To that point, we run motherboard benchmarks for one reason....to see if there is something wrong or off. Honestly, benchmarks is motherboard reviews since the MC was integrated are virtually useless for anything but finding issues.
 

LigTasm

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Man, I wish this board didn't release so late after the others. I wanted it so badly but ended up buying an Asus Z170 Deluxe because I didn't want to wait another month. Maybe I'll get one anyways at some point.
 

DrNick

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Nice review guys and it looks like a great board. One thing though; I cannot believe they are still using that spot for the auxiliary power connector. Seriously, that is the absolute worst spot you could probably find.
Price-wise the x-power has always been a little expensive but I think you get what you pay for. Dropped $250 on my mpower(z97) and have no regrets; Its a great board and msi does a great job of keeping things up to date, bios and driver wise
 

Quartz-1

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Nice review and thank you for photographing the underside of the slots to show which were which electrically.
 

Wickedout2011

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Nice review! Glad MSI is getting noticed once again. I own the MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK mobo and love it. It's one solid mobo and handles everything I throw at it. But this MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION sure has my attention. You guy's should do a review on the MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK down the road. I'd love to see that review.
 

Astral Abyss

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I have this board and completely agree with the [H] Gold award. It's one of the most solid, well laid out boards I've had the pleasure to work with in a while. It was an enjoyable experience to overclock my 6600k as well and I never once encountered any instability (except when not giving my CPU enough voltage while testing max OC of course). It handles boot failures gracefully, pausing for a few moments and then booting directly into the UEFI with stock values temporarily loaded while simultaneously loading/presenting the actual settings on the UEFI for you to manipulate. This is so much better than boards that just fail, reload, fail, reload 2-3 times, then load defaults and you have to reboot yet again to try and get into the UEFI with the actual settings that you can manipulate, which can turn into a looping nightmare.

Pictures don't do this board justice either. The silver color is striking in person and if you're planning on customizing your PSU wiring, you can create some really nice effects. I have blue sleeved wiring from my PSU and it looks amazing with this board. And can I just add... thank you to MSI for not blinging this board out with gaudy plastic covers all over the place. Some of their other boards went way overboard with the bling, which sadly appears to be the norm on most motherboards to show how "awesome" they are. This board looks professional and not like a kids toy.

For the record, I got my modest 6600k up to 4.7GHz, no problems at all with this board. Unfortunately, it needed a bit more voltage than I was comfortable with for 24/7 usage (1.40-1.41-ish) and so I dropped down to 4.6GHz. Super stable though either way. Loving it.
 

WarLust

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Couldn't agree with you more Astral. I've been narrowing down my search for the last few weeks on a motherboard. I've always used ASUS motherboards, except for a few EVGA's thrown in, for almost 20 years. I had some specific desires for my upgrade: 1). At least 2 M.2 slots for the upcoming 950 Pro SSDs, 2). Adequate 3.0/3.1 slots, 3). Intel v219 NIC, 4). OC Power features, and 5). A really unique design. I narrowed down my search to either the ASRock OC Formula and the Titanium.

I have never owned an MSI or ASRock motherboard, so this will be interesting. I gave up on the ASRock due to not liking the yellow/black look, as that has been done too many times, and I didn't know how well they have matured on their UEFI or quality/CS. Three Ultra M.2 slots sounds sick and the OC records were enticing on the OC Formula, but I thought I'd be happier with the Titanium. We'll see. I finally bought it this weekend and expect it Wed. 6700k will be bought at my Microcenter for $319.99 :D I'll post some updates on it later this week.
 

Astral Abyss

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I think you're going to be really happy with the Titanium. I'd be curious to know how far you're able to overclock the 6700k with it.
 

WarLust

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Me too. I've ordered the new EK Predator 360 AIO for the 6700k, so I'm praying to the silicon lottery for at least 4.8, maybe 5.0. How do you like the MSI UEFI so far?
 

Astral Abyss

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Me too. I've ordered the new EK Predator 360 AIO for the 6700k, so I'm praying to the silicon lottery for at least 4.8, maybe 5.0. How do you like the MSI UEFI so far?

I haven't seen the current Asus or Gigabyte UEFIs to compare it to, but I've been quite happy with the MSI. Sometimes I click on something by accident when trying to back out of a menu, but it's a minor annoyance. It's pretty easy to find stuff and save settings, but I suppose it could still use a little more refinement and better organization, if I'm nit-picking. I can easily live with it. I like how I can create and view RAID arrays from the UEFI and don't even have to go into the Intel config. Flashing is easy also. Just load it on a flash drive and select it from the UEFI. The fan controls are really nice and adjustable. That's one thing that was really important to me, to get my computer as silent as possible. So yeah, pretty happy with it.
 

WarLust

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Sounds good. I'm used to the ASUS UEFI, and it makes sense that Kyle and Dan think ASUS has the most polished UEFI, but seems MSI and Gigabyte are up there as well. Something you might try to get out of the menus is right clicking the mouse - I read that somewhere.
 

Dan_D

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Sounds good. I'm used to the ASUS UEFI, and it makes sense that Kyle and Dan think ASUS has the most polished UEFI, but seems MSI and Gigabyte are up there as well. Something you might try to get out of the menus is right clicking the mouse - I read that somewhere.

We have used the UEFI on all the major brands alot. I think ASUS has the most polished UEFI because the design is more consistent in how inputs can be made and because it has a logical work flow to it without wasting space with sub menus. ASUS' UEFI also has better mouse response and objects are easier to click. Visual style aside, it's better because they never spent time reinventing the wheel. MSI and GIGABYTE tried all kinds of crap before evolving a base design that worked.

GIGABYTE is getting there but they aren't on ASUS' level with the UEFI just yet. It will be a generation or two before they reach parity with ASUS. MSI is even further off. Thing is, ASUS listens to reviewers and customers better than the other manufacturers do. If we tell ASUS something should change and it makes sense that thing is changed the next product cycle. If we tell MSI or GIGABYTE something and it makes sense it takes two or more generations to see that change implemented. I suspect that may change soon but that's been my experience in the last ten years of dealing with these companies.

I'm generalizing here. ASUS and the other brands don't always change shit we want changed, or may take longer to do it, but again what I said above usually holds true.

And while I'm very vocal about UEFI design I have to admit that it isn't a huge part of the overall experience of using these products. If you benchmark or overclock competitively then it may matter more, but most users get a stable overclock and then leave shit alone. MSI, ASUS and GIGABYTE all build great boards with few exceptions. Often the decision about which is best often comes down to the smallest details.
 

WarLust

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I totally agree Dan. I've been a very loyal customer to ASUS, with a few exceptions over the last 20 years, even buying their monitors and thinking about buying one of their 1900 or 2400 series routers, but I was desiring something different from ASUS this generation. The Hero didn't appeal enough to me, functionally. Aesthetically, it's a great looking board. The superfluous USB 2.0 slots over more 3.0 made no sense to me and people are having some early issues with the board. The only ASUS board I would consider having at this point would be the Deluxe or the Extreme, but I'm not going to spend $500 for a little bit better HERO board with extra fluff.

I'm hoping the Titanium will be as great a board as it has been reviewed by various sites. I almost bought a ASRock OC Formula while at MC yesterday for a backup, as it is my second choice. Dan, I know you haven't reviewed this board yet, but do you have any thoughts on this board or the UEFI?
 

Dan_D

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I totally agree Dan. I've been a very loyal customer to ASUS, with a few exceptions over the last 20 years, even buying their monitors and thinking about buying one of their 1900 or 2400 series routers, but I was desiring something different from ASUS this generation. The Hero didn't appeal enough to me, functionally. Aesthetically, it's a great looking board. The superfluous USB 2.0 slots over more 3.0 made no sense to me and people are having some early issues with the board. The only ASUS board I would consider having at this point would be the Deluxe or the Extreme, but I'm not going to spend $500 for a little bit better HERO board with extra fluff.

I'm hoping the Titanium will be as great a board as it has been reviewed by various sites. I almost bought a ASRock OC Formula while at MC yesterday for a backup, as it is my second choice. Dan, I know you haven't reviewed this board yet, but do you have any thoughts on this board or the UEFI?

I haven't looked at one yet. I like their UEFI and current software tools. GIGABYTE very much copied ASRock on the software side which is a good thing. On the hardware front though I have to really treat each ASRock board as of it existed alone. I can make general predictions about ASUS or GIGABYTE boards based on one or two samples and usually be correct. I can't do that with ASRock.
 

WarLust

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I understand. Thanks for the info. Didn't know GIGABYTE copied ASRock's UEFI lol. It's gotten good reviews from other sites, but I'll wait for you guys to take a look.
 

Astral Abyss

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WarLust, did you ever get your board setup? I'm curious to know how it went and how far you overclocked it. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person that bought this board so any other experiences with overclocking it would be wonderful to see.
 

Dan_D

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I understand. Thanks for the info. Didn't know GIGABYTE copied ASRock's UEFI lol. It's gotten good reviews from other sites, but I'll wait for you guys to take a look.

GIGABYTE copied ASRock's software, not the UEFI. GIGABYTE is somewhat similar to ASUS aesthetically speaking but not in terms of actual layout or organization.
 
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