MSI Z270 Gaming M5: Performance Through Features

When a PC user is looking for performance, the motherboard isn’t usually the first PC component that comes to mind. The processor, graphics card, RAM and storage devices takes precedence, and rightly so. MSI is out to change, or at least modify the belief that the motherboard is near last place when looking to get the best performance for your buck – we take a high to mid-range offering as an example – the MSI Z270 Gaming M5.

p2410759p2410760

In this review, I will be taking a slightly different tack in showing the abilities and features of this motherboard. I will only cover the main differentiators compared to main competitors and previous models, which are after all the most important things to consider. There are two main things in my opinion that a gamer will look for in their motherboards – features that maximizes the performance potential of the rest of their hardware, and the value proposition.

master-level-gamingMSI is selling this board for around $190 on amazon, a price that compares very favorably with the previous generation, high end Z170 chipset motherboards, with some key differences. The Z270 chipset has a total of 24 PCIe lanes instead of 20, which MSI puts to good use by implementing a second M.2 socket capable of RAID – an exciting prospect for ultra-fast storage.

With 24 lanes, the user can get creative with his or her storage configuration, with many combinations of SATA drives, U.2, and PCIe storage possible.

Another feature of the Z270 chipset is Intel’s Optane memory technology, which promises non-volatile memory at near RAM speeds using the M.2 socket. Optane tech is a data caching technique supported by certain hardware requirements listed by Intel, such as a 7th generation, Kaby Lake processor, a Z200 series chipset, and the optane memory itself. This forward-looking technology prepares the way for future upgrades to storage speed on top of this board’s dual M.2 sockets’ RAID capability – a 2-in1 punch that’s very attractive.

Other than the inherent capabilities of the Z270 chipset, we should also take a look at the features exclusive to MSI – such as the metal – reinforced RAM and PCIe videocard slots called Steel Armor that prevent damage to these often-handled areas, the M.2 Shield that serves as a heatsink to wick heat away  from the SSD and thus improve performance, a very well designed BIOS update system called M-Flash that requires only a USB drive and booting into the bios, and a dedicated “VR Boost” chip that provides a stable platform for the VR dedicated USB ports at the rear panel.

For the aesthetic-minded, MSI’s RGB LED feature “Mystic Light”, dorky name notwithstanding, continues to impress with a good selection of lights and effects that will fit most build themes. The plastic cladding on the back panel, power circuits, expansion slots and chipset mostly hide functional heat spreaders and look passably sleek or insufferably tacky, depending on your taste, but there’s no doubting in my mind that this board has one of the best layouts I’ve ever seen on a recent motherboard – both functionally and in looks.

p2410785
Even installing 2 dual slot videocards will allow a lot of breathing space between cards.

Case in point – the two PCIe videocard slots are spaced in a way to ensure the absolute best separation for an SLI or Crossfire setup, while still providing a total of three additional PCIe x1 slots and 2 M.2 sockets. Separation from even a large CPU cooler like our Thermaltake Frio Advanced with dual 120mm fans is very good, plus the SATA connectors are still accessible even when a long videocard is installed. Finally, there are 6 fan headers spread across the board at strategic areas, with one at the upper right corner indicated as being a “pump fan”, obviously positioned in readiness for a top-mounted rad/pump combination in a tower case.

mystic-light

dsc_0073
RGB lighting on the chipset heatsink can be matched to your case theme
dsc_0075
back lighting highlights your motherboard

Thoughtful touches also abound – a manual that incorporates QR codes leading to video demonstrations for installing a component, placing the many logos and brand names at the rear of the board where it won’t clutter up the board, support for a 110mm M.2 SSD, and even an RGB LED  extension cable for easy placement of an LED strip.

usb-max

p2410782
The USB slots from left to right: 2 USB 2.0, 1 vertical USB 2.0 for BIOS Flashback feature, USB 3.1 type A and C, and USB 3.1 gen1, for VR.

Unique features all complement the inherent performance of the chipset, which is what a foundation for a PC is supposed to do anyways. The fact that it’s presented in a very good layout and looks good while doing so is just all that much more functional icing on top of the very delicious cake. The added value of these functional features can’t be doubted, giving us buyers a very good option for our new builds, at a very good price.

p2410783
VR chip for stable VR signal through dedicated USB sockets

Following is the complete list of specifications for the board:

Specification

CPU Supports 7th/6th Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors and Intel Pentium and Celeron processors for Socket LGA 1151
Chipset Intel Z270 Chipset
Memory
  • 4x DDR4 memory slots, supports up to 64GB
    • 7th Gen processors support DDR4 3800 (OC)/3600 (OC)/ 2800 (OC)/ 2600 (OC)/ 2400 (OC) 2133MHz
    • 6th Gen processors Support DDR4 3800 (OC)/3600 (OC)/ 2800 (OC)/ 2600 (OC)/ 2400 (OC) 2133MHz
  • Dual-Channel memory architecture
  • Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
Expansion Slots
  • 3x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16/x0/x4, x8/x8.x4 modes)
  • 3x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
Onboard Graphics
  • 1x HDMI port, supports a maximum resolution of 4096 x 2160 @ 30 Hz (7th CPU), 4096 x 2160 @ 24Hz (6th CPU), 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
  • 1x DisplayPort, supports a maximum resolution of 4096 x 2340 @ 24Hz, 3840 x 2160 @ 60Hz, 1920 x 1080 @ 60Hz
Multi-GPU
  • Supports two-way Nvidia SLI
  • Supports three-way AMD Crossfire
Storage Intel Z270 Chipset:

  • 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports*
  • 2x M.2 Slots (Key M)
    • Support up to PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gb/s
    • M2_1 slot supports 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices
    • M2_2 slot supports 2242/2260/2280 storage devices
    • Intel Optane Memory Ready for all M.2 slots
  • 1x U.2 port**
    • Supports up to PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe U.2 SSD
  • Supports Intel Smart Response Technology
RAID Intel Z270 Chipset:

  • Supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 for SATA storage drivers
  • Supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 for M.2 storage devices
USB
  • ASMedia ASM2141 Chipset:
    • 1x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) Type-C port on the back panel
    • 1x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) Type-A port on the back panel
  • Intel Z270 Chipset:
    • 6x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (SuperSpeed USB) ports (2 Type-A ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
    • 7x USB 2.0 (High-Speed USB) ports (3 Type-A ports on the back panel, 4 poorts available through the internal USB connectors)
Audio
  • Realtek ALC 1120 Codec
  • 7.1 Channel High Definition audio
LAN 1X Killer E2500 Gigabit LAN controller
Back Panel Connectors
  • 1x PS/2 mouse and keyboard combo port
  • 3x USB 2.0 ports
    • 1x BIOS flashback+ port
  • 1x clear CMOS button
  • 1x DisplayPort
  • 1x HDMI
  • 1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
  • 1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
  • 1x LAN port
  • 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports
  • 1x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
  • 5x OFC audio jacks
Internal Connectors
  • 1x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  • 1x 8-[in ATX 12v power connector
  • 6x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  • 1x U.2 port
  • 2x M.2 slots
  • 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports)
  • 2x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
  • 1x 4-pin CPU fan connector
  • 1x 4-pin water-pump fan connector
  • 4x 4-pin system fan connectors
  • 1x front panel audio connector
  • 2x front panel connectors
  • 1x serial port connector
  • 1x TPM module connector
  • 1x Chassis intrusion connector
  • 1x Clear CMOS jumper
  • 1x BIOS FLASHBACK+ button
  • 1x 2-digit Debug Code LED
I/O Controller NUVOTON NCT6795 Controller Chip
Hardware Monitor
  • CPU/System temperature detection
  • CPU/System fan speed detection
  • CPU/System fan speed control
Form Factor
  • ATX Form Factor
  • 12.0 in. X 9.6 in.
BIOS Features
  • 1x 128Mb Flash
  • UEFI AMI BIOS
  • ACPI 5.0, PnP 1.0a, SM BIOS 2.8
  • Multi-Language
Software
  • Drivers
  • SUPER CHARGER
  • FAST BOOT
  • COMMAND CENTER
  • LIVE UPDATE 6
  • MSI SMART TOOL
  • DRAGON EYE
  • GAMING APP
  • X-BOOST
  • RAMDISK
  • KILLER CONTROL CENTER
  • NAHIMIC AUDIO
  • xSplit Game Caster V2
  • SteelSeries Engine 3
  • CPU-Z MSI Gaming
  • Intel XTU
  • Norton Internet Security
  • Google Chrome, Toolbar, Drive
Special Features
  • Audio Boost 4
  • Nahimic 2
  • GAMING LAN with Killer
  • WTFast
  • Turbo U.2
  • Optane Ready
  • Twin Turbo M.2
  • M.2 Genie
  • Mystic Light Extension (RGB)
  • DDR4 Shield
  • M.2 Shield
  • PCI-e Steel Armour
  • U.2 Steel Armour
  • M.2 Steel Armour
  • Golden A+C
  • VR Cover
  • Multi-GPU SLI
  • Multi-GPU CF
  • DDR4 Boost 2
  • GAME Boost
  • OC Engine
  • Lightning USB
  • X-Boost
  • Military-Class 5
  • 7000+ Quality Test
  • VR Boost
  • VR Ready
  • Dragon Eye
  • Xsplit
  • RAMDisk
  • Click BIOS 5
  • BIOS Flashback+
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s