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MSI Z170A Gaming M5 Motherboard Review

AkG

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MSI has been on a roll lately and their 'Gaming' series has been at the forefront of a newly revived motherboard lineup. Much like GIGABYTE’s own Gaming-branded products and ASUS’ RoG brand these boards cater to gamers and overclockers alike with a unique mix of features and capabilities that were specifically chosen for their intended market. Make no mistake about it though, these boards are anything but a direct knockoff of competitors’ solutions; MSI has taken their own approach to designing motherboards they think entice some very picky customers.

Sitting in the proverbial catbird seat is the all new MSI Z170 Gaming M5. Much like the ASUS Maximus VIII Hero, this motherboard is positioned with value orientated buyers in mind. That means it may not have all the expensive elements of the M9, M7 or the insane XPower editions but its feature set is tailored to offer the high points of those class leaders while leaving out some of the more superfluous elements. In fact with an online asking price of only $190, this motherboard is arguably one of the most affordable “gaming” motherboards available today as it costs only $25 more than entry level motherboards like ASUS' Z170-A.

Don’t let this motherboard's low asking price fool you though. It may cost over $50 less than even ASUS Hero, but it is also packed to the brim with things overclockers and gamers will appreciate. For the overclocker in all of us the M5 boasts a 12 phase power delivery system consisting of Dark CAPs and Titanium Chokes. Together these parts make up MSI’s ‘Military Class V’ group of components which run cooler, last longer and are more efficient than previous generations - and that really is saying a lot.

MSI has also beefed up the DDR4 subsystem, and have not only optimized the trace paths but now offer full electronic separation between them and the rest of the motherboard. This in conjunction with other minor tweaks is what MSI calls DDR4 Boost and allows this inexpensive board to offer DDR4-3600+ speeds. On top of these features MSI has also included an all-new 'Boot Slow' option to allow the system to temporarily slow CPU ratios down to ensure stability during POST. Mix in the new V-Check Points with their onboard multi-meter points for real time monitoring of voltage and most enthusiasts will like what they see with the M5.

Not to be outdone by the competition, MSI has not ignored the needs of PC gaming enthusiasts either. They have included features such as proper separation of the two main PCI-E x16 slots so that even the largest of video cards will fit. To insure these extra-large cards will not cause any slot damage the MSI Steel Armor is also which consists of more solder points on the PCB to PCI-E connections and top level metal inserts to protect against EMI interference. Mix in an upgraded Killer E2400 NPU for the Ethernet controller, dual M.2 x4 slots, and a much improved integrated sound solution which boasts dual headphone amps, as well as Chemi-Con caps and the Gaming M5 puts to bed any concerns over this being a 'cheap' motherboard.

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/mfg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



As expected the package for this motherboard is red and black with large graphics on the front and could be considered an attempt to rip off ASUS’ RoG branding.. MSI has been using this design for the Gaming series products for years now and while it is getting a touch redundant this box does work well at getting some attention.



Once you open the packaging, you are greeted with an inner box that contains two separate sections, the top half holds the motherboard in an anti-static bag while the bottom half contains the software, documentation and various accessories included with this rather frugally priced board.


Considering the asking price, the included accessory list is impressive in its scope and quality. Usually in this price range you could expect to get a software / drivers DVD, installation manual, 6 SATA 6Gb/s cables, a 2-way SLI connector, an IO shield, and a Gaming Series sticker. All of these are present and accounted for.

What was not expected was the fact that in addition to a chuckle-inducing door hanger, MSI included cable labeling stickers that make tracing which SATA cable goes to what device far easier. The I/O shield is the a high-end model as well with padded insulation variant that is much, much easier to work with then the old fashioned metal only style.

Unfortunately, MSI does not include their M.2 to U.2 adapter card on the M5. Instead such accessories are reserved for the higher end motherboards.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the MSI Gaming M5

A Closer Look at the MSI Gaming M5




Compared to some other Skylake-supporting motherboards we have looked at, the MSI Z170A Gaming M5's aesthetics will either be charmingly antiquated or right up your alley. This duality is due to the fact that MSI has basically just carried over their previous generations’ 'Gaming' series aesthetics to this new series. As such if you thought MSI's previous generations black and red with dragon motif was perfect for your custom PC gaming right, then the M5 will also be perfect.


The custom all black PCB and red and black heatsinks do make for a rather attractive package, just one that we have seen a million times before. There is however some newness here as well: there are red tracings from the DDR4 channels to the LGA1151 socket, and the PCI-E slots are clad in a metallic finish. This certainly proves that MSI are actually refining their Gaming series' aesthetics.


The refinements here are much more than just skin deep. The red tracings point to MSI being one of the first to electronically separate the DDR4 memory subsystem from the rest of the motherboard. Supposedly this allows for much more stable memory overclocking and less interference, both of which are laudable goals. So much so that we hope other manufactures follow suit.

However, separating the memory subsystem has caused a cascade effect with certain basic components having to be moved, which in turn meant finding room for them in somewhat unusual locations.


Let's start with the obvious - or first domino so to speak: the two 4-pin CPU fan headers. Usually both of these fan headers are adjacent to one another and located between the VRM heatsink and the DIMMs. Sadly there is now only room for one 4-pin fan header in this location and MSI's engineers had to relocate the second up near the top most corner of the motherboard.



This design choice in turn made it impossible to install the two digital LED diagnostic LEDs in their usual location right next to the DIMM slots. Instead the diagnostic display has been pushed down to the bottom of the board and is located in-between the SATA and front panel headers.

This unfortunately had the side-effect of reducing the amount of room available for additional USB 3.0 front panel headers and primary SATA ports. Thankfully MSI has not only included a single USB 3.0 front panel header (capable of powering two USB 3.0 ports) but they have also rotated the port by 90-degress making it easier access. It’s too bad that MSI couldn’t find room for a second USB 3.0 front header somewhere else on the board, but considering the cascade of issues one simple change caused we are almost glad they didn’t try. If you require quad USB 3.0 ports for the front of your case you will have to step up the Gaming food chain a bit.


As for the SATA port issue, usually a $185 motherboard can be counted on having at least eight useable SATA 6Gbps ports. Sadly there was only room for six. On the positive side, MSI has taken full advantage of the Z170's abilities and included two SATA Express ports. However if you do use both SE ports, the number of useable SATA 6Gb/s ports plummets to just two.

Both of those SE ports are fully compatible with PCI-E and SATA based devices so that if you do have a compatible device you can pretty much be assured it will work with either of these two ports.


Unlike other boards in this category, the Gaming M5 has not one but two four lane capable M.2 ports. This is indeed excellent news as it means you can easily use one to power a U.2-based storage device like the Intel 750 SSD, and use the other one for an 'old fashioned' M.2 device. As with the SE ports, these two M.2 ports are compatible with both PCI-E and SATA controller based units.

MSI has positioned the top most M.2 slot so that if you do decide on using the (not included) U.2 adapter card you will not run into installation issues with an SLI or Crossfire video card configuration. In fact a U.2 board, or standard M.2 drive can be added into this top M.2 port even if both the main and secondary PCI-E x16 slots are already populated. Of course, the bottom M.2 port is not so lucky, but that is why MSI has included two of these future-proof ports for users.

The only real issues you need to be aware of with these two M.2 slots is that both are only capable of accepting M.2 drives of 80mm or less in length. With 110mm M.2 NVMe drives from LiteOn and others are on the horizon, this compatibility issue could rear its head quite drastically in the near future. Of course, 80mm is the typical length used for M.2 drives so this is a rather minor issue at best.


The PCI-E slots themselves are equally well thought out and extremely well executed. As with all serious gaming-orientated motherboards, the M5's uses a simple x1 slot in the topmost position, with the main PCI-E x16 slot being pushed down one space. This may not sound like much, but the extra space allows users to install/uninstall their DDR4 memory of choice without first uninstalling the video-card. This is especially important as both sides of each DIMM have securing latches that swing outwards and if MSI had not done this, it would have caused some major hurdles. This extra space also allows even large air based CPU cooling solutions to be mounted to the CPU socket without interfering with that first graphics slot.

Also like other excellent examples of the genre, the secondary PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot has been separated from the primary X16 slot by two PCIe x1 slots. This allows the M5 the ability to easily mount two three slot video cards in SLI/Crossfire configuration without even breaking a sweat.



To ensure that you will not damage the motherboard if heavyweight video cards are used, MSI has beefed up these PCI-E x16 slots with much more robust soldering which can take added pressure and weight without fatiguing over time. In addition, with MSI's "Steel Armor" both of the main slots have EMI shielding covering them. Whether or not interference would cause any issues is moot, as this outside of the box thinking will be appreciated by gamers, even if it is overkill.

Of course no true enthusiast grade motherboard would not be complete if it did not also include a tertiary PCI-E slot for three-way video card goodness. Since LGA1151 / Z170 systems do not have enough lanes for true full bandwidth SLI configurations (using two will result in 8+8 mode) this third slot runs at x4 electrical speeds and shares its bandwidth with the secondary x16 slot.

This means thee video cards will run in an 8+4+4 configuration, but this is par for the course and the only way to overcome this is via the use of expensive PLX lane switch which you will not find in this price bracket.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the MSI Gaming M5 pg.2

A Closer Look at the MSI Gaming M5 pg.2



MSI Gaming motherboards have always used above average -for their price range - integrated sound solutions and the M5 certainly carries on this proud tradition. In fact it adds in a few new flourishes and twists not usually seen on sub-$200 boards. This price range is awash with ALC8xx series controllers that offer decent abilities, but certainly nothing amazing. Instead of that route MSI has gone the with a highly unusual CMedia HD audio processor which is more comparable to the ALC1500 series rather than the ALC800 series.


To help make sure this processor is able to run at the very peak of its abilities MSI has included a metal EMI shield for it, and electronically separated the entire audio portion from the rest of the motherboard. Interestingly enough they have also uses two Texas Instrument OPA1652 amps to further boost the abilities of this 'sound card'. These features in conjunction with Nippon Chemi-Con capacitors means the Audio Boost 3 integrated sound solution is one potent solution indeed.


Even with gaming requirements more than satisfied MSI was obviously not overlooking the needs of overclockers when they designed the Gaming M5. As stated previously the four DIMMS are electronically isolated from the rest of the motherboard to reduce interference.

However, MSI did not just stop there as these four DIMMs are powered by a two phase VRM instead of a single phase. We will go over the caps and chokes in a moment but all of them are part of MSI's Military Grade V component list and they run cool and stable.

Even though this board costs significantly less than the likes of the ASUS Maximus VIII Hero it is capable of overclocking the ram to DDR4-3600+ speeds. It is unfortunate there’ isn’t XMP switch to easily enable such speeds, but this can be done manually via the BIOS in mere seconds.


The true star of the show however is the LGA1151 socket and its power delivery subsystem. As with all ATX form-factor motherboards the amount of room around the socket is a touch cramped with a few capacitors closer than we would like to see. However, all components encroaching on the socket mounting area do respect Intel's z-height restrictions and as such should not pose any CPU mounting issues - beyond marring the overall aesthetics and possible causing problems with LN2 users.


MSI has always made it a point of pride of having robust power delivery subsystems on all their Gaming series motherboards and even though the M5 is the more entry level model, it too has been given a rather decent power subsystem.

This motherboard boasts a 12-phase power design, which relies upon a hybrid digital Intersil ISL95856 PWM controller. Of course it is not a true 12-phase design and rather is a 4+2 design with each of the four main phases being given an additional virtual phase, and the two additional phases also doubled up via virtual phases.


As with memory power delivery, the CPU gets the full Military Grade V treatment. This means 10-year rated Dark capacitors, upgraded DrMOS MOSFETS, and now Titanium Chokes which have 220° C ratings, with 40% higher capacity and 30% higher power efficiency than the last generation MSI Military Grade IV chokes. To us this power subsystem runs cool enough that even though the two large VRM heatsinks are not connected via a heatpipe there are no concerns over this system overheating.

Unlike ASUS, MSI has only used one VRM controller instead of two and they have yet to convert their entire line to digital only PWM controllers instead of analog/digital hybrids like the ILS9856.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the MSI Gaming M5 pg.3

A Closer Look at the MSI Gaming M5 pg.3




The back of this motherboard is clean and clear of any major components. With that being said the heatsinks are attached via spring loaded screws and do not have a reinforcing backplate but at least MSI didn’t use pushpins.


Due to the low power consumption of the Skylake chips, MSI only needed a single 8-pin connector which is relatively well placed.


If you are so inclined MSI even included voltage read points near the four memory slots so with nothing more than a multimeter you can confirm the current being delivery to critical components. Once again this is so far above average for this price range we are simply amazed at what MSI was able to do and still make a profit.


To further help with overclocking MSI has also included a DIP switch they call 'Slow'. As the name suggests, when turned to the On position the Gaming M5 will use a lower CPU ratio during POST and only go to the CPU ratio set in the BIOS when the system is fully booted. This can help with cold boot issues and will certainly help synthetic benchmark junkies get an edge over the competition via barely stable overclocks.

While MSI has added all these impressive features designed to make overclocking easier, they didn’t add buttons for Start, Reboot, or clearing the CMOS. Instead you are expected to short the front panel pins to start the system, and use an old-fashioned jumper to clear the CMOS. Given the price range this motherboard occupies this is not a deal breaker but it is a bit of a nuisance for anyone who wishes to use it outside a case.


Another standout feature is the Ethernet LAN controller MSI has opted for. Unlike most manufacturers they have decided to forgo the use of an Intel NIC and instead as used the all new Killer E2400 NPU which features improved QoS abilities. This large controller chip has been EMI shielded via a metal cap. More importantly MSI has upgraded the anti-surge protection of their Ethernet port and not it can take a full 15KV before popping. While we would be hesitant to test this feature it certainly is reassuring that MSI has taken surge protection seriously with their new Z170 Gaming series.


Whether or not you are fan of Killer NPUs or prefer Intel NICs, the dual USB 3.1 ports are sure to satisfy as MSI has included one Type A and one Type C port. Sadly the Type-C port is only rated for 15 watts which is a touch disappointing considering other Z170 motherboards boast 30 watt+ plus ratings on their Type-C port.

As with other manufactures, in order to offer consumers this feature MSI has used an ASMedia ASM1142 controller. This is ASMedia's first USB 3.1 controller and is compliant with Intel's eXtensible Hot Controller Interface specification 1.1. This cutting edge controller is connected to the motherboard via two PCI-E 2.0 lanes.


Rounding out the included features of the rear IO port are two USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 port, DVI-D and HDMI ports, four USB 3.0 ports (powered by the Z170 PCH), six audio analog ports, and S/PDIF optical out port. This is pretty standard fare for Z170 systems, but the bottommost USB 2.0 can be used as a Mouse Master port that, via included software, can turn any old mouse into a gaming mouse replete with macro abilities and customizable DPI rates. In testing it is a nifty little feature that did work surprisingly well.
 
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AkG

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown



Over the past few generations MSI has worked hard to make their GUI-based BIOS as user-friendly and as powerful as possible. The end result of this hard work is a dual interface BIOS that is very, very reminiscent of ASUS’ implementation.


Whether or not you believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery or not, the end result is that MSI has combined a very good, if somewhat quirky, 'Advanced' BIOS with a user-friendly EZ Mode. It really is quite well done.


As with ASUS, when consumers first enter the Click BIOS 5 they will be greeted with a single screen that uses large icons and simplistic language. This "EZ Mode" is instantly responsive to your input commands and there is almost no noticeable lag. They did however include a few transition delays when switching from one section to another, but this is an intentional design feature that makes the new UEFI more aesthetically pleasing.


As the name suggests the EZ Mode of Click BIOS 5 boasts a simplified layout and features a mouse-friendly GPU that prioritizes ease of use and navigation. It obviously does not have all the functionality of the MSI’s “advanced” mode. However, MSI has taken the EZ Mode and made it into a more powerful section than what even ASUS offers in their EZ Mode.


In addition to being able to use MSI's fan tuning wizard, change boot priority, implement XMP RAM profiles, and even turn on Game Boost (or what was once called OC Genie), you can also access a fully enabled hardware monitor to help troubleshoot common issues. There are also options for Fast Boot, turning on or off the Ethernet or onboard sound controllers, configuring the SATA devices to use (or not use) AHCI/RAID mode and even view a BIOS log to review any changes previously made. This last feature is also perfect when troubleshooting issues that suddenly occur after a reboot.

On top of all that you can also enter M-Flash to update your BIOS firmware, and access your own custom Favorites page, albeit it is empty by default as MSI only added a fully populated revision to Z170 series, all without ever having to enter the actual Advanced Mode. Copy, clone, imitation, refinement; whatever you call it MSI has made what is easily the best blend of features and ease of use we have ever seen in a "EZ Mode"!


When consumers do decide that a feature is not included in that rather impressive EZ Mode and enter to Advanced Mode they will be greeted with what enthusiasts have come to expect from MSI. In other words while the graphics may have changed, Click Bios 5's Advanced Mode is basically identical to the one found on the Z97 series. We have almost no issues with MSI simply refining their previous design as the layout and quantity of settings is not only enhanced, but the overall smoothness and mouse support are noticeably better as well.

Upon first using this BIOS, terms ranging from ‘busy’ to ‘unintuitive’ will come to mind but we prefer to call it what it really is: a BIOS made for enthusiasts. Catering almost exclusively to experienced PC users does come at a price though, as this BIOS never goes out its way to actually help you. Instead there will are some key features buried deep in submenus. For this reason it would not be our first choice for someone new to overclocking who was interested in quickly and painlessly learning the ins and outs of BIOS overclocking. This is a shame as once you do understand the reasoning behind the layout and get used to its quirky interface this BIOS can help achieve better results.

The main issue here is the slightly busy layout which consists of two rows alongside three columns. That top row takes up approximately one third of the screen and contains a basic overview of your system (CPU temperature, motherboard temperature, CPU & RAM type, size and frequencies, date and time, etc) as well as a drag and drop boot priority list. While it does contain extremely handy information, this section carries over from one page to the next, taking up a massive amount of real-estate.

On the positive side, also located in this top area are two large buttons: Game BOOST, and XMP. Game BOOST is basically the same as what MSI used to call OC Genie so with a simple push of this button the BIOS will immediately overclock your system and do so in a completely hands-off manner. Some higher end models come with more than one Game BOOST mode, but since this is a more budget orientated model it only comes with one: 4.4GHz for 6700Ks.

The other option here implements your RAM's XMP memory speed and timing profile. Together these two features will make up a good percentage of reasons for actually entering the Advanced BIOS. Of course, since the top third is the exact same in both EZ and Advanced Mode, this is not saying all that much.

The remaining two thirds of real-estate is further broken down into three equal columns. The left and right columns are dedicated to navigation for Settings, OC, M-Flash, OC Profile, Hardware Monitor, and Board Explorer with the first three being located in the left hand column and the last three in the right. All of these dynamically change the center portion from the default MSI Dragon image.


With all of these items being displayed at the same time, MSI has left about 1/3 of the screen to work inside of. This is akin to navigating a webpage using its mobile web-portal while using a 27” desktop monitor. Sure, there is a method to MSI’s madness as it does promote –once you get over the learning curve- quick and efficient navigation but cramming all the important settings into a constrained area means modifying values quickly becomes tedious.

The Settings menu is the section where you will find the bulk of the BIOS's settings. The System Status sub-menu meanwhile lists some basic system information, including the date and time, standard storage devices, BIOS version, a few processor cache tidbits and the amount of memory installed.
 
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AkG

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BIOS Rundown pg.2

BIOS Rundown pg.2



The Advanced sub-menu is also where you can enable/disable or just find all the various settings and options for all the onboard devices like the audio, LAN, USB 3.0, SATA ports, etc.


The Boot sub-menu is essentially where storage device priority can be set, boot drives are selected, the full screen logo can be enabled or disabled, and ton of other boot settings that can help with the installation or troubleshooting of various OS installations can be modified.


The Security sub-menu is where you can set the administrator and individual user passwords, as well as enable or disable chassis intrusion feature. There is also a Save & Exit option but that seems redundant since you can just hit the F10 key instead.


The OC menu is where most of the M5's intended customer base will spend their time. Simply put, these pages easily make up for the quirky UI. The list of features and settings for those options is insanely long and we doubt many will find a feature missing. The amount of detail here is nothing short of impressive.


Once the Advanced Mode option is selected, the BIOS opens up to reveal all of the essential system clock control options: CPU multiplier with an all-core and per-core option, CPU cache frequency, BLCK frequency, memory frequency, memory timing options, and all the voltage options. The memory timing options drop down box lists both typical 133:1 options and 'odd ratio' options based on 100:1 base clock speeds.


As its name suggests, the Advanced DRAM Configuration section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select and change all the memory settings, and each memory channel has its own area, from which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It has just about every memory modifier that an enthusiast or overclocker would need to fine-tune their modules.

Each of the main subsections defaults to a closed list making scrolling to the proper subgroup faster for experienced users, but more time consuming for novices - as they will have to manually enlarge each sub-section before being able to see the options. As we said this is a BIOS meant for enthusiasts and the learning curve can be very, very steep.
 
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BIOS Rundown pg.3

BIOS Rundown pg.3



The CPU Specifications sub-section is where you can find all of the extensions that the processor you have installed supports, while the Memory-Z lists most of the important memory timings for each module you have installed.


The M-Flash section is the built-in utility that greatly simplifies the BIOS updating process. Here, the BIOS can be updated from a ROM file located on your hard drive(s) or USB flash drive(s). It is quick, painless, and it takes the worry out of BIOS flashing.

The OC Profile feature gives users the option to save and switch between BIOS profiles, for example an everyday profile and a benchmarking profile. Not only is this infinitely quicker than manually inserting every setting, but the profiles can be saved and shared among other Gaming M5 owners via the Internet.


The Hardware Monitor section is dedicated to the monitoring of the various voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. This whole section is quite comprehensive and it has all the essential temperature and voltage readouts that you would expect. It also has improved fan control functionality thanks to real-time fan speed graphs with four manually adjustable RPM points. For those that prefer a more hands-off approach, there is also a Smart Fan Mode that can intelligently managed fan speeds based on CPU and/or system temperatures.

The last top level menu option – ‘Board Explorer’ - is an interactive map of the motherboard and what is attached to it. By clicking on any of the highlighted areas you can easily pull up detailed information.


By pressing on the little heart icon in the top right corner you are brought to the somewhat hidden Favorites section. As with ASUS this section allows a user to compile all their most-used settings in one place, so they no longer have to search through the whole bios to find what’s needed time and time again. Unfortunately, unlike Z170 ASUS motherboards this section is not populated and you will have to manually add in each and every 'Favorite' one by one…by one.

Before you save your settings and exit the BIOS, there is a handy window that lists the changes were made during the last session. It is a well thought out and implemented idea that we like to see on all modern systems. Sadly not every manufacturer actually includes this nifty feature.
 
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A Closer Look at MSI's Command Center Software

Included Software (Command Center)



The most important utility in MSI's software suite is the Command Center. Although MSI still has a few standalone apps for different functions, the CC can be used for a diverse range of tasks. This system management utility is the hub from which you can monitor system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, and fan rotation but more importantly it allows users to do both automatic and manual overclocking from within Windows.


The Command Center initially opens to the CPU section, where you can see the current CPU multiplier(s) and the BCLK frequency. You can manually change the multiplier for any one or all of the cores, as well as increase or decrease both the base clock and CPU core voltage on-the-fly. The DRAM section allows you to change the memory frequency, as well as alter the DRAM voltage (for each channel).


The IGP section allows you to control the Integrated Graphics Processor, but most Gaming M5 users will be using a dedicated GPU and find this section uninteresting. The last tab is the Game BOOST section is where you will find the automatic overclocking feature, though as you will see in our software overclocking section, it is nowhere as versatile or aggressive as ASUS's implementation, but it does work.

In addition to these four features, there are additional sections at the bottom of each section which allow you to launch further capabilities. In the Advanced section, you can manually change most system voltages, finely tune all system fans, or even tweak most of the crucial DRAM timings.


The Settings section is where you can record system voltages, fan speeds, and system temperatures. You can also establish high or low voltage, fan speed, and system temperature warnings. As its name suggests, the Information section is just some fundamental information about the specifications about the motherboard, the processor, and the system memory. However, there is also a Hardware Monitor that allows you to monitor system voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures - much like the BIOS' Board Explorer feature.
 
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Included Software

Included Software


<font size="3"><b> Live Update 6 </b></font><br />
<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/soft_live_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

The Live Update 6 utility is where you can automatically or manually update all the included motherboard-specific software, and also download and flash the latest BIOS. You can also install or uninstall any of the software suites from this app as well.


<font size="3"><b> FastBoot </b></font><br />
<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/soft_boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

Fast Boot allows for an easy and automatic way to enter into the BIOS immediately after a restart. This is extremely handy for overclockers who tend to reboot their systems quite a bit as they dial in clock speeds. Unlike many others, this program also allows you to turn on or off MSI’s FastBoot option without having to enter the BIOS first.


<font size="3"><b> Killer Network Manager </b></font><br />
<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/soft_killer_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

The Killer Network Manager is the software control interface for the Killer E2400 network processing unit (NPU) that is installed along with the drivers. This utility provides users with a lot of control and monitoring capabilities over every application that is accessing the network. It displays CPU usage, NPU usage, ICMP and UDP average ping, and the network utilization of every system process and program.

This tool also allows you give priority to certain applications, and throttle or block others to free network resources for other applications. It is your one-stop tool for monitoring and controlling all network traffic.


<font size="3"><b> Intel Extreme Tuning Utility </b></font><br />
<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/soft_intel_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

In a very interesting turn, MSI has opted to include an MSI-branded version of Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility. While certainly a nice little bonus, this is a program that you should never have to use considering MSI includes their own overclocking-friendly software package. Obviously MSI feels that this tool will be of some value to novice users and including it does show that they are at least trying to meet the needs of a wide a variety of consumers.



<font size="3"><b> Nahimic Audio Enhancer </b></font><br />
<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/soft_nah1_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> <img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/soft_nah2_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

Much like Sound Blaster Cinema add-on which ships with certain motherboards, the Nahimic Audio Enhancer application takes an already good onboard audio solution and noticeably improves it. With this program you can enhanced enhance the surround soundstage to make it easier to pinpoint enemy player locations in online games, optimize the output for clearer audio for music, improve your microphone's abilities to yell orders to your team mate, record XSplit Gamecaster sessions to improve the sound before you upload to your audience, or even just balance all audio at the same level so when switching between applications you don’t deafen yourself.

<font size="3"><b>MSI Gaming CPU-Z</b></font><br />
<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/soft_cpuz.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

MSI CPU-Z is a special edition of CPU-Z especially created to match the aesthetics of MSI' Gaming series motherboards. It is kept as up-to-date as the regular version, and is available at the same place: CPUID.com


<font size="3"><b> Gaming App </b></font><br />
<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/soft_gaming.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

Oddly enough the standalone Gaming application actually has more overclocking options that the Command Centre. Instead of one overclocking profile there are three of them. Of course OC Boost option does nothing more than implement the build in BIOS overclocking 'Game BOOST' preset, so overclocking is still fairly limited on this motherboard. In addition to this 'heavy' overclock of 4.4GHz on all four cores, the middle option 'Gaming Mode' unlocks all 4 cores to the stock turbo boost speed of 4.2GHz. This will boost FPS performance in games that are CPU bound and do so without overly taxing your CPU cooling solution. Silent Mode allows the system to downclock to 800MHz. The other four small icons modify your monitor’s color profile and gamma settings to 'enhance' gaming and movie experiences.


<font size="3"><b> RAMDisk</b></font><br />
<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/soft_ram_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

With RAM becoming cheaper and capacities increasing, it is nice to see that MSI includes a free RAMDisk utility. This standalone program allows for creating fairly powerful RAM Disks and includes some key features such as automatically configuring IE, Chrome and Firefox to use it for their cache abilities, so while not the most advanced we have ever seen it is more than adequate for most users’ needs. Creating and using it is as easy as ticking one box and –if necessary – assigning a drive letter to the newly minted RAM disk.
 
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