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MSI Z170A Gaming M5 Motherboard Review

AkG

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5,270
Closer Look at USB 3.1

Closer Look at USB 3.1



The easiest way to start to describe what has changed with USB 3.1 standard is to start with what has been carried over from previous generations. First and foremost Type A and Type B connectors are still around and a USB 3.1 Type A port is identical to a USB 3.0 Type A port. The same holds true for Type B ports. That is to say both are physically the same as their USB 3.0 predecessor.

This in turn means that USB 3.1 is based upon a 4 data lane configuration - just as USB 3.0 was. More importantly, USB 3.1 Type A and Type B ports are fully backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices - they just will not work at USB 3.1 speeds.


This backwards compatibility was done on purpose. USB 3.1 does indeed represent a new direction and approach for the USB standard but USB-IF wanted consumers of existing devices to not worry about compatibility. Unlike Apple who threw their existing user-base under the bus numerous times, if your device works with USB 3.0 Type A or Type B ports it will fully connect and work via USB 3.1 Type A or B. More importantly consumers should notice almost no differences between connecting them via USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 controllers and ports.

For this reason, USB Type A and Type B ports will still be a part of the computing landscape and in all likelihood Type A's will still be the de-facto standard ports found on motherboards for the foreseeable future. We will see some of the new 'Type C' ports on motherboards but Type A will be the most common - just as when USB 3.0 was released and motherboards came with 2.0 and 3.0 ports, expect both A and C type USB 3.1 ports to co-exist.

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This backwards compatibility and physical layout is nearly the grand total of what has been carried over to the next generation 'SuperSpeed Plus' USB standard. In fact, if it was not for backwards compatibility USB 3.1 in all likelihood would not have even exhibited this amount in common with its predecessors. We will get to the new Type C connector later but even excluding this new connector type USB 3.1 is an entirely new breed of USB built on a completely new foundation.

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In some ways USB 3.1 is actually a return the original USB founders’ goal of replacing as many different and competing standards as possible. In the 1990s this meant simply being 'plug and play' via one all-encompassing USB driver set. Now the landscape is very different and in order to replace everything from HDMI to ThunderBolt and even power ports requires a new way of doing things.

With this in mind, the USB-IF started by changing the very encoding scheme USB uses. In the past USB generations, 8-bit data chunks would be encoded into 10-bit symbols and then passed over the USB interface, then at the other end of the connection this 10-bit encoding would then be decoded into the original 8-bits. The extra 2-bits of data was the sum total of the Error-Correcting Code (ECC) and this amounted to a twenty percent overhead packet loss, thus reducing speeds even further.

With USB 3.1, the USB-IF has moved to a new and highly sophisticated encoding scheme they have dubbed Gen X. The Gen X scheme does things differently and is best compared to how Ethernet transmits data. Much like your wireless Ethernet connection, USB 3.1 packets are much, much larger. Instead of USB 3.0's 10-bit packet that has only 8-bits of data, USB 3.1 sends data packets that contain 128 bits of data. Also like Ethernet, USB 3.1 uses a 'header' that contains the ECC for each packet as well as the instructions for what is inside the packet. This 4 bits of data also has an Error Correction Code built into itself and can be reassembled as long as at least 3 bits are intact.

Obviously this 4+1 ECC is much more advanced than the original 2-bit ECC used in USB 3.0, but also allows USB 3.1 to boast an theoretical overhead of only 3%. This increase in packet size, in-conjunction with better ECC, is precisely how the USB-IF was able to push theoretical maximum speed from 5Gbit/s to 10GBits/s, even though USB 3.1 uses the same 4 data lanes that was first introduced in USB 3.0 specification.

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Bulk Only Transport (BoT) Protocol has also been updated and improved. The Bulk Transport protocol is a specific mode meant solely for transporting large amounts of data over USB. Nearly every motherboard gives their take on BoT implementation a different name, but ASUS uses the apt description of 'Turbo Mode'. When enabled, different software drivers are used for USB file transfer. These drivers allow a USB connection to consume as much bandwidth as it can, with little regards for other devices attached, and use greatly increased packet sized. For best results BoT should be used on a clear USB channel with no other devices attached to it.

In previous generations BoT did improve performance somewhat but the end result was extremely variable. In order to improve upon USB 3.0 BoT performance, USB 3.1 not only adds in SCSI command support - to reduce delays between command phases - but also adds in a caching element in which the controller uses a portion of its onboard cache for BoT I/O's. Unfortunately, Command Queuing is still absent and the I/O requests are processed in the order they are received, just as with USB 3.0. As such it is best to only transfer one file at a time using Turbo Mode, otherwise overall performance will suffer.



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A doubling in the performance department is certainly impressive, but sheer speed is only one of the improvements the USB-IF is counting on to eliminate the competition. Up until USB 3.1, a USB port and USB cable could really only be used to transmit USB encoded data. For example, if a consumer wanted to add an external monitor to their system they either had to use a built-in controller and port, or they would have had to purchase USB based external display adapter and controller and use it between the monitor and the computer. USB 3.1 eliminates the need for specialized ports and external 'adapters' - be they displaybased, Ethernet, or other. Instead, monitor outputs, Ethernet cables, and nearly every other connector found on the typical desktop, laptop, and hand held computer can be used via the USB 3.1 port.

USB 3.1 is able to boast such impressive abilities due to a new addition to the actual USB standard. Since USB 3.1 already uses a header for their data packets it was relatively simple to encode in an additional code to tell the 'other end' of the connection that a given packet was not encoded via the USB standard but instead was encoded via some other standard. For example if the header states a given packet is encoded using the DisplayPort standard, the client side of the connection will treat it as an audio/visual package - just as if it was sent via a DisplayPort connector and cable. This new mode is aptly called 'alternate mode' and it can be used on any - or all - of the four data lanes at any given time.

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If we use the same display output analogy as above, a compatible monitor both receive audio and video via a single USB 3.1 cable while it is also being used as a USB 3.1/3.0/2.0 hub with a keyboard, mouse, printer, etc also connected to this one cable. Alternately if you use a HDMI to USB adapter cable monitors with 'just' an HDMI port can still use a single cable to connect to the computer - as long as the monitor supports the Mobile High-Definition Link standard.

At this time the DisplayPort and Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) Consortium have already agreed to their perspective standard being used via USB. Meanwhile Ethernet and even PCIe governing bodies are in talks with the USB-IF. For laptop and tablet users, once the "Media Agnostic USB specification and protocol" is finalized, future portable devices may look a great deal sleeker with drastically fewer port types.

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Being able to provide audio and visual data via USB is in and of itself very, very interesting, but on its own would have proven to be of limited use for laptops, tablets and other portable devices. To this end, the USB-IF also increased the USB Power Delivery standard.

In previous generations, USB Power Delivery Protocol was limited to a maximum of 5 amps at 5 volts, or 25 watts total. With USB 3.1 this has been increased to a maximum 5amps at 20 volts - or a whopping 100 watts. In theory this means one USB 3.1 port could be used as a power-in port on UltraBook while another is used to power external devices such as monitors, external storage arrays, or even printers.

There has been some confusion regards this new Power Delivery standard and it is not directly tied to the new Type-C port, rather it is tied to the controllers connected to the port and the cables themselves. What this means is that while we could in theory see Type A ports sporting 100 watt capabilities this is unlikely due to their backwards compatibility; using a standard Type A cable would result in a fire hazard with such a massive increase in power flow. Instead 100 watt connections will most likely be reserved for Type-C ports, and Type-C cables. Even then -thanks the auto negotiation chips in the client controller and host controller, not every Type-C cable will be 'allowed' to handle 100 watts of power.
 
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AkG

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In order to test how different hardware combinations will fit onto the Z170 Gaming M5, we installed a Noctua NH-U12S, an 8GB dual channel kit of G.Skill DDR4 RipJaws V memory, and an MSI R9 380 Gaming 2G video card.

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The R9 380 is a dual slot, moderate length video card that should provide a good reference for other mid-range video cards and highlight any spacing issues. The NH-U12S is a medium sized aftermarket CPU cooler so it should provide a good reference for other coolers so we can see if there any clearance issues around the CPU socket. We installed the memory in the two sockets closest to the CPU to insure clearance with 4 DIMMs.

As with all Z170 motherboards we have looked at to date, the amount of room between the two onboard heatsinks and DIMM slots for the CPU socket is rather limited. It is not however what we classify as cramped. Instead the amount of room simply means you will have to be careful in both your DDR4 RAM and CPU cooling solution choices.

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If you opt for over-sized components in either of these critical areas your choices in the other area will become very, very limited. Conversely if you choose a standard size device for one you can then have a lot of freedom of choice for the other. For example our rather narrow profile CPU cooler - even with two fans attached - does not overhang the memory slots and thus you can choose to use any height ram you wish. On the other hand if you opt for large Noctua D14 that will overhang at least two DIMMs, you had better opt for standard height memory andinstall the modules before the CPU cooling solution.

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Even if you do choose standard height RAM and a smaller air cooler there still isn’t enough room between these two areas that active memory cooling devices will properly fit without interfering with the tower's fan. If you believe your RAM needs active cooling we strongly recommend either a downdraft style CPU cooler, or better yet opt for water based cooling.

Even an entry level AIO will allow you to fully install a memory cooler and do so without interfering with cooling the CPU. This issue is pretty common for Z170 motherboards that conform to the ATX form-factor as there is only so much room on the motherboard for all the critical components and niche devices are not usually taken into consideration during the layout and design phase.

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Even though the MOSFET heatsinks and memory slots encompass three of the CPU socket area’s four sides, actually installing most air based cooling solutions will not be a problem. The combination of low profile heatsinsk and just enough room in all four corners of the CPU socket means that unless you opt for downright massive coolers, getting the top brackets mounted to the motherboard will not require a contortionist nor be headache inducing.

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Water coolers and their associated blocks are even more user-friendly and come with even fewer installation issues. Even All in One devices will provide you with a lot more freedom from a hardware selection standpoint. Just be aware that if you do choose an oversized water block the key to success will be patience and taking your time mounting all the nuts and bolts. For most though it will be smooth sailing. For example our XSPC RayStorm created zero installation issues and was a breeze to get mounted.

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As this is a Gaming branded motherboard it came as no surprise that MSI took the time to ensure that your video card(s) of choice would not cause any conflicts with the memory, or CPU cooler. This is because the first PCI-E slot uses a simple x1 layout while the primary x16 slot has been bumped down a space. This may not sound like much, but even though the RAM slots have latches on both ends you will not have to worry about removing the GPU before installing memory

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There are however a few issue worth noting. The first has to do with the layout of the two 4-pin CPU fan headers. As long as you only need one header there will be no problems, but the second 4-pin fan header is utilized some creative cable routing will be required. Otherwise the fan cable will overhand to RAM and simply make a hash of your neat and tidy looking system. Things are even worse if you opt for an all in one liquid cooler.

This could have easily been avoided if MSI had simply chosen a different location for the second CPU fan header. Luckily, there is a chassis fan header between the rearmost VRM heatsink and the first x1 PCI-E slot. You will have to manually adjust this 'chassis' fan profile to match the first CPU fan but it can certainly be used in a pinch.

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The other main issue will concern consumers who plan on using overly large video cards. The R9 380 is by no stretch of the imagination a huge GPU, but if you install even a moderate length card in the primary x16 slot it will block the lone USB 3.0 header and the first two SATA ports. Meanwhile, installing a card in the secondary PCI-E x16 slot it will partially block SATA ports 2-4, both SATA Express ports, the bottommost M.2 port, and partially obscure the LED diagnostics display.

Overall we consider none of these issues to be big enough to disqualify the Gaming M5. Instead it is best to say that this board may not be perfect in its layout and design but it is still a very good option that is actually easy to work with.
 
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AkG

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Test System & Testing Methodology

Test System & Testing Methodology


To fully test the built in overclocking abilities of a given motherboard, we have broken down testing into multiple categories:

Stock Turbo Boost - To represent a 6770K at stock with turbo enabled.

Software OC - To represent a Gaming M5 at best proven stable overclock achieved via included software based overclocking (4.4GHz).

Manual OC –To represent an experienced overclocker that is looking for the optimal long term overclock to maximize system performance while keeping voltage and temperatures in check (4.8GHz).

We chose benchmark suites that included 2D benchmarks, 3D benchmarks, and games; and then tested each overclocking method individually to see how the performance would compare.

The full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:

3DMark 8
3DMark 2013 Professional Edition
AIDA64 Extreme Edition
Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
SiSoft Sandra 2013.SP4
SuperPI Mod 1.5mod
RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5
Sleeping Dogs Gaming Benchmark
Metro: Last Light Gaming Benchmark
Tomb Raider
BioShock Infinite


Instead of LinX or P95, the main stability test used was the AIDA64 stability. AIDA64 has an advantage as it has been updated for the Haswell architecture and tests specific functions like AES, AVX, and other instruction sets that some other stress tests do not touch. After the AIDA64 stability test was stable, we ran 2 runs of SuperPI and 2 runs of 3DMark to test memory and 3D stability. Once an overclock passed these tests, we ran the full benchmark suite and then this is the point deemed as “stable” for the purposes of this review.


To ensure consistent results, a fresh installation of Windows 8.1 was installed with latest chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) from the manufactures website. The BIOS used for overclocking and benchmarking was version 1301 and the Nvidia drivers used were version 332.21.

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Our test setup consists of an Intel Haswell 6770K, whatever motherboard is being tested, one NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 video card, 8GB GSkill RipJaws V DDR4-3600 1.35v memory, a Intel 335 180GB SSD, and a WD Black 1TB. All this is powered by an EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 P2 1000 watt PSU.

For cooling we used a Corsair H110i AIO w/ four 140mm fans attached. For hardware installation testing we also used a Noctua NH-U12S and a XSPC Raystorm waterblock.

Complete Test System:

Processor: Intel i7 6770K ES
Memory: 8GB GSkill RipJaws V DDR4-3600
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: 1x 180GB Intel 335 SSD. Western Digial Black 1TB.
Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 P2
CPU Cooler: Corsair H110i AIO

Special thanks to EVGA for their support and supplying the SuperNOVA 1000 P2.
Special thanks to G.Skill for their support and supplying the Trident X RAM.
Special thanks to NVIDIA for their support and supplying the GTX 780
 
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AkG

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Feature Testing: Onboard Audio and USB 3.1 Performance

Feature Testing: Onboard Audio and USB 3.1 Performance


Feature Testing: Onboard Audio


<i> While this motherboard is mainly orientated towards PC enthusiasts, the upgraded onboard audio is one of its main selling features. As such, it behooves us to see exactly what this upgrade brings to the table. To do this we have used RightMark Audio Analyzer.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/noise.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/thd.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/dr.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

Considering this motherboard costs significantly less than most in this chart these results are impressive. They certainly are not as high as what RoG Maximus VIII Hero was able to achieve, but are arguably better than the Z170-A. This does not even take into account the Nahimic audio enhancement features this board has to offer, and for gamers who take their sound seriously the extra $20 will be money well spent. However, most will likely never hear the difference.


Feature Testing: USB 3.1 Performance


For the USB 3.1 device we have used an Asus USB 3.1 enclosure which uses a pair of Samsung 840 EVO 250GB drives, and is powered by an ASMedia ASM1352R chipset.

Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/cdm_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


These results are a bit lower than what ASUS motherboards offer, as MSI at this time does not have their own custom BoT / 'Turbo Boost' driver, but they are still well beyond what any USB 3.0 motherboard can do.
 
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AkG

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Feature Testing: Software Auto-Overclocking

Feature Testing: Software Auto-Overclocking


If there was one area that we were honestly disappointed by this motherboard, it was the software based 'automatic' overclocking abilities it has to offer. This is only partially because MSI has taken a much more conservative approach to overclocking and partially because some competitors like ASUS have set the bar so high with their Z170's that other manufacturers are being left behind.

Arguably, MSI has brought their A-game since the Gaming M5 does have some extremely good automatic overclocking potential but they have been a bit conservative in their approach in an effort to offer as broad compatibility as possible. It could also be that MSI has a different approach to overclocking than ASUS, and feels that the journey is just as important as the destination. Either is possible but the end results are the same: mediocre automatic overclocking. The heart of the matter is that MSI still relies upon factory presets instead of allowing the software to find the limits of your particular chip. This is a shame as the end result is not even close to what even the less expensive ASUS Z170-A offered.

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It is a bit galling to see a motherboard like the Gaming M5 which is so insanely capable be stopped short by software but we can understand MSI’s positioning here. They wanted a one size fits all approach, one which would be compatible with a wide range of Skylake CPU bins from the very best overclockers to the very worst. Hence, they had to stop short of offering anything extreme with their software. We just wish something more was offered….but then again, that’s what manual overclocking is for.

So what was actually achieved? Gaming mode boosts frequencies to 4.2GHz on all cores while the OC Mode pushes things to 4.4GHz which isn’t all that bad. Either option keeps the UnCore at its stock speed of 4.0Ghz and tries to simply implement the XMP profile for whatever memory is installed. Unfortunately, enabling that XMP profile resulted an immediate system lockup and neither option included any stress testing. This is, to put it gently, rather mediocre by Z170 standards - as even the significantly less expensive Z170-A boards offer stress testing.

On the positive side, getting this moderate boost in performance is as easy as can be. Simply load up the MSI Gaming Program and choose the boost you want. Reboot and presto change-o you get an instant 'free' boost in performance. Unfortunately, since it is a 'one size fits most' factory set overclocking profile, it does push more voltage than necessary and this in turn means more heat is produced. From experience we know this amount of voltage is higher than is necessary for our 6700K while it may be different for yours.

Overall, this software based solution feels as outdated by current standards. MSI may have constrained preset-based overclocking as a way to up sell their higher end boards or they simply don’t have anything at this point to compete against the multi level auto-overclocking GIGABYTE and ASUS have been offering. One way or another, we were left wanting more. So much so that we recommend you hardly even bother with the software based solution and skip right to manual overclocking if you want to get anything resembling the most of what your particular system configuration can accomplish.
 
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AkG

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Manual Overclocking Results

Manual Overclocking


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In previous generations, MSI implemented what they called the OC Genie which brought single button overclocking to the table. This time they have moved away from physical buttons and opted for 'purer' BIOS-based solution for their lower end options.

That is not to say that MSI has removed the OC Genie, instead you either have to move up the food chain to get physical version of this feature, or just boot into the M5's BIOS and hit the big Game Boost button in the top left corner. However, instead of upwards of ten overclocking options the Gaming M5 has one which mirrors the software-based automatic overclock we discussed on the previous page.

Obviously using an easy overclocking option will likely whet your appetite for more power and manual overclocking is where this motherboard will easily make up for its somewhat twitchy BIOS and Software based speed boost. To be honest, when it comes to hands-on overclocking, the Gaming M5 feels more like a fully-fledged and significantly more expensive enthusiast product.

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The most interesting feature of the Z170 generation is the unganged base clock. Just like ASUS, MSI uses a custom base clock generator that allows for base clock ratios that are go beyond realistic which means your CPU will be the bottleneck long before your run out of base clock room. This motherboard even has a 'slow' switch that will slow the system down during POST so to increase stability of rather questionable overclocks. That simple switch will give customers who like to live on the edge, or simply strive for world records, the ability to get the system up and running long enough to run a synthetic test, get it validated and do both before the system hard locks.

Also just like ASUS' much more expensive Hero motherboard the Gaming M5 includes DDR4 'odd ratios' that include 100:1 and not just the usual 133:1 ratio. This in conjunction with the ability to easily offer DDR4-3600 memory speeds means your RAM sticks, or your CPU's integrated memory controller will be a bottleneck long before the motherboard causes issues. This certainly something the $165 ASUS Z170-A could never do.

Of course, unlike the Hero actually getting this board to use anything over DDR4-3000 speeds was bloody difficult and it was only after more hours than we wish to think about that we managed to get DDR4-3600 to POST. Needless to say MSI needs to work on their BIOS a bit and get higher XMP profiles working.

On the positive side, the M5 is extremely robust and very forgiving when it comes to failing at overclocking. Not once did we corrupt the BIOS no matter how badly things got messed up and with the XMP problem, we lost count of our failed attempts. The worst we encountered was the standard “overclock failed, press F1 to enter the BIOS or press F2 to load optimized defaults” screen on POST.

If all that was not enough, this $189 motherboard also has a very good voltage power delivery subsystem that allowed for as stable a voltage as you could wish for in a 'value' board. Of course, the BIOS itself is arguably not as user-friendly as examples offered by other manufactures, but overall we would classify it as quirky and not handicapped in any way. We say that as all the features you could want are there, but MSI certainly will not spoon feed you like ASUS does. This will be unfortunate for some folks, but merely coming close to matching what the gold standard of Z170s - ASUS Z170 Deluxe - can do is still damn impressive for a $185 motherboard.

In the end we were able to get all four cores to 4,802MHz, the UnCore to 4,305MHz and the RAM all the way into the stratosphere at 3643MHz. Impressed? We certainly were! Better still it was an overclock that was fully stable without any hitches after hours of gaming.
 
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AkG

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System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks


In the System Benchmarks section we will show a number benchmark comparisons of the 6700K and motherboard using the stock speed (turbo enabled), Software Overclock (4.7GHz), and our manual overclock(4.8GHz). This will illustrate how much performance can be gained by the various overclocking options this board has to offer.

For reference the CPU speeds, memory speeds, memory timings, and UNcore speeds used for these tests are as follows:


results.jpg




SuperPI Benchmark


SuperPi calculates the number of digits of PI in a pure 2D benchmark. For the purposes of this review, calculation to 32 million places will be used. RAM speed, RAM timings, CPU speed, L2 cache, and Operating System tweaks all effect the speed of the calculation, and this has been one of the most popular benchmarks among enthusiasts for several years.
SuperPi was originally written by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 and was updated later by snq to support millisecond timing, cheat protection and checksum. The version used in these benchmarks, 1.5 is the official version supported by hwbot.



pi.jpg




CINEBENCH R11.5


CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation.

In this system benchmark section we will use the x64 Main Processor Performance (CPU) test scenario. The Main Processor Performance (CPU) test scenario uses all of the system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene (from the viral "No Keyframes" animation by AixSponza). This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects which in turn contain more than 300,000 polygons in total, and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights, shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. The result is displayed in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.



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Sandra Processor Arithmetic & Processor Multi-Media Benchmarks



SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. The software suite provides most of the information (including undocumented) users like to know about hardware, software, and other devices whether hardware or software. The name “Sandra” is a (girl) name of Greek origin that means "defender", "helper of mankind".

The software version used for these tests is SiSoftware Sandra 2015. In the 2015 version of Sandra, SiSoft has updated operating system support, added support for the latest CPUs, as well as added some new benchmarks to the testing suite. The benchmark used below is the Processor Arithmetic benchmark which shows how the processor handles arithmetic and floating point instructions. This test illustrates an important area of a computer’s speed.



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PCMark 8 Benchmark


Developed in partnership with Benchmark Development Program members Acer, AMD, Condusiv Technologies, Dell, HGST, HP, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Samsung, SanDisk, Seagate and Western Digital, PCMark 8 is the latest version in FutureMark’s popular series of PC benchmarking tools. Improving on previous releases, PCMark 8 includes new tests using popular applications from Adobe and Microsoft.

The test used in below is the PCMark 8 Home benchmark. This testing suite includes workloads that reflect common tasks for a typical home user such as for web browsing, writing, gaming, photo editing, and video chat. The results are combined to give a PCMark 8 Home score for the system.



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AIDA64 Benchmark


AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a diagnostic and benchmarking software suite for home users that provides a wide range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives.

The benchmarks used in this review are the memory bandwidth and latency benchmarks. Memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, Memory Copy) measure the maximum achievable memory data transfer bandwidth. The code behind these benchmark methods are written in Assembly and they are extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x86/x64, x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE4.1, AVX, and AVX2 instruction set extension.
The Memory Latency benchmark measures the typical delay when the CPU reads data from system memory. Memory latency time means the penalty measured from the issuing of the read command until the data arrives to the integer registers of the CPU.



aida.jpg


aida_lat.jpg

 

AkG

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3D and Gaming Benchmarks

3D and Gaming Benchmarks


In the 3D and Gaming Benchmarks section we will show a number of benchmark comparisons of the 6700K and the motherboard using the stock speed (turbo enabled), highest stable software overclock of 4.7GHz and our manual overclock of 4.8GHz. This will illustrate how much performance can be gained by the various overclocking options this board has to offer.

For reference the CPU speeds, memory speeds, memory timings, and uncore speeds used for these tests are as follows:

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/results.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
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3DMark Fire Strike Benchmark


<i>The latest version of 3DMark from FutureMark includes everything you need to benchmark everything from smartphones and tablets, to notebooks and home PCs, to the latest high-end, multi-GPU gaming desktops. And it's not just for Windows. With 3DMark you can compare your scores with Android and iOS devices too. It's the most powerful and flexible 3DMark we've ever created.

The test we are using in this review is Fire Strike with Extreme settings which is a DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. Fire Strike features real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today.</i>

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/3dm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
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Sleeping Dogs Gaming Benchmark


<i>Sleeping Dogs is an open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix, released on August 2012. Sleeping Dogs has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.


The settings used in the testing below are the Extreme display settings and a resolution of 1920x1200. World density is set to extreme, high-res textures are enabled, and shadow resolution, shadow filtering, screen space ambient occlusion, and quality motion blur are all set to high.</i>

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/sd.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
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Metro: Last Light Gaming Benchmark


<i>Metro: Last Light is a DX11 first-person shooter video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver released in May 2013. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features action-oriented gameplay. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play. Scene D6 was used and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are Very High for quality and a resolution of 1920x1200. DirectX 11 is used, texture filtering is set to AF 16X, motion blur is normal, SSA and advanced physX turned on and tessellation is set to high.</i>

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/met.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
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BioShock Infinite Gaming Benchmark


<i>BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games released in March 2013. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are UltraDX11 for quality and a resolution of 1920x1200.</i>

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_Z170_M5/bio.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
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Tomb Raider Gaming Benchmark


<i> Tomb Raider is an action-adventure video game. Published by Square Enix released in March 2013. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.


The settings used in the testing below are Ultimate default settings for quality, VSync disabled and a resolution of 1920x1200.</i>

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

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Conclusion

Conclusion


MSI’s Gaming series of motherboards have seen their fair share of ups and downs but ever since the M5 was first revealed, we were excited by its potential. Could it actually hit that fine balance between pricing, gamer-centric features and overclocking chops which so many other manufacturers have struggled to accomplish? MSI has accomplished exactly that and then some.

Even with just a cursory glance it is blatantly obvious the Gaming M5 is meant to take on similarly-branded motherboards from MSI’s competitors and win the hearts and minds of gamers via their pocketbook. While that approach has necessitated some understandable sacrifices like a lack of native U.2 SSD support, a few less connectivity options and constrained auto-overclocking options, this board can still trade punches with some of the industry’s heavy hitters.

On the physical end of things the M5 boasts nearly all the features of the entry level yet significantly more expensive Maximus VIII Hero and then ups the ante with a price that is much more palatable. For example if you consider Ethernet to be important, MSI has gone for the Killer Ethernet 2400 NPU instead of the Intel i219v, and increased the anti-surge protection to a whopping 15kv. Neither board offers wireless abilities so this is a wash. Meanwhile, for consumers actually interested in higher end SSD support, this board two four lane capable M.2 ports and more than enough SATA Express connectors to satisfy just about anyone. That onboard sound solution is also an awesome addition, one which will truly work to differentiate the M5 from similarly priced mainstream products.

MSI certainly didn’t cheap out on the M5’s overall design either. The PCI-E slot layout is one of the best around, though there aren’t quite as many useable slots as some other boards since third party controllers were avoided in an effort to keep costs in check. One thing that’s missing is a DisplayPort output but we doubt many people looking at the Gaming M5 will think about using the CPU’s onboard graphics over a dedicated GPU.

Approaching overclocking on this board involves a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde conversation. If you are someone who wants a one-touch performance uplift via automatic overclocking options then the Gaming M5 may disappoint. Sure, it had the ability to push our i7-6700K to the 4.4GHz mark but it required a bit too much voltage to get to that point. There are better options out there when it comes to hands-free overclocking.

On the flip side of that equation, if you want to get your hands dirty and dive into the BIOS for some manual overclocking, the M5 is an abundantly rewarding motherboard. MSI’s BIOS still may have some catching up to do in the ease-of-use department but once there’s a handle on its eccentricities, it has an ingrained ability to reach some impressive speeds. A final clock speed of 4.8GHz simply blows many more expensive boards out of the water. Granted, the BIOS was missing an XMP profile for our high-end DDR4 memory but that can be easily rectified with future updates and even without it, the G.Skill modules hit speeds above 3600MHz with a bit of hand holding. That’s impressive indeed.

The MSI Gaming M5 forces buyers to rethink their approach when looking for a so-called “gaming” oriented motherboard. They made both entry level boards like the ASUS Z170-A and more mid-level offerings like the ASUS Maximus VIII Hero a lot harder to justify. After all the M5 is only $20 more than a Z170-A, but can hold its own against significantly more expensive alternatives. While other “budget” offerings feel like they’re giving up a lot to their higher end siblings, the Gaming M5 actually feels like an enthusiast-priced board regardless of what you use it for. That’s saying a lot considering our high expectations for today’s motherboards.


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