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REVIEW MSI Z170 SLI PLUS (Review)

Discussion in 'Intel x86 CPUs and chipsets' started by gazza30, Feb 1, 2016.

  1. gazza30

    gazza30 Member

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    MSI Z170 SLI PLUS Motherboard Review


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    Hey guys and gals I thought I’d share my thoughts on a special care package I received from MSI Australia today.


    The Z170 MSI SLI PLUS

    Thanks MSI :)

    https://www.msi.com/product/motherboard/Z170A-SLI-PLUS.html#hero-overview


    Since the Z170 chipset release the number of boards/models has been insane around 300 maybe more 1151 socket boards with just over half of those being the Z170 overclockable boards.


    With such a wealth of very capable boards from the budget segment all the way to the top of the top, wher does this board fit in?


    Well RRP price is around $239 so this is at the top end of the z170 entry level boards with barny basic boards around the 180 mark and the pinacle of z170 boards around 700+.


    Its a tough segement to play in with quite a few options to be had around that pricing.


    So lets take a look at the MSI SLI PLUS and see if it can stand out amongst the crowd.


    Yep you guessed it, its a box. Not much to say nice sleak sexy black finish to keep your new toy safe and sound.

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    Inside is the bare basics enough sata3 cables to fill the board, the usual manual , Back plate and and sli bridge. And of course the Driver disk. I would of liked a sticker MSI, dammit!!


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    A quick look at the backplate showing off the new PS2 mouse and keyboard ports. Wait What PS2 port?. One at best would of done for those of you hanging onto that favourite keyboard etc. But personally I would give them both up for an extra pair of usb ports.


    As it stands yes there is 2 usb 2.0 ports, 2 usb 3.1 gen1 ports and a single usb 3.1 gen 2 type C connector.

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    A quick explanation for the new usb 3.1 gen 1 and 2 ports, whats the difference?

    Well usb 3.0 has been relabelled as usb 3.1 gen 1

    Secondly the new type C connector used for 3.1 gen 2 ports is fool proof, no more floundering behind your case trying to work out which way that pesky usb cable plugs in.


    And third is a big performance jump for devices that can keep up.

    Usb 3.1 gen 1 standard shows max bandwidth of 5Gbps

    and the latest Usb 3.1 gen 2 port is capable of an amazing 10Gbps

    .

    Below is a link to an article that explains the specs and changes in usb for those interested.

    https://gaming.msi.com/article/usb-3-1-gen1-gen2-explained


    Moving on, backplate has onboard video output with DVI, VGA and HDMI to suit most situations. Perhaps ditching the VGA and replacing it with a DP would have been nice?


    The usual Network port is here and MSi have opted for the Intel I219V gigabit network adaptor with these boards.


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    Audio connectors using the Realtek ALC 1150 audio codec is present and is helped along with various built in board features such as an isolated audio pcb high end capacitors etc all trying to keep audio as clean and noise free as possible.


    Looking at board layout now we see a simple looking sleek black board with a dash of gold on the capacitors taking care of onboard sound. the silver accents on the pcie armor slots adding a bit off strength to those hefty gpu’s as well as looking nice as well.


    [​IMG]


    Clean looking medium sized heatsinks placed on board do the job nicely while not taking up the whole board.


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    A clean area around the cpu socket should give ample room for air coolers , AIO and custom watering cooling options.


    Also pictured are the 4 ram slots featuring the latest standard of DDR4 and supporting a whopping 64gb of ram more than enough to use a decent size ram disk while still supporting more than enough left over for the operating system to make use of.


    The 24 pin and 8 pin cpu plugs are where you would normally look as are the fan headers.


    [​IMG]


    Sliding down we come to the sata 3 ports with 6 in total. not much to say here sata 3 has been around for some time with lots of fast retail ssd’s taking full advantage of sata 3 speeds.


    Only issue i have is why oh why did msi design team think it was a good idea to have the middle two port facing vertically?

    I had pictures in my head of not being able to use them when two gpu’s are installed but as you might be able to already see is that they have been placed so as not to foul with even two full length dual slot gpu’s installed.

    I still would've like to have seen these replaced with a right angle connector. Just makes for keeping a build a little cleaner I think.


    [​IMG]

    Speaking multi gpu’s the SLI PLUS supports both SLI and Tri Fire

    Single card runs x16

    Dual card runs x8x8

    Three cards run 8x4x4 (Tri Fire only)


    A big plus here Is the PCIE layout where even with two gpu’s installed there is still a single slot gap between the first and second card so your poor first card doesn’t get starved for airflow.

    And lets not forget the 3 PCIEx1 slots and the blazing fast M.2 slot running at gen 3 x4 speeds and capable of delivering 32Gb/s. Unfortunately at the time of review I did not have a M.2 device on hand to test setup and speed.


    Earlier I mentioned my grype with the lack of usb ports on the back IO plate but at least there are a four internal usb headers two usb 3.1 gen 1 and 2 usb 2.0 headers able to connect to your case. This should alleviate the issue somewhat. They are located next to the sata ports and the other two usb 2.0 on the bottom edge of the board.


    Moving on lets checkout the bios once in you’ll see this screen and you’ll notice the bios keeps the same clean and black theme.

    A wealth of option are here for the tweaking of all areas of the system from cpu and ram to a fan control stata, pcie speeds voltages.


    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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    I found bios easy to navigate and setup was reasonably easy getting straight into installing Windows 10 from my usb stick in no time at all.



    Once into windows using the disk provided installing drivers was a breeze just be sure to untick some of the bloatware that you don’t want or want.

    My favourite of the bundled software was MSi command centre. MSi’s overclocking and tweaking utility.

    Holding a bunch of features allowing to you to tweak voltages cpu speeds , ram and lets customise your fan profiles etc.


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    System tests and setup

    Cpu 6700k / 4770k both locked at 4ghz

    Ram Gskill ddr3000 C15 4x4gb 1.35v / Team 2400 c9 4x4gb 1.65v

    2x gtx 680

    Corsair AX1200

    Samsung 850pro 128gb


    Intel XTU

    Aida64

    GTAV



    We’ll start with some memory bandwidth testing using the latest Aida64.


    As you can see the 4770k paired with fast ddr3 provided some serious bandwidth not to be scoffed at

    [​IMG]


    Now lets see how ddr4 faired.

    Thats a lot of bandwidth even though the timings are a lot worse latency remains similar while an easy win is had in the read and write and copy tests.


    [​IMG]


    Real world testing will show much less gains however ddr4 is but a pup and has come a long way already. Power useage is a win in favour of ddr4 for sure and the fact with less voltage comes a lot less heat. Looking forward to seeing where ddr4 is in another 12 months


    Now for some GTAV testing with a pair of 680’s


    [​IMG]


    Results for this particular game dont really put the 6700k in front but thats not the boards fault

    The MSI Sli plus lived up to the name and ran without a hiccup. I love the PCie spacing allowing both cards to breath letting you overclock them that bit further or just having them run cooler than boards that sandwich the first and second cards together


    Next up Intel’s XTU benchmark

    First up the 4770k followed by the 6700k

    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]



    Overclocking Coming Soon



    Conclusion


    A capable board that looks great and is priced roughly where it should be.


    Perhaps ditching VGA onboard connector and the PS2 connectors would of gave room for another pair of usb ports on the back IO though I will concede the four usb internal headers will accommodate any extra devices you’ll likely need.


    Maybe onboard wifi? not essential for me but something a lot of buyers look for.


    Removing that vertical facing pair of sata ports in favour of right angle connectors just for looks would be a nice touch as well.


    The Bad.

    To few usb ports on back IO

    Vertical Sata ports



    The Good

    Great looking board

    PICE slot placement

    Intel nic


    Thanks again to MSI Australia and thanks for having a look.

    Below is a link with beta bio's for overclcoking non k cpu's on MSI boards

    http://forums.overclockers.com.au/showpost.php?p=16992009&postcount=33
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016
  2. Kurosaki

    Kurosaki Member

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    I don't get why MSI still continues to pursue those stupid top facing SATA ports. Not only do they look ugly but in a practical sense once you go SLI with a couple of long cards you basically lost the use of those 2 ports.
     
  3. OP
    OP
    gazza30

    gazza30 Member

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    Hey mate while i agree I would have liked to see a right angle connector in its place due to the pcie slot layout even with two full length gpu's installed the top facing sata ports are still free from obstruction.

    Thanks for looking :thumbup:
     
  4. xtreme2k

    xtreme2k Member

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    Thanks for sharing this one with us.:thumbup:
     
  5. OP
    OP
    gazza30

    gazza30 Member

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    No problem mate thanks for looking.
     
  6. OJR

    OJR Member

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    The real question is why though? They are already using 2x sets of angled SATA connectors, why change the layout for only 2 ports? Does it really save that much money? I can't see any reason why they would do that.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    gazza30

    gazza30 Member

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    Sorry I don't have the answers mate. I'd be more than happy never to see these style sata ports ever again.

    Still a lot to like about the SLI Plus though. I'll be seeing how well it overclocks in the coming days.

    Stay tuned :thumbup:
     

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