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One-Shot MSI Z170A Tomahawk Mainboard Review

Arsenal Gaming is a specific lineup of motherboards in MSI’s portfolio. It embraces 7 different models, joined under military-style codenames. The units are targeting primarily gaming community, although the Z170A Tomahawk is a universal solution at an affordable price. As distinct from the comrades, it features a set of controllers & sockets which are considered to be remnants of the past. Let’s find out what kind of advantages this board offers.

CPU & Memory

Motherboard MSI Z170A Tomahawk is developed on Intel Z170 Express chipset. It supports LGA1151-compatible CPUs of the 6th generation (Skylake): Intel Celeron/Pentium/Core i3/Core i5/Core i7. The hardware rests on a 4-layer dark PCB (304x224 mm, ATX) with red PCI-e and RAM slots. The rear panel is differentiated by the availability of a backplate for the CPU socket. The integrated ISL95856 controller is accountable for the providing power to the CPU (3+5 VRM).

The board comes with four DIMM slots for the integration of DDR4 memory modules. It’s possible to equip the model with high-capacity (up to 64 GB), high-performance RAM cards with frequencies up to 3600 (OC) MHz. Memory is thought to support ECC options as well as XMP profiles.

Other Nodes

The motherboard comes with an incorporated graphics core that allows employing a pair of monitors simultaneously, thanks to the availability of HDMI 1.4 & DVI-D ports. The core also supports 4K imaging and AMD 2-way CrossFireX configurations. The PCB houses 8 expansion slots: 1x M.2, 2x PCI, 3x PCI-e x1, and 2x PCI-e x 16.

Storage subsystem is backed by Intel Z170 Express chipset. It offers 6x SATA III ports, a single M.2 port with the bandwidth of 32 Gb/sec, the support for RAID 0/1/5/10 arrays as well as such technologies, as Hot Plug, Intel Smart Connect, Intel Smart Response, Intel Rapid Storage, NCQ, and AHCI.

Audio subsystem is organized by means of a 7.1-channel Realtek ALC892 controller. The node comes furnished with high-quality components: Chemi-Con capacitors, gold-plated audio sockets, isolated audio channels, frontal audio output for the connection of headsets. Furthermore, network facilities are realized due to Realtek RTL8111H controller (+ MSI Gaming LAN Manager).

I/O Panel

The connection of all external devices wouldn’t be possible without Nuvoton NCT6793D-M controller. It ensures the functioning of a large variety of I/O units. The model is rich in USB ports, supported by Intel Z170 Express chipset as well as ASMedia ASM1142 controller. The first one backs 6x USB 3.1 ports, 4x USB 2.0 ports; the second one is responsible for 2x USB 3.1 ports, both located at the back panel.

The latter delivers the following interfaces: PS/2 combo, a single DVI-D port, a single HDMI port, Clear CMOS button, RJ-45, SP/DIF, 5x 3.5-mm audio sockets, and a variety of USB ports.

The list of internal interfaces boasts: 1x 24-pin ATX power connector, 1x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector, 6x SATA III ports, Chassis Intrusion socket, serial port socket, parallel port socket, Clear CMOS connector, TPM socket, M.2 NGFF 2240/2260/2280, USB ports, 2x 4-pin connectors for the mounting of CPU coolers with PWM support, and 3x 4-pin connectors for the installation of fans with PWM support.

It should be noted that the hardware base corresponds to Military Class 4 standard. It includes energy-efficient Dark Chokes, solid-state capacitors Dark Cap, and other prime components. The nominal delivery kit is rich in six SATA cables with couplings, rear panel cover, user’s manual, CD with utilities & drivers.

BIOS Excellence

MSI Z170A Tomahawk comes equipped with 128 Mb UEFI BIOS with 8-language interface & Click BIOS 5 graphics interface. Traditionally, the board starts operation in EZ Mode which enables fine tuning of all basic system parameters. It’s feasible to alter BCLK parameters within 98-341 MHz range at a pitch of 0.01 MHz; CPU multiplier might be modulated within 8-83 range.

Moreover, BIOS interface allows changing DDR4 timings, improved CPU voltage stabilization characteristics, control all fans by means of onboard Hardware Monitor utility as well as analyze all key elements via Board Explorer panel. The implemented BIOS is compatible with ACPI 5.0, supporting SM BIOS 2.8 & PnP 1.0a.

To add, this mainboard is known to supports a plethora of advanced technologies/functions which are called to further improve its performance. Thus, the list consists of Gaming App, Audio Boost, Game Boost, Gaming LAN, Gaming DNA, Command Center, RAM Disk, M-Cloud, Live Update 6.
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  • 04 June 2016, 13:07
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