MSI Z170A SLI Plus ReviewManufacturer: MSI
UK price (as reviewed):
MSRP £110 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed):
Uptake of Intel's Skylake was never expected to be as high as it was for Haswell or Devil's Canyon, for the simple reason the upgrade would be a little more expensive thanks to the need for DDR4 memory. Indeed, the price of the CPUs is a little high too, meaning that you'd have to seriously consider opting for an X99 build.
Thankfully, though, cheaper Z170 boards are starting to land and the MSI Z170A SLI Plus is the cheapest we've seen yet. In fact it's even cheaper than some of the mini-ITX offerings we've seen recently too, such as the Asus Z170i Pro Gaming
, although miniaturisation usually results in some price premiums, whatever your industry.
However, the difference here, of course, is that the Z170A SLI Plus is a fully-fledged ATX-size motherboard, yet despite sporting a super-sexy black PCB and heatsinks along with MSI's steel PCI-E shields, it costs just £110. This means that despite cheap X99 boards such as MSI's own Pro series X99 counterpart, the X99 SLI Plus
really trimming the price down for X99 systems, you'll be looking at saving £50 compared to the cheapest X99 boards out there at the moment - easily enough to counteract the silly prices Skylake CPUs are going for currently, especially when you factor in the need for four DIMMs with X99 too.
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So, what do you get for £110? The answer is pretty much everything you'd expect from a Z170 motherboard. There's an 80mm M.2 port that offers full PCI-E 3.0 x4 bandwidth, six SATA 6Gbps ports provided by the Intel Z170 chipset, and you even get a USB 3.1 Type-C port too courtesy of an ASM1142 controller. Interestingly, MSI has also ditched Killer LAN for this board and opted for an Intel I219-V Gigabit controller too. 3-way CrossFire and 2-way SLI are supported if that's your thing.
The layout is excellent too, apart from a couple of oddly-placed SATA ports, and you even get dual USB 3 headers too, with one right-angled allowing you to take your pick to aid cable tidying. There's plenty of space around the CPU socket, but you still get a trio of heatsinks, albeit lacking any heat pipes as you might expect on a more expensive board. The power sockets are well placed with our only other qualm being that the second CPU header is located, somewhat bizarrely, the other side of the DIMM slots on the far right side of the PCB.
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However, you get a generous helping of PCI-E slots, with the upper-most 1x slot located above the top 16x slot so even if you use two graphics cards with monstrous air coolers, you'll still have space for a sound card. It does, however, mean that the M.2 slot will be obscured. Feature-wise, there's not a lot going on and to be honest, to expect things such as power, reset and CMOS clear buttons on a board at this price is asking a lot, but you do get isolated audio circuitry and a handy amount of fan headers.
The rear I/O panel is somewhat lacking, however. There are only four USB ports as standard, with just two of these being USB 3. You can obviously expand these with a hub, but we'd rather have ditched the USB 3.1 Type-C port here and dropped in a few more USB 3 ports. Still, it's perhaps useful to have the former and to expand the latter if you need to. There's no DisplayPort output, with a rare VGA output mixing it up with an HDMI 1.4 port and DVI-D port.
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- Chipset Intel Z170
- Form factor ATX
- CPU support LGA1151 compatible (Skylake)
- Memory support Dual-channel, 4 slots, max 64GB
- Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1150 Codec
- Networking Intel I219-V Gigabit LAN
- Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps via Intel Z170, 1 x M.2 PCI-E 3.0 x4 (up to 2280), 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 6 x USB 3.0 (4 x via header), 2 x USB 2.0 ( 4 x via header), 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, S/PDIF out, HDMI 1.4, VGA, DVI-D
- Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
- Extras Isolated audio circuitry, steel-plated PCI-E slots