MSI Z170 XPOWER Titanium Review
Published: 23rd October 2015 | Source: MSI | Price: £229.99 @ OCUK |
There are many places we could start when it comes to summing up the MSI XPOWER Titanium, but we think the most obvious place, if only because it's been staring at us from the top of the page, is the looks.
MSI have been extremely brave with the aesthetics of the XPOWER. In a world that seems like it exists solely to force people to have black and red colour schemes, the original XPOWER range, with its attractive yellow and black, stood out. This choice of yellow as the thematic colour is backed up by the MSI Lightning graphics cards, so if you're brand loyal then there is all the incentive in the world to go down that route, and for MSI to continue to produce hardware which conforms to their pre-existing choices.
So the Titanium, with it's silver PCB and heatsinks marks a bold departure from the accepted wisdom of motherboard design. With some of the subtler colour accents it's possible to almost ignore them when you build your rig, but the Titanium is so eye-poppingly silver there is no getting away from it. It can, in photographs, look cheap and cheerful. Almost like it has been sprayed silver. In the flesh though, once you've got over the initial shock, it definitely holds up as a gorgeous piece of kit. The neutrality of silver/grey means that you can put almost any hardware you want into it, safe in the knowledge that it will look the part and match up. If you're tired of black case interiors this is the perfect opportunity to return to the silver offerings of old.
The majority of the hardware side of things matches up to the expectations of a range-topping model too. The MSI Z170 has dual M.2 ports for your high-bandwidth drives. There are a wealth of 10Gbs USB 3.1 ports too, alongside SATA Express and a selection of regular SATA offerings. If you've always been cautious of overclocking your system then the MSI OC Genie has always been the go-to technology, and this has been improved upon with the Game Boost that comes equipped with much finer controls than the simple on/off of the old system. You can go anywhere from a 100MHz overclock all the way up to 5GHz profiles with, thankfully, sensible voltages too. Add to this a quality UEFI that has the shiny coating of all modern BIOS, but as you go deeper into the rabbit hole resembles the simplicity of the old "keyboard only" offerings and the XPOWER Titanium is nearly the complete package.
There are, as always, a couple of big drawbacks. Firstly the stock performance isn't amazing. It's fine enough and with the ability to automatically overclock then few people will run this board as nature intended anyway. Secondly, and a far more serious problem, the loadline calibration is positively broken. Manually overclocking this, something it's designed to do, is a royal pain in the posterior. When the gap between 9 and 10 in the loadline scale is a whole tenth of a volt through your CPU different then it's entering dangerous territory. This is particularly galling given that the Game Boost overclock is rock-solid stable at all times. A BIOS upgrade will hopefully fix this, but we have to review things in their current form rather than based on potential future performance, and the MSI is found wanting in this regard.
The quality of the silver PCB is outstanding in the flesh and, when coupled to the strong PCI shields and otherwise neutral palette, represents a bold decision that has paid off for MSI in the form of our OC3D Innovation award. The motherboard itself currently is great if you don't want to overclock manually, and awful if you do, and for that reason wins, rather aptly, our OC3D Silver Award.