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MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC Review

MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC Review

We’ve looked at a number of Z170 based motherboards since they were launched a couple of months ago and the majority have been very  impressive. They don’t offer a huge leap over Z97 but they do bring the mainstream Intel platform right up to date in terms of features and support. That said, most of them are quite similar and so with todays article it’s nice to get a bit of a change, the first mini-ITX Z170 board we have tested. Can it compete with the standard board? Lets find out in our MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC Review.

MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC Review – Packaging and Bundle

msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-box msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-bundle

The Z170I Gaming Pro AC arrives, as expected given its form factor, in a compact box. Inside we find the board wrapped in an anti-static bag and beneath it in a separate compartment the bundled items. Those items are product documentation, i/o shield, wifi antenna, cables and software discs.

MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC Review – The Board


The Z170I Gaming Pro AC is shown above and what is immediately clear is that MSI have packed a lot into this mini-ITX PCB. Build quality remains high with humidity, temperature and ESD and EMI protection along with high quality capacitors, chokes, shielding and enhanced soldering. The board is based on socket 1151 and supports all of the latest Intel CPUs, including the high end i7-6700K and two slots allow support for DDR4 at speeds of 3600MHz+ at capacities up to 32GB (MSI also isolate the memory circuitry on the PCB for enhanced stability).

A single PCIe 16x slot is available and as far as drive connectivity goes we get four SATA as well as support for SATA-Express. USB 3.1 headers are present and it is also worth noting that the board also includes high end audio components such as headphone amp, chemi-con audio capacitors, isolated PCB and USB port designed to provide a stable 5v for external DACs.


Turning round to the back panel we find PS/2, 2x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.1, DisplayPort, HDMI, Intel i219 GB LAN, our Wi-Fi antenna connectors for the bundled Intel wireless-ac(with Bluetooth 4.2) and 3.5mm/optical audio connectors for our 7.1 capable controller. A clear CMOS button is also hidden beneath the antenna connectors.


Turning the board over we can see that there is one key feature located here, a M.2 connector which runs over PCIe with 32GB/s bandwidth and supports 4.2/6cm form factor drives.

MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC Review – Software and BIOS


MSI offer a varied software suite with tools such as CPUz branded with their skin, control panels for adding macros/functions to our keyboard, network management and RAMdisk software. The key software for most users will be MSI Command Centre which allows us to monitor and tweak our board from within Windows. This includes quick overclocking profiles to help users get the most from their hardware with minimal fuss.

mbios1 mbios2 mbios3 mbios4 mbios5

As with their larger boards, the Z170I uses MSI’s click BIOS with all features intact, including a working mouse/keyboard interface. Using it we can tweak the board, view plenty of configuration data and flash the BIOS from USB all in a few clicks.

MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC Review – Performance

Test systems:
i7-6700K, Z170i-Gaming Pro AC/Z170A GM7, 2x8GB DDR4-2666 (Corsair)
i7-4790K, Z97, 2x8GB DDR3-2666 (Corsair)
i7-5960X, X99, 4x8GB DDR4-2800 (Corsair)
FX-9590, 990FX, 4x8Gb DDR3-2133 (Corsair)

All with:
Windows 10
GTX 980 Ti OC
Corsair H100 Series Cooler
Corsair AX1500i PSU
Samsung 850 Pro SSD (SATA Testing)
Plextor M6e (M.2 Testing)
OCZ Revodrive 350 (PCIe Testing)
And Samsung T1 SSD (USB Testing)

On a Dimastech EasyXL Test Bench with the BenQ BL3201 4k Display



msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-cinebench msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-bfh msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-dota2r-igpu msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-memory msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-pcie msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-sata msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-m2 msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-usb msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-music msi-z170i-gaming-pro-ac-review-cinebench-OC

MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC Review – Conclusion

When we accepted the Z170I Gaming Pro AC for review we wondered what MSI would have to do as far as compromises to get Z170 running on mini-ITX. Surely there would be some significant compromises when compared to their standard boards… in reality there are surprisingly few. Obvious changes are of course fewer PCIe slots and fewer drive connectors but that said, squeezing 4 SATA and M.2 onto this board is quite an achievement… and thats before we consider the presence of SATA-Express! The only minor niggle on the drive front is that the full length M.2 cards are not officially supported but having said that, give it a shot… you may be able to work something out…

Looking around the board we have all the great features we expect from MSI such as solid capacitors, high quality chokes, dedicated quality audio hardware, protection circuitry and the like. They have even managed to retain the debug LEDs, enhance the memory circuitry and build in Wireless-ac along with Bluetooth 4.2.

As far as software and BIOS go, again very much the same experience as a full size desktop board and added to that we get performance to match too. The Z170I Gaming Pro AC was always within 1-2% of the larger form factor. Essentially the margin of error from test to test.

Summary: The MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC is an excellent mini-ITX motherboard. Great build quality. A surprising amount of features and competitive performance. Consumers will be able to make some awesome compact systems if pairing this board with the likes of AMDs R9 Nano.

Gold Award

Review Date
Reviewed Item
MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC
Author Rating

About Author

Stuart Davidson


  1. ZuvaliK

    Great, thanks for your review. I actually ordered this motherboard last night and waiting for it. Would you be able to verify if I can use Samsung 850 evo 250gb m.2 on this board? I dont know if this Samsung M.2 is a full length card or not. And also if the M.2 supports SATA III or only PCIe?

    • Hey, from memory the Evo is a full length M.2 card. They are not listed as supported BUT looking at the board it should still fit. You will just need to work out a way to secure it in place. As for the S3/PCIe support… dont worry about SATA 3. You want to use PCIe, its faster and with no other PCIe slots other than for your GPU there are plenty of lanes free.

      • ZuvaliK

        Thanks for your reply. The M.2 I can afford has S3 interface so I think I will stick with a normal Sata SSD anyway.

  2. Bill Jones

    Very nice board.

  3. Christian

    Any explanation for PCIE write speed for MSI Z170I in the chart is only approx 1090 compared to the other boards at 1900 MB/s ? 🙂

  4. aazizhy

    How did you specifically fit in the m.2 for the test? I currently have this motherboard but thinking of changing due to the unsupported 80mm length m.2. Is there an adaptor available?

  5. M. Molli

    This mainboard with a Intel Core i5 6500 = nice nice

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