MSI Z270 Gaming M5 ATX Kaby Lake Motherboard Review

Accessories, Firmware And Overclocking

As one of the new generation of motherboards with integrated RGB lighting controller, the Z270 Gaming M5 adds an RGB connector cable to the ordinary assortment of four SATA cables, an SLI bridge, and a plastic-reinforced aluminum I/O shield. A molded MSI gaming badge, cable tags, driver CD, and documentation complete the package.

Updates to Nahimic audio software and the Killer networking control center advance the Z270 Gaming M5’s software suite compared to our recent Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon review. The Nahimic updates include HD Audio Controller 2 with advanced launch controls, and Sound Tracker to help gamers locate the source of noise (from other players).

MSI Click BIOS 5 still opens into “EZ mode,” which shows basic configuration settings and provides an XMP-enable button.

Striking the F7 keyboard key takes tuners to the Z270 Gaming M5 Advanced menu, which includes traditional BIOS-style submenus under the “Settings” group, tuning features within the Overclocking group, a reboot function for entering integrated firmware flash functions, an overclocking profile group, and a fan settings group.

Note the “Misc Setting” menu expansion in OC Settings. By default, it includes an enabled “Enhanced Turbo” setting that forces the CPU to run at its maximum Intel Turbo Boost ratio regardless of the number of cores being stressed. We disable this in our baseline benchmarks, because it violates the CPU's rated power and thermal envelope and gives boards that have this feature an artificial performance advantage over those that do not. The setting disappears when using a custom overclock, such as the 4.80 GHz shown.

Another setting — “CPU Ratio Offset When Running AVX” — appears to be a way to cheat in overclocking charts. Operating in the reverse of “Enhanced Turbo” ratios, it reduces the CPU multiplier whenever AVX-based stress tests such as Prime95 are used. Although this allows overclockers to claim ultra-high stable frequencies, we don't consider an overclock stable until it's able to support a complete CPU load.

We were able to reach the expected 48x CPU ratio at default BCLK while using a 1.30V BCLK and Mode 3 “Loadline Calibration.” The next setting down — Mode 4 — allowed core voltage to sag to 1.296V under heavy load.

The DRAM timings submenu adds special items such as DRAM Voltage boost to the expected primary, secondary, and tertiary timings. The Z270 Gaming M5 supported a pair of our DDR4-3866 modules at its rated settings, but only reached DDR4-3636 with the full four-DIMM set installed. DIMM voltage is also something to watch out for, as the board reported 1.36V when our voltmeter read 1.38V. Manually setting the DIMM voltage to 1.330V caused the motherboard to produce a measured 1.35V at the slot, while firmware reported 1.328V.

Memory-Z reports the memory’s highest SPD values, in addition to its first XMP configuration.

Several power saving features are disabled by default. We enable these when performing our basic performance and power consumption evaluations to maintain consistency with Intel’s specifications.

The Z270 Gaming M5 has enough space within its onboard ROM to store six overclocking configurations, and it can also export these profiles to a USB flash drive.

All six fan headers are tied to voltage regulators, and can be manually switched between voltage-based and PWM-based speed control. Users can choose default mapping for each fan, customize their own curves, or set all to full speed simultaneously.

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