• Slots: LGA1151
  • CPU: Intel Z170
  • RAM Slots: 2
  • RAM Type: DDR4 4200(OC)/4000(OC)/3866(OC)/3600(OC)/3200(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400/ 2133 MHz
  • Ports: 1x PS/2, 3x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.1, 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 1x LAN, 5x Audio port, 1x Optical (SPDIF), 1x PCI-E 3.0 x16, 1x M.2 32Gb/s, 4x SATA 6Gb/s
  • Pros:
  • Small footprint
  • All features needed already on board
  • Cons:
  • None
  • Benchmark Results
  • PCMark 8 (Home): 4,084 points
  • PCMark 8 (Creative): 5,062 points
  • PCMark 8 (Work): 3,729 points

Is Less More?

The small form factor market is a niche market at best right now, but slowly it’s gaining traction in the industry and with the release of AMD’s R9 Nano, the future of small form factor PC’s is looking brighter. Hardcore gaming on a PC with a size so small that it can fit into a luggage bag is not that far away.

The Z170I GAMING PRO AC has two DDR4 DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of DDR4 memory, with a maximum frequency of 4,200MHz if overclocked. Storage options are aplenty even on this small motherboard, housing four SATA 6Gb/s ports and an M.2 slot found on the back of the motherboard for lightning fast transfer speeds. There isn’t much you can add-on to the motherboard as it only has a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot for most likely a graphic card.

For the I/O ports, the motherboard comes with plenty of USB ports ranging from USB 2.0 to USB 3.1 and audio ports along with a HAMI and DisplayPort port. To increase the amount of USB ports made available, the motherboard has 2 more USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 through the internal USB connector. A nice feature of one of the USB 2.0 ports had was MSI’s USB Audio Power which sends a constant voltage to ensure USB audio devices such as DAC’s won’t have any fluctuations.

The board, albeit small feels durable and has very little flex when we tried bending it, and all hardware hooked in securely. Thanks to MSI’s VGA armor we noticed that even when placing a slightly large graphic card into the motherboard, we noticed very little bending or none at all so you can put in something large like a GTX 970 or R9 390X.

The bundled software that comes with the motherboard is pretty useful such as the Mouse Master and MSI GAMING APP. You can change your mouse’s DPI without the need to use their proprietary software so you can cut down on programs that could bloat your operating system and overclocking is much easier when all we had to do was choose between profiles to instantly overclock the GPU using the MSI GAMING APP.

CHIP CONCLUDE: Entering Skylake processors this year, the MSI Z170I PRO GAMING AC is a great choice when you’re looking for a small form factor Skylake motherboard. It looks great and has excellent build quality along with reliable components which make it a sound choice when picking an m-ITX motheIrboard.

(previously published in issue January 2016)