MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Motherboard Review

[caption id="attachment_190444" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium[/caption] At CES 2017, MSI introduced their latest motherboards designed to support the Intel Kaby Lake processors with the Intel Z270 chipset.  Their motherboard line-up covers all users with 14 different models across three segments of motherboards.  The highest end of these segments is the Enthusiast Gaming class.  This segment includes four models, which focus's on high performance, overclockability, VR and the latest technology.  Of these four models, the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, is their flagship motherboard which aims to be the best motherboard you can buy.  Of course being the best comes with a price tag of $329.99 with free shipping and three years of warranty support.  Let's take a look at this motherboard and see what it offers for that price. For a flagship motherboard, you expect it to have a wide range of support, which the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium doesn't disappoint.  Take a look at the storage options, three M.2, eight SATA 6Gb/s, and a single U.2 port; there are no SATA Express ports (which is good in my opinion).  You want lots of USB connections?  There are two internal USB 3.1 Gen 1 headers, and two USB 2.0 headers; on the back MSI provides four USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, a Gen 2 Type-A, and Gen 2 Type-C.  Dedicated GPU support isn't a slouch either, 2-Way SLI, and 4-Way CrossFire is supported.  To cool all of the equipment there are five fan headers, and a dedicated Liquid Cooling Pump header. One of the recent trends is to integrate RGB LED's onto the motherboard, for those that don't care for that MSI has kept that to a minimum with just a few RGB LED's on the back of the motherboard, while the LED's on the front of the motherboard are used for status indicators only.  Of course that doesn't mean you can't add RGB LED lighting, MSI has included one header to add RGB LED strips to the motherboard. [caption id="attachment_190432" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Game Boost Knob[/caption] One feature that separates the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium from all of the other Z270 motherboards is their Game Boost overclocking feature.  In the far lower corner, there is a large red button, that enables the instant overclocking feature of the motherboard.  In addition, there is a dial here that works as a hardware controller for the Game Boost function.  You have to enable the Hardware Control for Game Boost in the UEFI first, but then you can use the dial to overclock with the Game Boost profiles.  In addition, MSI has included their OC Dashboard, making it so you never have to enter the UEFI again to change the overclock. Let's take a quick look at what MSI tells us about the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium before looking at the retail packaging and accessories, then we'll take a closer look at the flagship Z270 motherboard from MSI. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpRZZxTNIqw&list=PL3578BE23E0E1C5A2&index=1 Features and Specifications
MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Specifications
Socket 1151
CPU (Max Support) i7
Chipset Intel Z270
DDR4 Memory 4000(OC)/3800(OC)/3600(OC)/3200(OC)/3000(OC)/2800(OC)/2600(OC)/2400/2144MHz
Memory Channel Quad
DIMM Slots 4
Max Memory (GB) 64
PCI-E x16 4
PCI-E Gen Gen 3
PCI-E x1 2
SATA III 8
M.2 Slot 3
U.2 1
RAID 0/1/5/10
TPM (header) 1
LAN 10/100/1000
USB 3.1 ports (Front) 4 (Gen 1, Type A)
USB 3.1 port (Rear) 1 (Gen 2, Type A), 1 (Gen 2, Type C), 4 (Gen 1, Type A)
USB 2.0 ports (Front) 4
USB 2.0 ports (Rear) 3
Audio Ports (Rear) Realtek ALC1200 Codec
DisplayPort 1
HDMI 1
DirectX 12
Form Factor ATX
SLI Yes
CrossFire Yes
Warranty  2 Years
[gallery ids="190630,190629,190631"] The Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, immediately starts off the "Titanium" theme with the retail packaging.  The front of the box presents a nice overview of the motherboard, while the back of the box provides a high level brief on the features and specifications.  The front of the box is really a flap that can be opened to reveal a small view of the motherboard, and even more features. [caption id="attachment_190647" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Accessories[/caption] MSI includes many of the common accessories with the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, however as this is a flagship motherboard, they have expanded the accessory pack to include a few additional non-standard parts.  The standard parts include a quick install guide, poster, user manual, SATA cable labels, SLI bridge, rear I/O key plate, and six silver SATA cables.  The more non-standard accessories include a 90 degree OC Dashboard extension cable, voltage check cables, LED light strip extension cables, modular screw pack, and a USB 2.0 expander modules. Let's move on to taking a closer look at the motherboard.

MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Overview

[caption id="attachment_190409" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium[/caption] The MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, is a standard ATX motherboard, with a small extension for the OC Dashboard.  Like most flagship motherboards, it includes a wide range of features on the motherboard, M.2 shield, three M.2, multiple overclocking features, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 headers, and more.  Overall, the motherboard has a "Titanium" look to it with a silver finish on the PCB, and metal shielding on the various heatsinks and I/O cover. [caption id="attachment_190439" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Rear I/O[/caption] Taking a quick look at the rear I/O cluster, we find a slightly modified layout of seven individual clusters.  The first cluster includes a legacy PS/2 port and two USB 2.0 ports.  Next comes an external Clear CMOS button and a single USB 2.0 port that is also used for the BIOS Flashback+ function.  The next two clusters are nearly identical, each cluster includes an Ethernet port and two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports.  What makes them different is the left Ethernet port is powered by Intel I211 Gigabit, where the one on the right is Intel I219-V Gigabit, they can work together with Intel LAN Teaming Technology.  In addition, the two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports with the Intel I219-V Ethernet port is also VR-Ready.  The Video out options include Display Port and HDMI.  Then we find the USB 3.1 Gen 2, Type-A and Type-C ports.  Finally the 7.1 audio cluster includes the standard 5 audio jacks, and one Optical S/PDIF port, which is powered by the Realtek ALC1220 CODEC and supported with Audio Boost 4 and Nahimic 2. [caption id="attachment_190443" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Intel 1151 Socket[/caption] Along the edge is the standard auxillary power connector(s).  MSI has included a 4-pin and an 8-pin connector, for most users, you can connect either one and be just fine.  If you need more power, connect the other connector.  Around the CPU socket is the 16-phase power delivery design, with some large heatsinks covering VRM and Mosfets. [caption id="attachment_190442" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium DDR4 and OC Dashboard[/caption] Here we find the four DIMM slots, that supports up to 64GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory with speeds over 4000MHz; in addition it supports Intel XMP settings if you prefer to use those.  The DDR4 slots has the MSI Steel Armor in place, which is a single piece of metal that provides EMI-shielding, and increases the strength of the DDR4 slots with added solder points on the back of the motherboard.  Above the DDR4 slots we find CPU_FAN1, while to the lower right we find the PUMP_FAN1.  SYS_FAN4 is found just above the 24-pin ATX power cable.  While two SATA 6Gb/s connections are found to the left of the ATX power connector, controlled by ASMedia ASM1061.  In the lower right corner, we find an add-on PCB that is MSI's OC Dashboard; this is an external overclocking control module.  Here we find buttons to adjust your base clock by turning the Multiplier or BCLK Up or Down.  Switch between the two UEFI chips at a press of a button, and switch into Slow Mode to temporarily decrease clock speed.  You can clear the CMOS and do a complete discharge of the CMOS options.  If you want, MSI has included an extension cable to move the OC Dashboard away from the motherboard to a more convienent location.  Finally, there are nine voltage check points to monitor the voltages while overclocking.  This board is made for overclocking in every way possible. [caption id="attachment_190441" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium[/caption] In the corner of the motherboard with the Intel Z270 chipset, we find a large heatsink with a nice silver cover on it, featuring the MSI Dragon logo.  In the corner we find a pair of buttons; power and reset buttons along with the Game Boost dial.  Next to the U.2 connector is the SYS_FAN3 header.  Surrounding the power button  are the front panel connectors.  There is also a UEFI selector switch, allowing you to choose the UEFI chip you want to boot from A (default) or B. [caption id="attachment_190440" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Front SATA and USB 3.1 Gen 1[/caption] The majority of the storage device connections are horizontal to the motherboard, so they face off the edge of the motherboard.  This is pretty standard, however one of the USB 3.0 headers is also in this orientation.  I don't mind that, however the USB 3.0 header cable is fairly stiff in most cases, and could be rather difficult to manipulate for a secure connection.  The other connections that are horizontal to the motherboard are the U.2 connection, and six of the SATA 6Gb/s connections controlled by the Intel Z270 chipset, the other two SATA 6Gb/s connections are to the right of the USB 3.0 header sitting vertically to the motherboard. [caption id="attachment_190445" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium PCIe Steel Armor and M.2 Shield[/caption] Turning towards the PCIe slots, we find there are a total of four x16 slots, and two x1 slots.  Each of the x16 slots are PCIe Gen 3, protected by MSI Steel Armor, and supports up to 4-way CrossFire or 2-way SLI.  Nestled between the x16 slots are the three M.2 slots which supports SATA or PCIe devices, and Intel Optane in all three slots.  A couple of additional things to point out, next to the first PCIe x16 slot is an additional 6-pin power for multi gpu solutions.  Along the left edge, we find the usual headers which include Front Audio, SysFan_2, LED Strip, debug LED code reader, PCIe shut-off switch, two internal USB 2.0 headers, and another USB 3.1 Gen 1 header.MSI M.2 Heat Shield MSI acknowledges the overheating potential on M.2 drives, so they have developed a M.2 Shield, that should help pull some heat away from the drive.  There is only one on the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, on the middle M.2 slot; for the price of the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, I would have preferred MSI include the M.2 Shield on all three M.2 slots.  There is a protective film covering the thermal pad, so you'll have to remove that.  Then you can install your M.2 drive and secure it with the screw with the shield.

Intel Z270 Test Platform

[caption id="attachment_190652" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Test Bench[/caption]
Intel LGA 1151 Z270 Test Platform
Component Brand / Model Live Pricing
Processor Intel i7-7700K Click Here
Memory Kingston 32GB DDR4 2666MHz Click Here
CPU Cooler Corsair H105 Click Here
Video Card eVGA GTX 970SC Click Here
Hard Drive Intel Pro 2500 180GB SSD Click Here
M.2 Drive Kingston HyperX Predator 240GB Click Here
Power Supply Corsair CX750M Click Here
Operating System Windows 10-Pro 64-Bit Click Here
[caption id="attachment_190563" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium CPUZ Stock[/caption] The MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium will be installed on an open air test bed, running a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit.  All patches, drivers and firmware will be updated to the latest versions, and a 24-hour burn-in test will be conducted prior to any testing. All testing will be done in a temperature controlled room, which is maintained at 70F (21.1C).  Whenever possible, testing will be done using integrated benchmarks to ensure consistency.  If an integrated benchmark is not available, OCAT or FRAPS will be used to analyze the FPS.  All benchmarks will be run multiple times, with the results averaged.

Value Added Software

It would be unusual for any major motherboard manufacturer not to provide a driver disc with different bundled software.  MSI does a good job at making sure that the included driver disc has everything you need to get your new motherboard up and running.  Of course, we all know that the disc's become outdated pretty quick, especially close to the initial release, so it is good to make sure you get the latest from MSI's website.  Or use their Live Update 6 tool to make sure things are kept up to date. [gallery ids="190532,190537,190534,190535,190533,190536"] Once you start the installation from the included disc, MSI provides a nice interface to know exactly what you are able to install from the disc.  The main menu, provides you the option to select which drivers or bundled software to install.  Next, we move to the MSI Utilities, these are various tools that MSI provides to make your system run smoother.  The next couple of options, provides an easy way to install Google Chrome, Norton Security (with a free 6 month subscription), and Gamecaster; all of which are easy to obtain on the internet.  Finally, MSI provides a menu that gives you some information on various aspects of the system, such as driver version, and hardware based information.  This is useful should you have to contact MSI for technical support.  MSI provides over a dozen applications in their software bundle, we'll take a look at just a couple of them. [gallery ids="190539,190540,190538"] Probably the most important application is the MSI Command Center.  The MSI Command Center is the place to go to allow users to make changes to the system settings, such as fan control and overclocking, and monitoring the system status.  Most of these can be done through various other popular applications, MSI just makes it easy to do it all in one place.  CPU Overclocking can be done on a per core basis or all at the same time, simply use the sliders, +/- or key in the desired value; you can do it either way, whichever is your preference.  DRAM Overclocking is also available, however I couldn't adjust the Kingston Fury frequency here, only in the UEFI..  Most using the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, will be using a dedicated GPU, so the IGP menu won't be used.  Finally, the GameBoost menu is just like the dial within the UEFI or on the motherboard, turn it to one of the preconfigured overclocks. [caption id="attachment_190541" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Command Center MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Command Center Advanced Options[/caption] While the main screens provide an easy way to adjust the CPU and memory speeds with both manual settings and Gameboost options, in the Advanced menu option you can do a lot of fine tuning on the various components.  Such as the Voltage menu, you can adjust the voltage to around 13 different voltage points.  The Fan menu, allows you to control the fan speed of fans connected to the 4 System fan headers.  DRAM, let's you start adjusting timings of the memory.  Sensors is the one stop shop to see the temperature sensors and fan speeds; you can't change anything here, just for watching and monitoring. [caption id="attachment_190542" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Command Center MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Command Center Settings Menus[/caption] The System menu allows you to configure recordings and monitoring of your system operation such as Voltage, Fan Speeds, Temperature over time.  Within Settings you can also enable the Mobile Control Application, which provides some useful remote control options.  Finally, with the Warning menu you can tell the system when you want to be alerted to various functions, such as if the Temperature reaches 85C. [caption id="attachment_190543" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Command Center MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Command Center Information[/caption] The final sub-menu is the Information option, here you get a lot of the same information provided by CPUID's CPU-Z and HWMonitor.  MSI has a User Guide for their Command Center available online, you can find it here. [caption id="attachment_190544" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Gaming App[/caption] One of MSI's newer apps is their Gaming App; it includes some additional features to enhance your gaming performance for MSI motherboards and graphics cards.  Quick on-the-fly overclocking options include an OC Mode, Gaming Mode and Silent Mode depending on your needs at that specific time.  An integrated OSD (On Screen Display) mode allows you to see a wide range of system information to ensure your system is running smoothly.  Across the bottom of the main screen are sub-menus for Gaming Hotkey, which allows you to create customize your keyboard for everything from macros, remapping keys and single key login ID/Passwords.  Mouse Master is an interesting macro tool for your mouse, allowing you to map out mouse movement and clicks. [caption id="attachment_190545" align="aligncenter" width="548"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Gaming App LED Control[/caption] Recently, everything has become RGB LED enabled.  While the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium doesn't have many on-board LED's, it does have a RGB LED strip header.  Within the Gaming App, is where you find the tool to control the RGB LED strip.  I thought this was an odd place to put the tool, I was looking for something called Mystic Light as that is the feature that they talk about; that is their mobile app name.  Within the tool you can adjust the lighting style with five different effects (Static, Breathing, Flashing, Double Flashing, and Random).  In addition, you can adjust the color of the LED Strip by enabling the Extended LED effects, also, here is where you can have the LED's react to Music or CPU Temperature.  Unfortunately, the RGB LED strip I have isn't Mystic Light certified, so I can't say if that is why I am not seeing a RGB color selection wheel. You can read more about MSI's Gaming App here. MSI provides a large number of applications to enhance your experience with their products, and they are constantly updating them with new features.  Most of what they provide can be done through other applications, however having them all in one place makes it extremely easy and helps to ensure they work properly with your MSI hardware.

UEFI BIOS

[caption id="attachment_190554" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI Default Options[/caption] The UEFI for the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium starts off looking pretty basic.  However, the initial options are probably some of the most used.  At the top, MSI provides a one click overclock option with Game Boost, which we have taken a look at here.  Next comes enabling the XMP configuration on the memory.  Some general information about the system is at the top, with the boot order options directly underneath the information.  All pretty basic, but very important options.  For those that want to get into more details, MSI provides those in submenu's that are broken down. [caption id="attachment_190555" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI Advanced Settings[/caption] The first submenu is Settings, here you find almost all of the normal options you find in a classic BIOS menu.  The System Status menu provides a high level overview of the system version numbers, and storage devices.  Advanced, you get into the configuration of the Integrated Peripherals, IGP, USB, Ethernet, PCI Subsystem, ACPI, and Power Management.  Boot goes into more detail on the boot order and settings.  Security allows you to set a password on the system, enable Trusted Computing, and Chassis Intrusion.  Save & Exit is pretty self explanatory. [caption id="attachment_190556" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI Overclocking[/caption] Most people looking to use a flagship motherboard will probably be overclocking their system as well.  MSI has made it extremely easy for the novice to overclock their system with Gameboost and showing you what it modify's when you exit the UEFI.  For those that want to get into the minute settings, the OC memu will provide you a huge number of options, which are well laid out to make it easy to find exactly what you want.  Adjusting the CPU Ratio is done using either a direct key in of the desired speed, or using the +/- keys to manually select the desired ratio.  There is no drop down menu to select it though. [caption id="attachment_190557" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI Memory Frequency[/caption] Like all the other options, MSI makes doing basic overclocking very easy.  The Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium automatically selects the best speed for the memory kit, however there is a drop down that will allow you to manually adjust the speed.  The drop down has configurations all the way to DDR4-4133MHz!  If you are unsure what you can overclock your memory to, you can try the various speeds, or you can use MSI's Memory Try It tool, where it'll choose what it thinks are the best speeds.  For the Kingston Fury 2666MHz kit we used, it presented us options up to DDR4-3333MHz @ CL16. [gallery ids="190379,190551,190552,190550"] For those that don't like to adjust the fine settings, you just want to get things running quickly, the EZ Mode is accessible by pressing F7.  Here you find information on the system laid out in groups to know exactly what is going on.  There really aren't any options to change here in the main menu's, it is purely for informational purposes.  At the bottom though, there are submenu's that make it easy to activate and configure a few options such as M.2 Genie (if you happen to have two of the same M.2 drives and want to run them as a RAID). Let's take a quick look at the Overclocking capabilities of the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium.

Overclocking

We will follow our standard overclocking process of adjusting the CPU Core Ratio, while leaving the CPU Voltage set to automatic to do simple overclocking.  Starting with the Boost setting of 45 (4.5GHz), we will boot into Windows and run several CPU intensive benchmarks.  Once the benchmarks are complete, we will increase the CPU Core Ratio by 1, repeating as necessary until we get a failure. [caption id="attachment_190625" align="aligncenter" width="405"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium CPUz 5.1GHz[/caption] Our previous attempts at CPU overclocking our Z270 test systems has yielded a maximum stable overclock of 5.0GHz.  When we took a quick look at the MSI Game Boost feature on the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, we were able to get a stable overclock of 5.1GHz, with 5.2GHz being bootable.  Switching the CPU Voltage over to manual control, we set it to a maximum voltage of 1.55V to see whether that would help get a stable 5.2GHz.  Unfortunately, it didn't do any good.  At this point, the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium has the overclocking record for this CPU at 5.1GHz, running at 1.4V! [caption id="attachment_190626" align="aligncenter" width="405"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium DDR4 3100MHz[/caption] The Kingston Fury DDR4 memory kit has an XMP profile of 2666MHz, which was configured correctly within the UEFI, however if it isn't enabled, a single click within the UEFI will enable it.  Overclocking this memory kit, we have averaged between 2933MHz and 3000MHz throughout the Z170 generation and the recent Z270 motherboard testing.  On the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, we were able to get a perfectly stable overclock of 3100MHz!  Booting up at 3200MHz was successful, however we would get random BSOD and the system would be unstable.  With our experience with this memory kit, we believe that 3100MHz is the limited to 3100MHz as we have been unable to get a stable overclock above that. Automatic Easy Overclocking Tinkering with the individual settings is fun for some, others want it to be as easy as possible.  MSI has gone to great lengths to make overclocking on the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium to be as simple as possible.  There are multiple ways to overclock the motherboard, from software controlled using the Command Center, manual UEFI settings, Game Boost in the UEFI, Game Boost dial on the motherboard and the OC Dashboard.  As the Game Boost method is the easiest, we used that to do an analysis of the quick overclocking feature.  This reinforced what we found in our manual attempts.  5.2GHz is possible, but very unstable with CPU intensive applications.  While 5.1GHz was stable enough to run through the various benchmarks.  You can read out our overclocking experience with the Game Boost settings here. [caption id="attachment_190421" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Game Boost[/caption] For memory, there are fewer methods at overclocking however they are just as easy.  Within the UEFI you can always adjust the clock speeds, timings and power manually.  MSI has also built in profiles for the popular memory speeds using a simple drop down menu. [caption id="attachment_190557" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI Memory Frequency[/caption] Another method MSI has is the Memory Try It function, here MSI has integrated several profiles that populate depending on your memory kit.  For the Kingston Fury DDR4 kit, it presented us with just a few speeds up to 3333MHz, and it shows lowering the timings a little.  We went for the highest possible setting (3333MHz) and it failed to post.  So we went down to the next step, 3200MHz and while we could boot into Windows, it was once again unstable.  Taking it down to 3100MHz the system was once again stable. [caption id="attachment_190627" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Memory Try It[/caption] To summarize, the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium has received our highest overclock for this hardware set at a stable 5.1GHz with DDR4 running at 3100MHz.  This was accomplished by both manual settings, and using the easy overclocking options MSI has integrated into the motherboard. Now let's get to doing some testing to see how the system performs.

General Performance Testing

SiSoftware Sandra CPU Arithmetic [caption id="attachment_190633" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Sandra CPU Arithmetic[/caption] SiSoftware Sandra Memory Bandwidth [caption id="attachment_190634" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Sandra Memory Bandwidth[/caption] Maxon Cinebench R15 [caption id="attachment_190635" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Cinebench R15[/caption] PCMark 8 Advanced Home Overall Score [caption id="attachment_190636" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium PCMark 8 - Advanced Home[/caption] CPUz Bench [caption id="attachment_190637" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium CPUz Bench[/caption]  

Gaming Performance Testing

3DMark Time Spy [caption id="attachment_190638" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium 3DMark - Time Spy[/caption] Rockstar Games: Grand Theft Auto V [caption id="attachment_190639" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Grand Theft Auto V[/caption] Codemasters: Dirt Rally [caption id="attachment_190640" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Dirt Rally[/caption] Eidos: Thief [caption id="attachment_190641" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Thief[/caption] CD Projekt: Witcher 3 [caption id="attachment_190642" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Witcher 3[/caption]  

Storage Performance

Storage performance is done using CrystalDiskMark version 5.2.1.  Each drive tested will be securely erased prior to executing the test, while a reboot will be done between each round of testing.  Testing the SATA connection, we will use a SanDisk Ultra II 480GB SSD, with a rated speed of 550MB/s for Sequential Read, and up to 500MB/s for Sequential Write.  The M.2 interface will be tested with Kingston's HyperX Predator 240GB drive, with a rated speed of up to 1400MB/s Sequential Read, and 600MB/s Sequential Write.  To test USB 3.1 Gen 1 we will use an external USB 3.0 hard drive dock along with the SanDisk Ultra II SSD. SATA 6Gb/s [caption id="attachment_190648" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium CrystalDiskMark - SATA 6Gb/s[/caption] M.2 [caption id="attachment_190649" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium CrystalDiskMark M.2[/caption] USB 3.1 Gen 1 [caption id="attachment_190650" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium CrystalDiskMark USB 3.1 Gen 1[/caption] Storage Performance Results:  Storage performance is a bit of a mix, for SATA and USB 3.1 Gen 1 it lead the pack in both Sequential Read and Write.  For M.2 performance, that was reversed and was close to 100MB/s behind the leader of the Z270 motherboards for Sequential Read.  For Sequential Write, the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, was just 1.2MB/s behind the lead motherboard.

Power Consumption and Temperature

Using a P3 Kill-A-Watt meter, we monitored the power consumption of the test system throughout each phase of testing, making note of the highest and lowest reading.  For temperatures HWMonitor was used to keep track of the temperature after running multiple rounds of benchmarks and games. [caption id="attachment_190653" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Power Usage[/caption] The Intel Core i7-7700K pulls more power than the previous generation Intel Core i7-6700K, however it doesn't draw much more power; pulling 6W more at idle, and 4W more under a full load.  When compared to the other Z270 motherboards we have tested it pulled the least amount of power at stock speeds.  Which changed once we overclocked the CPU and memory, increasing the power from 53W at idle, to 78W at idle, an increase of 25W while idle.  Load power increased as well from 251W to 283W, a 32W increase! [caption id="attachment_190654" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Temperature[/caption] While the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium pulled the least amount of power, it also came in at the coolest while idle.  Once we heated it up with a full load, the CPU became the hottest in the Z270 testing at 56C, still well within accepted temperature range.  As you would expect though, once overclocked, the temperatures went up, reaching as high as 87C.  Which is starting to get into the dangerous realm, but that's the risk you take for overclocking.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

[caption id="attachment_190622" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium[/caption] If you are concerned about performance, the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium stands up with the best of the motherboards.  As we have seen time and time again, when it comes to the performance of the motherboards there is usually just a small difference.  What matters more is the quality of the components, and the added features. Some motherboards are setting themselves apart by integrating lots of RGB LED options, the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium, keeps it's onboard LEDs to a minimum, and mostly as system indicators only.  However, they have include a Mystic Light RGB LED strip header on the motherboard for those that want to use RGB LED strips to light up their system. [caption id="attachment_190432" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Game Boost Knob[/caption] A couple of standout features on the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium is the Game Boost knob on the motherboard.  With it, you do not need to enter the UEFI to change your overclock, there are preset configuration you can select just by dialing it in.  You also have the option of using the OC Dashboard, Windows software or the UEFI to do your overclocking.  MSI doesn't limit you to one or two methods, they have made sure that no matter how you want to overclock, the options are there.  Plus if you happen to need to reset the UEFI, there are several methods to reset the UEFI, along with an external clear button on the rear I/O panel. Overclocking, is one place that the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium took a stand away from the other motherboards we have tested.  In both CPU and memory overclocking, it went beyond our previous limitations.  The CPU we have only been able to get a stable 5.0GHz, with a bootable but unstable 5.1GHz.  The XPower Gaming Titanium, we were able to get a stable 5.1GHz, and an unstable 5.2GHz.  While the memory went from a previous limitation of 3000MHz up to 3100MHz.  We believe that both the CPU and memory overclock are the hardware limitations, however that doesn't stop us from trying to break through those barriers. [caption id="attachment_190553" align="aligncenter" width="645"]MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium UEFI Gameboost 10[/caption] There are only a few things that I'd like to see MSI take a closer look at.  First, the M.2 Shield should be included on all three M.2 ports, not just one.  The price of M.2 PCIe NVMe drives are dropping and you can pick up a 480GB model for under $200 now. That means people are more likely going to have more than one.  Next, is purely a personal preference,  is the USB 3.0 header that is horizontal to the motherboard, I can see the reason for this however I personally don't care for it in that orientation due to the rigidness of the USB 3.0 front panel cable. The MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium comes with a high price tag of $329.99 with free shipping.  For that you are getting an extremely feature rich motherboard that supports the latest Intel Kaby Lake processors, along with all of the latest storage and enthusiast features available. Legit Bottom Line:  The MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium looks great, and runs great.  For novices the overclocking features make it extremely easy to squeeze extra performance out of your system.  For experts, the overclocking features are designed for you to be able to push the system to its limit.