MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium Motherboard Review

MSI’s Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium is a feature packed powerhouse that’s got everything you need to take your game to the next level. The MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium is easily one of the most robust solutions for overclocking. If you want a feature rich solution that can deliver the goods on the overclocking front, check this one out.

Introduction

MSI is one of the world's largest motherboard manufacturers. Over the years, the company has built a reputation for quality, innovation and even style. A couple of years ago MSI saw the writing on the wall and went all in with the gaming market. MSI saw that the PC was becoming a specialized entertainment device rather than a general workhorse. These days, people don't need a desktop for general web browsing and sending E-Mails. People can do those tasks from just about anything with internet access. When people invest in a PC, its generally for a specific purpose. That purpose generally seems related to entertainment.

MSI has therefore targeted its product line toward the gamer and computing enthusiast. To that end, features that cater to that market are integrated into its offerings along with the aesthetic gamers seem to prefer. That means creating aggressive, elegant and sometimes even colorful designs through RGB lighting. Gamers and enthusiasts may very well require overclocking capability. MSI, like it's major competition designs motherboards so that they can push CPU's and memory to extreme clock speeds, enhancing the performance of the system. The result is a robust platform that gamers and enthusiasts can depend on for many years even if their upgrade cycles are relatively frequent.

MSI divides its offerings into three segments. Arsenal Gaming, Performance Gaming, and Enthusiast Gaming. These ascend in features and price as you move up through the line. The Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium represents MSI's flagship Z270 Express based product in its Enthusiast gaming line up. For MSI, this is the best they’ve got.

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The MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium is based on Intel's Z270 Express chipset. It supports Intel's 6th and 7th generation Core i5/i7 LGA 1151 CPUs. As you can imagine, this enthusiast grade hardware supports memory speeds up to DDR4 4133MHz through overclocking. Other features geared towards this endeavor include the OC dashboad for on the fly overclocking. The motherboard supports all the latest technological innovations you would expect on any high-end enthusiast class motherboard. Four PCI-Express x16 slots, U.2, dual M.2 slots, 8x SATA ports, USB 3.1, and even onboard controls for overclocking, The Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium supports 2-Way Crossfire and SLI. There are no current "quad-SLI" or Crossfire capable cards worth mentioning but the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium should support any older models and anything that might come out in the future.

In other words, the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium has everything you need or could really want and virtually nothing you wouldn’t. It doesn’t have a PLX chip, Thunderbolt 3 support, or the ultra-premium audio CODEC which does place it somewhat behind some of its competitors’ offerings. MSI is in an odd position. It generally positions its products between the highest end parts from ASUS and GIGABYTE, but doesn’t seem to try and match them on a total feature set. I suspect this is a move designed to keep them from being easily compared in a direct "apples to apples" scenario. Thus, MSI nestles its flagship motherboard near the top of the pile, without trying to compete with stratospheric offerings like GIGABYTE’s Aorus Z270X Gaming 9 which costs more than most X99 motherboards and sits at a price point that’s sure to keep the sales numbers of that thing low. I am not sure if MSI believes it can’t sell motherboards in that arena, or if it simply doesn’t waste R&D cash on a product that only a few dozen people might want. It’s hard to say, but for whatever reason MSI’s flagship Z270 part is a flagship that shows some restraint in its design. That said, don’t let that dissuade you. There is a lot going for the MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium than a stupid four-word name. You get all the features you really need in a high-end motherboard with a few concessions on those ultra-nice to have options that would drive the cost up considerably if MSI chose to integrate them.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The packaging for the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium is standard fare for the brand. It’s the usual metallic silver color with some simple, yet stylized artwork. Inside the box, you’ll find that the motherboard and its accessories are well protected. Inside the package, you’ll find the following items: Driver disc, user manual, quick start guide, warranty card, SATA cables, USB expander card w/cable, SLI bridge, I/O shield, Velcro, OC Dashboard cable, OC dashboard, RGB header extension, thermal probe connectors, case badge, mounting hardware, and SATA cables.

Board Layout

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The layout of the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium is very good. That said, there are a couple of issues that boil down to some personal preferences of mine rather than actual problems. I do not care for the location of the auxiliary 6 pin PCIe power connector as it makes for some ugly cable routing in a lot of cases. I also don't care for the vertical SATA ports as their use in conjunction with the right-angle ports would make for some ugly cabling.

Aesthetically, the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium has MSI's unique "silver" PCB. MSI also uses a "steel armor" on its PCIe and memory slots. Black and silver heat sinks cover the MOSFETs and chipset. It does feature RGB lighting, but for whatever reason the bulk of it is on the back of the PCB. It creates an ambient light in the case, but it doesn’t have the same level of LED coverage that its competitors do. The motherboard has six, four pin fan headers which is nice, although some motherboards feature a few more than that via extension card or by just having more on the PCB.

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The CPU socket area is clear of any major obstructions. The memory slots are a little close to the CPU socket, but that's an unfortunate limitation of the design that MSI isn't responsible for. Even so, you should have no trouble mounting most cooling solutions on the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium. Flanking the CPU socket area, you’ll find some very beefy voltage hardware. MSI uses 5+2 power phases through doublers increasing the count to 10+4. The IR3555A power stages are rated at a massive 60A and are reminiscent of what we see on GIGABYTE motherboards. On paper, the Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium has some of the most robust power delivery capability and thus, it could easily be one of the best overclockers on the market today.

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There are four 288-pin DDR4 DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of RAM at speeds approaching DDR4 4133MHz speeds through overclocking. MSI's signature steel armor reinforces the structure of the PCB and prevents the PCB from flexing when memory is installed. MSI uses isolated memory circuitry for optimal power delivery. Optimized trace paths allow for all slots to be loaded and still achieve higher memory clocks.

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The chipset is cooled via a passive heat sink that sports a black and silver color scheme. The low-profile heat sink prevents clearance issues with expansion card installation. In front of the chipset you'll find six SATA 6Gb/s ports and a U.2 port. To the right of the chipset you'll see two vertical SATA ports. As I said before, I can't stand it when manufacturers do this. I don't like vertical SATA ports in the first place, but a mixture of vertical and right angled ports is even worse.

To the left of the chipset you'll find the onboard power and reset knobs, as well as the overclocking knob. The overclocking knob is a flimsy gimmick that MSI insists on using. I'm curious as to how many people use it, but it's there. It does work in all fairness, but I think it ruins the aesthetics of the motherboard as well as hurting the perceived quality of the motherboard. It feels like it’s made of dime store plastic.

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The expansion slot area is well thought out with the spacing of all PCIe x16 slots being placed in an ideal location for multi-GPU usage. The 4x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots support configurations of x16/x0/x0/x4, x8/x0/x8/x4, or x8/x4/x4/x4. There are two x1 slots as well which are both PCIe gen 3.0 compliant. The PCIe x16 slots are covered in steel armor that increases the boards tensile strength and resistance to sheering. The expansion slot area has the capability of supporting three M.2 drives. Two support 2280 drives and the one closest to the first PCIe slot supports 22110 devices. Interestingly, MSI put the CMOS battery above the primary PCIe x16 slot which prevents you from having to remove the graphics card or cards to replace it. Quite honestly, it would have been better if they had done this with the first M.2 slot as you'll likely need access to that more often than the CMOS battery. That may be weird coming from me given how often I complain about idiotic CMOS battery placement.

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The I/O panel offers plenty of connectivity options. This includes a PS/2 port, 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, 2x Gen 2 ports (1x Type-A, 1x Type-C), 2x RJ-45 ports, 1x clear CMOS button, 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI port, 1x optical output and 5x mini-stereo jacks. The I/O shield is decent. It's padded, colored and marked adequately. Some motherboards, even expensive ones go cheap and give you some plain stamped tin which is annoying to say the least.