Lots of recent motherboards have decked-out color schemes with plenty of bling to catch the eye. MSI is taking the opposite approach with its Z170A SLI Plus, an all-black, buttoned-down Skylake motherboard that won't draw a lot of attention. Don't let the subdued color scheme fool you, though: this board has plenty to offer.
Like its name might suggest, this Z170-based motherboard boasts support for two-way SLI graphics configurations, and MSI kicks in three-way Crossfire support, too. The two main x16 slots are reinforced with metal shrouds for extra durability. A trio of PCIe 3.0 x1 slots, a four-lane M.2 slot, and a U.2 port round out the PCI Express expansion options. The Z170A SLI Plus also has six SATA 6Gbps ports. The four DIMM slots support up to 64GB of DDR4-3600 RAM.
Builders get plenty of external connectors, too. The Z170 chipset's USB 3.0 controller supplies four ports in the rear cluster alongside a pair of USB 2.0 ports. A single USB 3.1 Type-C connector is fed by an ASMedia USB 3.1 controller. One of Intel's Gigabit Ethernet controllers handles wired connectivity duties. Realtek's ALC1150 codec is hooked into MSI's Audio Boost 3 setup, which has isolated circuitry and Nippon Chemi-Con capacitors. The Z170A SLI Plus even has a pair of PS/2 ports for old-school peripherals.
On the software side, MSI includes many of the same utilities as its other high-end boards. The Control Center software handles temperature and power monitoring, fan controls, and overclocking within Windows, and a RAMDisk utility creates a cache in memory for frequently-accessed files.