MSI Z170A GAMING PRO: A Nice Board For Building A Skylake Linux System
Written by Michael Larabel in Motherboards on 27 September 2015. Page 1 of 1. 9 Comments

Since I started delivering my Skylake Linux tests back in August, I've received many inquiries from Phoronix readers curious about what motherboard I've been using, etc. Long story short, all of my initial Intel Skylake Linux testing has been done with the MSI Z170A GAMING PRO motherboard, which has been working out well.

I bought the MSI Z170A GAMING PRO when picking up the Core i5 6600K for Linux testing at Phoronix. Leading me to the Z170A GAMING PRO was that it was one of the few motherboards at Skylake's launch time in sufficient quantities, its priced at less than $200 USD ($170 right now), generally having good experiences with MSI motherboards, and MSI has been friendly with Phoronix and the Linux community in recent times.

Here's the specs on the board:

CPU
- Supports 6th Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors, and Intel Pentium and Celeron processors for Socket LGA1151

Chipset
- Intel Z170 Express Chipset

Main Memory
- 4 x DDR4 memory slots, support up to 64GB
- Supports DDR4 3600(OC)/ 3200(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400/ 2133 MHz
- Dual channel memory architecture
- Supports ECC, un-buffered memory
- Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)

Slots
- 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4 modes)
- 3 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
- 1 x PCI slot

Onboard Graphics
- 1 x HDMI port, support a maximum resolution of 4096x2160@24Hz, 2560x1600@60Hz
- 1 x DVI-D port, support a maximum resolution of 1920x1200@60Hz

Multi-GPU
- Supports 3-Way AMD CrossFire Technology
- Supports 2-Way NVIDIA SLI Technology

Storage - Intel Z170 Express Chipset
- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (2 ports reserved for SATA Express port)
- 1 x M.2 slot
- Supports PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gb/s standards,4.2cm/ 6cm/ 8cm length M.2 SSD cards
- Supports PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe Mini-SAS SSD with Turbo U.2 Host Card
- 1 x SATAe port (PCIe 3.0 x2)
- Supports Intel Smart Response Technology for Intel Core processors

RAID
- Intel Z170 Express Chipset
- Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 for SATA storage devices

USB
- ASMedia ASM1142 Chipset
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) ports on the back panel
- Intel Z170 Express Chipset
- 6 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) ports
- 6 x USB 2.0 (High-speed USB) ports

Audio
- Realtek ALC1150 Codec
- 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
- Supports S/PDIF output

LAN
- 1 x Intel I219-V Gigabit LAN controller

Back Panel I/O Ports
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse port
- 2 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x DVI-D port
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen2 ports
- 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
- 1 x HDMI port
- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
- 5 x OFC audio jacks

Dimension
- 12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm)
- ATX Form Factor

Now using this MSI Z170A GAMING PRO motherboard for nearly two months, I'm quite happy with the purchase and will likely buy another one when finally getting my hands on a Core i7 6700K shortly. The motherboard has been tested with Fedora and Ubuntu while outlined in my various Skylake articles it's recommended to ideally be running Linux 4.3 Git due to finally enabling the Skylake graphics acceleration by default, audio support, and various other Skylake-specific support improvements in this latest kernel.

If you want to see some Linux benchmarks with this motherboard you can see the HD Graphics 530 tests, i5-6600K CPU benchmarks, the Skylake HD comparison, etc. Overall I'm happy with the board and it can be found for less than $200 USD.


About The Author
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.


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