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MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon Motherboard Review – Mining Performance

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If you are struggling to get your hands on a motherboard that would handle more than four GPUs at a time, then you might find this review interesting.

Everyone knows that the ASRock H81 PRO BTC R2.0 is probably the best choice for a 6 GPU mining rig regarding its low price, features and reputation. However, those boards are hard to get – the company fails to fulfill the growing demand, which allows other companies to introduce their own alternative models.

I’ve already reviewed one alternative before and today I will review another one – the new MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon, which hit the shelves not long ago.

According to its specifications, it can run up to 7 GPU’s at a time since it features seven PCI-E slots. It is designed to support socket 1151 processors and DDR4 memory. All of this makes this board a great candidate for mining.

It does, however, come with some additional extras that offer no value for mining, but add to the price quite significantly. This means that the AsRock H81 Pro BTC is still a better value for the money, though the MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon is easier to obtain.

Compatibility and Set Up

As it happens with any new motherboard, the drivers for the MSI Z170A aren’t still on point. The latest driver release – the 1.7 (December 2016), made it suitable to be used in a mining rig, though there are still issues that might happen.

It looks like the board comes with an outdated firmware. It does not support the seven GPUs simultaneously unless it is flashed with newer BIOS. Even then, some users complain that the issue persists at some extent.

There are two ways to flash the MSI Z170A – if one didn’t worked for you, then the other one might get the job done.

The first one is to upgrade to the newest official BIOS version. People mostly use this method, though sometimes it won’t work as intended. If flashing your motherboard with the official 1.7 BIOS doesn’t help, or if you’re up to trying something different, then there’s a second option for you as well.

There is a custom BIOS version that was released by the mining community. It is tailored to be used in a mining rig. It is really easy to install and it probably works better than the tweaked official 1.7 version. It might be a good alternative to the 1.7 release, but it doesn’t have enough reviews yet, so I can’t say for sure that it is a safe bet. As you know, I only recommend things I am confident about.

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Flashing the Motherboard with the Official 1.7 BIOS Patch

1 First of all, you’d need to download the latest official firmware upgrade from here:
https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/support/Z170A-GAMING-PRO-CARBON.html#down-bios

2 Unzip it into the root of a USB drive.

3 Unplug all the GPUs from the board and leave only the HDMI cable and the USB drive plugged into it, as well as the keyboard/mouse.

4 Once you turn the PC on, go to the BIOS and press F7 for advanced settings. Once there, go to M-Flash (bottom left side of the screen); you will be asked to confirm whether you want the system to reboot and enter Flash mode. Click on yes and wait for the system to reboot.

5 You will see an M-Flash screen that will ask you to choose the file containing the firmware. Locate it in your pen drive (File name: E7A12IMS.170), select it and confirm selection.

6 After you do that, wait for the BIOS to update.

7 Now, go to the BIOS, Settings -> Advanced -> PCI Subsystem Settings
  • Change ‘PEG0’ and ‘PEG1’ values to ‘Gen1
  • Set ‘Above 4G Decoding’ to ‘Enabled

8 That’s all you have to do. Leave the other settings unchanged; save the settings and plug in the extended USB risers and the HDMI cable to the graphics card.

9 You’re all set now. Verify whether your mining software detects all your GPUs. If it doesn’t then you might try the second unofficial method of patching your motherboard.

Flashing the Motherboard with the Custom BIOS

The process is the same, except that you have to download this BIOS version:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/bk22xpc6afayexc/E7A12IMS.7Z?dl=0

According to the official thread, the motherboard supports up to seven GPUs after being flashed with it.

The only requirement is that you have to have UEFI Windows 10 installed; your Windows HDD has to be in GPT format as well.

The official thread is here: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1819611.0

Once done, you have to perform steps 2 – 6 (inclusive) from the previous method, with the exception that the name of the file you’ll be using is E7A12IMS.181

Once it’s done, you have to enter the BIOS configuration and enable the cryptomining option. Then you can plug in the GPUs and start mining.

Again, I have not verified this on my rig. If you want to, you can contact the creator of the custom BIOS for more information; it’s all up to you. I thought you’d like to know about this alternative in case you need it.

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Where to buy

AmazonPrice Alert

MSI Performance Gaming Intel Z170A LGA 1151 DDR4 USB 3.1 ATX Motherboard (Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon), MSI Computer

Price: $299.97
as of July 15, 2018 5:09 am  
Buy Now
Amazon.com
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Price History

Statistics

Current Price $299.97 July 15, 2018
Highest Price $299.97 February 19, 2018
Lowest Price $299.97 February 19, 2018
Since February 19, 2018

Last price changes

$299.97 February 19, 2018

Final Thoughts

I guess the MSI Z170A might be a decent motherboard for a mining rig. It has solid components and great build quality. The driver compatibility issues might or might not affect you. Also, it is very probable that those issues will be patched soon, since MSI releases new BIOS versions constantly.

Thank you for reading. As always, your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome.

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