Board Layout and Pictures
So what all does the X470 Gaming M7 AC have going on, well for starters this isn’t one of MSI’s specialty boards so it isn’t white or silver and it doesn’t have camo or carbon fiber even if the memory AMD sent would have gone perfectly with a camo board. This actually looks a lot like MSI’s pro theme boards and that is a good thing. You get a black PCB and a dark gray for accents on the heatsinks and rear I/O and just a touch of chrome that goes well with the guards on the memory and PCIe x16 slots. The X470 Gaming M7 AC is an extended ATX board and with that space, MSI packed in a lot of features so today I’ going to take a closer look at what is on the board.
Keeping everything cool is important and for the Gaming M7 AC, MSI has a few large heatsinks. Up around the CPU socket for the VRMs there are two heatsinks. Surprisingly MSI didn’t link them together with a heatpipe but both are tall with grooves cut into the sides to add to the surface area. This gives a simple look from the top and a more complex look from the side, especially the vertical slots cut in as well. They are both finished in a flat black with gloss black lines on top. The other half of the cooling is a combination heatsink that looks like a bug U. The chipset cooler has been combined to also handle both M.2 drives. This heatsink doesn’t have any special cuts in it as these don’t need as much cooling as the VRMs, plus you need to save room for cards to be installed in the PCIe slots. They went with the same flat black and gloss black finish here but added in a little grey as well with the nameplate that has the MSI logo and the gaming dragon.
The rear I/O is also tied into the whole black and grey theme with a cover over everything. Hiding the chrome looking I/O always helps give a nicer look and this one really goes with the chipset cooler. This is where they have the Gaming M7 model name at as well. The cover is plastic so it doesn’t add any additional cooling capabilities like a few boards have been starting to do. It does have two RGB sections above and below the model name as well to give a little color to the otherwise monochromatic board.
So starting up in the top left corner of the board most of the space is filled up with the rear I/O and cover. In addition the CPU socket itself and the VRM coolers. We do have a total of 8 chokes over on the left and 6 up top for what looks like 14 total power phases but MSI has said there are 15 on this board. Those are fed by two 8-pin power connections up at the top edge. Then down below the left VRM heatsink, there is a 4-pin PWM fan header for a system fan.
Over on the top right corner, there is a lot more going on. The biggest thing here are the four DDR4 DIMMs. MSI has shielded each DIMM as well. But just above them, we have a CPU cooler fan header and an RGB lighting header for any lights up top. In the corner you get a Corsair header, this lets you actually hook your corsair lighting or RGB fans up using the included cord to control them with your Mystic lighting app. Going along the side of the board next to the ram you have three more 4-pin PWM headers but the top one is a water pump header that supports up to 2 amps. There is the 24-pin motherboard power of course and right above it the EZ Debug LEDs. These let you know where you are in the boot process and if your boot fails it will show you where to look. Also, there is a small header labeled JSMB1, this seems to be an SMB connector used for the old Green Power Genie device.
Moving on down to the bottom right corner, the large combination chipset and M.2 heatsink take up most of the inside space. But around the outside edge, MSI has slipped in a lot here. First off you have six SATA ports that are all right angled on the right edge. Then below that is a USB 3.1 jack that is also right-angled. This isn’t the only USB 3.1 header, there is a second one own on the bottom edge and right next to that one is a new USB 3.1 Gen 2 header as well. Combine that with the two USB 2.0 headers and you aren’t going to run out of ports. This is great because I’ve had a few builds recently that needed two USB 3.0/3.1 jacks just for the front panel connection and I only had one. Anyhow also along the right edge near the corner is an LED diagnostic readout. In the corner where I always prefer to have the front panel connections for easy access, MSI has put the addressable LED header. Don’t get me wrong, I love RGB but I would have been happy with this port anywhere. For buttons, the X470 Gaming M7 AC has small power and reset buttons and next to them a knob. This is an overclocking knob to let you turn on automatic overclocks without even getting into the BIOS.
Well, we have finally made it all the way around to the bottom left section of the Gaming M7 AC. Starting down along the bottom edge next to the USB 2.0 header that I’ve already talked about is the front panel connection. Man, this is a little far over, I think some cases may even have a hard time reaching. I would also prefer this be color coded or at least have clear labels next to it, some people will have trouble with this connection both because of its location and because it's hard to see. Beside the front panel, headers is one last PWM fan header for a total of 5. Next to that is another normal RGB header and then the front panel audio header on the far left. So before getting into the PCIe layout, I wanted to touch on the two M.2 slots under the U shaped heatsink. The top M.2 runs off the CPU directly and has 4 lanes but doesn’t support SATA drives. The second M.2 is also x4 for the PCI lanes but this one will support SATA based M.2 drives, not that I would recommend them to most people. As for the PCIe slots, you get three x16 length slots and three x1 slots. I like the gap under the top x16 slot and it's nice that you can slip a drive in above your video card or use that space to gain more room around your CPU. The bottom x16 slot is the only one without a full metal shielding and it only has x4 lanes. The two other slots share 16 lanes, so if you use the top one you get x16 but if you use them both they are both x8. This is assuming you aren’t running a Raven Ridge CPU with only 8 lanes, in that case, only the top slot will work and you only get x8 on it.
Tucked away up under your PCIe cards is the audio chipset on the M7. MSI used a Dual Realtek ALC1220 Codec setup for 7.1 channel audio. The audio boost 4 processor is up under a metal shield and next to it is an auto-detecting headphone amp. You can also see that they went with high-quality caps as well. Nothing here stands out above the last MSI board I took a look at, but overall this is basically the standard for decent onboard audio performance.
For the rear, I/O MSI did a good job of filling out the space. On the left, you have a clear CMOS button to reset the BIOS and a button to boot you directly into the BIOS. Then next to it are two USB 2.0 jacks paired up with an old school PS/2 port for those old-school keyboards. There are a total of four USB 3.1 ports in two different stacks. Then there are two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, one being the Type-C. Those are up under the network jack, MSI went with the Killer E2500 for the onboard and for wireless they went with the Intel 8265 wireless AC with dual band. Last but not least the audio jacks are over on the right with the traditional 5+optical layout.
The back of the X470 Gaming M7 AC doesn’t really have too much going on. We can see the flat black PCB and this helps highlight the split PCB for the audio chipset that runs from the bottom where the front panel audio connection is up to the bottom section of the rear I/O. There aren’t any special brackets other than the standard AM4 back bracket and the M.2 slots are both on the front. We do have the same warning arrows printed on the PCB that I saw on the last MSI board that came into the office. It looks like they are doing that across the board to make sure people don’t ground out their board on a standoff and fry everything.