The Z270 motherboard will get you six Intel chipset based SATA 6 Gb/s storage ports. Combined in here are three M.2 PCI Express slots using x4 PCIe lanes, giving these (Optane compatible) ports not 10 GB/sec but 32 GB/sec of performance. IF you'd use all three you loose the SATA2 slot 5&6 as they share the PCIe-Lanes. So you'd max out at four usable SATA3 connectors (yet gain 3x M2). There are plenty of USB 3.0 and 3.1 ports available through internal motherboard connectors, some Intel based, some Asmedia ASM2142 powered. BTW the industry calls USB 3.0 / USB 3.1 Gen 1 these days, a little misleading TBH. USB 3.1 Gen 2 would be the new and proper 10 Gbps connectors. This motherboard has all gen 2 connectors and thus you get full speed.
Here we can see the four DIMM slots which offer support for dual-channel DDR4 memory up to even 4133 MHz (OC). If you activate the XMP 2.0 profile in the BIOS, your memory will be automatically configured for you at its maximum clock speed and recommended voltage. You can install a maximum of 64 GB in total. Again, XMP 2.0 must be supported, we'll show you this setup running at 2133 and extremely high XMP frequency measurements later on in the article.
Yep, you may unleash some more power with graphics configurations. Support for up to 3 full length discrete VGA cards. Mind you, we can only recommend you to go with 2x multi-GPU. Three cards would bog down the 3rd card at a x4 link where two cards would both get x8 Gen 3.0 PCIe links. To the far left you can see 'Audio Boost', underneath is a Realtek ALC 1220 codec housed for your audio. To the right you can see the M.2 shield.
So the M.2 shield is handy. It is nothing more than a simple metal cover with pre-applied thermally-conductive gap-filling pad. Designed to be compatible with any length of M.2 SSD, the shield is hinged at the bottom and clamps down over the top of the device in order to give the chips a larger surface area to bleed off excess heat.
Obviously the unit has no heatsink, so you will need airflow to cool the M.2 additionally. MSI includes just one shield, whereas there are three physical M.2 slots. Btw another thing I like about it, some cheaper OEM version M.2 devices have a green PCB, you can cover that up really nicely with these shields. The effectiveness of the shield is hard to measure. On another board we did stress the M2 SSD long term, but did not notice any improvement on thermal throttling really. Then again, every little bit helps.