MSI brings in the era of Z97 by delivering a solid overclocking-friendly board with stylish design.

MSI MPOWER Z97 110 1024x576 Hands on with MSIs Z97 MPower Max AC motherboard

Intel’s Z97 chipset is out in full force, and motherboards supporting the new standard have been flooding the market over the last few weeks.

Today we’ll be taking a look at one of MSI’s contributions to the lot, the Z97 MPower Max AC.

A first look at the board reveals a stylish contrast between the black and yellow used in the color scheme. While motherboards are rarely seen when used, putting in a lot of effort into making the board look nice may seem like a silly endeavour. For many that may be the case and the motherboard will be tucked inside the computer, but for some enthusiasts that have a case with a window this stylish design will be a welcome addition.

Looking at the materials used in the board, and it becomes clear that MSI didn’t cheap out on components. This motherboard uses DrMOS 4, Hi-C CAP, SFC and DARK CAP series capacitors.

As overclocking is in the name of this board, as expected MSI makes it easy for the user to overclock on this board (at an event in Ho Chi Minh City, MSI set world overclocking records with the board). The board has an OC Genie overclocking button, as well as tools for measuring voltage.

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What’s on-board?

Somewhat controversially, MSI has included M.2 on this motherboard. While M.2 certainly has its potential as a future protocol, given its super fast 10 Gbps transmission speed,  there aren’t that many devices currently use the protocol.

MSI includes the usual selection of three PCIe x16 slots, two x8, as well as four PCIe x1 slots. There are also eight ports that support SATA 6GB/s, and six of these ports have RAID support. As far as other connectivity ports go, MSI includes eight USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, 802.11ac, gigabit ethernet, as well as HDMI and DisplayPort ports.

For on-board sound, MSI includes a Realtek ALC1150 audio controller. There’s a full selection of sound ports.

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Benchmarking

Since the motherboard is based on the Z97 chipset, and obtaining such a chip is next to impossible right now, we only tested the M.2 SSD and 802.11 ac wireless speeds. For SSD testing we used the Samsung XP941 SSD.

As you can see below, the SSD was able to hit an average read speed of 733.3 MB/s and a write speed of 524 MB/s. With the ATTO Disk Benchmark app, it hit a maximum speed of 830.871 MB/s and a write speed of 474 MB/s.

Conclusion

The MSI Z97 MPower Max AC is not a perfect board, but it’s far from a bad board either. There are a number of shortcomings because of things that MSI decided to omit, or things that were included.

Take for instance the omission of SATA Express. It’s a growing trend, but it’s not included on this motherboard. Instead, MSI opts for M.2. Granted, M.2 is also growing but it’s not as big as SATA Express. Most people will have to wait until later this year for M.2 supporting devices to come out.

But overall MSI’s Z97 MPower Max AC is a solid board that should leave most gamers more than satisfied. It gets eight out of 10.

The MSI Z97 MPower Max AC is available now from retailers for an average price of $260.

Benchmarking and photos by VR-Zone Chinese

Positives:                                                                                                                                                                                         8 0 Hands on with MSIs Z97 MPower Max AC motherboard

  • Overclocker friendly board.
  • Stylish design.
  • Will satisfy demanding users.

Cons:

  • No SATA express