I can easily admit that the one brand to have impressed me the most with this generation's board products is MSI. Their recently launched products, from top to bottom, are a complete diversion from their products of old, and the attention to detail and complete design focus are both so fresh and new that reviewing their GAMING series of products these past few months has been a pleasure. My old MSI P35 NEO2-FIR using SKT 775 is still churning away in my friend's daily PC, but it isn't without problems, and those problems existed since day one. Playing with the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING, Z77-GD65 GAMING, and Z87-G45 GAMING was an entirely different experience as an enthusiast—rather than providing a limited list of options to choose from in BIOS, MSI now has a fully customizable one. Their boards also debut a new sleek esthetic with minimal amounts of color, one that goes well with a host of other enthusiast-grade parts. However, the GAMING brand is not all that's new at MSI.
MSI's high-end, enthusiast-focused MPOWER line-up caters to those favoring MSI's Lightning brand of high-end videocards. The Lightning brand of videocards, built around maximizing overclocks and breaking world records, features MSI's own custom PCB designs with boosted power delivery and additional voltage-tweaking capabilities. Clocking VGAs as hard as MSI intends requires a strong platform to plug that Lightning VGA into, and the MPOWER brand of motherboards is designed to be that base. With overclocking as the first priority, MSI sent me their MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX to take my Haswell CPU to the limit, or should I say to the MAX?
|CPU SUPPORT:||4th Gen Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron processor family for the LGA 1150 Socket|
|POWER DESIGN:||CPU Power: 20 Phases |
Memory Power: 2 Phases
|CHIPSET:||Intel Z87 Express|
|INTEGRATED GRAPHICS:||Dependant on installed CPU|
|MEMORY:||4 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB, DDR3 1066 to DDR3 3000+(OC)|
|BIOS:||Dual AMI UEFI BIOS with 2x 64 Mb Flash ROM|
|SLOTS:||3 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (x16 or x8/x8 or x8/x4/x4)|
4 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
|HDD CONNECTVIITY:||8 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (6 @ Intel Z87, 2 @ ASMedia ASM1061)|
|NETWORKING:||1 x Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN|
|PORTS:||10 x USB 3.0 ports (4 at front panel, 6 at rear panel)|
6 x USB 2.0 ports (4 at front panel, 2 at rear panel)
1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse port
1 x RJ45 LAN connectors
1 x Audio block with 6 OFC audio jacks
1 x Optical S/PDIF port
2 x HDMI port
1 x DisplayPort
1 x Clear CMOS Button
|AUDIO:||Realtek ALC1150 7.1 High Definition Audio CODEC|
|FAN HEADERS:||5 x 4-pin PWM|
|FORM FACTOR:||ATX Form Factor (304 mm x 244 mm)|
Intel Z87 Chipset
New and fresh on the scene for June of 2013 is Intel's latest Socket 1150 platform, with Intel's Z87 chipset taking the top-tier spot in chipset functionality and for performance options on this platform.
Most of the basic functionality offered by Intel's new Z87 chipset is quite similar to what was offered with Intel's Z77 Express, but there are more USB 3.0 ports, and they are faster too. All of the SATA ports provided offer SATA 6 Gb/s functionality. Intel's Z77 Express only had two ports at those speeds. There are also new power-saving features to keep power consumption at a bare minimum, and Z87 also includes all the features of the Intel Z77 Express. The chipset offers PCIe speeds of up to 5 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking with up to eight PCI Express 2.0 x1 ports that can be configured to act as x2-, x4-, or x8 ports. Intel's functionality diagram for the Z87 chipset is shown above.
The new 4th Gen Intel Core CPUs are 64-bit, multi-core chips built on a 22nm process; pairing with the Intel Z87 chipset enables the performance-tuning features of "K"-SKU CPUs, allowing independent changes to core-, graphics-, "ring"-, and memory frequencies. This allows you to clock up one part of the chip while running any other part of the chip at stock speeds, which is extremely useful for enthusiasts that like to overclock as each part can be clocked and tested independently for the absolute most out of your chip if the time is taken to test everything fully. Users who prefer the simpler approach of past platforms can use it instead, ensuring everyone's needs are met. For PCIe connectivity, Intel Z87-based platforms allow the processor's PCI Express 3.0 port to be configured into three different configurations: 1x16, 2x8, or 1x8 and 2x4. The third x8 and 2x4 configuration is primarily meant for use with Intel Thunderbolt Technology but can be used to support other devices as well.
Other TPU reviews cover the CPUs themselves in more detail. We will now also separate those reviews. One will cover iGPU performance and the other will cover CPU performance.
The packaging MSI uses for their board products really highlights the product's thematic design in a way few other brands can match. The big yellow "M" on the front of the box clearly tells you that this is an MPOWER product. The rear of the box has a specifications list and a few product highlights.
The other product highlights are on the back of the yellow "M", which also hides a small glimpse into the box and the board contained within.
Inside the box I found the usual paperwork from MSI's MTC which pre-tests boards before shipping them out to reviewers, included MSI's OC guide for the Haswell platform. The board and its accessories are each contained within their own box inside the main box. The accessories box is stuffed to the brim with stuff.
I did find some interesting things amongst those accessories. A full list is below:
- 1 x User guide
- 1 x Software manual
- 1 x MSI MPOWER poster
- 1 x Stability certificate
- 1 x Quick set-up guide
- 1 x Motherboard driver disc
- 1 x WiFi driver disc
- 1 x I/O shield
- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s cable
- 1 x SLI bridge
- 1 x MSI GAMING SERIES case badge
- 1 x MSI door hanger
- 1 x M-connector kit
- 1 x WiFi add-on card
- 2 x WiFi antennas
- 1 x eSATA bracket kit
- 1 x USB 3.0 bracket
- 1 x Motherboard driver disc
- 1 x V-Measure cable kit
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