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MSI Z87 MPOWER Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

Courtesy of MSI

  • Intel® Z87 Express Chipset
  • Supports 4th Gen Intel® Core™ / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1150 socket
  • Supports DDR3-3000(OC) Memory
  • Supports USB 3.0 + SATA 6Gb/s
  • 16 Phase DigitALL Power Design
  • Multi-GPU: NVIDIA SLI & AMD CrossFire Support
  • OC Certified: Military Class Burn-in Test Passed
  • Military Class 4: Top Quality & Stability
  • OC Genie 4: Overclock in 1 Second
  • Click BIOS 4: Easily Fine-tune Your System
  • PCI Express Gen 3: World's 1st PCI Express Gen 3 Motherboard Brand
  • Audio Boost: Reward Your Ears with True Quality
  • Killer Ethernet: Kill Your Lag
  • Sound Blaster Cinema: Realistic Surround Sound Experience
  • Lucid Virtu MVP 2.0: Uncompromised Game Response Performance
  • Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, Intel® Wireless Display

Motherboard Layout

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For their Z87 MPower board, MSI kept to their the same branding color scheme from their last generation of MPower products - black and yellow. They did update the form and function of the onboard heat sinks with the sink cooling the CPU power circuitry branded with the brand name and a yellow M. The board layout is clean with more than enough space around all components.

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MSI left more power circuitry off the back of the board with only a few small chips sitting behind the CPU VRMs. There are no components in the vicinity of the CPU back plate area, so no concerns of accidental component crush or knock off.

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The Z87 MPower's rear panel includes the following device ports: a PS/2 keyboard and mouse port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset (on top of HDMI port), 4 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the ASMedia controller (below and to the left of the GigE NIC), a Qualcomm Killer E2205 GigE NIC port, 2 HDMI video ports, a DisplayPort video port, a CMOS reset button, an optical S/PDIF audio output port, and 6 analog audio ports. With the Wi-Fi add-in card plugged into the expansion port, 2 antenna ports tied to an Intel 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controller are added to the rear panel.

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MSI incorporated a total of seven PCI-Express slots into the Z87 MPower - three PCI-Express x16 slots and four PCI-Express x1 slots. For the PCI-Express x16 slots, the board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card, x8 / x8 bandwidth with dual cards, and x8 / x4 / x4 in a tri-card configuration. Notice that there is more than enough space between the primary and secondary PCI-Express slots for the use of dual slot card coolers. As an added bonus, MSI designed the board so that a PCI-Express x1 slot always remains usable.

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The audio chipset and accompanying power circuitry and ports are located in a section of the board located above the PCI-Express slots. The yellow line separates the main board PCB from the integrated audio board PCB. When the board is powered, the heat sink on top of the audio chipset illuminates with yellow LEDs.

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The onboard mSATA port and chassis intrusion header (JC1) are located in between the lower sections of the primary and secondary PCI-Express x16 slots. The mSATA port supports drive speeds of up to 6Gb/s. However, SATA port 6 on the Intel controller is automatically disabled with an mSATA drive seated in the mSATA port. When engaged, the card sits in the mSATA slot without interfering with a video card seated in the primary PCI-Express x16 slot.

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In the upper left quadrant of the board are the audio chipset covered by an illuminated cover, front panel audio header, power, reset, base clock increment and decrement, OC Genie, and GO2BIOS buttons, the OC Genie switch, the CMOS battery, and the power discharge jumper (JDISCH1). The OC Genie button invokes the automated overclocking engine, enacting the preset profile selected based on the OC Genie switch position. In the gear 1 position (left), the default overclocking presets are enabled, indicated by a blue LED. When the switch is moved to the gear 2 position (right), the aggressive overclocking presets are enabled, indicated by a red LED. The GO2BIOS forces the board into the BIOS on the next reboot without having to press the F2 or DEL key on reboot. The power discharge jumper instantly discharges the board's capacitors and remnant power when jumpered. It is recommended to only use this jumper with the PSU powered off via a switch on the PSU itself or after the PSU power cables have been removed from the board.

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To the lower left of PCI-Express x16 slot 3 are the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header and the onboard USB 2.0 headers. The debug LED display can be used to troubleshoot system boot related issues by cross-referencing the displayed code with the table in the user manual.

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The diagnostic header (JDLED4), SYSFAN2 header, and front panel headers are located in the lower left corner of the board.

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The Intel Z87 Express chipset is cooled by a large, low profile heat sink just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is black and yellow in color, embossed with the MSI MPower brand logo.

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The eight on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports and the on-board USB 3.0 header are located just under the chipset cooler. The six Intel controlled SATA ports are to the right of the port assembly with the two ASMedia controlled ports to the left.

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The four on-board DDR3 memory slots are located in the lower right of the board. The primary memory slots are the second and forth slots from the CPU socket with dual channel memory mode enabled when modules are seated both slots. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at a maximum overclocked speed of 3000MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications.

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The 24-pin ATX power connector, an MSI debug header (JSPI1), a system fan header, the Multi-BIOS switch, and 2-digit diagnostic LED display are located to the lower left the memory slots. The Multi-BIOS switch is used to switch between the main and backup BIOS. With the switch to the right (default position), the main BIOS is active which is designated by a blue LED. Moving the switch to the left activates the secondary BIOS, causing the LED to change to a green color. The debug LED display can be used to troubleshoot system boot related issues by cross-referencing the displayed code with the table in the user manual.

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To the right of the DIMM slots are the V-Check Points voltage measurement block, CPUFAN1 and CPUFAN2 headers, and the LN2 headers. The V-Check Points voltage measurement points allow for direct board voltage measurement using a volt meter.

For sub-zero enthusiasts, MSI integrated key functions into the board's design to aid in getting the best performance possible when taking the CPU cooling to the next level. The undocumented LN2 Mode jumper most likely enables a cold bug fix that can be encountered when attempting to boot a CPU at sub-zero temperatures. Several other jumpers are located in close proximity that are most likely related to other LN2-related functions.

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The CPU socket area has plenty of room for the use of larger coolers, even with large aluminum heat sinks surrounding the CPU on the left, right, and upper sides. MSI includes a massive 16 digital power phases dedicated to the CPU for board stability under the most grueling operating conditions.

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To the lower left of the CPU socket another debug header (JME1) and the CMOS clear jumper (JBAT1).

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MSI integrated dual ATX12V 8-pin power connectors to meet the power needs of the CPU and its 16 digital power phases. Additionally, the Wi-Fi add-in card header is located in the upper right corner of the board. With the Wi-Fi add-in card seated in the header, 802.11n and Bluetooth functionality is added to the board with dual antenna ports integrated into the rear panel.

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The SYSFAN1 header is hidden underneath the CPU VRM heat sink cooler to the upper right of the CPU socket. Just above the header, you can also see the Qualcomm Killer NIC controller chip.

July 5, 2013 | 03:13 PM - Posted by LochDhu (not verified)

The ALL NEW Z77. . .er, I mean Z87. . .

July 5, 2013 | 03:53 PM - Posted by mLocke

I find it somewhat odd that all these "gaming" motherboards come with extra SATA controllers slapped onto them for no apparent reason. No gamer would ever use more than 6 sata ports on their gaming rig, unless you're looking for a machine to pull the double duty of NAS and gaming rig. In which case, why are you torturing yourself running a NAS rig on Windows? Of course I'm making the assumption that all gamers are running Windows, but I feel that isn't too far fetched.

I would have thought that more minimalist boards would be up the alley of gamers; fewer chips on the the board, fewer useless things to disable in the BIOS, more dedication to boards surviving stressful conditions. Do Killer NICs even offer any performance benefits anymore when CPUs are never coming close to being fully utilized by video games? I can't help but think that all these checkbox features slapped onto mobos now does more harm than good for gamers. Seems more like a HTPC board than anything else.

July 5, 2013 | 05:42 PM - Posted by windwalker

They just add as much useless junk as possible for two reasons.
The first is that many gamers and power users are simply greedy about having much more generous feature sets and performance than they actually need.
Secondly, the OEMs can make more money by selling expensive over-engineered boards filled with bling.

Review sites play along by reviewing only the high end parts they receive for free from OEMs' marketing teams.

July 6, 2013 | 05:09 PM - Posted by Susudio (not verified)

Did killer nics ever provide much of a performance difference? My recollection is that their benefits were always dubious.

As for SATA connections, I don't see how 6 ports is too many. When i built my current rig (which is long in the tooth now), I had a Boot Drive, a data drive (because I always separate data from programs/OS) and a HD-DVD/BD/DVD(burner) drive. Later, I added a BD burner. That's 4 ports right there.

Now what if the gamer also uses the machine for Video editing or Photoshop? That's probably another drive. And yes, you could use a nas for some stuff, but do you really want to edit Photos or Video over a network connection? You might want to add a pair of SSDs either for Raid or one for Boot and another for whatever photo/video project you're working on.

200 is stretching what I'd pay for a MB, but in a world where MB's sometimes come in at 300-400, 200 isn't that bad. Besides, today's gaming rig may be tomorrow's NAS rig.

My file server uses the guts of my last game machine.

July 7, 2013 | 01:19 AM - Posted by Chris B (not verified)

Well, I still use my Gigabyte K8N pro with its athlon 64 3200 Venice core as a router. Having extra integrated IDE ports was one of the main reasons I bought it, back in the day.

My boards all pull double duty at some point. I'm really not happy that Intel's cut out VT-d support on the K series processors rather than just locking out VT-d when an overclock is applied...since they're trying to keep the K series processors from competing with xeons. This market segmentation severely alters how I can use my newly built i7-3770K 8 years from now.

However, it's on this board's z77 predecessor. So I'm certain that, when it's no longer my gaming rig, it'll be useful for other things even if not virtualization!

February 11, 2014 | 08:34 AM - Posted by Malawi (not verified)

The SATA thing is most likely due to that the Intel chipset does not support all SSD's that people want to transfer to their new system. Hence one have to use a different(extra) controller to circumvent the problem. Thus the extra SATA's are mainly a workaround that is dressed up as a feature.

July 5, 2013 | 08:25 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Where is the price??

July 5, 2013 | 08:30 PM - Posted by wolfraven004

Price would be good

July 5, 2013 | 10:48 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Board retail price in on the first page of review and prices from retailers (like amazon and newegg) are on the last page of the review...

July 10, 2013 | 01:05 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Thanks Morry. Nice job.

Never can get enough sata ports, so the more the better.

Morry, surprised you did not give this an editor's choice award, or did I miss it?

July 10, 2013 | 01:48 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

No award yet.  There will be a followup review in the near future covering lan and drive performance, overclocking, and some other things.  Based on how testing goes, then an award will be given...

July 13, 2013 | 01:58 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"The benchmark tests used should give you a good understanding of the board’s capabilities for both office and gaming use so that you, the reader, can make a more informed purchasing decision."

..except that you only ran it through benchmarks that are nearly identical on all mobos of a similar chipset, and did not test overclocking ability, the very task most likely to show differences between motherboards, and the very capability this board was designed and marketed for. Nor did you test power consumption. If I overlooked these things, I apologize.

July 26, 2013 | 03:38 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Power consumption and overclocking will be covered in an upcoming follow-up review...

October 9, 2013 | 09:10 AM - Posted by oNN (not verified)

Hi editor,

Can i boot up my system (i7 4770k + gtx780 OC) with only one ATX 8-PIN cable connected ? (there is 2 atx 8 pin sockets )but my PSU only provided 1 ATX 8-pin power cable.

Can i use single PCI-E cable(splitted to 2 x 6+2pins) from PSU on my gtx 780 OC ? im not sure single cable can carry that load ?

October 28, 2013 | 04:50 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

You can boot the board with only a single ATX12V 8-pin cable connected.  The dual socket configuration on the board is provided to negate any possible power delivery related issues to the CPU during extreme overclocking.

As for the video card power cable, you "should" be able to use a splitter for powering the card.  However, if you decide to go that route, make sure to closely monitor the power cable temperatures (ie, feel them once in a while during heavy card usage) to make sure they're not getting hot -> hot cables is a sign of high power draw and load.  If the cables do get hot when using a spltter, then you'll have to use individual runs from your PSU or use a MOLEX to PCIe power adapter...

November 24, 2013 | 09:46 AM - Posted by PortlandTec jeff1 (not verified)

Hi all
I'm just starting to build my 2 ridge, but this 2nd one,is going to be my best one, well i'm trying too lol. Can anyone tell me a good liqued cooler to use on my cpu, going to run i7 with it, also try to look around for the mid cost ramm for MSI-Z87-MPOWER-Motherboard.Im hopping you can give me some help!!

If any one could give me some idea's on what would be the best-"Mid cost £"
For the full set-up. Not to sure the best power supply ???? For the amount it will be running

Thank So Much
If you can help

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