MSI Z87 MPOWER Motherboard Review
Features and Motherboard Layout
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The diagnostic header (JDLED4), SYSFAN2 header, and front panel headers are located in the lower left corner of the board.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To the lower left of the CPU socket another debug header (JME1) and the CMOS clear jumper (JBAT1).
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.
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.