MSI Z87 XPOWER 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
- 32 Phase DigitALL Power Design
- 4-way Multi-GPU: 4-way 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 X-Fi MB3: Amazing Headphone Surround & Gaming Sound Enhancement
- Lucid Virtu MVP 2.0: Uncompromised Game Response Performance
- Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, Intel® Wireless Display
Similar to the other members of the Z87 MPower product line, the Z87 XPower board features the slick looking black and yellow color scheme. The heat sinks included with the board are large aluminum sinks with the CPU socket surrounded on three sides by an interconnected heat piper. MSI did not connect the Z87 chipset into the on-board heat pipe. The heat sink to the right of the CPU socket contains a yellow X which pulses with the board powered. As we've come to expect from MSI, the board layout is clean and spacious with more than enough room around all components. The sheer size of the board helps with this, since the board is an XL-ATX form factor (meaning that it is longer and wider than a standard ATX form factor board).
While MSI did cover the VRM circuits with affixed heat spreaders, there are several chips in close proximity to the CPU socket support plate underneath the board. These chips could be problematic when using cooler back plates that span the full length and width of the the mounting area.
MSI integrated the following ports into the Z87 XPower's rear panel: a PS/2 keyboard and mouse port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 8 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the ASMedia controller, 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 includes seven total ports into the Z87 XPower's design - five PCI-Express x16 slots and two PCI-Express x1 slots. For the PCI-Express x16 slots, the board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card, x16 / x16 bandwidth with dual cards, and x8 / x8 / x16 in a tri-card configuration, and x8 / x8 / x8 / x8 in a quad-card configuration. Note that the secondary PCI-Express x16 slot should be used when using only a single card with the board. This slot bypasses the PCIe bridge chip, using the CPU's PCIe lanes directly. This slot is automatically disabled when multiple cards are used with the board. You should not have a problem with having a usable PCI-Express x1 slot unless you use more then two video cards with the board.
To the upper right of the primary PCI-Express x16 slot are a system fan header and a 6-pin auxiliary power port for the PCI Express port devices. The power port accepts a 6-pin PCIe power connector from your PSU to supply additional power to the PCI-Express bus when two or more video cards are used.
An additional system fan header is located just above the primary PCI-Express x1 slot.
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 audio chipset and front panel audio connector are located in the upper left corner of the board.
Just below the audio PCB are the GO2BIOS button (FASTB1), a system fan header, the Cease Fire PCI Express control switch block, the CMOS reset jumper, the CMOS battery, a USB 2.0 header, and an MSI diagnostic header (JDLED4). The GO2BIOS forces the board into the BIOS on the next reboot without having to press the F2 or DEL key on reboot. The PCIe Cease Fire Switch block can be used to enable or disable the PCIe bridge chip controlled PCI-Express x16 slots (slots 1, 3, 4, 5). The secondary PCI-Express x16 slot cannot be disabled from this switch block..
In the lower left corner of the board are a USB 2.0 header, the front panel header, a 2-digit LED display, the front panel headers, the chassis intrusion header (JCI1), the mSATA port, and an MSI debug header (JME1). 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. Note that SATA port 5, controlled by the Intel Z87 controller, is disabled with an SSD card placed in the mSATA port. The mSATA port accept both SATA 2 and SATA 3 devices and can be used in a RAID with drives connected to the other Intel SATA 3 ports (with the exception of SATA port 5).
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 10 on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports are located just below the chipset cooler. The six Intel Z87-controlled ports are to the right of the port block with the four ASMedia-controlled ports to the left.
The two Intel Z87-controlled USB 3.0 headers are located to the lower right of the Z87 chipset cooler. Just above the headers are the Multi-BIOS switch and an MSI debug header (JSPI1). The Multi-BIOS switch allows for manual user switching between the main and backup BIOS ROM chips. The associate LED illuminates blue with the main BIOS active and green with the backup BIOS active.
The four on-board DDR3 memory slots are located in the lower right quadrant of the board. The primary memory slots are the second and forth slots down 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 is located to the lower left the memory slots.
To the right of the DIMM slots are the V-Check Points voltage measurement block, power, reset, power discharge, CPU ratio increment and decrement, base clock increment and decrement, OC Genie, and GO2BIOS buttons, the OC Genie and Base Clock Step switched,, and the LN2 headers. The V-Check Points voltage measurement points allow for direct board voltage measurement using a volt meter. 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 Base Clock Step switch dictates how much the base clock frequency is incremented/decremented using the buttons. With the switch in the left (default) position, the stepping is set to 0.1MHz. The stepping is set to 1.0MHz with the switch set to the right position. The power discharge button instantly discharges the board's capacitors and remnant power when jumpered. It is recommended to only use this button with the PSU powered off the PSU power switch or after the PSU power cables have been removed from the board.
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 even with the large aluminum heat sinks surrounding three sides of the socket, so there should be no issues with using even the larger CPU air coolers. for the use of larger coolers, even with large aluminum heat sinks surrounding the CPU on the left, right, and upper sides. For maintaining rock solid stability and clean power to the CPU under any operating conditions, MSI designed the Z87 XPower with a full 32-phase digital power delivery system..
To the lower right of the CPU socket is the LED power header for the LED integrated into the right most VRM heat sink. The connected LED illuminates the imbedded X in the heat sink and pulses when the board is powered.
MSI integrated dual ATX12V 8-pin power connectors to meet the power needs of the CPU and its 32 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 are added to the board with dual antenna ports integrated into the rear panel.