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MSI Z97 XPower Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

BIOS Features

MSI includes the latest version of their UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) BIOS with the the Z97 XPower motherboard, specially branded for their Overclocking series boards. The UEFI BIOS offers full keyboard and mouse support while using the BIOS pages with enhanced mouse navigation supported by right clicking the mouse - goes back to previous view if inside a settings pop-up or on a sub-menu page. MSI also includes a screen capture utility, which generates a 1024x768 BMP image saved to an attached USB drive upon clicking the F12 function key.

MSI's UEFI is largely unchanged from its previous revision (as seen on the Z87 motherboards). But that is not necessarily a bad thing. The interface remains very responsive to both keyboard and mouse input with settings logically grouped by function under named sections. The biggest omission was support for some type of enhanced visual mode (dubbed HD Mode by many of the other manufacturers).

BIOS Notable Features

MSI's enhancements to the latest revision of their UEFI BIOS are subtle, acting to refine the BIOS to better meet the user's needs. The biggest change was to the Hardware Monitor section, converting the interface to a UI-driven template rather than the simple text-based template that was there before. MSI's Board Explorer interface continues to give a visual representation of the board and attached devices. Additionally, MSI included real-time change logs for the OC Profiles section and for the Save Changes window. MSI also added a Favorites menu to the BIOS interface, allowing for quick access to up to five pages of customized Favorites pages.

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Click BIOS 4 Home page

The Home page had some slight changes to make accessing features easier for the end user. OC Genie and XMP buttons were added to the upper left of the page so that that user could quickly enable the OC Genie overclocking engine or enact XMP memory settings without having to go into the OC section of the BIOS. Additionally, MSI added a task bar to the upper right of the page containing quick links to the screen shot capture function, the My Favorites page, and the Language settings page.

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Language pop-up

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Translated Overclocking page

One of the major new additions to the UEFI is real-time support for up to 15 different languages, selectable via the pop-up Language menu. The Language pop-up displays after clicking the Language button in the upper right corner of the screen. The language change is immediate after selecting a new language from the pop-up. However, not all text nor values will be translated, as you can see in the screencap of the translated Overclocking page.

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Hardware Monitor interface

The Hardware Monitor interface displays information about monitored hardware speeds, temperatures, and voltages, as well as allowing for configuration of system fans based on temperature thresholds. The graphical interface provided is very intuitive and easy to use.

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Board Explorer interface

The Board Explorer interface gives the user a graphical representation of the motherboard with zones showing in use ports and attached devices. The zones can be clicked on for an expanded view of integrated ports and devices with informational messaging provided where appropriate. This gives a bird's eye view of the board subsystems without having to crack the case.

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Save Overclocking Profile page, OC Profile change log

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Load Overclocking Profile page, OC Profile change log

When a profile is selected to load from the Load Overclocking Profile page after clicking the F8 key or when you choose to save settings to a profile using the Save Overclocking Profile page after clicking the F9 key, a change log containing a list of options and settings tied to that profile displays in the upper section of the BIOS page The settings shown include the current and stored values for the option. Additionally, the profile creation time and date as well as the BIOS version used to create the profile are shown.

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My Favorites page

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My Favorites page, Favorite 1 details page

Clicking the F3 key within the BIOS or clicking on the Heart icon in the top menu bar spawns the My Favorites page. There are a total of five Favorites pages in which the user can store BIOS settings from any page, giving the ability to access frequently used settings from a single page.

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My Favorites page, Favorites setting page, Default Homepage pop-up

The Favorite setting page contains an option for configuring the Default Home Page for the BIOS. Notice that you can set the BIOS default home page to a multitude of sections including oone of the pages in the My Favorites section. The home page is the page that displays when the BIOS initializes. Setting this value to None causes the BIOS to load to the default home screen.

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Favorites Assistant pop-up

Clicking the F2 key within the BIOS spawns the Favorites Assistant window. From this popup, the user can add new settings and submenus to one of the five Favorites pages. Note that if the F2 key is pressed from within a Favorite details page, teh selected setting will be removed from the Favorite details page.

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Save configuration verification pop-up

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Change Settings Info pop-up

MSI added the ability to track changes made during a BIOS session to the Save popup. This changelog is a text-based interface detailing all proposed changes to be made if the BIOS is saved with both the original values and new values displayed.

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Overclocking page, Memory Try It! pop-up

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Memory speed presets Performance pop-up

On the Overclocking page, MSI included a setting named Memory Try It! that houses eight sets of memory setting groupings. The groupings are split into two types for each CAS Latency setting from 9 to 12 - Compatibility and Performance. Housed within each of the eight CAS Latency groupings are memory speed presets, automatically configuring the board and memory with the desired memory speed after selection.

BIOS Walkthrough

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Overclocking Settings (OC) page

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Overclocking Settings page, Voltage settings

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Overclocking Settings page, Other settings

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Overclocking Settings page, Advanced DRAM Configuration page

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Overclocking Settings page, Advanced DRAM Configuration page, Latency Timings Configuration settings

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Overclocking Settings page, Advanced DRAM Configuration page, On-Die Termination Configuration settings

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Overclocking Settings page, DRAM Training Configuration page

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Overclocking Settings page, DRAM Training Configuration page continued

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Overclocking Settings page, DigitALL Power page

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Overclocking Settings page, CPU Specifications page

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Overclocking Settings page, CPU Specifications page, CPU Technology Support page

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Overclocking Settings page, MEMORY-Z page

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Overclocking Settings page, MEMORY-Z page, DIMM Details page

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Overclocking Settings page, MEMORY-Z page, DIMM Details page, X.M.P. Support Information page

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Overclocking Settings page, CPU Features page

July 2, 2014 | 10:17 AM - Posted by Renegade87 (not verified)

I just bought this mobo (along with a 4790K Devils Canyon CPU) to replace my aging but still viable ASUS Maximus Formula LGA775 mobo/QX9650 3.0GHz Yorkfield setup. I'm expecting the delivery once I get home from work. Can't wait.

"The Egg Place" has this mobo for less $ than either price listed in this article.

Normally, I look to an ASUS product first, but this Z97 XPower board looks to keep me happy for the next 5 years +

July 2, 2014 | 10:26 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Its a nice board with some very interesting add-ons, should be a good upgrade for you.

Best of luck...

July 2, 2014 | 01:29 PM - Posted by MahoganySoapbox

I really enjoyed the Bios features review and the hardware pictures. A very good looking piece of gear. Please, let us know what results you see with further O.C. testing.

I also agree that the use of barbs instead of ports for the targeted customer was unusual. The addition of another NIC would be expected for that price point.

Thanks Morry!

July 4, 2014 | 03:56 PM - Posted by sirryche (not verified)

can the barbs unscrew and come out and replace with ports?

July 18, 2014 | 03:57 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

no, the barbs are fixed in place unfortunately...

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