MSI Z97 XPower Motherboard Review
CPU Cooler Fit and Included Accessories
CPU Cooler Fit
To test the amount of space surrounding the CPU socket, we mounted the Noctua NH-D14 cooler to the CPU socket. This behemoth CPU air cooler sports a dual fan construction and two huge vertical cooling towers.
The motherboard provide adequate room on all sides of socket to accommodate the cooler and a graphics card installed in the primary PCI-Express x16 slot with the cooler running with air blow towards the rear panel assembly.
There are no space concerns between the cooler and the heat sink surrounding the CPU socket. The water barbs may be hard to use, but chances are, you will not be using them together with an air-based CPU cooler. As for the memory slots, there are no space issues when using all four slots.
The Noctua hold down mechanism is large enough to quickly determine exactly how much space is available around the CPU socket. The Noctua mount fits within the space allocated for the CPU easily with no conflict between it and the VRM heat sink or integrated components.
The cooler's backplate rests directly on the CPU socket backplate, minimizing the risk of direct board contact. Also, the cooler backplate does not contact or rest on any board components. However, backplates that span the space in between the socket cooler mounting holes may risk resting on or even crushing the components to the upper right of the socket backplate.
MSI includes in everything you need to get the board up and running with accessories for supporting the board's more esoteric features.
MSI bundle in multiple manuals with the Z97 XPower board, including the user guide detailing out motherboard setup and features, an overclocking guide, a software and application user guide, and a quick setup guide. Additionally, MSI includes all driver discks required for software installation, a foldout wall poster, SATA cable labels, an Overclocking series case badge, and an XPower-branded 8GB USB drive. The motherboard manuals contain more than enough information to get the board up and running with details on board features, as well as information for overclocking your Haswell CPU with the XPower board. The included USB drive contains all drivers and utilities included on the drivers disks if you prefer installing from a USB drive. Bundling in a USB drive containing the board drivers and utilities was a nice touch and something that many other manufacturers have promised, but never delivered on.
The rear panel shield has a flat black base with port identifying text and icons colored yellow to match the board's color scheme. The yellow text and icons are very clear easy to read on the black background.
MSI included a total of four 6Gb/s rated SATA cables for use with the integrated port. The cables have integrated port locks and a mix of straight and 90 degree connectors.
For multi-GPU use, MSI includes a three multi-length two-way NVIDIA SLI cables.
For use with the on-board front panel headers, MSI included their M-Connector plugs. You simply plug the front panel plugs into the M-Connector and plug the M-Connector into the appropriate board header. It makes installation the front panel plugs much easier.
The included V-Check cables plug into the ports in the V-Check Point assembly to give easy access for measuring board voltages directly. Instead of having to stick multi-meter leads directly into the assembly block, you attach them to these extension cables.
MSI also includes a rear panel bracket with MOLEX power and two eSATA ports integrated. All cables required for use of the bracket are packaged as well.
For 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality, MSI includes an add-in card that plugs into a header located in the board's rear panel assembly, adding dual antenna ports to the rear panel. The add-in card features an Intel Dual-Band 802.11ac 7260 mPCIe card with support for Intel WiDi technology, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.
For use with the dual-band 802.11ac PCIe add-in card, MSI included two 802.11ax-rated antennas. The antennas can be rotated in a 90 degree radius for optimal signal reception.
To appeal to the extreme overclockers, MSI included their Delid Die Guard. The guard replaces the top portion of the CPU socket mounting bracket for use with CPUs that have the die exposed. The Delid Die Guard gives the CPU cooler a flat surface, level with the CPU die, to prevent crushing the delicate CPU die surface with excessive or uneven force.
The OC Fan Stand is an adjustable fan bracket that mounts to the top of the board for custom positioning of a 120mm or 140mm fan (not included in kit). The bracket mounts through the board's case mounting holes, allowing for directed air in almost any sector of the board.
MSI also includes an XPower-themed door knob hanger in with the board.