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MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK Motherboard Preview

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

Courtesy of MSI

  • Supports New Intel® Core™ X-series Processor Family for LGA 2066 socket
  • Supports DDR4-4266+(OC) Memory
  • M.2 SHIELD FROZR: Strengthened built-in M.2 thermal solution. Keeps M.2 safer and faster.
  • 3D Printing Support: Modify and customize your system with the use of special 3D screws.
  • Mystic Light: Personalize your PC with 16.8 million colors / 17 effects controlled in one click with the Mystic Light APP or a mobile device.
  • Audio Boost 4 PRO: Isolated audio with 2x audio processors & Nahimic 2+ for the most immersive gaming experience.
  • Killer DoubleShot PRO: Delivers industry-leading speed using Killer’s Lag and Latency Reduction™ Technology via both Killer Ethernet and WIFI
  • Designed for Extreme Performance: TURBO SOCKET with GAME BOOST, DIGITALL POWER Design
  • Lightning Fast Game experience: TWIN TURBO M.2 and Intel Optane Memory Ready, Turbo U.2, LIGHTNING USB 3.1 GEN2
  • DDR4 Boost with Steel Armor: Fully isolated, shielded and optimized DDR4 PCB design to give your DDR4 memory a performance boost.
  • MULTI-GPU: With STEEL ARMOR PCI-E slots. Supports 3-Way NVIDIA SLI™ & 3-Way AMD Crossfire™
  • SYSTEM SAVER: 3 easy to use options to successfully boot your system again.

Motherboard Layout

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The X299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard features a black PCB and black heat sinks with chrome mirrored accents to cool various on board components. The rear panel shroud is done with similar styling, featuring the Gaming M7 board branding. MSI includes their Enthusiast Gaming series logo on the chipset heat sink with the dragon logo and striping done in chrome accents to draw the eye. The board was designed with an ATX form factor for compatibility with most standard-sized enclosures, while providing more than enough surface area for its integrated feature set.

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MSI designed the X299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard with a total of 12 digital power phases to power the CPU, providing more than enough juice for anything thrown its way. The CPU VRMs are cooled by a large aluminum block to the right of the socket area. Note that 11 of the 12 chokes are located under the left lip of the VRM cooler with the 12th choke to the VRM cooler's upper right (just under the ATX12V connectors).

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The board contains a total of six PCIe slots - four PCIe x16 slots and two PCIe x1 slots. The M.2 slots are located under dual hinged cover plates located directly below PCIe x1 slots 1 and 2.. The PCIe x16 slots support the following bandwidth configurations depending on the processor in use:

  • 44-lane processor - PCIe x16 slots 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 support x16, x16 / x16, or x16 / x4 / x16 / x8.
  • 28-lane processor - PCIe x16 slots 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 support x16, x16 / x4 / x8 /0, or x8 / x4 / x8 / x8.
  • 16-lane processor - PCIe x16 slots 1 / 2 / 3 support x16, x8 / 0 / x8, or x8 / x4 / x4. PCIe x16 slot 4 is disabled

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Once the M.2 port cover is removed, the board's dual integrated PCI x4 M.2 slots are revealed. The primary slot, underneath PCI x1 slot 1, supports M.2 drives up to 80mm in length. The secondary slot, located underneath PCI x1 slot 2, supports M.2 drives up to 110mm in length. Both M.2 ports a keyed with an M-key slot devices with standard SSD, PCIe x2, and PCIe x4 type M.2 drives supported. Note that the M.2 ports and SATA ports 0 / 1 share bandwidth. SATA port 0 is automatically disabled with a SATA type drive seated in the primary M.2 slot and SATA port 1 is disabled with a SATA type drive seated in the secondary port. Both SATA ports remain active when PCIe type drives are seated in the tied M.2 slots.

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The PCIe cover plate is held in place with the two M.2 device port screws. It swings upward once the screws have been removed from the board to a full 90 degree position. The cover platge itself is aluminum with thermal tape covering the areas that come into contact with the surface of the M.2 drives. This helps to electrically isolate the cover plate from the M.2 devices as well as acting as a secondary heat dissipation path for the drives.

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The board houses a total of eight DIMM slots, split into dual sets of four above and below the CPU socket. All DIMM slots were designed with metal reinforcement brackets to better secure the DIMMs in place. Quad Channel memory mode is active with modules placed in slots 1 / 3 or 2 / 4 in both the upper and lower slot sets. The primary slots in both sets are DIMM slots 1 / 3. There is a USB 3.1 type A port and a USB 3.0 header to the lower left of the lower DIMM slots. The 4 + 8 dual ATX12V power connectors are located to the right of the upper set of DIMM slots.

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The Intel X299 chipset is covered with the PCIe hinged cover plate with MSI's Enthusiat Gaming logo in chromed accents. The chipset cooler is just under the cover plate. Just below the chipset is the board's drive port block, integrating SATA ports 0-5, a PCI x4 U.2 port, and a USB 3.0 header. SATA ports 6 / 7 are surface mounted to the lower left of the chipset. Note that SATA ports 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 and the U.2 port all share bandwidth, resulting in those SATA ports being disabled with a drive plugged into the U.2 port.

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In the lower left corner of the PCB (and to the left of the chipset) are the Intel VROC header (VRAID1), and Game Boost knob (OC1), and the integrated power and reset buttons. The Game Boost knob allows manual setting of overclocking with settings labled 1 - 11 (11 being the highest). The UEFI-regulated overclocking settings support a maximum overclock of 5.0GHz with it set to 11 using an i9-7900X processor. The user manual contains a full breakdown of the speed settings associated with each of the knob steps broken down by processor type. An Intel VROC (Virtual RAID on CPU) Key can be plugged into the VROC header to unlock the chipset's VROC functionality. The Intel VROC function allows for RAIDing of M.2 and U.2 drives sitting on the board's PCIe bus - installed in the two integrated ports as well as those installed to PCIe M.2-capable add-in cards.

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With this board, MSI offers support for connecting multiple RGB LED strips to the board using the RGB 12V header located to the upper left of the fourth PCIe x16 slot. MSI includes an RGB LED splitter cable to connect multiple strips to this header as well Connecting an RGB LED strip to the RGB 12V header synchronizes the LED strip color and activity with that of the motherboard's integrated LEDs. In the screencap, an RGB cable is connected to the RGB 12V header. Notice that the board has four integrated RGB zones (in addition to the RGB header) - integrated into the rear panel cover, integrated into the audio subsystem cover plate along the top of the PCIe area, integrated into the chipset cover panel illuminating the Dragon logo, and integrated into the VRM heat sink.

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The X299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard contains the following integrated ports in its rear panel assembly: a PS/2 hybrid keyboard / mouse port, three USB 2.0 ports (black), three USB 3.0 ports (red) to the right of the dual WiFi antennae ports, two USB 3.1 10Gbps ports (red) - one Type A and one Type C, a Killer™ E2500 GigE RJ-45 port, dual 802.11ac WiFi ports tied to the Killer™ E2500 Gigabit controller, an S/PDIF digital audio output port, the BIOS Flashback+ button, a CMOS clear button, and five analogue audio output ports. The USB 2.0 port to the right of the WiFi antennae ports can be used with the BIOS Flashback+ functionality to flash the board's BIOS.

The BIOS Flashback+ functionality can be used automatically to re-flash the BIOS without having to boot the system into the UEFI interface. Simply plug in a USB drive containing the proper BIOS file in the root of the drive into the USB 2.0 port to the right of the WiFi antennae ports and and initiate the BIOS Flashback+ utility by pressing the BIOS Flashback+ button on the motherboard. Once BIOS flashing commences, the BIOS Flashback+ LED will begin to flash. BIOS flashing completes once the LED stops flashing and remains off. The BIOS Flashback+ LED is located to the lower left of the DIMM slots, next to the BIOS Flashback+ button. According to the user manual, the BIOS file in the root of the flash drive must be named MSI.ROM for the BIOS Flashback+ function to successfully re-flash the board's BIOS.


August 8, 2017 | 12:18 PM - Posted by Chaitanya Shukla

Could you add testing those M.2 coolers with motherboards that come with those for future motherboards? It seems like those coolers and claims made by manufacturers regarding those coolers vary wildly and having a clear idea on how they perform would be useful shoppers.

August 8, 2017 | 04:02 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

I will make sure to add some testing for that when we do the full review of the board.   Thanks for the feedback...

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