MSI Z97 XPower Motherboard Review
Overclocking and Conclusion
To give a feel for the overclocking performance potential of the Z97 XPower board, we attempted to push it to known CPU-supported performance parameters with minimal tweaking. We were easily able to get the board running stable for over 4hrs at a 4.67GHz CPU speed, a 2340MHz memory speed, and a 4.0GHz ring bus speed with a 167MHz base clock. System stability was tested running the AIDA64 stability test in conjunction with EVGA's OC Scanner X graphical benchmark running at 1280x960 resolution and 8x MSAA in stress test mode. Note that 16GB (2 x 8GB) of Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3-2400 memory modules were used for the overclocking tests.
Note that this is is meant only as a quick preview of the board's performance potential. With more time to tweak the settings to a greater extent, pushing to a higher base clock and ring bus speed may have been achievable, in addition to an overnight stability run without issue.
The MSI Z97 XPower motherboard's performance did not disappoint. Its stock performance across the board was within the top tier, while its ease of overclocking make it worthy of the Overclocking series moniker.
MSI did a nice job with the XPower board refresh embodied in the Z97 XPower AC motherboard. While the board updates were more subtle than those of other manufacturers, MSI did make some welcome additions to the board to make it a good invested in comparison to the Z87 version board. The most obvious updates are in the CPU VRM heat sink design with the Z97 XPower having an illuminated XPower logo as well as the addition of water barbs to the VRMs. While the VRM heat sink remains disconnected from the chipset heat sink, the ability to integrate the sink into an existing water loop is a welcome addition. Further, the integrated Wi-Fi solution was update to an 802.11ac capable adapter, there is a 10Gbps-capable M.2 port included, and the integrated overclocking controls were improved upon. The feature likely to catch the eye of many hard-core enthusiasts is the inclusion of the MSI designed Delid Die Guard. This device replaces the top portion of the CPU socket hardware to protect the naked die of a Haswell processor with the heat spreader removed, theoretically allowing for higher CPU performance and cooler temperatures. MSI also bundled in their OC Fan Stand device giving the user the ability to mount a fan to almost any location on the motherboard for directed air flow where necessary. MSI also did a fine job with the Windows-based overclocking software included with the board, providing multiple methods to monitor and change settings.
The only minor inconvenience with the board was the location of the CMOS battery and CMOS reset jumper. However, the inclusion of the board power discharge button makes this a bit of a moot point since you can easily full discharge the board without removing the battery. A design oversight was in the use of 3/8" water barbs in implementing the hybrid VRM cooling solution. This constrains the tubing size that can be used with the block and may keep some enthusiasts from integrating the VRM block into their cooling loop entirely.
- Stock performance
- Overclocking performance
- Board layout and design
- Hybrid CPU VRM cooling block
- Motherboard manual details
- Quality of included Windows-based overclocking and monitoring solutions
- Inclusion of drivers on USB thumb drive
- Board aesthetics and themed lighting
- UEFI BIOS design and usability
- Delid Die Guard for use with "naked" processors
- Integration of Intel GigE NIC and Intel 802.11ac mPCIe adapter card
- Use of 3/8" water barbs instead of G1/4" threaded ports
- Lack of SATA Express-based device ports
- CMOS battery and CMOS reset jumper placement
- Lack of accessible PCI-Express x1 slot with all PCI-Express x16 slots populated
- Lack of secondary NIC port
- Location of PCI-Express extra power port - may be hard to get to with full sized CPU cooler and multiple video cards populating the board