MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC Motherboard Review

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Final Words & Conclusion

Final Words & Conclusion

So how did you like that huh? The MSI X99S Gaming AC is just a wonderful motherboard and really has it all including some terrific looks. The looks are of course a little personal as I am a sucker for the all matte black and red design. Combined with the red LEDs located at the backside of the PCB, creating a halo of light surrounding the motherboard while it sits inside a chassis with a see-though window, can you imagine what that looks like? Then add that with the RAW horsepower a Haswell-E platform delivers. Yeah, its cool stuff alright. Specs and features wise there is also very little to complain about. This motherboard can be the infrastructure for you 2/3/4-way SLI or Crossfire freak-fest. What more would you need?  Well, you will receive WIFI, WIDI, no less then ten 6 Gbps SATA 3 ports and that all new M.2 interface this round on a 32 Gbps link.

Then a hideous amount of USB 3.0 ports are included and of course we need to mention the enhanced audio solution as well. Interesting to see is the preamp stuff for external DACs. I really do have to complement the audio features here, as over the standard realtek codec used like two years ago, we now see huge improvement on both hard and software side that is way more appealing to the audiophile.The Gigabit Ethernet jack is based on killerNIC, there is slowly some negative noise towards KillerNIC E2205 so we would have preferred to see the Intel's Gigabit Ethernet jack embedded over the Killer one just for the sake of that argument. Still, we think the KillerNIC is an Ethernet jack with excellent software options.

Interesting is the inclusion of an AverMedia capture card, it can stream gaming activities at 1080p 60Mbps without impacting FPS and gameplay. Now we have not yet had the time to test that out, but what a fun integration that is. Combine all these features I just mentioned with the sheer 12 phase CPU power design and the options available to you and yeah, you have to admit that the MSI X99 Gaming AC is not only looking really sweet, it has all the bells and whistles you want just as well.

The Platform Experience

The motherboard manufacturers simply went berserk with their motherboard designs, and I believe that 2014 has to be the best year of them all if you look at what the motherboard manufacturers did and now are offering. The overall per core performance remains seriously nice but is at the level of pretty much any previous Nehalem architecture based processor core, Turbo 2.0 kicks in nicely up-to 3.5 GHz per core for the Core i7 5960X. For the professional user who uses heavily threaded software like content creation, that's where Haswell-E will make nice difference. Added to that, quad-channel DDR4 memory will offer retarded bandwidth and plenty of PCIe lanes and you'll have a platform that will be hard to beat. The Intel X99 chipset is by all means a huge plus. With this release you receive huge amounts of SATA3 and USB 3.0 ports among others. The motherboard manufacturers have gone through great lengths and offer the most luxurious products. It is a feast to the eyes to see and experience really. 

The latest iteration of the MSI Click BIOS uEFI interface finally has become mature and I've actually started to really like it. Apply a nice liquid cooling kit on the processor and you will get to the 4500 MHz range with a 5960X fast enough. 


Combined with ten SATA 6Gbps ports we can hardly complain about anything. SATA Express is supported, but I forsee that'll be a dead ship in the water. More interesting I find to be the all new M.2 interface, pop in a M.2 compatible PCI-E SSD and you'll see your SSD quickly perform in the 700/800 Mb/sec range. Overall your SATA and M.2 connectivity is plentiful and top notch when it comes to performance. Great to see is that the slow has obtained a x4 PCIe interface connection allowing it 32 Gbps of bandwidth to work in. To compare a little, your SATA3 port has 6 Gbps available ;) So that small form factor SSD solution now is very future proof. 


Taste differ per person, but admittedly we do totally like the way the Gaming AC looks. The black and red color schema combined with the nicely designs heatsinks, the LEDs and the extra shielding. Yeah, it is just an intriguing product to look at really. Just sheer awesomeness in a dark PC case. The red LEDs create an awesome HALO coming from underneath the motherboard, it makes the motherboard pop out of your system. Well visually that is. The PCB is extremely dark as it has received a proper coated layer, including the dark connectors, dark capacitors, with the subtle heatsinks this rocks my boat. This is just a great looking solution for the enthusiast PC gamer. 


If you have two left hands in terms of overclocking then just press the OC Genie II button, power up and after a few seconds your motherboard will all of the sudden be mildly overclocked, a performance boost at very little extra power consumption as the CPU will now be throttled to 3800 MHz; admittedly a bit low. The tweaking performance of this motherboard was on par with what we expected. Realistically at 1.30 Volts you should be able to get the Core i7 5960X at roughly 4400~4500 MHz on all cores. We need 1.40 Volts for that. And even though that seems a little shy, it remains to be 4400 MHz on 8 physical CPU cores, the performance is seriously grand. Now I heard from others that they have been able to reach 4.5 GHz on all 8-cored with just a 1.25v Vcore. Some clock great on low voltages, other behave like a pig, in our case where we needed 1.4 Volts to reach 4.4 GHz and have gotten the pig. Regardless, overclocking wise, you will have plenty of headroom to fool around with. It really is a fun processor to tweak with and the motherboard certainly isn't preventing a bad overclock, contrary the this board was designed to offer all features needed and quickly get you up-to snuff tweaking wise. 


Final Words

With the release of Haswell-E processor there will be a large wave of motherboard released from all popular manufacturers. The top dogs will be MSI, Gigabyte and ASUS. The R&D teams have gone trough great lengths to get you something special, and that probably can be said for all brands and models released. Combined with a very energy friendly and feature rich X99 chipset these platforms will kick the proverbial ass big-time. The MSI X99S Gaming AC offers everything, the great looks and features, like the ten SATA 6 Gbps ports, the KillerNIC Ethernet interface and the 7.1 channel HD audio as delivered by the high-end Realtek ALC1150 codec. The reality is that we just started features wise, in conjunction with an amplifier you get support for quality headphones that have an impedance of up to 600 Ohms. The Realtek ALC1150 codec is covered by an EMI shield, and the part of the PCB where the audio hardware is located is isolated to prevent interference. The motherboard is multi-GPU up-to 2/3/4 way SLI/Crossfire ready. Then add to all this features like on-board buttons, pre-overclock modes and diagnostic LEDs, fantastic design and LED lit heatsinks and yeah, you will definitely have something in your PC that offers a great infrastructure, whilst looking amazing.The list still goes on though, as the board provides  everything you need from an enthusiast class Haswell-E processor platform, in terms of features, multi-GPU support, USB 3.0, SATA3, PCI-E Gen 3.0, ease of tweaking and sure, the design and component selection. 

Honestly I have very little to comment or complain about, except maybe pricing. Other than that, the The X99S Gaming 9 AC comes with everything you can think of, including AC Wireless LAN a very nice audio solution and the looks to kill. We have no doubt to recommend the product as it looks fantastic, has a grand feature-set, overclocks (if your CPU allows it) and comes with a terrific audio solution, what's not to like? Definitely worthy of our Top pick award.

Check our other Haswell-E reviews:

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