MSI Z87 MPower MAX motherboard review

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Final words and conclusion

Final words and conclusion

As you guys know, overall I am a little disappointed by Intel's Haswell processors when it comes to its baseline performance, or the lack of improvement of processor performance in general over the last two generations more specifically.

However, the motherboards manufacturers all went bananas with their motherboards. MSI even literally took that banana color :) Seriously though, what a sexy motherboard ! From A to Z the motherboard has been chucked full with the coolest features and that ranges from WIFI, WIDI many 6 Gbps SATA ports and mSATA. Multiple multi-GPU configurations are possible, you'll get MANY USB 3.0 ports and of course an improved and enhanced audio solution. And of course don't forget about the KillerNIC. I remember these PCI card based on that Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2200 chip topping over 100 bucks a pop. You now get it integrated at hardly any cost, that's a huge win alright. For a motherboard in this class overclocking overall was a breeze as well, pop a nice LCS kit on the processor and you will get to the 4600 MHz range with a 4770K easily. Our stable upper limit was hard to set though, as Haswell just like Ivy bridge is a bitch to cool once you increase CPU voltage. So for this review we used a dual-fan-dual-radiator D14 from Noctua, but even that beast of a heatpipe cooler can not deal with the processor at 4800~4900 MHz, and clocks down once the processor  reaches certain thermal limitations. 

The overall baseline performance is really good, definitely a notch faster than Intel's reference board, and that's thanks to the fact that MSI has slightly higher turbos at CPU multipliers of 39. Hey it's extra performance at no cost, we digg that. 





Let's take a moment and talk about the looks. Once the first photos leaked on the Mpower board there was a lot of discussion, many people do not like the M shaped PCH heatsink and the yellow colors overall. I tend to agree with the Z shaped PCH cooler and sure, the top heatsink is rather bulky. I don't dislike it though I personally would have chosen something else if I would have been the designer. 

The board overall is pure sex though, a dark matte colored PCB, a clean PCB, all black connectors everywhere and then  mild subtle yellows on the coolers. Combined with the LED lights (especially on the backside of the motherboard) this thing looks just awesome in a dark PC case. The white LEDs create an awesome HALO coming from underneath the motherboard, much like you are used to seeing in the automotive and street racing industry -- 2 fast 2 furious ?

The new design is nice IMHO. The PCB is extremely dark including the connectors, with the subtle heatsinks themed with the red striping. MSI would like you to look and match product based on color schemes. With the MPower series you get a very versatile motherboard with some enthusiast options like the on-board buttons, USB 3.0, voltage monitoring, some extra SATA3 ports and sure, a mainboard that looks real good. Added WIFI and WIDI is just great, and again you also get that KillerNIC E2200. So yeah, if you do like the black/yellow, then this is just a great looking solution for the enthusiast PC gamer.


Overall non-overclocked performance as stated is above the baseline of the reference Z87 motherboards we tested, with an offset here and there of course. 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 4200 MHz, admittedly a bit low.

The tweaking performance of this motherboard was on par with what we expected. We got the 4770K processor rocking stable at 4600 MHz with the memory (XMP enabled) at 2400 very easily, and that's not bad at all. As stated in the introduction, Haswell processors run hotter when overclocked opposed to Sandy Bridge, reaching 4600~4900 MHz might be easy to accomplish with the motherboard but you'll find yourself needing juice in the 1.35~1.45 Volts range of the processor and that requires massive cooling. So be prepared for processor heat, proper liquid cooling definitely deserves a recommendation here alright. Or perhaps some delid action eh ?


Final words

The 8 SATA ports are very sweet: all SATA 6 Gb/s ports. Next to that the KillerNIC Ethernet interface is something we love. You get 7.1 channel HD audio as delivered by the high-end Realtek ALC1150 codec, and in conjunction with a TI OPA1652 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. You gotta love that. The motherboard is multi-GPU this 2-way SLI and 3-way Crossfire ready. And sure add to that the sporty features like on board buttons, pre-overclock modes and diagnostic LEDs etc, overall this just an excellent build really.

The Z87 MPower MAX edition motherboard seriously offers you everything and anything you need from an enthusiast class Haswell processor platform, in terms of features, multi-GPU support, USB 3.0, SATA3, PCIe Gen 3.0, ease of tweaking and sure, the design and component selection EVERYTHING is done right as well. We would have liked to seen one extra NIC though, but that's nitpicking. The MSI Z87 MPower MAX edition motherboard is a fantastic quality motherboard that will appeal to the enthusiast PC gaming crowd very much. You might want to look out for a HAWk or Lightning edition graphics card as they come with the yellow stripe, insert some dark memory and you will have an awesome looking PC with any feature that you could wish for. The one setback could be pricing though, we still need to receive a final MSRP but expect this board to hover in the 250~275 EUR range. But do see it as an investment with a great NIC, great audio, nice looks and excellent tweakability. The Mpower MAX just has it all.

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