MSI X99S MPower Review

MSI X99S MPower Review

Manufacturer: MSI
UK price (as reviewed): £187.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $269.99 (ex Tax)

We've looked at MSI's budget X99 offering, the X99S SLI Plus already, and while it wasn't lavished with features, it was still a solid motherboard and one of the cheapest out there too.

Intel's new chipset and CPUs are still a fresh, recent addition to the PC enthusiast scene and there's still a stack of offerings in the pipeline yet to appear on retail shelves, including two from MSI's MPower range.

The sample we're looking at today is the X99S MPower - the cheaper of the two - and if you're after a well-featured overclocking board for less than £200 then it might fit the bill.

It sports the familiar black and yellow colour scheme of MSI's MPower-branded products and is much less in-your-face than ASRock's red colour scheme we saw with the Fatal1ty X99M Killer so is unlikely to be as polarising when it comes to aesthetics.

MSI X99S MPower Review MSI X99S MPower Review
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Storage-wise there's plenty to choose from with 10 SATA 6Gbps ports all powered by the Intel X99 chipset, with two shared between a SATA Express port and an M.2 port between the second and third 16x PCI-E slots, which supports up to type 2280 (80mm) SSDs. It's called a Turbo M.2 port as it taps into four PCI-E 3.0 lanes for a total bandwidth of 32Gbps. As well as four 16x PCI-E slots on total, there are also two 1x PCI-E slots although both of these are located between their larger siblings so installing several graphics cards could render them useless. In terms of mutli-GPU setups, both 3-way SLI and CrossFire are supported, with the third 16x PCI-E slot only coming into play when using a 28-lane CPU (the Core i7-5820K) and the fourth with a 40-lane CPU (Core i7-5930K and 5960X).

MSI X99S MPower Review MSI X99S MPower Review
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Something that we consider important with X99-based motherboards is the spacing between the 16x PCI-E slots for two and three-way setups. Other boards we've seen, such as Asus's X99 Deluxe, allow you double-space graphics cards for extra clearance when using two air-cooled cards. Unfortunately with the X99S MPower, you have to use the first two slots and as a result, even with a 1x PCI-E slot inbetween, dual-slot graphics cards are perilously close together.

MSI X99S MPower Review MSI X99S MPower Review
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This isn't an issue if you're water-cooling them of course, but if you're not about to splash out on £140 worth of waterblocks in addition to the rest of the gear you'd need, this is definitely something to be aware of, especially with AMD graphics cards where high-end models such as the R9 290X are prone to throttling under heavy heat loads.

MSI X99S MPower Review MSI X99S MPower Review
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There's also MSI's usual noise-isolated circuitry, although this is based on the standard Realtek ALC1150 codec so is unlikely to keep up with the ASRock Fatal1ty X99M Killer's and Asus X99 Deluxe's beefed-up specifications. Rather than opting for a Killer-based network adaptor, the X99S MPower uses an Intel I210 Gigabit model while WiFi and Bluetooth are absent.

MSI X99S MPower Review MSI X99S MPower Review
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Aside from the yellow details, the noise-isolated PCB also lights up; it's far less vivid or as even as Asus's red backlighting but it's nice to have some extra pizazz after all. Also illuminated are the power, reset and baseclock overclocking buttons located at the base of the PCB, while a POST code/CPU temperature display is found in the top right hand corner. It's clearly a board with overclocking in mind, and with an LN2 slow mode switch, it's clear MSI is aiming it not just at air or even water-cooling enthusiasts, but at the sub-zero club too.

MSI X99S MPower Review MSI X99S MPower Review
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There's a CMOS clear jumper on the PCB but a more elaborate illuminated button is included on the rear I/O panel. Aside from the issues with the PCI-E slots, we have no complaints about the general layout with all the main connectors and headers being located at the edge of the PCB and there's even a couple of fan headers on the left hand side for rear and roof fans.

Specifications

  • Chipset Intel X99
  • Form factor ATX
  • CPU support Intel Socket 2011-v3 (Haswell-E, Xeon)
  • Memory support Quad-channel, 4 slots, max 64GB
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1150
  • Networking Intel's I210V
  • Ports 1 x M.2 32Gbps (up to 80mm) 10 x SATA 6Gbps, 1 x SATA Express, 6 x USB 3.0 (X99 - 4 via header), 8 x USB 2.0 (X99 - 4 x via header), 4 x USB 3 (VIA805), 2 x USB 3 (ASM1024AE), 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out
  • Dimensions (mm) 304 x 244
  • Extras None

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