The most distinctive difference between high-end and mainstream motherboards is often the level of luxury they provide. Surprisingly however, the budget and mainstream motherboards from MSI’s Z97 Gaming line share a lot of similar features with its higher-end sibling. So when it came to the top of the line from MSI’s Gaming motherboard series, expectation was quite high that there would be something very unique about it to warrant the more than $100 gap between the MSI Z97 Gaming 7 and the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC.
Aside from the obvious Wireless AC feature shared with its high-end OC series cousins, the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC also features the most ambitious non-discrete front panel audio solution ever integrated into a motherboard. Combined with a 12-phase VRM, 3-way Crossfire support, Killer Ethernet and a 6-month free premium X-split license, the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC is ready for any level of gaming.
Review Sample Provided by: MSI
Product Name: Z97 Gaming 9 AC
MSRP: $299 USD ($289 @ NewEgg)
Product was given in exchange for work done to produce this review.
The Gaming series boxes have the familiar Dragon logo on the front and features the new simpler naming scheme in white and red print. The front flap opens as a preview of the motherboard with the features printed across it.
Inside the box are two partitions containing the motherboard itself at the top compartment while the bottom area is further partitioned into two, containing the documentation and the rest of the accessories.
Six black latching SATA cables are included, three of which are angled while three are straight. The rest of the accessories include a black dual-SLI ribbon, Gaming series door-hanger, voltage check point extensions, a Gaming series case badge, front panel M-connectors, SATA cable label stickers, two DVD driver disc, a 4-pin Molex plug for the audio direct-power source, padded IO shield, E-SATA kit, and Wi-Fi AC module kit. In terms of documentation, an all-English motherboard manual, software user guide, and quick installation guides are available.
The full official specification table is available below, click here if you want to skip to the next page of the overview instead.
|CPU||Supports 4th and 5th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors, and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® Processors for Socket LGA1150|
|Chipset||Intel Z97 Express Chipset|
|Memory||Support four DDR3 DIMMs 1066/1333/1600/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000*/3100*/3200*/3300*(OC) DRAM, 32GB Max|
– Supports Dual-Channel mode
– Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory
– Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
|Expansion Slots||3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4 modes)|
3x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
|On-Board SATA||Intel® Z97 Express Chipset|
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1~6)
– 1 x M.2 port (*1)
– M.2 port supports M.2 SATA 6Gb/s module
– M.2 port supports M.2 PCIe module up to 10Gb/s speed (*2)
– M.2 port supports 4.2cm/ 6cm/ 8cm length module
– Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 (*3)
– Supports Intel Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology and Intel Smart Connect Technology (*4)
ASMedia® ASM1061 chipset
– 2 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA7~8)
|USB||Intel Z97 Express Chipset|
– 4 x USB 3.0 ports available through the internal USB connectors
– 6 x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors (*5))
ASMedia ASM1074 Chipset
– 6 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
ASMedia ASM1042 Chipset
– 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
|Audio||Realtek® ALC1150 Codec|
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
– Supports S/PDIF output
CMedia CM6631A (for JAUD1)
– USB 2.0 High speed audio
|LAN||1x Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN controller (*6)|
|Multi-GPU||Supports 3-Way AMD CrossFire™ Technology (*7)|
Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
|Wireless LAN||Wi-Fi/Bluetooth expansion module with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 chip.|
– Supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual band (2.4GHz, 5GHz) up to 867 Mbps speed.
– Supports Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)
|Bluetooth||Wi-Fi/Bluetooth expansion module with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 chip.|
– Supports Bluetooth v4.0 (includes BLE and Bluetooth 3.0+HS)
|Internal IO Connectors||– 1x 24-pin ATX main power connector|
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 1 x 6-pin ATX 12V power connector(*8)
– 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
– 2 x USB 3.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.0 ports)
– 2 x 4-pin CPU fan connectors
– 3 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x TPM module connector
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 9 x V-Check connectors
– 1 x Power button
– 1 x Reset button
– 1 x OC Genie button
– 1 x Discharge button
– 1 x Multi-BIOS switch
– 1 x Audio power switch
– 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED
– 1 x Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module connector
|Back I/O Ports||– 1x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse port|
– 2 x USB 2.0 ports
– 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 8 x USB 3.0 ports
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
– 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×2304@24Hz, 2560×1600@60Hz, 3840×2160@60Hz, 1920×1200@60Hz
– 1 x DisplayPort, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×2304@24Hz, 2560×1600@60Hz, 3840×2160@60Hz,1920×1200@60Hz
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 6 x OFC audio jacks
|Dual-Display Support||– Extend Mode|
– Clone Mode
|BIOS||– The motherboard BIOS provides “Plug & Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.|
– The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.
|Dimension||– 30.5cm(L) x 24.4cm(W) ATX Form Factor|
|Mounting Holes||9 mounting holes|
|VGA Max Share Memory (MB)||1760|
|NOTE||*1-The SATA5 and SATA6 ports will be unavailable when installing a module in the M.2 port.|
*2-M.2 PCIe interface only supports UEFI option ROM, NOT support legacy option ROM.
*3-M.2 PCIe interface does not support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.
*4-Supports Intel Core processors on Windows 7 and Windows 8/ 8.1
*5-Internal JUSB1 connector supports MSI Super Charger.
*6-The Killer Network Manager is only available for Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 currently. The supported drivers for other operating systems would be available on the website if provided by vendor.
*7-Supports Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.