MSI Z97 MPower MAX AC Motherboard Review
Before we proceed with the motherboard review, a primer on the new Z97 chipset is necessary. First, close your eyes and think of the Z87 chipset features. There. You are already up to date with what the Z97 chipset can do. Oh and also M.2 SSD support has been added, which some manufacturers might even opt not to put in their boards. It sounds boring if you look at it that way, but whenever limitations like this happens, motherboard manufacturers seem to step up and design exciting motherboards boards to compensate for the lack of native change in the chipset’s part. Do you the remember the Z68 motherboards that came out to replace the P67 chipsets? It is pretty much the same deal here. Much like Hollywood, most of the releases we will see are going to be sequels. Some will be great and some will fail to be better than the original. The only way to find out of course is to actually review them in detail.
|Key Feature Differentiation||Z87||Z97|
|Firmware Sku Support||1.5M||1.5M|
|Graphics Support||1×16 or 2×8 or 1×8 + 2×4||1×16 or 2×8 or 1×8 + 2×4|
|Mem/DIMMs per Channel||2/2||2/2|
|Intel Rapid Storage Technology||YES (v12)||YES (v13)|
|Dynamic Storage Accelerator||YES||YES|
|Intel Device Protection with Boot Guard||NO||YES|
|Intel Smart Response Technology||YES||YES|
|Small Business Advantage||NO||NO|
|USB total (Maximum USB3.0)||14(6)||14(6)|
|IO Port Flexibility||YES||YES|
|Total SATA (Max # of 6Gb/s)||6(6)||6(6)|
|Maximum PCI Express* 2.0 (5GT/s)||8||8|
|PCI Express M.2 Support||NO||1×2|
Review Sample Provided by: MSI
Product Name: Z97 MPower MAX AC Motherboard
MSRP: $259 USD
Product was given in exchange for work done to produce this review.
The Mpower MAX AC motherboard is part of MSI’s OC series mainboard line using a yellow and black color scheme introduced with the previous generation Z87 mainboard release. The front cover flips open for a preview of the board itself and the components inside are separated into two boxes, one for the motherboard proper and one for the accessories.
Being a high-end product, the MPower MAX AC accessory box is quite full with the standard driver/utilities disc (spanning two-discs), software and hardware user’s guide, IO shield, front-panel M-connectors, six SATA cables (half of which are angled on one connector end and the other three have straight connectors on both ends), and dual-SLI cable. Bonus accessories include a fold-out poster which doubles as a motherboard feature map on the other side, a powered eSATA kit, metal case badge featuring the updated MSI OC-series logo, V-check extension cables, wireless 802.11AC WiFi module kit with a pair of magnetic-base antennas, and SATA cable label stickers. Noticeably absent is the USB 3.0 expansion slot bracket that was included in the Z87 version of the Mpower MAX for the second on-board USB 3.0 header.
|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)
||3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4 modes)
4 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots*
||Intel® Z97 Express Chipset
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1~6)
– 1 x M.2 port*
– M.2 port supports M.2 SATA 6Gb/s module
– M.2 port supports M.2 PCIe module up to 10Gb/s speed**
– M.2 port supports 4.2cm/ 6cm/ 8cm length module
– Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10***
– Supports Intel Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology and Intel Smart Connect Technology****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*****)ASMedia ASM1074 Chipset
– 6 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panelASMedia 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
– Supports S/PDIF Input
|LAN||1x Intel I218-V Gigabit LAN Controller|
|Multi-GPU||Supports 3-Way AMD CrossFire™ Technology******
Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
||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 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 connectorsts
– 1 x GO2BIOS button
– 1 x Power button
– 1 x Reset button
– 2 x Base Clock control buttons
– 1 x OC Genie button
– 1 x Discharge button
– 1 x Multi-BIOS switch
– 1 x OC Genie mode switch
– 1 x Slow mode 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
||– 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|
||9 mounting holes|
|VGA Max Share Memory (MB)
|NOTE||* The SATA5 and SATA6 ports will be unavailable when installing a module in the M.2 port.
** M.2 PCIe interface only supports UEFI option ROM, NOT support legacy option ROM.
*** M.2 PCIe interface does not support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.
**** Supports Intel Core processors on Windows 7 and Windows 8/ 8.1***** internal JUSB1 connector supports MSI Super Charger ******Supports Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.******* Provides additional power to PCIe x16 slots
Good job, liked the attention to detail in your review like the electronic components used, allost noone is doing that these days they are most show off marketing than proper reviews. Thx
Thank you very much for reading. We are always trying to improve our reviews so reader feedback is always welcome. Cheers, –Ron
Great review!, love that you put time into looking what the power delivery system is on this board. They downgraded from the 20 to 12 and changed the components of it, my question is; Is this worse or better than the old power delivery system of the Z87 MPOWER (MAX)?
Hello, thanks for reading. I am fairly conservative when it comes to economics and design so I don’t fault them completely for doing that. Also, MSI is not the only one who scaled back with the design on their boards, which I think is much efficient anyway given current and upcoming CPUs. Hybrid plus less capacitors understandably is harder to accept after seeing the last model but I have a feeling we will see less and less monster VRMs from all manufacturers. I am not an LN2 overclocker so unfortunately I cannot speak with authority on how grossly this is affected but on air, I don’t think it is an issue IMO. The Z87 Mpower MAX AC is still the better deal of the two currently ($239 on NewEgg) hence I did not give the Z97 version an Editor’s Choice award.
Technically is a kinda of an upgrade since previous generation used a 5 true phases design with quadruples (5×4=20 hybrid phase design) and it was controlled by a digital high quality IR3563B PWM, now they use 6 true phases with doublers/drivers package (6×2=12 hybrid phase design) but with a ISL6388 PWM witch is a new product with no much info about it and products from ISL usually are hybrid analog/digital controler witch is not better than fully digital and for that is also a kinda of downgrade but still needs confirmation. The rest of the components mosfets and inductors seems to be as equal quality as from previous generation. In real world this only appears to affect price that seems pretty good for the features and power delivery is more efficient no doubt on that. MSI is pretty solid manufacturer and a lot bigger than most people think.
It seems to be that ISL6388 is Intersil’s first fully digital controller. I have no clue if it is in indeed an upgrade.
Is there any difference on mpower and mpower max? For a average game/media use? maybe some slight overclocking too? Hows the PWM or such compared to each other?
The PWM design is the same, judging by photos from XFastest’s Review: http://www.xfastest.com/thread-135126-1-1.html
Looks like the difference is just a few features: fewer USB 2.0 and 3.0, lack of fixed MOSFET heatsink barbs, WiFi, e-SATA and additional HDMI for Intel graphics.
I hope this won’t go unnoticed
On the Intel Chipset heatsink, with the big M, is that thermal paste? Or is it some kind of thermal compound?
It is solid (albeit soft), flat and very thin tape at room temperature. It is closer to thermal compound in terms of moisture than the drier pink thermal tape used on other chipset heatsinks which leaves harder to remove residue (ASUS Z87 RoG chipsets).
Oh, good. If i take off the heatsink, do i have to replace or change it? I intend to paint the heatsink, but i dont know what to do with the thermal compound/pads.
You can scrape it off completely and just replace it with thermal paste or a thin thermal pad. The chipset itself has a very low TDP ~5W so cooling it is not really going to be difficult.
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