When shopping for a new motherboard I’ve found that a lot of people tend to lean toward what you have had good experiences with in the past. For me I have a short list of companies that I tend to prefer in my personal rigs and MSI is on that list. When I covered the X99 launch I didn’t have the chance to check out their X99 offerings but today I finally do. They sent over the X99S MPower. It isn’t their highest end board but it is damn close. Now I can sit down and see how it compares to the competition. My previous experiences with MSI MPower boards have been good, but the X99 boards I have tested to date have been extremely good, will it be able to keep up? Let’s find out.

Product Name: MSI X99S MPower

Review Sample Provided by: MSI

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

Specifications

CPU

Supports New Intel® Core™ Processors for the Socket LGA2011-3

Main Memory

Intel® X99 Express Chipset

Slots

4 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots

2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots 

On-Board SATA

Intel X99 Express Chipset

10 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1~6)

1 x SATA express port

 1 x M.2 port, supports M.2 SATA 6Gb/s module or M.2 PCIe module up to 32Gb/s speed

- M.2 port supports 4.2cm/ 6cm/ 8cm length module

- M.2 PCIe module does not support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.

- Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10

- Supports Intel Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology and Intel Smart Connect Technology

USB

Intel X99 Express Chipset

- 6 x USB 3.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 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)

VIA VIA805 Chipset

- 4 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel

ASMedia ASM1024AE Chipset

- 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel

*Internal JUSB1 connector supports MSI Super Charger.

Audio

Realtek® ALC1150 Codec

- 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio

- Supports S/PDIF output

LAN

1x Intel I210 Gigabit LAN controlle

Multi-GPU

-Supports 3-Way AMD CrossFire™ Technology*

-Supports 3-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology

*Supports Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.

Internal I/O Connectors

- 1 x 24-pin ATX power connector

- 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector

- 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector

- 10 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors

- 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)

- 2 x USB 3.0 connector (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

- 7 x V-Check connectors

- 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 Multi-BIOS switch

- 1 x OC Genie mode switch

- 1 x Slow mode switch

- 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED

* Provides additional power to PCIe x16 slots

Back Panel I/O Ports

- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port

- 1 x Clear CMOS button

- 1 x Optical S/PDIF-out  port

- 2 x USB 2.0  ports

- 8 x USB 3.0  ports

- 1 x RJ45 LAN jack

- 1 x 5 in 1 OFC audio jack

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

30.48cm(L) x 24.38cm(W) ATX Form Factor

Mounting

9 mounting holes.

 


Packaging and Accessories

The packaging for the MSI X99S MPower is a lot like the MPower motherboards. It has a black and yellow them, a large M on it, and an otherwise clean look. Really main big difference is that the yellow on the packaging is a metallic finish where the motherboards have a flat yellow. It isn’t until you flip everything over that you really find out anything about the board other that the name. The back of the box has a specification listing, a line diagram of the rear I/O panel and multiple photos of both the board and also key features. Each feature has a short explanation of what it is as well. Lastly there is a small section in the bottom right corner with a few different icons of other features like SLI and Crossfire support.

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Once you pull the motherboard and its cardboard tray out you will find a treasure cove of accessories and documentation. For documentation you get a whole pile of things. For starters you get a user guide for both the board and also another for the software. There is a fold out poster, door hander, and even a sheet of SATA cables. You of course also get a driver/software disc as well. I really like the new case badge design that included as well, it is a metal badge with the MSI OC logo.

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For accessories they included two flexible black SLI bridges, and also a small bag with helpers for the front panel connections. You also get a total of six black SATA cables, half with a right angled connector on one end. The rear I/O panel cover continues the black and yellow theme and even has the OC logo on it as well as yellow labeling. The I/O cover uses a foam backing to keep things snug, this is always welcomed over those frustrating metal springs.

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Board Layout and Pictures

Just like with previous MPower boards the X99S model comes in with an extremely clean design, an all-black PCB, and yellow trim. Being an X99 board there is a lot less empty space this time around due to the eight DDR4 slots. Even so aesthetically speaking I still think the MPower is one if not the best looking board on the market. You have to be okay with yellow though or if you are feeling wild you could repaint the yellow trim to match your PC. Of course we are here to look at more than aesthetics though right? Let’s take a closer look at what makes the X99S MPower tick.

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Starting up in the top left corner behind the rear I/O panel we have the first of two sets of four DDR4 DIMMs. Between the I/O panel and the ram are two four pin PWM fan headers, one is down near the PCI slots and the other is up near the top as a second CPU fan header. Also up on the top edge are the CPU power connections. MSI went with an 8 Pin and a 4 pin for power. Some other overclocking boards will sometimes have two 8 pins, but this is still more power than a standard 8 pin.

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On the top right corner we have the second set of four DDR4 DIMMS, giving us a total of eight. We have two more four pin PWM fan headers up on the top edge, the one on the left is for the CPU fan and the right is another system fan. It is interesting MSI split up the CPU fan headers with one here and the other on the left side of the board. Up in the top corner MSI put the LED diagnostic readout, this is also a little different, they are normally in the bottom right corner. Along the right side you have a USB 3.0 port and the 24 pin motherboard power connection.

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Moving down to the bottom right corner of the MPower we have a total of 8 right angled SATA connection. MSI also slipped in a second USB 3.0 connection, this time with a right angled connection. I love that they included two and also that they give a right angle option, when wiring USB 3.0 it can be a bit of a pain. Down on the bottom edge there are also two USB 2.0 headers. MSI included another four pin PWM fan header in the corner for a total of five so far. The SATA connection on the bottom edge is actually a SATA express connection, it’s nice to see that they included this, the EVGA board didn’t have one. Above the SATA express connection is the BIOS switch that switches between the Multi-BIOS II. The Slow_1 switch enables a slower boot to help with extreme overclocking as well.

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Also down along the bottom edge are five different buttons. MSI gives you the fairly standard power and reset buttons. You also get an OC Genie button for an auto overclock and + and – buttons to manually lower or increase the overclock. The fastB1 button will boot you directly into the BIOS. The OC_sw1 switch next to it gives you a small FSB overclock. All the way on the left we also have the front panel audio connection.

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Just to the left of the PCIe slots MSI slipped in the audio card. Like the past few generations, they did separate the PCB of the audio card. To show this they put a gap and have LED lighting on the back side of the motherboard. When powered up you will see a yellow strip between the PCBs. This combined with the metal shield help keep interference to a minimum, this is one of the reasons people go with a full audio card over onboard audio. They use Nippon caps and also built in a 600 ohm headphone amplifier.

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lighting

For PCI slots the X99S MPower does have a nice selection as expected being an X99 board. You get four PCIe 3.0 x16 slots and two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. Depending on what CPU you end up running you will have 40 or 28 lanes to work with, so the breakdown is below. MSI was also careful to space each slot out to fully support quad SLI with dual slot cards. MSI also slipped in a M.2 x4 connection in between two of the PCIe X16 slots.

40 lanes (16,0,0,0)(16,16,0,0)(16,16,0,8)

28 lanes(16,0,0,0)(16,8,0,0)(8,8,8,0)

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The cooling design of the X99S MPower has the same black and yellow theme that previous MPower boards have had but they went with a different heatsink design this time around. The last time I took a look at an MPower board it had an extremely clean looking heatsink that had very few fins that had me a little concerned with its ability to cool higher temps. This time around they were a little more liberal with the shape, giving the power capacitor heatsink a little more surface area. The chipset heatsink matches the same design as well with a black cover over a yellow strip on the right side.

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Most of the rear I/O panel on the X99S MPower is actually filled with USB 3.0 connections. You get a total of 8. There are also two USB 2.0 ports as well as a legacy PS2 port for those who want to run an older keyboard like a Model M. Beyond that things are fairly simple on the rear I/O. You get a  port audio header with an optical connection. There is a single Ethernet connection that uses an Intel controller. I’ve been a little hard on MSI in the past because they have gone with Killer NICs on boards like this, I’m really glad to see they used an Intel NIC this time around. Lastly on the rear I/O the button just to the left of the USB 3.0 ports actually glows blue when the board is powered on. Pushing it clears the CMOS. Being an overclocking focused board it’s great to see that they made clearing the CMOS so easy.

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On the back side of the X99S MPower we get better look at the flat black PCB. We can also find a lot of the certification logos that are required to be on the board. MSI started hiding them on the back of some of their boards to make for more room and a cleaner look on the top of the PCB. I love it!

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UEFI and Software

Over the past few years it has been great to see MSI improve on their software. High quality software seems like a trivial thing but once you have worked with it it does make a big difference. For manufactures it can be tough because software is harder to quantify, with every other part of a motherboard you can say well if we add this specific feature it will cost us X amount and then we can justify charging z amount. Well software costs a lot of money to make and takes a long time to develop and frankly who looks at a motherboard and says well I will go with this model because it has software. It is a quality of life upgrade that improves your overall experience but its not typically the first things that comes to mind. It is however in my opinion what separates a good manufacture from a great one. This goes for beyond motherboards really. 

Anyhow so MSI has a great program called Live Update that scans what software and drivers you have installed and will help you updated out of date software or install anything that is missing. It makes setting up a new PC simple. For the X99S MPower I installed windows, popped in the included disc and just installed  Live Update and the network driver. Once I could get online I was able to use the software to install everything else I needed and I know that it is completely up to date including updates to both Live Update and the network driver that I installed to get started.

software 7

With everything installed and up and running I had the chance to toy around in the other important piece of software, MSIs Command Center. Frankly this software isn’t any different than the last MSI launch but they did color this to match the yellow of the MPower board. I’m not at all upset about the lack of updates because I was very happy with the software then and now. The way the software works, you have a few options to select from up top or you can just hit the right arrow to move through all of the settings. You will notice that a lot of them aren’t full pages, the options up top just take you to the location in the side scroll, similar to how a FAQ will sometimes take you to a specific question but there are still other questions around it.

You start on a page that lets you manually overclock your CPU. Here you can drag each of the individual cores up and down or if you want there are options to turn up the bclk or the multiplier for the whole CPU. While you are here you can adjust the smart fan settings by adjusting the ramp up graph or you can manually set a fan speed in manual mode. Continuing on you will next find options to overclock your RAM including voltage and frequency settings.

software 1

software 2

Next MSI includes RAMDisk for free with their software. Here you can turn it on and also select how large of a ram disk you would like to make. If you don’t know what this is, basically it will take a portion of your ram and turn it into an extremely fast hard drive. This typically runs 3 or 4 times faster than an SSD and is great for tossing pictures and videos on that you are editing.

software 3

There is an option to turn on OC Genie in the software or you can manually do it with the button on the motherboard. This will require a restart if you do it though.

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Down along the bottom of the software you also have three pages you can pull up at any point in time. The record page just graphs out basically any voltage, rpm, temperature, ect that the software picks up. You can use this to graph out how much things heat up with a new heatsink in game or in a benchmark. The Warning page takes that same information but you can just set it to warn you if anything reaches a specific number. The Mobile Control page tells you about the windows and android apps that you can install to overclock and tune your software remotely. It’s a cool feature, but the only time I could see me doing this is if I wanted to turn things up as you run a benchmark.

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There is also an advanced page that lets you dig into DRAM timings and more voltage control. MSI tucked this away to prevent people from changing things they don’t know about.

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As for the UEFI, again things are basically the same as our last look, but again MSI made sure to match the UEFI to the yellow/black theme. When you get into the BIOS they have the large OC Series logo in the middle. On the left you have a settings page, overclock page, and a page to help update the bios. On the right you can load and save BIOS profiles, go to a hardware monitoring page, and board explorer. Up top is a little information about your setup, the temps, buttons to turn on XMP and OC Genie, and a drag and drop booting device list.

bios 1

The settings page is basically the catch all for every motherboard option other than the overclocking specific settings. Here you can toy with USB, power, and subsystem settings. There is even a whole page of different Windows 8 specific settings as well.

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The overclocking page has all of the important CPU and RAM adjustments available for you. This makes getting in and out to overclock quicker than having to dig through the bios.  I like that every option has a small explanation on the right side when you click on it as well.

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M-Flash has just the one option to pull the bios update off your flash drive and update the bios. Personally, I just stick with Live Update, it downloads the latest bios and installs it for you.

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You can save up to six different bios profiles. This is great for saving your known good overclock and being able to toy with unproven overclocks. Or if it is hot in your house you can have a profile for the summer and one for the winter.

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The hardware monitor tab shows your system temps and also lets you map out the smart control of each of your fans.

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The board explorer shows you everything you have installed or plugged in by mousing over the device location on the picture of the motherboard. They even give you a view of the rear I/O panel when you mouse over it.

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bios 7

 


Test Rig and Procedures

Intel LGA1150 Test System

CPU

Intel i7-5960X CPU

Live Pricing

Cooling

Noctua NH-U12S for cooling

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste

Live Pricing

Live Pricing

Memory

Corsair Vengeance LPX 2666MHz DDR4 4x4GB

Live Pricing

Storage

OCZ Vector 150 120GB SSD

Western Digital Velociraptor 600GB HDD (for steam)

Live Pricing

Live Pricing

Video Card

Nvidia GTX 780

Live Pricing

Power Supply

Thermaltake Grand 850W PSU

Live Pricing

Case

Dimastech Test Bench

Live Pricing

OS

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit

Live Pricing

Motherboard Testing

Passmark Performance Test 8.0

Overall PCMark score

PCMark 8

We use the Home Accelerated benchmark and track the overall score

3DMark

We run the 2013 Fire Strike test on the performance setting

In Game Tests

Bioshock Infinite

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool, we run Bioshock Infinite on the “Xtreme” quality setting.

Tomb Raider

 Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool, we run Tomb Raider on the “Xtreme” quality setting.

Hitman: Absolution

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool, we run Hitman: Absolution on the “Xtreme” quality setting.

Sleeping Dogs

 Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool, we run Sleeping Dogs on the “Xtreme” quality setting.

Subsystem Testing

Crystal Disk Mark

We use this benchmark for USB 3.0 and SATA speed tests. Testing is done with Crystal Disc Mark with a Corsair Force GT 60 Gb. USB 3.0 testing is hooked up through a Thermaltake BlackX with USB 3.0 support

Passmark

Passmark Advanced network test

 


Performance

For the most part overall performance benchmarks on a motherboard are more a formality than anything else. What we are looking for are numbers that don’t perform up to the average, in other words we are keeping an eye for any weird bugs that you might run into while using the board day to day. It’s hard to compare the numbers to any other boards because they are really based on the memory, CPU, and video card more than anything else (a little on the SSD as well in some tests).

Finally getting a third X99 board tested gives us a better look at the overall performance you can expect to see. The X99S MPower performed on par with the other two boards for the most part. The time difference between this review and the two launch reviews does provide a bit of an improvement from updated drivers though. This could especially be seen in PCMark 8. Oddly enough I dove into the breakdown expecting to see that video card driver improvements helped with PCMark but surprisingly it actually performed a little slower on the GPU tests but pulled ahead with everything else. Most of the game benchmarks were on par but Bioshock Infinite did see a nice bump up to 106.25 FPS.

3DMark

Motherboard

Overall Score

Graphics Score

Physics Score

Asus X99 Deluxe

8959

9738

16185

EVGA X99 Classified

8963

9753

16075

MSI X99S MPower

8992

9801

16009

PCMark 8 Home Accelerated Score

Asus X99 Deluxe

4183

EVGA X99 Classified

4272

MSI X99S MPower

4697

Passmark Overall Score

Asus X99 Deluxe

4975.9

EVGA X99 Classified

4981.2

MSI X99S MPower

5016.1

Bioshock Infinite Average FPS

Asus X99 Deluxe

100.48

EVGA X99 Classified

98.23

MSI X99S MPower

106.25

Tomb Raider Average FPS

Asus X99 Deluxe

56.7

EVGA X99 Classified

56.9

MSI X99S MPower

57.2

Hitman: Absolution Average FPS

Asus X99 Deluxe

46.6

EVGA X99 Classified

46.7

MSI X99S MPower

46.7

Sleeping Dogs Average FPS

Asus X99 Deluxe

61.5

EVGA X99 Classified

62.0

MSI X99S MPower

61.3

 


USB 3.0 and SATA 3

SATA and USB 3.0 controllers are sometimes run on the chipset and other times manufactures add additional controllers to add more ports. This can lead to inconsistent performance on both. So how did the X99S MPower perform? Well on the SATA side of things it came in just a touch faster than the other two boards. For USB 3.0 the Asus board still pulled ahead when running Asus’s USB 3.0 Turbo but beyond that the MPower outperformed the EVGA board.

SATA3

Read Speed

Asus X99 Deluxe

448.3

EVGA X99 Classified

456.6

MSI X99S MPower

458.3

USB 3.0

Read Speed

Asus X99 Deluxe

245.1

Asus X99 Deluxe w/turbo

405.3

EVGA X99 Classified

237.8

MSI X99S MPower

241.9

 


Network

Network performance is one of those areas that can drastically change from board to board. This time around MSI went with an Intel NIC where they normally use a Killer NIC for their gaming and MPower boards. So how did the Intel NIC perform? Well it was actually the fastest of all three X99 boards I have tested with an impressive 912.5 average speed!

Motherboard

Average Network Speed

Asus X99 Deluxe

887.0

Asus X99 Deluxe  w/turbo

907.6

EVGA X99 Classified

818.5

MSI X99S MPower

912.5

 


Overclock

Being an overclock focused motherboard I have high expectations going on. I went about testing two different ways. First I wanted to see what I would get using MSIs automatic overclocking aka OC Genie. After that I went back in and manually overclocked to see what my relatively bad overclocking skills would get us. So my baseline came from the other two boards I tested using the same RAM/CPU. The Asus board gave an impressive 4.7 GHz using their auto overclocking. On both the Asus and EVGA boards I was able to get just beyond that with a 4.85 on the EVGA being the highest. So how did overclocking go on the MSI X99S MPower? Well using the OCGenie was a little disappointing, I went in hoping to see something close to what Asus did but I came out with an overclock of 3.7. This was a full 1 GHz less than Asus and a bump of just .2 over the standard Intel turbo speed. If you go into the MPower expecting to get a big auto overclock you aren’t going to get much.

On the other hand, when I manually overclocked I was able to completely match the same 4.85 GHz that I saw on the EVGA. This is all on air even! Better cooling and a better person overclocking would obviously make a big difference, but given the level playing ground I was happy to see the MSI match the competition.

 


Overall and Final Verdict

I knew when going into the X99S MPower than it would most likely have the same black and yellow theme and the clean styling that I have really enjoyed with previous MPower boards. I wasn’t at all disappointed. In fact I was very happy with the X99S MPower in just about every aspect. Not only did it look great but performance was just as good as well in every single benchmark. Dropping the Killer NIC on this model for the Intel NIC meant great performance and you don’t have to run any special software. Speaking of software, as always I was very impressed with MSIs software, between Live Update and their Command Center software I almost never had to toy around in the BIOS. The software was easy to use and packed full of features. They did a great job packing the board full of features as well. I was really happy to see more than one USB 3.0 header for example.

Really I only had a few complains, less than I normally have. I was disappointed in the auto overclock that OC Genie gave me, but I was able to make up for it when manually overclocking. Beyond that, I could really only nitpick and point out that the yellow theme isn’t going to be for everyone.

Even more impressive than everything else is what price the board is selling for. Both the EVGA and Asus boards that I tested have an MSRP of $399.99 where the X99S MPower is listed for $269.99. It’s not MSIs top of the line motherboard, but feature wise this board is right up there with both the EVGA and the Asus. In fact, I would put it up above the EVGA for features and software and on par with the Asus X99 Deluxe.

fv4valueeditorschoice

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #35890 19 Nov 2014 19:48
Today I take a look at another X99 motherboard, this time something with a little lower price point compared to the other boards I have tested.

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