MSI Big Bang XPOWER Reviewccokeman - July 8, 2010
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When you get right down to it an X58 based motherboard is going to compare well with just about any other X58 based board on the market, with the scores delivered by each board falling in a very narrow window. That's what we have in the testing of the Big Bang Xpower from MSI. Don't take that as a derogatory comment on this fine board, as it does what it is designed to do at stock speeds. Where this board is designed to shine is when you push your hardware faster. To motivate that potential, MSI has used Military class components to enable the enthusiast the ability to really tweak their hardware. There are the Super Ferrite chokes and tantalum cored Hi-c capacitors around the socket that run cooler, last longer, and run more efficiently than traditional designs; with ICY chokes and solid capacitors used across the board to allow higher more stable overclocks and a longer lasting motherboard. If it's not clear from looking over the board, MSI has added a second 8-pin auxiliary 12V connection for the 16-phase power circuit to the CPU and a 6-pin PCIe plug for added power and stability to the video cards. This should eliminate the throttling problem that the last Gen boards had when running a highly overclocked Gulftown processor. When I was testing the Xpower out, the problem I had always run into with the test CPU was trying to run the processor at bclocks higher than 205Mhz. It was just a bit stubborn. 200x21 and 205x20 were no problem, above that limit was a no go. The Xpower did allow me to reach up to a 213Mhz bclock for an improvement over prior boards. The design seems to work allowing me the highest stable overclock on air for this chip to date.
The last time I worked with MSI's one touch overclocking tool OC Genie, I was impressed with the overclock it delivered with a simple touch of a button. To some degree I was again pleased with the results, but was surprised at how low the overclock using this utility was. MSI quotes a 36% improvement in clock speed. In my testing, I was only able to realize a 30% improvement or about 800MHz over the base 2.66Ghz of the Core i7 920. This is a 30% fully stable increase doing nothing other than pushing a button. Combine this result with the ability to manipulate clock speeds using the OC Dashboard, Control Center utility, and on board bclock +/- buttons and you have more than a few ways to get to the promised land. Overclocking and performance are things the Xpower excels at.
The six PCIe slots allow for multiple GPU configurations from both ATI and NVIDIA, but Quad SLI is not supported while Quad CrossFireX is. Even so, building a TRI SLI setup with a trio of GTX 480 cards should easily provide all the gaming horsepower you will need. Regardless of which manufacturer you choose for your video solution, you can be rest assured you can use all of the latest technologies from each manufacturer. The on-board sound solution comes in the form of a Realtek powered 1X PCIe card, which features support for THX TrueStudio Pro and EAX 5.0 Advanced HD, to give the gamer a more realistic 3D surround sound experience. The SuperPipe cooling solution used to cool the DrMOS Mosfets and X58 chipset is effective at cooling down the components. The X58 chipset does get hot but this cooling solution is up to the task. By far one of the coolest features of the Xpower, besides the OC Genie, are the V-check points. These are more than just a solder point on the board - MSI makes it easy to measure the applied voltages to the common components we normally use to overclock the system. Either slide the multi-meter probe into the V-check point socket when on a tech bench or install the extensions to ease the measurement of applied voltage while in a chassis. The voltages that were measured were almost spot on with what was applied in the BIOS, meaning you can overclock with confidence knowing what voltage you really are using instead of relying on a software algorithm to get you a number that is close.
The Big Bang Xpower is a board that is targeted at the gamer and enthusiast. At $299.99, the price tag is not at the extreme end of the spectrum and is quite competitive when you consider the feature set and its construction. It comes in at a cool 80 bucks less expensive than the RIIIE from ASUS. The blue, black, and gray color scheme works and is a nice upgrade from the MSI Eclipse in the looks department. Even though it won't be seen, the black chromed CPU retention assembly just sets off the look. The layout is functional with only the one concern in the placement of the SATA 6GB/s connectors straight out of the board instead of at a 90 degree angle. Their is plenty of room around the CPU socket for really just about any cooling solution you could throw at it. Water, big air, or even an LN2 pot should not provide problems. With the Xpower, you get the latest technologies in USB 3.0 and SATA 6GB/s, DrMOS, Hi-c Caps, Super Ferrite Chokes, support for up to three or four video cards in a multi-GPU setup along with some serious overclocking credentials. The Xpower has delivered performance that won't cost you both an arm and leg. MSI has delivered a stout piece of hardware that is worthy of addition to anyone's wish list.
- Feature rich
- Multi-GPU ready (More than two cards)
- Good Looks
- OC Genie
- Included Realtek Quantum Wave sound card
- V-Check points