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MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Review

ccokeman    -   July 11, 2013
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MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Closer Look:

The Z87 MPOWER MAX is built, as you might guess, around the Z87 Express PCH from Intel for use with Intel's Fourth Generation Core series processors that fit into the LGA 1150 socket. The board is a full ATX form factor board measuring 11.96 x 9.6 inches and should fit in the majority of the chassis on the market. MSI uses a six-layer PCB with a special tighter fiber weave that improves the ability of the board to resist humidity, better routes for the trace layout for the power and ground layers, and improves ESD protection as part of MSI's design philosophy. Looking at the layout on the board you can see plenty of room around the socket and between the x16 PCIe 3.0 slots. The black PCB with yellow highlights sets the board off and is a color scheme being used more frequently as of late. The black on the PCB is just that, not a clear black that turns brown under direct lighting but a pitch black. The back side of the PCB is peppered with screws that hold on the large super pipe-equipped cooling solutions. The socket 1150 retention mechanism is supplied by Lotes and is a black chrome design that does not detract from the look of the board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

External I/O connectivity consists of a PS/2 gaming port and USB 2.0 ports that feature triple gold plating to prevent corrosion and reduce wear by ten times, as well as have an increased polling frequency of 1000Hz for improved responsiveness. Up next is the Clear CMOS button for when you really hose up an overclock and cannot get the board to recover. Next to the Clear CMOS button is the socket for the included WiFi card, four ASMedia ASM1074 controlled USB 3.0 ports, the RJ-45 jack that is controlled by the Killer Networks E2205 Gigabit LAN IC, Optical S/PDIF outlet, HDMI and DisplayPort ports, a second HDMI port that supports up to three displays, two more USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Renesas uPD720202 chipset, and the 30µg gold plated audio connectors for the 7.1 channel Audio Boost supported ALC 1150 controlled HD sound solution.

Expansion capabilities include support for up to three way CrossfireX and dual SLI in the three x16 PCIe 3.0 slots. These slots will run in x16 mode with a single expansion card, x8 / x8 with two and x8 / x4 / x4 with three slots populated. Additionally you have four PCIe 2.0 x1 slots available. When the third x16 slot is occupied slot six will be unavailable. Between the top two x16 slots is an mSATA 6Gbps slot that supports Intel Smart Response, Smart Connect, and Rapid Start technologies. Last but not least is the inclusion of the onboard Realteck ALC 1150 codec that is part of MSI's Audio Boost solution. The ALC 1150 codec is covered to reduce EMI interference so the audio signal is sent to the TI OPA1652 headphone amp and audio quality capacitors.

 

 

 

The bottom edge of the PCB is fully occupied with connectivity and usability options. From the left you have the PCB layer indicator that shows the MPOWER MAX has a six-layer PCB, the front panel audio connections, and the OC Switch used in conjunction with the OC Genie 4 button to deliver two different overclocking levels (4.0GHz and 4.2GHz by simply turning the system off and pushing a button). It does not get much easier to overclock. Next are a few more parts of the OC Essential toolbox. The onboard power and reset switches are followed up by the bclock +/- buttons used to dynamically change the bclock up or down. You will need to do some pre testing to see what type of tolerance and voltages you will need for your processor. Up next are a pair of the 4-pin hardware controlled fan headers, three USB headers, two captured and one for use with MSI's M-Connectors. The middle USB Connector highlighted in red supports Supercharge.

The front panel connections are un-captured for use with MSI M-Connectors and the Fast Boot button used to force a boot right into the Click BIOS. Just above the front panel header is a dual BIOS switch to chose between each of the installed BIOS chips. A pair of debug LEDs are used to display POST diagnostic codes. Just above the capacitor that separates the bclock +/- button and the first fan header are a pair of jumpers. These jumpers are used to clear the CMOS and then discharge the residual power stored on the board; a tool I have not seen on any other board so far.

 

 

You get a total of eight SATA 6Gbps ports on the Z87 MPOWER MAX with six provided by the Z87 PCH and two by way of an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. Not identified by color, the ASMedia ports are the bottom ports on the PCB and are labeled 7-8. The SATA1-6 ports support Intel Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (AHCI / RAID 0/1/5/10) by Intel Z87. Between the 24-pin ATX power connector and the SATA ports are a pair of Intel Z87 PCH-controlled USB 3.0 headers that each support up to two USB 3.0 ports. Next up is the 24-pin ATX power connection and a pair of Super Ferrite chokes for the memory power circuit. One place I need to give MSI props on is the V-Check points and how they are implemented. Here you can check voltages against what is applied in the BIOS to verify that what you set is what you get. Voltages you can check include: CPU Vcore, CPU_VCCIN, VCC_DDR, CPU_Gfx, CPU_Ring, CPU_SA. It's pretty much anything that is going to have some impact when adjusted. Four DIMM slots support up to 32GB of DDR3 running at speeds between 1066MHz and 3000MHz OC. MSI has incorporated the use of a T-Topology trace layout to equalize the distance between DIMM sockets and the CPU to reduce latency between channels and sockets to deliver on the higher memory speeds supported.

 

 

There's really not a lot to discuss across the top of the PCB but you get a pair of fan headers labeled CPU 1 and 2, the top side of the Super Pipe-equipped VRM cooling solution, and a pair of 8-pin auxiliary CPU power connectors. You can run with one plugged in but for some spirited overclocking it's best to populate both sockets. The Z87 MPOWER MAX is designed to use socket 1150 Fourth Generation Core series processors. The area around the socket in most high end boards lately has been fairly well cleaned up to facilitate use by the extreme cooling enthusiast. MSI has done its work by utilizing its Military Class strategy on this board using Hi-C Caps and Super Ferrite Chokes around the socket to make it easier to insulate as well as deliver the power needs to the CPU through its 20 Phase DigitALL Power circuits. Normally you only get the V-Check points on the right side of the PCB. On the Z87 MPOWER MAX an additional set of check points located just below the CPU socket are included to measure CPU_VComp, CPU_Core2, CPU_CORE1, CPU_CORE3, PCH_VCCVRM, PCH_CORE, and CPU_VCCIO. The CPU cooling system mounting points have remained unchanged from socket 1156 and 1155, allowing the end user to upgrade or use already proven heat sinks/cooling solutions without waiting for another socket adapter.

 

 

 

Last but not least we get a closer look at the cooling package used on the MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX. Around the socket cooling the Military Class IV VRM components is a large cooler equipped with a large, well rephrase that, massive Super Pipe-equipped cooler designed to withstand MSI's latest burn in testing run passively while the CPU was heavily overclocked. Covering the Z87 PCH is a large flat heat sink that runs relatively cool with with chassis airflow over it. Each of the coolers' design elements compliment the board and are a take off of the design work on the front panel of the packaging.

 

 

After looking at the hardware the Z87 MPOWER MAX is equipped with, there is no need to second guess the behind the scenes work being done in house at MSI. After seeing what the MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming board was all about, it's hard not to get excited for the performance testing on this board.




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