MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Review

ccokeman - 2010-04-12 22:50:05 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: July 11, 2013
Price: $259

MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Introduction:

To say I was impressed with what the MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming delivered would be an understatement. The question is how do you follow up on a really good feature set and some spirited overclocking? The answer to the question, as far as MSI is concerned, is the Z87 MPOWER MAX that is meant to be its halo board for use with socket 1150 Fourth Generation Core series processors. As that halo board it comes with everything including the kitchen sink in terms of its hardware capabilities.

MSI's Military Class build philosophy has been the back bone that its performance motherboards have been built upon over the past few generations. With this generation we move up to Military Class IV components that meet and or exceed MIL-STD-810G and includes Hi-C Caps, Dark Solid Capacitors, Super Ferrite Chokes, and what is being called Military Class essentials that reduce EMI emissions, improve ESD protection, and humidity resistance with a thicker six-layer PCB. Add in the improved thermals, Audio Boost, and an included WiFi card, and you get a pretty comprehensive package to start with.

Priced at $259 on popular e-tailers, it sits towards the higher end of the price spectrum. Does the Z87 MPOWER MAX should prove out its worth? Let's dig into what MSI has to offer with this board.

 

MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Closer Look:

The packaging for MSI's Z87 MPOWER MAX has a bright yellow M against a carbon fiber-like illustration that will surely be a stand out on store shelves. The "M" actually flips open to reveal the Z87 MPOWER MAX as well as some of the highlighted features, including "Enhanced" component selection, Enhanced thermal protection, and Enhanced Power and BIOS. The back side of the package targets the reliability of the Z87 MPOWER MAX showing that it is OC Certified and has passed a rigorous 24-hour burn in test with a highly clocked water cooled CPU while removing all airflow from the motherboard components. Additionally you get the who's who listing of the MSI Specific feature set, including Military Class IV components, OC Genie 4, Audio Boost, and the inclusion of of a Killer Networks E2200 NIC. Inside the package the motherboard sits in a tray while the immense accessory bundle is housed in a secondary box that is packed to the gills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I said the accessory bundle that comes with the MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX is huge and consists of both the documentation and the hardware needed to get the board installed and running with all of the features and options usable. The documentation consists of a pair of driver disks, certificate of stability, users manuals for the board, WiFi card and software, a door tag, quick install guide, and an MSI Gaming case badge. Significantly more than you get with most motherboards. The hardware side of the bundle is pretty impressive in its own right, with a pair of antennas with magnetic bases for mounting on top of or on the rear of the chassis for use with the included WiFi/BT riser card that supports Intel WiDi, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.0. You get a total of six SATA 6Gbps data cables, external SATA power adapter, external SATA add in ports, USB 3.0 add in bracket to add another two ports, SLI Bridge connection, Rear I/O bracket, M-Connectors, and V-Check point extensions.

 

 

The packaging and bundle surely convince you that the MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX is the company's halo board in its Z87 product stack. Packaging and accessories are part of the package but the true worth comes in how well it performs and overclocks.

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.

MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Closer Look:

Every motherboard manufacturer has its own set of software tools that best work with its hardware; MSI is no different in that respect. Included with the Z87 MPOWER MAX are the following tools.

Super Charger is used to manage the power supply through the identified high current USB 2.0 port to allow charging your portable electronics such as smartphones, tablets, or multimedia devices. Fast Boot gives you a direct ticket into the BIOS when this option is enabled in the BIOS. Using the GO2BIOS button functions similarly and is needed since the keyboard is inactive when in Fast Boot mode. Super RAID is a tool that looks like a front end for access into Intel's Rapid Storage Technologies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By including the Killer Networks E2200 ethernet connectivity you, by default, gain access to the Killer Network Management software package. This software package enables the end user the ability to tailor Internet bandwidth by application.

 

 

The use of the Realtek ALC 1150 codec brings with it the Realtek HD Audio manager control panel that proves to be fully functional. An added enhancement is the inclusion of the Sound Blaster Cinema Suite. This enables the use of several preset options including Movie, Game, Music, and a Custom profile. Configurable within the profiles are Surround, Crystalizer, Bass Boost, Smart Volume, and Dialog Plus.

 

 

 

 

MSI Live Update 5 is useful for checking MSI's servers for updates to the installed utilities, BIOS, and drivers. This process can be run automatically or as a manual process. Simply choose what you want to do and start the process.

 

Command Center is a functional overclocking and monitoring tool that comes with some value added features such as the newly implemented RAMDisk software that allows the end user to set up a RAMDisk to boost gaming and application performance by loading these items into the DRAM instead of on a disk drive. The CPU section allows the user to change the CPU ratio and bclock along with managing the installed fan profiles. Clicking on the advanced tab at the bottom of the application allows you to open up a voltage window, DRAM window to manually configure timings, and a fan window to use Smart Fan or manual fan controls. Under the DRAM section you can set the DRAM frequency, DRAM voltage, and CPU voltage. Under RAMDisk you can enable the use of part of your total DRAM capacity and use it to cache applications or games to speed up load times. The OC Genie section illustrates the processes used to overclock the system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you look at the speeds of the installed Corsair Force GT 240GB SSD you can see they run in the 500Mbps range for sequential reads and 335Mbps for sequential writes. When you compare that to the speed you see with the RAMDisk enabled as a virtual drive the speed difference is astounding, showing the advantage of using this utility and how it could benefit the gamer.

 

All in all you get a pretty comprehensive software suite with the Z87 MPOWER MAX.

MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Closer Look:

MSI has come a long way with its Click BIOS, with the latest iteration being installed on this board. Click BIOS 4 is a UEFI BIOS from AMI that is an ACPI 5.0, PnP1.0a, SM BIOS 2.7, and DMI 2.0 multi language ready BIOS. A pair of 64MB Winbond ICs each contain the BIOS. Each BIOS can be accessed via a two position switch that can select from BIOS A or B should you want to use each one differently or just use the redundancy as a fail safe backup. The main BIOS page is where you will navigate from one tab to the next. The GUI provides basic information at the top of the page including CPU temperature, date, time, installed processor, CPU, and DRAM frequency, as well as the installed DRAM capacity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Settings: The first section is Settings, where you can check the system info under System Status. The Advanced tab is when you manage the IGP settings, enable or disable Intel Rapid Start and Smart Connect Technologies, and set up the power management features. The Boot section is where you manage the boot priority of the installed storage devices. Security is where you can set up an admin password and configure the chassis intrusion settings, while Save and Exit allows for a reset to factory defaults or the acceptance of any system changes.

 

 

OC: This section is the area where the performance of the installed hardware can be managed from setting the bclock adjustments; voltages for the CPU, memory, and control circuits; the memory speed and timings; and bclock strap settings, as well as DRAM ratios to pull the most performance out of the installed CPU and memory. This area is fairly robust and the window to the right gives a brief description of the adjust line item. If you will be manually tuning the Z87 MPOWER MAX this is the area you will spend the most time tweaking for performance.

 

 

 

M-Flash is where the user can flash or back up the latest BIOS revisions. Through the course of testing the Z87 MPOWER MAX I flashed several of the available BIOS to see how they functioned. Using the M-Flash tool proved to be anti-climactic as it just worked as intended. Put the BIOS file on a Flash drive, chose your file, then flash and reboot. Three BIOS flashed and no failures prove to me that the tool works.

 

 

OC Profile: This section allows the user to save up to six distinct profiles that can be named individually so you at least remember what each profile was. This way you get easy access without having to reconfigure the BIOS each time you want to change to a more or less aggressive profile. You can save profiles to or from a Flash drive for added profile capacity.

 

 

Hardware Monitor: This section opens to show configurable fan profiles and controls for the five onboard PWM fan headers. The current voltages supplied by the power supply are registered on the bottom of the window in small charts. CPU and System temperatures are in the upper right of the window on this page.

 

 

Board Explorer is a pretty cool feature that shows visually which parts of the PCB are occupied with hardware and highlights them in a bright red. Using a mouse to roll over the Z87 MPOWER MAX you get a brief explanation or picture of the items that are installed.

 

 

As a UEFI BIOS you get full mouse and keyboard support so that you can freely navigate the menus and sub-menus in Click BIOS 4. Mouse support has improved but the mouse you use may improve or detract from your experience and how easy it is to navigate the BIOS with just the mouse. Using a Mad Catz RAT 3 mouse, the cursor did not want to move while the menus would scroll wildly. After talking to MSI about this they nailed it down to the signalling between the mouse and the BIOS. They are currently working on a fix so I look forward to that. Hooking up a few different mice from Razer and Logitech shows that lesser known mice might have support issues while the more popular products provide a better BIOS experience. That being said the BIOS is smooth to work around and is easy to use.

MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Specifications:

CPU (Max Support)
i7
FSB / Hyper Transport Bus
100MHz
Chipset
Intel® Z87 Express Chipset
DDR3 Memory
DDR31066/1333/1600*/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000*(*OC) Mhz
mSATA
 1
Memory Channel
Dual
DIMM Slots
 4
Max Memory (GB)
64
PCI-Ex16 3.0
 
PCI-E Gen
   3
PCI-E Gen
Gen3 (16,0,0), (8,8,0), (8,4,4)
PCI-Ex1
4
SATAIII
8
RAID
0/1/5/10
LAN
10/100/1000*1
TPM
1
USB 3.0 ports (Rear)
4
USB 2.0 ports (Rear)
2
Audio ports (Rear)
6+Coaxial / Optical SPDIF
VGA
1
HDMI
1
DVI
1
VGA Max Share Memory (MB)
1760
DirectX
DX11
Form Factor
ATX
SLI
Y
CrossFire
Y

 

MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Features:



 

All information courtesy of MSI @ http://us.msi.com/product/mb/Z87-GD65-GAMING.html

MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Testing:

Testing MSI's Z87-based MPOWER MAX motherboard will involve running it through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which includes both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications, to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual gameplay, in which we can see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest drivers for each board and  AMD Catalyst 13.6 drivers for the XFX HD 7970. In the past we had locked the clock speed on the processor to eliminate any easily controlled variables due to processor speed. However there is a difference in how each manufacturer handles the CPU default and boost speeds creating opportunity for one board to deliver a higher level of performance. This variable is a point of difference between boards. The majority of users will run the stock settings making this point a valid concern so we are changing up the test methods to capture this difference.

Testing Setup: Socket 1150

 

Comparison Motherboard:

 

MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

 

Overclocking the Intel Fourth Generation Core i7 4770K via MSI's Click BIOS 4 is going to be similar to what you would find on the MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming in that the GUI is the same with a change in color to match the color scheme of the Z87 MPOWER MAX. Adjusting the bclock to unheard of levels is gone to a point as there is some room with the use of bclock straps that allow the user to increase the bclock to preset ratios of 100MHz, 125MHz, 166MHz and even 250MHz all while keeping the PCIe clock at 100MHz. Variation away from the main strap should fall in the 1-5% range without some serious voltage tuning. The first steps I took to get my 4770K to its maximum clock speed was to adjust the CPU Ratio to 47 and the Ring Ratio to 46 to give me a clock speed of 4700MHz when multiplied by the set bclock of 100MHz. Next up I set the CPU PCIE PLL to SB PLL and Filter PLL to enabled. Tuning the voltages provides the real means to get the overclock you want. A few caveats though with this platform.

First, maximum CPU clock speed varies wildly even between very similar batch codes. Second, it runs hot, damn hot. When talking to MSI before the Z87 launch the company stated that it has seen both low volt, high clock CPUs as well as quite a few dogs that could only muster 4.3GHz with high voltage. Something seen first hand when I visited another manufacturers tech day. Where in the past voltage and cooling had been the way to the GHz promised land, with IVB and now Haswell, we have shifted away from that road and are now fighting heat just to stay competitive due to the massive amount of hardware under the lid and the small die size that generates that thermal load. My specific 4770K is not the best out there in terms of clock speed for voltage applied but can manage 4.7GHz with up to 1.35v to the core, 1.30 to the ring bus, and 1.65v to the DDR3 DIMMS.

So back to the tuning on the Z87 MPOWER MAX. After playing with the voltages I found that 1.275v on the core, 1.265v on the ring bus, +.40v to the system agent voltage, and keeping the memory at 1.65v all seemed to deliver the stability I was looking for at 4.7GHz. Leaving the rest of the settings at factory default shows that MSI has done some work to keep its auto rules pretty sound allowing for almost point and shoot overclocking.

However it does get even easier to overclock the MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX if trolling through the Click BIOS 4 is not your idea of fun or have very little idea what function each of the settings performs. Using MSI's OC Genie 4 makes it that one button push experience with two settings used by the tool. Gaming mode or Gear 1 will get you to 4.0GHz, while Gear 2 will get you to a solid 4.2GHz. If that's not enough you can use the Base Clock control buttons to ratchet up the bclock a little higher or lower depending on the CPU bclock strap you choose to run. OC Genie 4 just works right out of the box.

OC Genie 4 works as intended, but for the manual tuner you can boost up the clock speed by reducing the clock multiplier and changing the bclock strap to 125-100 or even 166-100. Just keep in mind you will need to make sure your memory multiplier will need to be reduced to run the higher bclock. Using the gear ratios or CPU straps is the best way to run higher memory speeds since it gives you more flexibility in terms of overall speed. To see if this board was up to running higher memory speeds like the rest of the boards I have tested, I again pulled my G.Skill Trident 2400MHz rated modules out and saw that I could still reach over 2600MHz on the Z87 MPOWER MAX. Overall the MPOWER MAX delivers excellent overclocking results that offer stability and all the clock speed your CPU can give.

 

 

 

 

Maximum Core Clock Speed:

Each CPU has been tested for stability at the listed over-clocked speeds. These clock speeds will represent the level of performance shown by the overclocked scores in the testing. A mall note that the CPU used on the ASUS P8Z87-Plus differed from the CPU in this review resulting in lower overall overclocked scoring in many of the benchmarks.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. PCMark 7
  2. SiSoft Sandra 2013
  3. Cinebench 11.5
  4. X.264 5.1
  5. AIDA 64 3.00
  6. Crystal Diskmark
  7. ATTO
  8. iPerf
  9. Rightmark Audio Analyzer
  1. 3DMark
  2. Metro: Last Light
  3. DiRT 3

MSI Z87 MPOWER Max Testing:

PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs from laptops to desktops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

  

  

 

  

 

SiSoft Sandra 2013 is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

Overall Score

  

 

When you look at the stock speed scoring, the MSI MPOWER MAX manages the boost clock well enough to stay within the performance envelope of the rest of the boards.

MSI Z87 MPOWER Max Testing:

Cinebench 11.5 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program, CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

X.264 Benchmark: This benchmark is used to measure the time it takes to encode a 1080p video file into the x264 format. The default benchmark is used with an average of all four tests on each pass taken as the result.

  

  

 

AIDA64 Extreme Edition 3.0 is a software utility designed to be used for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the Cache and Memory benchmark tool to measure memory performance.

 

  

  

  

  

 

Stock performance is similar across all of the boards with the MPOWER MAX delivering marks even with or better than the comparison field.

MSI Z87 MPOWER Max Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds of drives by using 4K blocks, 512K blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 1000MB option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTO 2.47: will be used to measure USB 3.0 performance using an SSD attached to an external USB 3.0 drive dock.

  

  

  

  

 

Internal SATA performance shows the MPOWER MAX delivering the highest throughput in the read testing and comparable performance in the write testing. The USB 3.0 testing shows that without the means to improve performance any higher, the MPOWER MAX delivers on the high side for read performance of the non boosted boards and on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to write performance.

MSI Z87 MPOWER Max Testing:

LAN performance will be tested via a utility to gauge the performance of the onboard network solutions. The motherboard being tested will be connected via a Gigabit switch to another system with an integrated Gigabit network solution on board.

iPerf is a small lightweight utility run from the command prompt and can be used to measure both TCP and UDP performance on a network. iPerf is cross platform software and open source. The test is configured to run for 20 seconds with a window size of 256 KB and four simultaneous streams that should be able to saturate the TCP link on a good NIC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.25 is used to test the sound solution on board each motherboard. Nothing beats a good set of ears and headphones but this is a graphic representation of the capabilities of the installed hardware. Sampling mode is 24-bit 44kHz.

Motherboard
Intel DZ87KLT-75
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming
ASUS ROG M6H
ASUS Z87-PLUS
MSI MPower MAX
Frequency Response dB
+3.65,-2.33
+0.52,+ 0.30
+0.23,+0.12
-0.01, -0.07
+0.12,-0.10
Noise Level dBA
-91.3
-91.3
-91.5
-85.3
-93.6
Dynamic Range dBA
91.3
91.2
91.5
85.4
93.5
Total Harmonic distortion %
0.481
0.131
0.436
0.0059
0.131
Intermodulation distortion +noise
1.393
0.259
0.365
0.019
0.259
Stereo Crosstalk,db
-69.7
-91.6
-89.2
-84.9
-91.2
Intermodulation distortion + noise (Swept Freq) %
0.465
.323
.311
.017
.324
Frequency Response (Swept Sine), db
+1.3,-2.4
+0.1,-0.1
+0.0,-0.1
+0.0, -0.0
+0.1,-0.1

 

When you compare the throughput of the Killer and Intel NICs you get pretty similar performance through the test regimen. Where you can see differences and maximize the LAN performance is by using each manufacturer's network traffic management software to prioritize how, when, and what kind of traffic pattern best works for the end user. Wireless performance is limited by the wireless router but still pushes through at 31Mbps. The Realtek-based sound solution provided by MSI delivers results that are overall very good based on the RMAA testing.

MSI Z87 MPOWER Max Testing:

3DMark: The just released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base the ability to make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs to notebooks and Extreme Gaming PCs.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.

Settings

 

 

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro: Last Light is the followup to the extremely popular game Metro 2033. Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, this game uses the 4A game engine. In this game set a year after the missile strike on the Dark Ones you continue on as Artyom as he digs deeper into the bowels of the Metro.

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

Gaming performance is similar across the two games tested at both stock and overclocked CPU speeds. The GPU is going to limit the performance more so than the clock speed at higher graphics settings. In the 3DMark tests that are more system related, the boards are similar with the MPOWER MAX delivering around the mean average as far as performance goes.

MSI Z87 MPOWER Max Conclusion:

Looking at overall performance you can see the variation between boards does not differ by much when all else is equal. That in itself is a testament to the repeatability of the platform as it delivers that comparable performance from board to board. Kind of like visiting your local golden arches and one far from home. It's the same, more or less, is the point. With all else being equal it comes down to how long the platform will be in service and the ability of the board to do exactly what you want to do with it.

As far as overclocking goes I was happy with what the Z87 MPOWER MAX had to offer as far as tuning and how well the basic tuning of the board was setup. Once you get past setting up the peripherals, memory timings. and voltage. there are only a few settings needed to run the numbers. I was able to max out my 4770K in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes and was able to run it with a lower applied voltage than used on several of the previous boards I have tested. Overclocking my G.Skill DDR3 2400MHz modules to over 2600MHz was just as easy on this board as on the M6H and Z87-GD65. Adjust the timings and voltage, apply the clock speed, and go is all it took.

With this iteration of MSI's Click BIOS 4 we get a BIOS that is now familiar and is incredibly easy to navigate. Flashing the BIOS in M-Flash works as intended over several new BIOS that I received during this review. The only concern I had was one that only a select few will run into having to do with how the Mad Catz mouse I use sends its signals to the BIOS. By sending two signals instead of one to the BIOS you get both scrolling and movement when using the mouse to navigate the BIOS. MSI has contacted the manufacturer and is working on a solution I am happy to say. (Edit: MSI has now resolved the concern in the Click BIOS)

MSI's Military Class IV design and feature set are front and center with the Z87 MPOWER MAX delivering the usual Hi-C Cap, Super Ferrite Choke, and Solid "Dark" capacitors that we all know about, but topping it off by adding a six-layer PCB with a new tighter, fiber weave that improves humidity resistance, reduces EMI emissions, and improves ESD protection, a new 20 phase DigitALL all digital power circuit, and MSI's OC Essential package. This package includes a dual BIOS, OC Genie 4 (that performed flawlessly), Direct OC buttons, Dual Debug LEDS, Clear CMOS button and jumper, and what has to be one of my all time MSI favorites, the captured V-Check points. These are great but MSI added a few more measurement points just below the socket that should be accessible when running on air or liquid, but could prove problematic once you insulate the board for sub zero cooling.

MSI's Audio Boost proved to be enjoyable as far as my ears can tell, delivering clean, crisp sound throughout the range of music, movies, and games. The yellow and black color scheme looks good although is not for everyone but you never know, yellow could be the next ced and in reality the boards I have tested with this color scheme have been beasts. Maybe there is something to it!

All in all I was pleased with what MSI brought to the table with the Z87 MPOWER MAX. It compared well with the rest of the boards I have looked at and is fully capable of delivering as much performance as your components will allow. At $259, MSI's MPOWER MAX is not a low buck option but does allow you to get your money's worth. When it comes to the end of the road and it's your money on the line, you really cannot go wrong with the MPOWER MAX!

 

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