MSI X99S XPOWER AC Review
The decision by Intel to release their Haswell-E CPUs and accompanying motherboards a little earlier than scheduled has been something which, until now, has gone without any particular hitches. Of course when you ask any R&D department to hurry along there are bound to be hiccups and when it comes to the MSI X99S XPOWER AC.
Let's get the negative out of the way early then, because there is much to praise here. The inability to see how The MSI overclocks is one of the most frustrating experiences we've had here at OC3D. All the tools are there to make the X99S XPOWER overclock like an absolute lunatic, and when we'd finally obtained the beautiful 4.5GHz from our i7-5960X we had high hopes. OCCT is usually enough to stress any overclock to breaking point so once we'd got ours stable it was just a case of rattling through the benchmarks and enjoying the results. The best laid plans of mice and men...
Sadly running any benchmark at all caused lockups, bluescreens and general signs of death and misery. You instantly then think to yourself the system cant be that stable and start reducing the overclock, but after an an entire day of tweaking settings volts and my own sanity we could not find any pattern to the freezing. Another infinitely frustrating trait the board has at the moment is when you THINK you have found some stability when you restart the BIOS will keep popping up telling you that its unstable and you need to press F1 to tweak you settings, the only way round this is to turn the power off for 10 minutes and then boot. Changing nothing it will then boot to the OS. Working with hardware daily you learn to listen, see the signals and understand them like all men wish they could do with their wives but the XPOWER was so unpredictable we just found ourselves joining dating sites and wishing for a new relationship! So we were forced to only run the stock arrangement for our review today because we couldnt get anything over about 4.1ghz that would pass our batch of tests no matter how long we spent tweaking things in the BIOS.
As if our overclocking experience wasn't frustrating enough when we saw the stock results that the XPOWER AC was capable of you can imagine how much we gnashed our teeth. This isn't just a quick motherboard, it was to be found at the top of nearly every graph we've got, once you ignore the overclocked offerings. So much power even at stock.
Every new BIOS that was released was an improvement upon the one before, and MSI are releasing them at such a pace that we're sure the X99S XPOWER AC will eventually be capable of making the most of its tools, and what tools they are. It looks great, although we'd prefer some more yellow on display, and if you think of something you'd like to see on the PCB the MPOWER includes it. The angled fan holder and special socket show how much MSI have thought of the LN2 brigade. Once you add those to the OC Genie buttons that allow for realtime tweaks it's obvious that good things will eventually come. Sadly our time ran out before we could see what those were.
So at the moment it's a beast of a stock motherboard, just too expensive to wholly recommend unreservedly. For the stock performance alone it wins our OC3D Silver Award, and we can't wait to discover how good it is once it matures. At the moment we'd recommend holding off until the stability is brought in line with the quality of the hardware.
UPDATE - Since our initial writing of this review MSI have brought out a succession of BIOS updates and we postponed publication of this review so that we would have some time with their most recent one. It delivers all the things it should, including improved stability albeit at the cost of maximum overclock potential. So, as always, our advice is to definitely ensure that you install the latest version of the BIOS if you're planning to utilise the MSI XPOWER in your system.
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