MSI Z87 MPOWER MAX Review
As we've seen a lot of from MSI recently, there is a hell of a lot of hard work that has gone into the design of the MPOWER MAX. The board itself starts off with a very thick PCB, designed to help maintain a decent thickness trace for stability and performance reasons, as well as just being sturdy to withstand everything from a bump to the temperature change when you pour some LN2 onto it. There is no denying that the moment you take it out of the box you feel the quality. This continues with the placement of the components. Sometimes you can tell that a lower-range motherboard is the same PCB with a load of spaces where features should be, or alternatively an old PCB with some new features bodged on wherever possible. With the MAX everything is exactly where you want it, and indeed where you'd place it if you had the chance. There are loads of fan headers, the expansion ports are nicely placed and we love the looks of it. The yellow highlights are gorgeous and make a refreshing change from the sea of red and blue we have to tolerate. Even better is that the yellow is subtle. If you really aren't fussed about it it's not so in your face that you can't avoid it.
Overclocking is simplicity, as it nearly always is on recent Intel chipsets. Although the placement of some items in the BIOS aren't where we might be used to them, there is a logic to everything and with the Go2BIOS button and plenty of power phases you'll reach the limit of your CPU in a pain-free manner. All of our benchmarks respond well to the motherboard, and it's unbelievably consistent with no weaknesses or holes anywhere. The Memory copy speed was a particular highlight, being 1GB/s faster than anything else we've tested.
If we had to describe the MPOWER MAX in a word it would be understated. It would be easy to consider that either as a good or bad thing depending upon your perspective, so of course we have to expound upon that. Sometimes when we're testing we get results that are gaudy, standing proud a mile above everything else in the graph. Or, alternatively, terrible. A product that wholly fails to achieve what it's set out to do. The MPOWER MAX is almost stealthy. You never notice it standing tall at the top of a graph, it never gives the kind of result that causes your jaw to drop, and yet whenever you look a little closer at the results it's always there in a very close second or third place. To borrow some sporting analogies it's Lotus, Liverpool or the Green Bay Packers. Unless you're looking for them you hardly notice them and yet at the end you always find them much closer than you think. So it is with the MSI MPOWER MAX.
For just on the £200 mark it's a step up in cost over most of the standard Z87 motherboards, and although the performance is excellent it's not quite on the leading edge as other motherboards such as the Sniper M5 or MSI's own GD65 Gaming. Thankfully though the price is nowhere near as ridiculous as the Maximus VI Extreme, and we can't see any features that the MPOWER MAX is missing when compared to that. Certainly none that will make the difference to the average user.
Therein lies the quandry with the MAX. The build quality is outstanding, we love the looks of it, and it has a wealth of features. But for the average user, and even the average enthusiast, you wont get anything more out of it in either overclocking or results than you'd get from a much cheaper model. It's relentlessly consistent though, and we think that the combination of build quality, aesthetics and performance are enough that the higher price-tag doesn't detract too much from the score. We considered long and hard whether it's worthy of a Gold or a Silver Award and in the end we felt that the extra £50 for limited gains are enough to just push it down to a Silver. It is a highly polished Silver though, and if you like the looks and don't mind spending that little extra it's unhesitatingly recommended.