MSI Z97 Gaming 9 Motherboard Review
As we've quickly come to expect from MSI the Gaming 9 AC comes in a gorgeous packaging with their Dragon branding front and centre. It's amazing how quickly they've turned around their box art from the shouty white ones of old to the modern, so-sleek-it's-minimalist packaging we are treated to now.
Inside is everything you could hope to want. A flat, well padded IO shield. Loads of SATA cables, eSATA brackets, front panel headers for easy case connection, and an Intel WiDi/Bluetooth 4.0/WiFi b/g/n/ac adaptor to give all the wireless connection you could require.
If you read our Gaming 5 review, then right now you've probably got the same sense of deja vu as we had. If you read our Gaming 5 review, then right now you've probably got the same sense of deja vu as we had. Hang on haven't I just said that? The Gaming 9 is nearly identical to the Gaming 5, and you really have to look closely to spot the differences.
Although the underside of a motherboard is never the most interesting thing, at the right edge you can see a bolt which caused no end of frustration. So should you decide that a Gaming 9 is the very motherboard to fill the void in your life, take note to remove this bolt first so that you can screw the motherboard to your ATX mounting points.
Black probably best describes the MSI Gaming 9. Just like its Gaming 5 brethren the darkest of colours dominates proceedings and the red accents are so subtle that you could probably get away with choosing any theme for your rig without the Gaming 9 standing out. The CPU area is kept clear, whilst still including the Military Class 4 components so entwined with the MSI Gaming series, including Hi-C caps, Dark Caps and Super Ferrite Chokes.
There are three PCI Express 3.0 slots, and three PCIe x1's. The main slots run at x16, x8x8 or x8x4x4 depending upon how many are utilised.
The Audio is well catered for with Creative SoundBlaster Cinema 2 and, wait for it, dual headphone amplifiers providing upto 600Ohms if needed.
There are 8 SATA 6Gb/s ports, with six provided by the Z97 chipset and two via a ASMedia ASM1061 chipset. The M2 slot supports all three lengths so you have a wider choice, as well as the M2 support, it can also be converted to regular SATA Express if you desire.
Round the back we have 2 'Gaming' ports designed with extra gold plating for the lowest latency and most durable experience. They are alongside 8 USB 3.0 ports, the WiFi antenna, a rear-mounted clear CMOS, the KillerNIC port and Audio Boost 2 ports with dedicated headphone out.