Testing the MSI Z97 MPOWER MAX has been a little bit of a frustrating experience. Not because of the motherboard itself, but rather the side-effects of us having an early sample coupled to a non-retail CPU. So some of our results bear witness to the more variable overclocking results that we obtained, which means that the MPOWER alternately looked excellent and pretty average. Largely though the version you'll get should be all things to all people.

But let's start at the beginning. Considering this is expected to be the top of the MSI range of motherboards then the £180 price tag is outstanding value. The design of the MPOWER MAX AC is fantastic with an acre of black only highlighted with a little yellow here and there. We know that colours are very much a matter of personal taste and for every person who wants their black combined with red, blue or even orange there is someone who longs for green or, in this case, yellow. It makes such a nice change for a different colour, and it's all very tastefully done. The M logo is perhaps too strong and definitely seems like a yellow Mario logo. Still if you're a Mike or a Martin then it could be just the ticket.

Away from the colour choice everything is very well situated. We like the breakout PCB for the sound. We like the positioning of the USB headers exactly where you'd need them. Putting all the OC Genie buttons in one place has to be commended to, and none of them are so close you're going to press them by accident. There are loads of connectivity options too, with more USB ports and SATA headers than you're likely to fill up.

Our biggest bugbare with the aesthetics of the board is the watercooling barbs, not only are these fixed which in itself is a huge over sight because that means you can not fit your own sized barbs, compressions, rigid hose fittings, angle fittings etc but the single most confusing thing is that they are infact a 3/8 ID hose size not the most commonly used 1/2". We honestly feel that the board would actually be better without them because so few people will bother with them in a custom build that the board would actually look better without them there. Who ever thought this was a good idea for the masses at MSI needs to be sent back to the postal room.

Away from the looks the performance is, as we've said, a bit of a mixed bag although the majority of users will have a more mature BIOS and a regular CPU and thus not encounter some of the problems we found. The BIOS is easy to navigate and when the stars align and the vDroop plays ball then the performance is clearly there for all to see with some excellent results in both the 3D and normal testing. PC Mark probably expressed our experience in the most distilled manner, with Vantage showing the MPOWER MAX AC as a rip-roaring beast of a thing, and PC Mark 7 being, at best, a mixed bag.

We could have easily done what other sites might do and guess at how your experience will be and score based upon that. So whilst we know that by the time you get your hands on one, and certainly when the next generation of Intel CPU's comes on the market, the MPOWER MAX AC will be unleashed and consistently give the performance that we catch glimpses of in our testing. For the minute though we have to, as always, review what is in front of us and there is enough here to still make the MSI MPOWER MAX AC worthy of our OC3D Silver Award.

We look forward to revisiting it when we test the 5th Generation of Intel CPUs in the not too distant future.


Thanks to MSI for supplying the MPOWER MAX AC for review. Discussyour thoughts in the OC3D forums.    

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Most Recent Comments

11-05-2014, 04:21:27

Awesome looking board, it's the only Z97 mobo apart from the Giga Z97 SOC that I actually like the look of. Shame about the performance, although it does seem abnormal low in places so my bet is on the BIOS not being up to scratch, which will no doubt be fixed.
I'm looking forward to seeing how the Devils Canyon Haswell refresh perform on this board though. Quote

11-05-2014, 04:43:14

Really like the looks of this, the yellow and black is just a nice change from the usual red and black. The BIOS... yeah, well... still enough time to get it fixed in time for Devil's Canyon.
But the fixed barbs man, really... iirc Asus had those on the Z77 Maximus V Formula TWO GENERATIONS AGO. They fixed it for the Z87 Maximus VI Formula, and MSI STILL don't get it right for Z97? Massive fail, very disappointing Quote

11-05-2014, 05:56:45

Whole heartedly agree with Tom and the other posters, the barbs on the chipset heatsink is a massive design faux pas. The chipset heatsink on the Z87 (so probably the Z97 too) get pretty hot when cooling the regs for an overclocked CPU and the PLX chip when controlling two top end graphics cards. MSI obviously recognises this by giving the option of watercooling, but fail on the execution. It does give third party's the opportunity to offer alternative water cooling blocks, but at an added cost to the buyer.

I'm glad they've moved the location of the GO2BIOS button, but they should have really made it a bigger purpose built button like the power on and discharge buttons. I used the GO2BIOS button alot while setting up my Z87 XPower, the problem being is that you're frequently in Windows wanting the system to go to the bios when you restart - so the system is on. That means sticking your hand/finger in your case while it's powered and having to be pretty accurate that you press it. This can be a bit awkward depending on your case. Don't use a screwdriver!

The POST LEDs - I think they may be displaying the current temperature of the CPU? If so, it's not a bad feature!

Unrelated to the Z97 MPower...

- 4.9GHz at 1.26v is pretty impressive.
- Those grey/silver psu cables are starting to grow on me.
- The sound throughout the review is a bit uncomfortable, the stereo positioning is a bit out of whack.

Cheers for the review!Quote

11-05-2014, 07:40:55

I completely agree that the 3/8" barbs are tragic and that for every possible scenario it would be better to have G1/4" threads, even for the air coolers and people who want 3/8" barbs, they need that choice at least.

But saying it would be worse with just no water cooling capability at all is a bigger statement. I completely agree that's why I reside here at OC3D and watch the videos. However i'm not sure many other reviewers or consumers will agree with that statement, most people out there who just throw parts together will just think that more features is more features and count it as a positive point without realizing how dumb it is. Not because they are dumb but just because their priorities are different. So I don't mean this as a criticism of the review, infact it's closer to praise because that is the angle I take on things. But i'm just trying to say some people might be like wtf how could less features be better.


11-05-2014, 09:05:34

First of all, nice review. Not a generation for me, but nice to see steps forward, and implemention of new storage controllers.

Secondly, it's amazing the manufactures still hasn't learned. Aren't they reading any forums at all. Evry time they integrate water cooling possibilities in their heatsinks, the response is the same. We want G1/4 threads and plugs, so we can choose our own fittings.

Now, MSI, ASUS, Gigabyt, EVGA and who else is out there, repeat after me: "from now on, we will give our WC-heatsinks G1/4 threads, and supply them with plugs matching the heatsinks" -for the love of god, IT IS TIME TO LEARN THIS!!!Quote

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