MSI Z97 MPOWER MAX AC Review
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.