MSI Z97 MPOWER MAX AC Review
Up Close continued
One element that is a good idea but has been poorly executed is the barbs to enable the heatsinks to be water-cooled. MSI have used 3/8 barbs, and nearly everyone uses 1/2 hose. It really should have just been a bare G1/4" threat that users can fit their own barbs and fittings to the other manufacturers have caught on to this so it seems a huge oversight to not only fix the barbs but use a size that is so limited. It's a small flaw that make a huge difference in an otherwise great looking board.
The decision to use three PCI Express 3.0 lanes is one we don't mind at all. Four GPUs almost never happens and certainly makes no financial sense. There is plenty of room between the top two slots and enough x1 PCI slots that you can pick and choose where to put your expansion cards.
Unlike a lot of the other motherboards we've seen, MSI haven't included SATA Express, but instead gone for 8 SATA 6Gb/s ports. At the very least it's nice to have so many full speed ports, although the MAX designation does lead one to assume that all of the latest and greatest innovations will be found.
At the top right hand corner of the MPOWER MAX AC is the excellent MSI OC Genie button, which overclocks your system automatically with a single press. Next to that is the usual, for MSI, collection of power and reset buttons and overclocking buttons too. The ability to fine tune your overclock is one that will be welcomed by those seeking to eke out the maximum from their hardware.
The PCB separation of the audio is something that has gone from being brand new a year or so ago to being found on nearly every motherboard that gets released. It provides a nice glow and coupled to the RealTek ALC1150 hardware should ensure excellent on-board audio reproduction.
Headers are one thing that the MSI Z97 MPOWER MAX AC most definitely isn't short of. With plenty of front-panel USB ports in cases these days they have been well positioned too.
At the rear we find, from left to right, combined PS/2, two USB 2.0 ports for your keyboard and mouse, the space for the WiFi/Bluetooth module, 8 USB 3.0 ports, the Intel LAN socket, DisplayPort and HDMI, as well as the SPDIF Optical and standard audio jacks.
A motherboard with plenty of connectivity, the MPOWER MAX certainly has the usability sorted. How does it perform?