Due to the demand of the ever-changing PC scene, MSI had to come up with something different to attract your attention away from all of these multicoloured motherboards in the marketplace – queue up the MSI X99A XPOWER Gaming Titanium. The Z170A variant was something that was a first, and MSI received a lot of praise for their efforts to bring this motherboard to market. Well, I mean, it wouldn’t have inspired an X99 based motherboard if it weren’t a hit; right? The board itself is still an XPOWER, but it no longer has that yellow and black theme which MSI became known for with their MPOWER and XPOWER designs in the past. I am personally interested to find out how well the memory behaves on the Titanium, as the performance on the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon was sublime. I want to know if it was a fluke, or if MSI really does have the ace up their sleeve like I think they do. I know that their performance tuning team have been extremely busy, so I am very eager to see if that happens on this occasion as well. That will have to wait until later, though. What does the MSI X99A XPOWER Gaming Titanium have to offer the world?
In terms of the offerings that the refresh brings to the table, it’s not an awful lot. Unfortunately, if you’ve already got an X99 motherboard, there’s no real reason to make the switch to a ‘new’ one unless your current one dies. However, with that said, it does offer all of the goodness such as multiple graphics card support, M.2 PCIe storage, ten SATA 6 Gbps ports that are native to the chipset and the usual good stuff that you get from a HEDT platform. The biggest selling point that has been added to the majority of the refreshed product lines is the inclusion of RGB LEDs. They are ranked amongst one the most controversial additions to have ever been implemented on a motherboard, but you either love them or you hate them. Good job you can (usually) turn them off entirely if you are in the hate camp! As for the RGB LED madness when it comes to the Titanium, you may be very pleased to find out that there are very little LEDs on this board. Aside from your usual audio circuit insulator, and the various LEDs dotted around the motherboard to help you with diagnostics, there are no other RGB LEDs in sight. Oh yes, that’s right, no RGB LEDs on the Titanium! A little part of me is sad about it, but another part is elated as I feel that the addition of them may otherwise ruin a very classy (if I may say so myself) looking motherboard. The only major LED factor on this motherboard is underneath the ICH heatsink, which illuminates the MSI dragon in white – it’s neat, you’ll see. The only thing that I find a little strange right off of the bat is the fact that they decided to call it the ‘Gaming Titanium.’ It would have been much better off without the ‘Gaming’ tag in my mind. I have noticed a few other well-respected guys in the industry say the same, and I’d have to agree. I know it is the branding, but I feel that it cheapens it somewhat, especially when you’re talking about naming it as a precious metal in the first place. Anyway… let’s find out what this puppy has in store for us!
If the idea of the Titanium is news to you, it is a silvery, shiny motherboard. It looks incredible in person, but I don’t think it shows quite so well for you, the viewer, in the images. I have tried my best to get it to gleam for you, though.
Like most X99 motherboards that are headed towards the upper end of the pricing spectrum, the MSI X99A XPOWER Gaming Titanium comes in an E-ATX factor, so be careful and be sure to check your case can fit the board before you smash that buy button. It’s generally not an issue as most ATX cases can fit them anyway, but you have been warned. I know that in a case such as the Fractal Design R5, it will fit, but it will be extremely close to hitting that raised edge on the right of the motherboard tray. I’d have test fitted it into my R5, but it would be a full teardown of a custom water cooled build… I’m sure you guys are smart enough to find the Google images that are floating around there with various E-ATX boards fitted into your case of choice. Just be a little creative with your search. Anyway, moving forward…
The MSI Titanium branch of their products brings a whole new meaning to the cool factor of motherboards in my mind. I know that there are some wicked looking products out there, but none are quite as unique as the Titanium range. I first saw the Titanium scheme when I reviewed the Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium back in December. The X99A board took a little longer to get the market, although it is now finally here. Rather than going with the full RGB spectrum for the LEDs, MSI have decided to keep it simple and classy. The only colour that you will find on the motherboard is a soft white glow, other than a few that are red near the DIMM slots to indicate certain system features, such as the XMP LED that is between the right-most DIMM and the 24 pin ATX power input. Whilst I have grown more and more fond of these RGB LEDs being dotted around every product imaginable, I am pleased that they are not an included feature on the MSI X99A XPOWER Gaming Titanium. I feel that the looks would be ruined if they were. Given that this is the second from the highest motherboard that MSI produce, it almost goes without saying that they have included as many features as the budget for this product allows. Naturally, as it is an X99 board, eight DIMMs are on the cards, along with multi-way graphics cards via the PCIe lanes, an M.2 port that supports a full 22110 (110mm) SSD, and plenty more that you will see as we go through the various segments that I always cover for you.
A twelve phase power delivery is in order according to MSI to feed these power hungry, high-end desktop (HEDT) CPUs. As with all of the MSI products that feature the Military Grade 5 components, the inclusion of Titanium Chokes and Dark CAPs are pretty much a standard feature. The chokes are able to run as high as 220°c with up to 40% higher current capacities, and are up to 30% more efficient which will provide more stable power. The CPUs pull high amounts of current, and therefore wattage, which means it is essential to have a smooth delivery whenever possible to avoid system instabilities. It is worth noting that they are most likely never even going to get close to that temperature, so fear not. The design, however, typically results in lower VRM temperatures overall, along with more stability when pushing the clocks on the CPU and its various components embedded within the chip, such as the memory controller and the system cache. The inclusion of the Dark CAPs has proven to be a good one as it provides a lower Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR) and also comes with a greater than ten-year lifespan.
The heatsink assembly comprises of two separate parts, and so does the IO cover. The only power going into any of the parts, unlike on some other motherboards which have LEDs everywhere, is in the ICH heatsink that illuminates white when powered on.
While I have the covers off, we may as well take a look at the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 module that MSI have included on the Titanium. It supports Intel’s Wi-Di (Wireless Display) features, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0 all from within one module. It’s pretty neat and a great feature to have for those who cannot run an Ethernet cable (poor you!) to their gaming rigs.
The memory slots are protected with MSI’s Steel Armour which is supposed to add rigidity to the DIMMs and in addition provide more protection against electromagnetic interference (EMI). MSI have implemented their DDR4 BOOST feature on the Titanium, which also aids the memory performance by insulating the signals. It is said to further add to the performance aspects and it allows for increased overclocking abilities. This is one thing I am very eager to dive into, as the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon that was reviewed previously did extremely well in the memory portion of our tests. As it is an X99 board with eight DIMMs, you can expect it to support up to 128GB of DDR4 memory at frequencies up to 3466 MHz (overclocked) and beyond. Best of luck finding anything much higher than that in such high densities, or getting it stable for that matter, but it is possible with the right gear.
As the CPU area is fairly crammed, there is no space for fan headers near the socket. The closest ones are to the right of the DIMM slots, which consist of the optional CPU fan(s) and the pump header, with the CPU fan header being at the very top of the board, right next to the LED debugger. Keeping the cables tidy may prove to be a little difficult if you are opting to use an air or an All-in-One (AIO) cooler, as the headers are to the right of the board like the OC features. Speaking of which, as this product is on the higher end of the spectrum, there is of course an OC section. MSI’s Game Boost button is present, as ever, along with the power on/off, reset and multiplier adjustment buttons. Further switches and buttons include the likes of the discharge button, which is fantastic for clearing the CMOS as it completely drains every capacitor on the board, and the DIP switches to control the PCIe lanes. This has come in handy for many extreme overclockers who wish to ‘remove’ a GPU from the system without physically having to remove it, as that can become extremely tedious when you’re using liquid nitrogen. It’s far easier to just turn that lane off and effectively remove it from the system that way. The last of the useful OC features is the ability to monitor system voltages directly with a digital multimeter via the read points on the motherboard. It isn’t a necessity as such, but we like to know what is happening with our voltages when we are pushing upwards of 1.65v through our CPUs. Current draw in those situations is extremely high, and it is typically advised that you keep an eye on the voltage fluctuations to see if your system is going to crash out on you or not.
As you have most likely come to expect from the X99 system now, largely due to it being a standard feature, there are a total of ten SATA 6 Gbps ports on the Titanium as well, two of them come from the SATAe port. Aside from the usual SATA ports, you also get an M.2 (Key M) for ultra-fast SSDs that hook up directly into the PCIe 3.0 lanes with support for devices from 2242 to 22110 (42mm to 110mm) in length. A single U.2 port is also available for those whom actually adopted the platform. Yes, it is a standard feature, but I think that it will be killed off before it is majorly adopted, purely due to M.2. Anyway, that’s a topic for another day. The U.2 port is unavailable when you install an add-in card into PCIe lane 6, as that is the lane that comes from the PCH and is shared between the two ports. Finally, SATA ports 1 through 6 are IDE/AHCI/RAID capable, whilst 7 through 10 are only IDE/AHCI (really, IDE? Still?) capable.
Aside from the standard USB 3.0 headers, of which you get two, there’s also a USB 3.1 Type-C connector on the internal side of the motherboard. You may be wondering what the reasoning is. MSI wanted to stay one step ahead, and can see this being the future of connectivity, and so can I. It’s small, super fast, and it is not going to disappear any time soon. This has to be the first that I’ve seen. Finishing off here, we have the discharge button to the right of the USB 3.1 Type-C connector. When this button is pressed, every capacitor on the motherboard is drained and therefore effectively resetting it to a factory-new state, which has proven invaluable to enthusiast/extreme overclockers around the globe.
X99 is undoubtedly the choice for a powerful, HEDT CPU, but it is also known for providing up to 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0 goodness for multi-way GPU setups. If you’d like to know which configurations are supported, check out the specs part of this review. There is a pretty big list of supported configurations due to the two differentiations of CPUs with either 28 or 40 lanes. Other notable features in this area are the Molex power input for the graphics cards – useful when pushing high clocks on LN2! We have an LED pin out to the left of the Molex input and we also have some PWM fan headers, along with two USB 2.0 headers for another four USB 2.0 ports. The other stuff is pretty much a standard affair with the M.2 port that I mentioned earlier and the audio header. There are two buttons underneath the PCIe retention clips, and they are there for overclock optimising. One can assume that they are for a few benchmarks as they have the shortened name of what we call Fire Strike (OC_FS1) in the benchmarking world, and there’s also OC_ALL which as the name would suggest optimises all settings.
The back panel is loaded with USBs of all generations, from 2.0 through to 3.1 Type-C, and a few more bits… here’s the extensive list of what you will be able to use on the Titanium;
– 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 3 x USB 2.0 ports
– 1 x BIOS FLASHBACK+ port
– 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 port
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
– 6 x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
– 5 x OFC audio jacks
– 1 x Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth® expansion module with Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 chip
As the MSI X99A XPOWER Gaming Titanium is the second highest motherboard on X99 that MSI produce, you can bet your sweet bottom dollar that it is going to come with a bountiful accessories pack. What we have here is the following:
1x Wi-Fi antenna
1x User manual
1x Quick start guide
1x Door hanger
2x LED extension cables (short and long)
1x Labelling stickers pack
10x SATA 6 Gbps cables (half right angled, half straight)
2x SLI flexible bridges (short)
2x SLI flexible bridges (long)
1x IO shield
1x Voltage checkpoint cables (pack)
1x Front panel connector for easy connectivity