MSI have always been known for producing quality components but since their Gaming range was released, I have to say that I have never seen so many top quality boards; the only other manufacturer that I could say this about since ASUS and their Republic of Gamers series. That being said, there are huge similarities between the 2 ranges; both red and black, both feature strong overclocking traits and both retail for around the same prices. That being said, have MSI broke the gap on their rivals, not only ones with the same theme but other boards in general as in reality, this motherboard was designed to be premium, is this the case?…
Of course it’s the case, the MSI Gaming 9 AC oozes quality, class and elegance which pretty much sums up MSI’s offerings of late on the whole. Although the Gaming 9 AC doesn’t differentiate much from previous iterations of the Gaming range aside from “feeling” more premium and of course having a wider array of power phases available.
Synthetic and real world performance are admirable from MSI and although not the absolute best, certainly negatable between the top boards; overclocking performance is a particular highlight and it’s clear MSI have included some of their top lineage in the industry into the power phases, VRMs and of course the overall component list. Gaming performance of course was strong and MSI have notably been that little bit better than the other brands of late; nothing too noticeable, an apple might be an apple at the end of the day but some are of course more tastier than others!
Design wise, the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC motherboard has a very pleasing look about it and I am quite happy with the full black PCB, Audio shielding and of course the shielding around the I/O; looks like a top quality board which fits well because so far, it is a top quality board. The red accents are not too overpowering and they fit in just right; some ASROCK options have had a little too much colour burst factor added and the MSI Gaming 9 AC has the exact right amount shown.
The Z97 offerings of late don’t really have much between them as much as say P35/P45/X38/X48 used to etc., but one thing Z97 has been consistent with is performance and only one or two board so far have failed to deliver completely; MSI have never been anywhere close to that category and have improved over the past few years with their components; top plaudits from me personally. That being said, the Gaming 9 AC offers more than just a motherboard, are you a gamer who likes to show off your skills? Well the 6 month free subscription to the popular Xsplit Gamecaster is surely bound to appeal to you and how can I forget the option to utilise the latest M.2 slot SSDs?
Another important and huge feature of the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC is the last part of the model number; the AC. Yes, the Gaming 9 does have a fully-fledged Wi-Fi/Bluetooth compatible adapter which has support for all the major adapter types such as g and n wireless support; will provide all the wireless you may need, especially for downloading and gaming but of course, make sure your walls aren’t 6ft thick titanium with Mylar shielded as you might run into problems.
Last but not least we have the price which coming in at £204, isn’t the figure I was hoping for in all honesty. Of course for what you get, you could say that at £204, you are getting a good deal. After all the Gaming 9 AC does pack some mightily impressive features with the performance to back it up, but with the current market being littered with Z97 boards from all brands, if price is your deciding factor, the ASUS MAXIMUS HERO VII does offer better bang for buck. That isn’t me saying the Gaming 9 AC is a worse board, but it isn’t £50 better either which does leave me a little apprehensive in the value scoring of this particular board.
Of course I have a very large soft spot for MSI motherboards as when overclocking, I tend to favour them over brands such as ASUS or Gigabyte because with MSI, I know exactly what I’m getting and the recent additions to the Gaming range have been superb overall. The MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC is a top premium board from a company who haven’t always been known for their “premium” outlook, but over the past couple of years have done an effective job in consistently producing top quality boards which not only competes with some of the most legendary models or brands, but in some instances beat them! What better endorsement for MSI than that folks!
If you are in the market for a solid, premium, well designed Z97 motherboard, then the MSI Gaming 9 AC is one for the shortlist and if you aren’t put off by the £204 price tag, then you will not be disappointed in the slightest! If you however don’t have the budget to aim for the Gaming 9 AC, the Gaming 5 and Gaming 7 aren’t too far off and offer better value for money.
A huge thanks to MSI for sending the Z97 Gaming 9 AC sample in for review and I look forward to seeing more in the not too distant future.
– Great performance overall
– The best looking board of 2014
– A plethora of features
– 6 months free Xsplit Gamecaster included
– Good overclocking performance
– The “Gaming” themed board of 2015
– Not the best value board on the market
– Not too much difference overall from previous Z97 MSI Gaming motherboards
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