[section_title title=”Closer Look”]Closer Look
So what stands out on the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC motherboard? Well firstly the entire board is jet black with red accented heat sinks; a very nice contrast and not too overpowering. Some manufacturers have over added red to their designs, but this is a prime example of exactly how it should be done; in my opinion of course.
All the regular bases have been covered, MOSFET heatsink is covering the MOSFETs, the South Bridge heatsink is where it is supposed to be and so forth. Noticeable around the I/O shield is an I/O shield cover which is very aesthetically pleasing; something usually found on ASUS Sabretooth models. In addition to this, there is a ventilated strip of “armour” around the left-hand corner of the board which features the Audio Boost logo.
The Gaming 9 AC has no shortage of PCI slots which includes 3 x PCI-E x16 ports which are all Gen3; these are of course backwards compatible with older graphics cards which feature Gen2 etc. In addition to this, 3 x PCI-E x1 slots for additional networking cards, RAID controllers and even PCI sound cards; note this board has no original PCI ports so bare that in mind when selecting expansion cards etc.
The slots for reference run at x16/x/x, x8/x8/x and x8/x4/x4 depending on your particular graphics setup.
Dual channel memory with up to 4 x non-ECC modules of DDR3 can be used; this is up to a capacity of 32GB (4x8GB modules). In addition to this, speeds of DDR3 up to speeds of 3300MHz OC are supported but of course please check that your memory is compatible before purchase; not something that has mattered too much for a long time but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
As I have already stated, the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC features a 16 power phase design (12+4) which is only 4 phases less than the yellower MPOWER MAX AC which is purely designed for overclocking performance. The Gaming 9 AC should of course be no slouch as this is still a very premium board at the end of the day; although the specs do pretty much look similar to the other Gaming series boards on paper.
Present are 2 x USB 3.0 headers which allow use for cases with more than 1 x USB 3.0 header available (essentially 4 x USB 3.0 ports). Storage wise the Gaming 9 AC packs 8 x SATA3 (6GB/s) ports capable of running RAID configurations; these include 0, 1, 5 and 10.
In addition to the USB 3.0 headers, the Gaming 9 AC features 8 USB 3.0 ports on the rear, 2 USB 3.0 ports; plenty of ports for the connection of peripherals and other devices. If you aren’t too fussed in using graphics cards and want to utilise the on-board graphics with supported CPUs, there is a DisplayPort and HDMI available; no VGA or DVI here but MSI have made the most of the space with connections and someone purchasing this board will surely be looking to use a graphics card; I would hope!
Last but not least, we have the Killer NIC Rj45 Ethernet port which provides access to your chosen network; note its red design which fits in with Gaming aesthetic. This is finished off with a 6+1 audio port array consisting of 5.1 audio support and 1 x optical S/PDIF port.
So now you know what the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC is packing, time to see if it can put its money where its mouth is…