[section_title title=Closer Look]Closer Look
Taking an overall look at the MSI Z97 MPOWER MAX AC motherboard, the first thing that grabbed my eye was the favoured yellow and black colour scheme. Not only is this a nice change to the usual red/blue and black colour schemes, but this also signifies it belongs to the Big Bang lineage of MSI products; ones specifically designed to overclock and push to the limits. To aid in GPU overclocking, there is a 6pin GPU socket designed to power the socket for maximum power when graphics card benching; another solid overclocking feature on display from MSI.
The PCI ex lanes available on the Z97MPOWER MAX AC are as follows:
• 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4 modes)
• 4 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots*
The board also features an M.2 socket PCI-Ex socket for the latest storage devices but while in use renders SATA ports 5 and 6 un-available.
At the top end of the motherboard we have one of the nicest MOSFET heat sinks I have seen in a long time but with one added pleasure; the heat sink has 2 barbs designed to allow users to water cool the MOSFETS for increased performance. Although this performance difference is miniscule, it is aesthetically pleasing.
The MPOWER MAX AC also has another very interesting feature which caters to over clockers again; the roomy socket area. The socket area on the z97 MPOWER MAX AC is a nice little improvement over the Z87 variant as the extra room allows users to apply insulation for sub-zero overclocking; something this board is designed for. Powering the socket is a 12 phase design which is 4 less than it’s bigger brother the XPOWER but 12 is still very impressive.
Aside from the Southbridge heat sink which looks very suave indeed, is 8 x SATA 6GB/s ports which allow users to run RAID configurations including 0, 1, 2, 5 and 10. This board isn’t only designed for over clocking and gives regular users/gamers the tools they need also.
The MPOWER MAX AC as mentioned (quite a few times now) has a plethora of features especially for over clockers including 2 x OC buttons, the usual OC Genie button designed for automatic over clocking, a full host of V-Check points to allow the use of multi-meters for accurate and real time voltage monitoring and on the fly BCLK/multiplier buttons; these come in very handy for pushing the board and your hardware to the limit.
To provide maximum power to the CPU, there is an 8pin and 4pin 12v power sockets so if your power supply supports this, you can plug them both in to give maximum overclocking potential; this is typical on an overclocking motherboard and I am sure enthusiasts will love it too.
Memory is also another important component for overclocking performance and the MSI MPOWER MAX AC is no different. Of course DDR3 is the only memory type support but the MPOWER MAX AC supports up to 3300MHz (OC) but obviously depending on the IMC of your CPU, you could potentially hit higher; this is impressive in my opinion.
Included with the MSI MPOWER MAX AC is a DEBUG LED poster which is good for diagnosing booting issues and general faults; this is a must for over clockers.
On the rear of the motherboard in terms of I/O there are the following ports:
8 x USB 3.0 ports
2 x USB 2.0 ports
1 x PS2 Keyboard/Mouse port
1 x BIOS refresh button
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI port
1 x set of audio ports
Plenty of connections and it is really nice to see a large amount of native USB 3.0 support; especially more with a motherboard designed for overclocking.