Whenever Intel “update” their technology, generally what happens is a new chipset is released and today is no different. Without covering it in cotton wool, Haswell hasn’t exactly been too popular since it’s release, due to its blisteringly hot temperatures under load which in effect crippled overclocking potential for non-enthusiasts. With that being said, it has brought some nice features to the table such as full SATA 6GBPS support and a much better memory controller.
So what is new with Z97 over Z87? Well to start with, they have implemented the new PCIe M.2 form factor which gives a maximum bandwidth of up to 10GB/s for your storage which is designed to give you the fastest possible speeds from the latest and greatest M.2 format SSDs. Aside from this is the new Intel Rapid Storage Technology which now supports PCI-E based storage devices such as those PCI SSDs and other storage solutions. The new Z97 chipset also has support for the 4th and 5th generation Intel CPUs even though today the Z97 will be tested on Haswell (i7 4770k) to ensure consistency and also to test out the overclocking ability on the new boards.
For our first Z97 (1150) review we have the MSI Z97I GAMING AC which features an M-ITX form factor and follows on from the previous Z87 version. With 1 x PCI-E x 16 3.0 lane, Killer NIC, built in Wi-Fi and 6 x USB 3.0/6 x USB 2.0 ports, does the Z97I GAMING give the ultimate small form factor experience to the new chipset and does bigger mean better? I intend to find out….
So without further ado, it’s time to take a look at the specifications and then take a closer look at the latest MSI motherboard itself…