With a new chipset usually comes advantages and disadvantages when it comes to overclocking. First off new chipsets and launch day samples usually come with early BIOS (ours is updated) and early drivers meaning you might not get the full potential from it. If you recall back during the Sandybridge (LGA 1155) days, it was commonly known that the majority of Z68 boards would give a better handle on the overclocking front than the older P67 counterparts. This wasn’t just down to luck and they slightly upped their game with the new chipset. The big question here is if the same has happened from Z87 to Z97.
Starting out with the MSI BIOS, it was very easy to navigate around which is typical for a MSI UEFI BIOS; I can’t recall having had a problem with any of theirs since before the P67 days. With that being said, I know my i7 4770k is capable and unusually, compared to other review sites, the limitation is normally the CPU but in my case, it is always most certainly the board. Personally, I have had 5.1GHz from the CPU and that was a MSI MPOWER MAX (Z87) so I know it’s possible. Starting out slowly going up in 100MHz increments and having set all the usual suspects such as extreme phase control, turning off power saving elements and turning off Intel Speedstep (very important), I set about seeing what the MSI Z97I GAMING AC could do.
Personally I wasn’t expecting miracles but with its 4+2 power phase design, I was hoping for 5GHz prime95 stable and surprisingly, that is exactly what I got. I managed to hit 5GHz prime95 stable with 1.4v selected in the BIOS but the motherboard itself would slightly over volt it to 1.416v which is roughly a 1% increase give or take decimal places.
All in all, the MSI Z97I GAMING AC has a bit of grunt up its sleeve making it a pretty potent little solution which given the right CPU, will certainly be able to handle 5GHz.