MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC Motherboard and Core i7-5930K Haswell-E Processor Review

ReviewHardware 4 months ago by
Pros Incredible Design
Amazing Cooling Efficiency
Audio Boost 2 Isolated PCB Makes Sounds Beautiful and Crisp
Haswell-E Processor Support
DDR4 Memory Support (3300 MHz)
Thermal Armor For I/O Added Bonus
All Black PCB Color and Impressive layout
Built-in Streaming Engine Adds $150 US Value (XSplit Subscription Free)
Cons Streaming engine located in between PCI-E slots
Issues With BIOS, Needs Updated Firmware
Presentation  10
Performance  9
Usability  10
Features  10
Value  9

editors choiceIntroduction

Intel’s first generation High-End Desktop platform, the Nehalem (X58 Tylersburg) was launched back in November 2008 which ushered in a new era of high performance computing for desktop users. In 2011, Intel released the second generation update based on their Sandy Bridge architecture which was codenamed Sandy Bridge-E. The Sandy Bridge-E processors have lasted a good two and a half years in the tech industry and now we are making the transition into Intel’s third HEDT platform, codenamed Haswell-E (X99 Wellsburg).

The Haswell-E processor family comes a whole slew of a new generation of motherboards, packed full of new features to propel the technological race forward into a state of electric proportions. The LGA2011 V3 socket has brought about a lot of positive commotion in the industry with the X99 chipset while the DDR4 memory is the latest standard in the memory architecture which will boost performance plus bandwidths at very low voltages compared to its predecessors. The X99 motherboards from various manufacturers have been given the same enhancements as the latest Z97 series boards which were introduced with the Haswell Refresh CPU lineup and updated with enhanced designs suited and built for the enthusiast crowd.

Video Review

MSI (Micro Star International) are known for their focus on quality and over the last few generations, they have released some of the most impressive motherboards to date. From the XPOWER series to the G-Series Gaming motherboards, MSI has become a top brand in the hardware industry and today, we are going to test their high end X99S Gaming 9 AC Motherboard.

The board comes jam packed with tons of features from the X99 chipset including the 10x SATA 6Gb/s, 4-Way Multi-GPU (probably Mid-End Cards due to spacing issues), Gigabit LAN with Killer E2205 Networking , 6x USB 3.0, and support for the LGA 2011-3 core that has everyone so excited with the core jumps on the Haswell-E chips.

Haswell Architecture Insight

As previously mentioned, the Haswell architecture makes use of 22nm Tri-gate 3D transistor technology which is an improvement over the regular Tri-gate transistor technology featured on Ivy Bridge. The Haswell architecture  makes use of a two chip platform technology which includes the processor itself. While Haswell was compatible with Lynx Point, the new Haswell-E processors which share the same architecture will feature the new and high-end X99 Wellsburg chipset which has more to offer in terms of features as compared to Lynx Point chipset.

 

The Haswell die is largely similar to its predecessors Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge. The Haswell-E die comes with up to eightcores which share the same L3 cache. It features 2.6 Billion transistors and a die size of 335.2 mm2 compared to 1.6 Billion on Haswell Core i7-4770K.  Other than these, the Haswell die include system agent, display agent, DDR4 Quad Channel Memory controller I/O and PCI-e 3.0 memory controller. The Haswell instruction set includes Intel VT, AMT 9.0, Intel TXT, SSE4.2, Hyper Threading, Turbo Boost 2.0, AVX2, AES-NI, PCLMULQDQ, Secure key, Intel TSX, PAIR (Power aware interrupt routing and SMEP. Haswell for the first time features C-states of C0, C1, C1E, C3, C6, C7 and enhanced Intel Speedsted technology.

Intel LGA 2011 V3 Socket

The Haswell-E platform introduces the latest LGA 2011 V3 socket which will be compatible with the upcoming line of processors.

Cooler Compatibility With LGA 2011 V3 Socket

While Haswell processors ship with their own boxed coolers and cooler makers providing retention brackets for LGA 1150 compatibility, it should be noted that LGA 1150 socket is easily compatible with both reference LGA 1150 boxed coolers and custom products.

So if you’re upgrading from LGA 1155 to LGA 1150, you can easily equip your cooler on the latest socket from Intel without any sort of trouble.

Intel 9-Series X99 Platform Control Hub (PCH)

Intel ships their latest X99 platform with the Haswell-E processors which will introduce a new generation of high-end motherboards for enthusiasts and gamers. You can find below the specifications of the X99 chipset and comparison against the Intel X79 chipset:

X99-Front

Item Intel X79 “Patsburg” Intel X99 “Wellsburg”
CPU Cores 6 and 4 8 and 6
Shared Cache 15 MB L3 Cache 20 MB L3 Cache
PCIe Lanes Off of Processor 40 Lanes 40 Lanes (5820K with 28 Lanes)
Discrete Graphics Configurations 2×16 / 4×8 Gen 3 GPUs through processor 2×16 / 5×8 Gen 3 GPUs through processor
Memory Quad Channel DDR3 1866 Quad Channel DDR4 2133
TDP (Thermal Dissipation Power) 130W 140W
Socket LGA 2011 LGA 2011-v3
Maximum SATA Ports (Maximum at 6 GB/s) 6 (2) 10 (10)
Thunderbolt Capability No Yes
BCLK (Base Clock) OC Support From Chipset No Yes
Total Number of SKUs Available Three (Core i7-4820K / Core i7-4930K / Core i7-4960X) Three (Core i7-5960X / Core i7-5930K / Core i7-5820K)

Intel Haswell-E Features

First Desktop Platform To Feature DDR4 Memory Support

Coming to the memory controller,  Intel’s Haswell-E is officially the first HEDT platform to feature support for DDR4 memory. The DDR4 memory controller lies on the processor itself through which it is directly connected. The new DDR4 memory modules consume only 1.2 V of power compared to 1.65/1.5V standard with DDR3. The can feature upto 16 banks of memory and require a 288-Pin DIMM connectors which would be available on the new X99 chipset motherboards. The DDR4 memory controller offers Quad channel memory support. DDR4 would offer faster clock speeds and the Haswell-E platform supports frequencies o 2133 MHz, 2667 MHz O.C +.

LGA 2011-3 Socket Supports Haswell-E Processors

Intel is also preparing the latest LGA2011-3 socket which has similar dimensions but a different ILM key pattern which allows only for Haswell-E processor compatibility. Intel adds compatibility for both their Channel DRX-B Liquid cooler and T-HPHS air cooler with the LGA 2011-3 socket for Haswell-E processors.

Better Overclocking Support For Overclockers

Just like Haswell and Ivy Bridge-E before it, Haswell-E  retains the great overclocking features that  ship with the “K” series and “Extreme Edition” processors. Both the memory and processor can be overclocked beyond limits with unlocked turbo limits, unlocked core ratios in 80/100 increments, programmable iVR voltage, support for XMP mode, unlocked memory controller and voltage limits, native support for memory upto 2667 MHz, Unlocked PCH and PLL voltage controls and more. A single Haswell-E processor would feature 2 x16 and 3 x8 Gen 3 PCI-e support with 40 lanes and would be directly connected to the DDR4 memory controller and the Wellsburg X99 chipset. The feature set would remain the with technologies such as SSE4, AVX, VT, AESNI under its belt.

Haswell-E Block Diagram

We already detailed the Haswell die above, what you see below is the block diagram for Haswell-E X99 chipset platform. You can see that the processors is directly connected to the Wellsburg PCH through DMI 2.0 x 4. The PCH offers 6 USB 3.0/ 8 USB 2.0, 10 SATA 6 GBps (Native), High definition Audio, integrated LAN, 8 PCI-e 2.0, and Intel Rapid Storage Technology 13.1 while the Haswell-E processors offer PCI-e 3.0 (Up to 40 Lanes / 28 on the Core i7-5820K) and Quad channel DDR4 Memory support up to 2133 MHz (native).

Intel X99 Desktop Platform Overview

Haswell-E Overclocking and Power Management

Intel shares the same overclocking features introduced on their Devil’s Canyon processor for the Haswell-E CPUs which provides tons of overclocking options to enthusiasts and overclockers.

Intel Core i7-4790K Devil's Canyon Overclocking

Intel’s Haswell-E comes with a dynamically adjustable and fully unlocked Turbo Boost Technology limit that ensures users get the most out of their processors when they need it. Core ratios have been unlocked  up to 80 in 100 MHz increments while the CPU voltage is completely controllable via the iVR (Integrated Voltage regulator). DMICLK or BCLK allows for an unlocked PCH clock controller with increments upto 200 MHz while PEG and DMI will offer variable/adjustable ratios based on the BCLK frequency. Similarly, the GPU core also features an unlocked design that allows for frequency adjustments (60 Ratio in 50 MHz increments) and fully programmable voltage via iVR. An unlocked memory controller allows for upto 2933 MHz overclock on the DDR3 modules.

Intel has provided key details on the upcoming iVR through which voltage on CPU and GPU could be dynamically adjusted. Currently, voltage management is accomplished with the use of external VRM’s on the motherboard. There are in total four voltage override modes through the iVR module on Haswell chips which are accounted for when running the processor in default and overclocking mode. With the next generation Haswell processors, we would be looking at an increased BCLK of greater than 167 MHz (non-continuous) compared to the peak 116.95 MHz on Ivy Bridge along with a select CPU PEG/DMI ratios of 5:5, 5:4, 5:3 which is quiet impressive. The next few slides details various performance tuning ratios available on Haswell core for CPU/GPU/DDR/PEG,DMI and Ring.

Nomenclature

Intel’s new processor will get a numerical naming scheme; 59xx and 58xx. The 59xx and 58xx series processors are quad-core offerings and will be available from launch.

The Intel LGA 2011-3 Socket

Intel LGA 2011-3 Socket was meant to replace the Ivy Bridge-E HEDT (High End Desktop) platform and is based on the latest second generation 22nm Hi-K process architecture. The most interesting part is that Intel is finally providing up to 8 core SKUs in their desktop lineup with the launch of Haswell-E. Intel has detailed 6-8 cores for their Haswell-E processors that are equipped with massive 20 MB of L3 smart cache and just like Haswell, feature an integrated voltage regulator “FVIR.” Intel is aiming for an 55% IPC improvement over quad cores with their flagship Haswell-E processors.

Just like Haswell and Ivy Bridge-E before it, Haswell-E retains the great overclocking features that would ship with the “K” series and “Extreme Edition” processors. Both the memory and processor can be overclocked beyond limits with unlocked turbo limits, unlocked core ratios in 80/100 increments, programmable iVR voltage, support for XMP mode, unlocked memory controller and voltage limits, native support for memory upto 2667 MHz, Unlocked PCH and PLL voltage controls and more.

Cooler Compatibility With LGA 2011 V3 Socket

Anyone who has a cooler capable of supporting the LGA 2011 socket need not worry about the dash 3 at the end. Any LGA 2011 compatible cooler/bracket combo works on LGA 2011-3 sockets.

Intel Haswell-E CPU Lineup

Following is the list that details each Haswell-E processors along with their predecessors that Intel has launched with their desktop processor platform. The Core i7-5960X  is the flagship processor of the lineup and the one we would are reviewing today is the i7-5930K.Haswell-E-Front

Model Intel Core i7-5960X Intel Core i7-5930K Intel Core i7-5820K Intel Core i7-4960X
Platform Haswell-E Haswell-E Haswell-E Ivy Bridge-E
Process 22nm 22nm 22nm 22nm
Cores/Threads 8/16 6/12 6/12 6/12
Cache 20 MB L3 15 MB L3 15 MB L3 15 MB L3
Core Clock 3.0/3.5 GHz 3.5/3.7 GHz 3.3/3.6 GHz 3.6/4.0 GHz
Socket LGA 2011-3 LGA 2011-3 LGA 2011-3 LGA 2011
TDP 140W 140W 140W 130W
Memory DDR4-2133 MHz DDR4-2133 MHz DDR4-2133 MHz DDR3-1600 MHz
Chipset X99 X99 X99 X79
Price  $999 $583 $389 $999

Intel Core i7-5960X Processor

The Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition is the be the flagship processor of the lineup boasting 8 Cores and 16 threads. The Haswell-E Core i7-5960X will house 2.6 Billion transistors inside its 22nm die and measures at 335.2 mm which is considered a huge die. The die block diagram also shows that the Core i7-5960X is not a 12 core die as previously expected which turns out to be a Xeon core. We can see 8 Cores with a large amount of shared L3 cache in the middle with a DDR4 memory controller at the bottom and Queue, Uncore and I/O at the top side. This would be Intel’s first 8 Core consumer processor and would be clocked at 3.0 GHz base and 3.5 GHz boost frequency. The processor would feature 20 MB of L3 cache, 140W TDP and support for DDR4-2133 MHz memory. Being the flagship processor of the Haswell-E lineup, the Core i7-5960X would end up with a price of $999 US.

In terms of raw performance, the Core i7-5960X is around 20% faster in terms of 4K Video Editing, 32% faster in 3D rendering and 14% faster in games and AI processing compared to the last generation Core i7-4960X CPU that is the flagship Ivy Bridge-E offering. The models will be available with Intel’s TS13X liquid cooler which has been in the market since the first generation of Sandy Bridge-E processors and is priced in between $85-$100 and compatible with LGA 2011-3, LGA 2011, LGA 1366 and LGA 115* platforms.

Intel Core i7-5930K Processor

The Core i7-5930K is the second best processor of the flock featuring 6 cores and 12 threads. Featuring a clock speed of 3.5 GHz base and around 3.7 GHz boost, the Core i7-5930K would integrate 15 MB L3 Cache and a TDP of 140W. The processor would be able to support DDR4-2133 MHz memory. From specifications, the Core i7-5930K looks a lot like the current generation Core i7-4960X processor however we are looking at better IPC due to the improved Haswell microarchitecture. The price forthe Core i7-5930K would be $583 US at launch.

Intel Core i7-5820K Processor

The Core i7-5820K is the the entry level processor of the lineup featuring 6 cores and 12 threads. The CPU comes with a 15 MB L3 Cache, 3.3 GHz base clock, 3.6-3.8 GHz boost clock, 140W TDP and support for DDR4-2133 MHz memory. Being similar to the Core i7-5930K in terms of technical specifications aside from the clock speeds, the Core i7-5820K might just become an attractive processor for the X99 chipset platform since it will be priced at $389 US. There is one limitation however that the processor features only 28 PCI-Express lanes which compared to 40 PCI-E lanes on the other two processors is skimmed down however, the processor would be able to cope with 2-Way and 3-Way SLI setups easily.

Intel Haswell-E Extreme Edition Key Features:

  • 16-Way Multi-Task Processing:  Runs 16 independent processor threads in one physical package
  • Massive PCI Express Bandwidth: 40 lanes of PCIe supported through the processor
  • Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0:  Dynamically increases the processor frequency up to 3.50GHz when applications demand more performance.  Speed when you need it, energy efficiency when you don’t.
  • Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology:  Allows each core of the processor to work on two tasks at the same time providing unprecedented processing capability for better multi-tasking and for threaded applications. Do more with less wait time.
  • Intel® Smart Cache:  Up to 20MB of shared cached allows faster access to your data by enabling dynamic and efficient allocation of the cache to match the needs of each core significantly reducing latency to frequently used data and improving performance.
  • Overclocking Enabled Warning: Altering clock frequency and/or voltage may: (i) reduce system stability and useful life of the system and processor; (ii) cause the processor and other system components to fail; (iii) cause reductions in system performance; (iv) cause additional heat or other damage; and (v) affect system data integrity. Intel has not tested, and does not warranty, the operation of the processor beyond its specifications. Intel assumes no responsibility that the processor, including if used with altered clock frequencies and/or voltages, will be fit for any particular purpose.
  • Integrated Memory Controller:  Supports 4 channels of DDR4-2133 memory with 1 DIMM per channel. Support for the Intel® eXtreme Memory Profile (Intel® XMP) specification, revision 2.0 for DDR4.
  • Chipset/Motherboard Compatibility:  Supported by the Intel® X99 Chipset

MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC Motherboard

MSI’s X99S Gaming 9 AC motherboard is a next generation gaming motherboard based on the X99 chipset from Intel. The Gaming series from MSI is all about looks and features and MSI has done a splendid job with their new motherboards. The X99 gaming series adopts the red and black color scheme and three sets of heatsinks, two along side the PWM and one on the PCH. The LGA 2011-3 socket is compatible with Intel’s upcoming Haswell-E processors which are now available in retail. The board features an 8 Phase PWM supply fitted with MSI’s Military Class IV components and powered by a 8+4 Pin power configuration. The LGA 2011-3 socket is coupled by eight DDR4 DIMM slots, four on each sides which can support overclocked DDR4 memory with speeds of up to DDR4-3300 MHz.

Since MSI has featured their Military Class IV components, they also use the OC Engine, Power On/Off and Reset switches which come in handy when overclocking this beast of a board. The X99 Express Chipset is seated beneath a large Gaming G-Series heatsink. The heatsink itself resembles a shield with a second shield engraved as a logo in the middle. Expansion slots include five PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots which storage includes 10 SATA 6 GB/s and two SATA Express ports. A small diagnostic LED is located at the bottom right hand corner of the board.

Now the most interesting feature about this motherboard is that it houses a streaming engine which featured an AVerMedia chipset ( HD Encoding Chip with H.264 Hardware compression) to allow 1080P live streaming at 60Mbps bitrate which is quite impressive considering it will take the load off the GPU and ensure you get the fastest performance out of your hardware. The chip also saves $150 US adding to the value of the board. The motherboard also has a few USB Audio Power tech ports which deliver stable 5V power to any audio device for prefect audio quality on USB headsets and Audio DACs eliminating distortion.

Since this is a gaming tier board, MSI will not compromise on additional features and include their Audio Boost 2 ALC 1150 powered chipset and Killer E2200 LAN chip for better audio and networking while a large thermal armor will run across the I/O and audio isolated PCB section for better thermals. In addition to the PCI-E ports, MSI has also added an M.2 Gen3 x4 SSD slot at the top of the bottom most PCI-e slot for NGFF SSDs. MSI also teased the I/O of the board a while ago featuring a full matte black cover with red I/O ports that include the PS/2 port, 8 Super Speed USB 3.0 ports, 4 USB 2.0 ports, LAN port, 802.11 B/G/N/ AC antenna connectors and a 7.1 Channel audio jack. The motherboard also comes ready with full support for Steam OS and Oculus Rift. The X99S Gaming 9 AC is definitely the choice of board for gamers.

The X99S Gaming 9 Motherboard falls in the MSI’s gaming lineup at the top of its class. This board is one of the most expensive offerings from MSI – coming in at $449.99 MSRP.

MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC Motherboard_4

 

MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC I/O Panel:MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC Motherboard_5

MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC Gallery:

MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC Specifications

The MSI X99S Gaming 9 features tons of amazing stuff for enthusiasts and the specifications are as follows:

MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC Specifications
CPUSupports 6th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors, and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® Processors for the Socket LGA2011-3
ChipsetIntel Wellsburg X99 Chipset
MemorySupport for four-channel DDR-4 up to 3300MHz (OC)
- Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
Onboard GraphicsNone (X99 has no Intel Integrated HD Graphics like Haswell)
AudioRealtek ALC882
-7.1 High Definition Audio
-Supports S/PDIF Output
LAN/Wireless LANWi-Fi/Bluetooth expansion module with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 chip.
- Supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual band (2.4GHz, 5GHz) up to 867 Mbps speed.
-No Support for Intel Wi-Di Display

  • Bluetooth

  • -Wi-Fi/Bluetooth expansion module with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 chip.
    -Supports Bluetooth v4.0 (includes BLE and Bluetooth 3.0+HS)
    Expansion Slots5 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
    (PCI_E1, PCI_E2, PCI_E3, PCI_E4, PCI_E6)

  • Single GPU

  • 16x/0x/0x/0x/0x

  • 2-Way GPU

  • 16x/16x/0x/0x/0x (no PLEX chip)

  • 3-Way GPU

  • 16x/0x/0x/16x/8x or 8x/8x/0x/0x/16x

  • 4-Way GPU

  • 8x/8x/0x/16x/8x
    Multi-Graphics TechnologySupports 4-Way AMD® CrossFire Technology
    Supports 4-Way NVIDIA® SLI Technology
    Supports Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.
    Storage InterfaceIntel X99 Express Chipset
    - 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1~10)
    - 1 x M.2 port
    - M.2 port supports M.2 SATA 6Gb/s module
    - M.2 port supports M.2 PCIe module up to 10Gb/s speed
    - M.2 port supports 4.2cm/ 6cm/ 8cm length module
    - Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10
    - Supports Intel Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology and Intel Smart Connect Technology
    • ASMedia ASM1042 chipset
    - 4 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA7~10)
    The SATA5 and SATA6 ports will be unavailable when installing a module in the M.2 port.
    M.2 PCIe interface only supports UEFI option ROM, NOT support legacy option ROM.
    M.2 PCIe interface does not support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.
    Supports Intel Core processors on Windows 7 and Windows 8/ 8.1
    USB Intel X99 Express Chipset
    - 4 x USB 3.0 ports available through the internal USB connectors
    - 6 x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
    • ASMedia ASM1074 Chipset
    - 6 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
    • ASMedia ASM1042 Chipset
    - 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
    * internal JUSB1 connector supports MSI Super Charger
    Internal I/O Connectors - 1 x 24-pin ATX power connector
    - 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
    - 1 x 6-pin ATX 12V power connector
    - 5 x 4-pin System fan connectors
    - 2 x 4-pin CPU fan connectors
    - 10 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
    - 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
    - 2 x USB 3.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.0 ports)
    - 1 x Front Panel Audio connector
    - 2 x System panel connectors
    - 1 x TPM module connector
    - 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
    - 1 x GO2BIOS button
    - 1 x OC Genie button
    - 1 x Discharge button
    - 1 x Reset button
    - 1 x Power button
    - 2 x Base Clock control buttons
    - 2 x CPU Ratio control buttons
    - 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
    - 1 x Multi-BIOS switch
    - 1 x OC Genie mode switch
    - 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED
    - 1 x Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth module connector
    * Provides additional power to PCIe x16 slots
    Back Panel Connectors- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port
    - 1 x Clear CMOS button
    - 1 x Optical S/PDIF-out port
    - 2 x USB 2.0 ports
    - 8 x USB 3.0 ports
    - 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
    - 1 x 6 in 1 OFC audio jack
    BIOS• Dual AMI UEFI BIOS with 2x 128 Mb Flash ROMs
    • The motherboard BIOS provides “Plug & Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
    • The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.
    Operating Systems Support for Microsoft Windows 8.1/8/7/Vista/XP
    Support for Chromium OS
    Support for Steam OS
    Form Factor30.5cm(L) x 26.4cm(W) E-ATX Form Factor

    Exclusive MSI Gaming Features

    x99s12The entire MSI gaming lineup is meant to be gamed on – something which MSI stresses with their streaming engine, an integral part to any gamer’s domain in terms of streaming their games without CPU performance taking a hit (even though most of the performance hits come via the GPU during streaming and the overlay). The lack of streaming performance is a sore issue with many gamer’s but not much MSI can do about that considering the lack of an integrated GPU in the processor die and Intel Quick Sync missing causes the framerate dips. MSI revolutionizes this by licensing the AVerMedia proprietary encoder hardware chipset in between PCI-E 3.0x Slot 1 and Slot 2. The $150 value at retail is enough to make this a key selection for anyone looking for little to no frame rate drops. MSI Promises no frame rate drops – and this is something I am eager to test out with Open Broadcaster on HitBoxTV (despite it being optimized for XSplit encoding streaming).

    audioboostx99sOne thing I love as an audiophile is the USB Audio Power that comes with the MSI Gaming brand and the X99S SLI PLUS series. I am not a fan of Realtek’s chipset however considering how plagued their Stereo Mix function is – which is essential to record in-game noise but hopefully manufacturers move away from Realtek soon or they get their act together. The USB Audio Power provides a solution for people who love their wireless headsets & audio digital receiver 7.1 setups (like me) with stable 5V performance through its own dedicated channel to the USB ports. The Audio Boost 2 technology is powered by Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 2 toolset which speacilizes with SBX Pro Studio for allowing different layout to be fine-tuned especially when it comes to Multi-Channel Speaker Calibration. Multi-Channel Speaker Calibration works up to 7.1. Creative is a great licensor of audio solutions that is up there in the brand-name of audio technology providers along with Dolby Laboratories. As much as I would love to see Dolby Technology fused with Creative Cinema which would be better, the MSI Audio Power with Audio Boost 2 is the next best thing.

    guardprox99s

    In a much more pleasing brand distribution that speaks to MSI’s efforts, MSI’s gaming lineup ships with their incredible GUARD-PRO durability brand sealing which provides essential circuit protection, humidity protection, ESD protection, and high temperature protection. This is an area where MSI excels far with and admirably along with OC Genie – their solution for a quick overclock for amateur enthusiasts. The Circuit protection provides CPU protection against not just overvolting, but overheating and lights a RED LED which is common across all lineups for MSI. MSI further realizes and appreciates people who have front-end USB 3.0 ports by allowing extra USB Redrivers – essentially a fancy interpath for a dedicated clear signal length which allows people to use longer USB 3.0 cables without data corruption. Ingenuity when it comes to build of quality and sheer offerings seems to be MSI’s middle name.

    The MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC also comes with the Military Class IV components seen from the Z97 MSI XPOWER AC and the other Z97 boards. These are the selection of some of the finest and highest quality components built for quality. These include the likes of Hi-C CAPs, DARK Cap, Super Ferrite Chokes, gold capacitors for the Audio Boost and more. The Hi-C Cap is an ultra-compact capacitors that saves space off the motherboard and allows up to 93% energy efficiency. The DARK Cap on the other hand features a core design made of aluminum with a lower ESR and a life space of 10 years. MSI’s boards also use the Super Ferrite Chokes which run 35 degrees cooler, have 30% higher current capacity with 20% improvement in power efficiency and offering stability.

    MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC Unboxing

    The MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC Box is adorned with the dragon logo that is the essential symbol of the MSI Gaming lineup motherboard and has an iconic appeal to it. The box opens up to show the list of feature to the left which are hefty as already overviewed.

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    x99s11280

    The back of the box also has more information such as the Audio Boost 2 technology, the Military Class IV components highlighted again, and the Killer e2200 LAN module.

    x99s21280

    MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC – A CLOSER LOOK

    The Gaming series from MSI is all about looks and features and MSI has done a splendid job with their new motherboards. The X99 gaming series adopts the red and black color scheme and three sets of heatsinks, two alongside the PWM and one on the PCH. The LGA 2011-3 socket is compatible with Intel’s upcoming Haswell-E processors which are now available in retail. The board features an 8 Phase PWM supply fitted with MSI’s Military Class IV components and powered by a 8+4 Pin power configuration. The LGA 2011-3 socket is coupled by eight DDR4 DIMM slots, four on each sides which can support overclocked DDR4 memory with speeds of up to DDR4-3300 MHz. Right next to that is the dual BIOS implementation with OC Genie – which is the 1 button press OC solution.

    MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC Motherboard

    Since MSI has featured their Military Class IV components, they also use the OC Engine, Power On/Off and Reset switches which come in handy when overclocking this beast of a board. The X99 Express Chipset is seated beneath a large Gaming G-Series heatsink. Popping it off – we get the X99 chipset in all its platform control hub glory.

    x99s11

    The heatsink itself resembles a shield with a second shield engraved as a logo in the middle. Expansion slots include five PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots which storage includes 10 SATA 6 GB/s and two SATA Express ports. A small diagnostic LED is located at the bottom right hand corner of the board.

    x99s5Now the most interesting feature about this motherboard as previously mentioned is that it houses a streaming engine which featured an AVerMedia chipset (HD Encoding Chip with H.264 Hardware compression) to allow 1080P live streaming at 60Mbps bitrate which is quite impressive considering it will take the load off the GPU and ensure you get the fastest performance out of your hardware. x99s10

    I took apart the STREAMING ENGINE heatsink and you can see the chip that powers smooth streaming and is MSI’s crown jewel. The chip also saves $150 US adding to the value of the board. The motherboard also has a few USB Audio Power tech ports which deliver stable 5V power to any audio device for prefect audio quality on USB headsets and Audio DACs eliminating distortion.

    Eight DDR4 DIMMs offer support of 128 GB capacity with frequency of up to 3300 MHz (OC+) operating in Four Channel mode. All eight DIMM slots are colored black and it comes with Intel XMP specification support which can enabled through the BIOS.

    x99s6The ALC 1150 codec is protected by a shielded electronically isolated plate that reduces EMI interference to deliver higher quality audio. Audio is provided through a 7.1 Channel gold plated audio jack on the I/O panel. The entire audio area is isolated from the main PCB by a red line which lights up when the motherboard is powered. The above picture shows the Audio Boost in the ‘dragon armor’ plating – very yummy stuff.

    Since this is a gaming tier board, MSI do not compromise on additional features and include their Audio Boost 2 ALC 1150 powered chipset and Killer E2200 LAN chip for better audio and networking (the chip is supposed to optimize the network packets for gaming packets vs browsing packets) while a large thermal armor runs across the I/O and audio isolated PCB section for better thermals. In addition to the PCI-E ports, MSI has also added an M.2 Gen3 x4 SSD slot at the top of the bottom most PCI-e slot for NGFF SSDs.

    MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC – I/O Panel

    MSI also teases the I/O of the board featuring a full matte black cover with red I/O ports that include the PS/2 port, 6 Super Speed USB 3.0 ports, 4 USB 2.0 ports, LAN port, 802.11 B/G/N/ AC antenna connectors and a 7.1 Channel audio jack. The motherboard also comes ready with full support for Steam OS and Oculus Rift. The X99S Gaming 9 AC is definitely the choice of board for gamers.

    x99s8

    The I/O panel on the MSI Gaming 9 AC comes with 12 USB 3.0 ports (8 rear / 4 front), 6 USB 2.0 ports (2 rear / 4 front), PS/2, CMOS Reset, 7.1 Channel Analog Audio Jack (Powered by Realtek ALC 1150 codec), SPDIF port. More details are given below:

    • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port
    • 1 x Clear CMOS button
    • 1 x Optical S/PDIF-out port
    • 6 x USB 2.0 ports
    • 12 x USB 3.0 ports
    • 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
    • 1 x 6 in 1 OFC audio jack

    The main attraction of the I/O panel on the MSI Gaming 9 AC is the Intel WiFi AC module which ships with the package. Featuring Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/h/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connectivity, this small yet very useful module can easily be attached to the I/O panel and can be connected with two wired antennas which are shipped within the box for wireless connectivity.

    MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC – ACCESSORIES

    The MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC is shipped with a variety of accessories which include a Driver DVD, Driver’s Manual, Setup Guide Book, wireless antennas with Wi-Fi/BT Module, Red/Black I/O panel, 4 x SATA III Black Cables, 1 x 3-Way SLI Bridge, 2 x 2-Way SLI Bridge, MSI Gaming Badge, and the MSI Game door hangar.

    • 1 x Drivers Manual
    • 1 x Setup Guide
    • 4 x SATA III Black Cables
    • 1 x SLI Bridge (3-Way)
    • 2 x SLI Bridge (2-Way)
    • 1 x Driver DVD
    • 1 x Red/Black/ Gold-Plated I/O Shield
    • 1 x WiFi AC Module (No WiDi)
    • 1 x MSI OC Series Sticker
    • 1 x MSI OC Series Hangar
    • WiFi Antennas

    x99s3

    MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC – UTILITIES

    Each motherboard manufacturer develops a wide range of exclusive utilities and software for their latest hardware and products these days. MSI bundles their MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC with some new software utilities allowing easier management and ease of control over the various features on the motherboard. Following Utilities can be found on the installation disk:

    • Command Center
    • Super Charger
    • RamDisk
    • Super RAID
    • Live Update 6
    • 7-ZIP
    • Intel Turbo Boost Monitor
    • Intel Extreme Tuning Utility
    • Norton Internet Security Solution
    • Trend Micro SafeSync
    • Sound Blaster Cinema 2
    • Killer Network Manager
    • Chrome Browser

    MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC – BIOS

    The MSI X99S BIOS comes with their latest BIOS iteration called Click Bios 4 with some enhancements to the graphical overlay. The Click Bios is an ACPI 5.0, PnP 1.0a, SM BIOS 2.7, and DMI multi language ready bios which offers a nice experience with the keyboard and mouse. The GUI is similar to the previous Gaming BIOS offered by MSI.

    The following are the BIOS options:

    Clock Range Steps
    CPU BCLK: 90.90 MHz … 300.0 MHz 0.06 MHz
    Memory Dividers: x8 (800 MHz), x10.67 (1067 MHz), x13.33 (1333 MHz),
    x14 (1400 MHz), x16 (1600 MHz ), x18 (1800 MHz),
    x18.66 (1866 MHz), x20 (2000 MHz ), x21.33 (2133 MHz),
    x22 (2200 MHz), x24 (2400 MHz)
    Voltages Range Step Size
    CPU Vcore: 0.800 V… 2.10 V 0.001 V
    CPU Ring Voltage: 0.800 V… 2.10 V 0.001 V
    DRAM Voltage: 0.600 V… 2.800 V 0.010 V

     

    The BIOS also has a great system viewer which I absolutely loved.

    bios4The MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC comes with Dual BIOS II support which means that there are two 64MB Winbond ICs which house the BIOS allowing you to store OC profiles or keep it as a backpack if failure occurs while overclock. Browsing through the BIOS is lag free using both Keyboard and Mouse and also allows to save pictures in .BMP format to an portable storage device by pressing the F12 keys.

    Test Setup

    Processor
    • Intel Core i7-5930K
    Motherboard:
    • MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC w/ Core i7-5930K (4.48 GHz)
    • MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC w/ Core i7-5930K
    • MSI Z97 MPOWER MAX w/Core i7-4770K
    • MSI Z97 XPOWER AC w/Core i7-4770K
    Power Supply:  Coolermaster 1000W Gold
    Hard Disk:  Crucial M550 SSD 1TB
    Memory:  G.SKILL RipJaws DDR4 16GB CL 15 (4X4 GB)
    Case:  NZXT Phantom 820
    Video Cards:  MSI GAMING GTX 780 3GB
    Cooling Solutions:  Cooler Master V8 GTX
    OS:  Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

    Overclocking With MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC

    The Core i7-5930K chip we used overclocked to 4.48 GHz at 1.2V with a multiplier of 44. It was confirmed stable.

    5930kocMSI X99S GAMING 9 AC – BENCHMARKS

    X264 HD Encode Benchmark

    This benchmark measures the encoding performance of the processor. It offers a standardized benchmark as the clip as well as the encoder used is uniform.

    h264

    Cinebench R11.5

    Cinebench is based on Maxon’s Cinema 4D. It is used to compare graphics as well as processor performance. We are using the CPU performance numbers for our comparison.

    cinebench

    POV-Ray

    The POV-Ray package includes detailed instructions on using the ray-tracer and creating scenes. Many stunning scenes are included with POV-Ray so you can start creating images immediately when you get the package.

    povray

    3DMark Vantage CPU Performance

    3DMark Vantage is a DirectX 10 video card benchmark test for Windows that is designed to measure your PC’s gaming performance. While the overall benchmark is great, the utility also provides a good indication of the CPU performance.

    3dmarkcpu

    WinRar

    WinRAR is a powerful archive manager. It can backup your data and reduce the size of email attachments, decompress RAR, ZIP and other files downloaded from Internet and create new archives in RAR and ZIP file format.
    winrar

    SuperPI

    Super PI is used by many overclockers to test the performance and stability of their computers. In the overclocking community, the standard program provides a benchmark for enthusiasts to compare “world record” pi calculation times and demonstrate their overclocking abilities. The program can also be used to test the stability of a certain overclock speed.
    superpi

    MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC – GAMING PERFORMANCE

    MSI X99S GAMING 9 – CRYSIS 3 Performance

    Crysis franchise is the crown jewel for the PC gamers. Even after going multi-plat, the game is considered to be the most brilliant and gorgeous game ever brilliant, a visual marvel in short. The third and most probably the last title in the Crysis trilogy blends in the most deepest story line of the franchise with graphics that would make any other game cry in shame. Powering the game is the beastly and much user friendly CryEngine 3 that adopts all the features of DirectX 11 API. Simply speaking, the game demands a high performance graphics card than a high performance CPU to play well on higher settings.

    crysis3

    MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC – BioShock Infinite

    Destroying a giant floating bird as Booker DeWitt and saving a girl is all part of the job description in this sky utopia thriller by makers of the popular BioShock – Irrational Games. The video game is absolutely gorgeous with full settings, greatly optimized, and one that a benchmark is just calling out for.

    bioshockinfinite
    Power Consumption / Thermals / Audio Quality

    The MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC is built for gamers who like to game for long hours without their computers shutting down. On the temperature side, we see that the Haswell Core i7-5930K has temperatures similar to the Ivy Bridge-E processors – and runs slightly cooler at default settings but as soon as its overclocked, the CPU pushed around the 84-92C even with my top-end air V8 GTS cooler.  A water cooling setup is recommended for 24/7 overclocked usage.

    The PWM water cooling at the northbridge provides a significant cool-down improvement to the CPU surprisingly, by taking away the heat at the northbridge and allowing outward dissipation. To measure this accurately, temperature probes were placed using 7 CPU Nurse Units that measure the temperature at the ambient space of the heatsinks every 5 cm. The overall dissipation was measured by totaling all of this. The layout was also removed completely to test for heat around the area at maximum load (829 W). In measuring the dissipation to the MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC – we can see that there is a nearly 10.2 degrees Celsius difference – accounting for an increase of cooling by nearly 11% compared to the heat of 95 degrees Celsius produced without this layout. The MSI Z97 PWM cooling seems to be more effective at 16% but still a great job given this new processor and layout they had to work with. MSI really did their homework and translated the Z97 cooling experience to the X99 chipset boards.

    rightmarkaaI also went ahead and ran the board through Rightmark Audio Analyzer. Quality was exceptional. Very good is usually hard to get for some boards but MSI really delivers in sound quality and entertainment value for audiophiles.

    Conclusion

    editors choiceThe MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC bodes well for entry enthusiasts who are wanting the next best thing in computing – more cores – an amazing motherboard – and lastly: innovation. Sure, there will be more cores (around 12) soon in the desktop arena hopefully, but the X99 chipset and its board supporters make for a beautiful and a true next generation investment until that time comes to pass.

    We have awarded the board our ‘Editor’s Choice Award’.

    The Intel Core i7-5930K is the fastest 6 Core processor you can buy in the market today and the performance gap between the Z97 and X99 chipset in both gaming and synthetic benchmarks goes off to show why Intel has separated the HEDT X99 platform from their Z97 mainstream performance platform. The Haswell-E processors carry on the architectural features of the Haswell generation of CPUs and improve upon them. This results in a processor which is not only high-end capable but can also provide high overclocks thanks to the features and innovations introduced before them.

    The MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC is definitely one of the top boards out there in the market. One cannot disagree that MSI is becoming a great contender and brand name on its own – catering to the overclockers, workload optimization group, and most importantly gamers. MSI is here to stay and be a strong competitor in the motherboard arena. Is this board worth the $449.00 MSRP? You bet.

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    9.6
    Excellent
    Detailed Score

    The MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC motherboard comes with features that cater to gamers and is an incredible purchase for its value and offering for anyone looking to invest in the Haswell-E generation.

    Ali Naqi has been in the hardware and video games industry as a reviewer since 1999. He currently lives in California and has a passion for all things hardware and gaming. He has worked for many publications in the hardware and gaming industry.

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