FOR THE OVERLOOKER
MSI Z97 XPower AC
If the bold yellow-black design doesn’t make it clear, you’ll definitely notice right out of the box the VRM heatsinks designed to be used with liquid- cooling solutions; there’s even the option for flexible tubing mounts. MSI’s also taken feedback from professional overclockers and designed the board to easily accommodate large CPU coolers, with extra clearance for extreme liquid nitrogen cooling solutions.
Speaking of extreme overclocking, the Z97 XPower AC is also bundled with a special die guard that helps protect a CPU the when its integrated heat spreader has been removed, and allows for the smooth mounting of a cooling solution on a de-lidded processor.
As an overclocking board, stability is a big factor in design and MSI includes the latest Military Class IV power regulator components. The board is manufactured with additional PCB layers ( a total of 8), for better optimization of the board’s power and signal traces for overclocking. At the same time, the extra layers offer protection against the high humidity of the tropics, as well as electrostatic discharge that may fry the board’s components. The board comes with the Guard Pro technology that purports to guard against ESD, EMI, short circuits, and humidity. Each I/ O port of the board has an integrated dual- ESD circuit that protects it from electrical damage when plugging and removing devices.
Designed to push performance benchmarks, it feature a switching PLX chip for 4-way SLI or CrossFireX. Interestingly, there are a total of five x16 slots on board. Four slots are served by the PLX chip, but the fifth bypasses the chip for a direct connection to the CPU if you’re going to be using a single graphics card exclusively. This slot is not used with multiGPU configurations. The board is wellequipped for an open workbench environment. First, it sports the now familiar Direct OC buttons. These of onboard buttons will allow you to tweak the base clock and CPU ratio, without having to access the UEFI BIOS utility. For finer adjustments to the base clock, there is a switch that will toggle the increment steps (1MHz or 0.1MHz) for the operation of the base clock Direct OC buttons.
Other features include a removable Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 7260 module for Wi- Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth v4.0 connectivity. The module also supports Intel WiDi technology. Onboard audio is driven by the Audio Boost technology that features an EMI-shielded Realtek ALC1150 codec, with a 600 ohm headphone amplifier. The Z97 XPower AC doesn’t offer any SATA Express connectors, but MSI does have an optional optional M.2 to SATA Express converter card.