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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.

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