MSI X299 SLI Plus/£
As with the other motherboard manufacturers this month, MSI has a number of other boards available, but the 299 SLI Plus is the first one to enter our lab, and it’s also the cheapest board on test. The X299 SLI Plus retails for just £260 inc VAT, which is noticeably cheaper than the competition, but it’s actually better equipped in a number of areas. It has an M.2 heatsink, which is lacking on the Gigabyte X299 Aorus Gaming 3.
Amazingly, it also includes the full complement of overclocking and testing tools, sporting power and reset buttons, a clear-CMOS switch, LED POST code display and a USB BIOS flashback button. In addition, it even offers a dual BIOS switch. The extravagance doesn’t end there, though, as the board also offers a USB 3.1 header, which is absent on the Gigabyte board and also a U.2 port, which is otherwise only found on the super-expensive Asus Prime X299 Deluxe, although its usefulness is limited.
MSI includes a dedicated water-cooling pump header as well, and while it’s only rated at 2A instead of the 3A that Gigabyte and Asus offers, that’s still more than enough current to power a standard 3-pin pumps. The board sports some interesting RGB lighting too, which is arranged in strips on the chipset and VRM heatsinks. This setup makes for a very effective ambient light show, and you can also attach your own RGB LED strips
As well as the pair of M.2 ports and U.2 port, you get six SATA 6Gbps ports – the lowest number on test, but still enough for most people. The M.2 heatsink improved temperatures too, cutting the temperature of our Samsung 960 Pro by 11°C, but it also seemed quite susceptible to the side exhaust on our graphics card. Even so, it still ran much cooler than without it, even if the Asus M.2 heatsinks enabled it to run even cooler.
Meanwhile, the rear I/O panel has plenty to offer, with nine Type-A ports, four of which are USB 3, while one is USB 3.1, with a Type-C port accompanying it. You also get an optical audio output for the Realtek ALC1220 codec, which again is lacking on the Gigabyte board. The audio performance was excellent and on a par with the rest of the field, as well as being a step up from what you’d expect from an X99 motherboard.
Power consumption was high at stock speed, though, which has been a typical problem with some early X299 EFI versions. A new EFI landed just before we finished testing, which solved a CPU boosting issue, but didn’t fix the power draw. The result of the former was the fastest stock-speed RealBench system score on test, but with fairly high CPU temperatures.
Overclocking was, sadly, a bit of a pain. CPU-Z didn’t report the correct voltage most of the time, and MSI’s overclocking software wasn’t always issue-free. We also needed a fairly hefty 1.25V vcore to get to 4.6GHz, although this overclock was thankfully easy to achieve in MSI’s excellent EFI.
This overclock also saw the MSI managing the fastest system score on test, leaping from 249,651 to 261,098.
A few niggles, most likely to be resolved in a future EFI version, mean that while other aspects of the MSI X299 SLI Plus are excellent, especially its features compared with the competition, at the moment we can’t give it an award. That’s a shame, as in terms of value for money, it’s the best offering this month, eclipsing pricier boards in several areas. We’ll take another look at this board once the dust has settled and MSI has had time to iron out the bugs, though, as it has the makings of an excellent motherboard.
Amazingly, it includes the full complement of overclocking and testing tools