MSI X299 SLI Plus/£

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Custom PC - - LABS TEST -

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.

Con­clu­sion

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

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