MSI X299 GAMING M7 ACK Motherboard Review

Add Your Comments

Thanks to MSI I have the X299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard on the test bench today. At the launch of the 2066 platform there was a bit of controversy over the ability of many of the motherboards to handle the power requirements of the 10+ core i9 series of Intel CPUs. At first glance, it appears that MSI was listening and responded with a 12 phase DrMOS  power design and the added support of an extra four-pin ATX power connection. Let’s put it to the test and see if it can hold it’s own under pressure.

Specifications and Features

The MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK is a fully-featured ATX form factor motherboard with an impressive list of extras. Looking at the specifications, we see that it supports LGA socket 2066 Intel i9, i7 and i5 processors on the X299 chipset.

Memory support is very dependent on the CPU used. With eight DDR4 memory slots, max capacity is 128 GB in dual or quad channel configurations. MSI is also claiming speeds of up to 4133 MHz are possible with quad channel and a staggering 4500 MHz in dual channel. I will not be able to test these claims since I don’t have the ram to support those speeds.

Moving to the expansion slots, we have a similar CPU dependency because Intel’s new line ranges from 44 PCIe lanes down to 16 PCIe lanes. The X299 Gaming M7 will support x16/x4/x16/x8 modes with a 44 lane CPU, x16/x4/x8/x0 or x8/x4/x8/x8 modes with a 28-lane CPU and, lastly x8/x0/x8/x0 or x8/x4/x4/x0 modes with a 16-lane CPU.

Tons of storage and RAID options, Intel Optane support, up to 18 USB connections and included WiFi/Bluetooth capabilities. As you can see, MSI hasn’t left much off this motherboard. I’ll leave the rest to the table below.

All specifications for the MSI X299 GAMING M7 ACK in the table below are provided by MSI.

MSI X299 GAMING M7 ACK Specs
CPU (Max Support) Supports Intel® Core™ X-Series Processor Family for LGA2066 Socket
Chipset Intel X299 Chipset
Memory • 8 x DDR4 memory slots, support up to 128 GB*
• Quad channel memory architecture with the CPU that supports up to 4-channels DDR4**
– X-series processor support DDR4 4133+(OC)/4000(OC)/3866(OC)/3800(OC)/3733(OC)/3600(OC)/3466(OC)/3400(OC)/3333(OC)/3200(OC)/3000(OC)/2933(OC)/2800(OC)/2667/2400/2133 MHz*
• Dual channel memory architecture with the CPU that supports up to 2-channels DDR4**
– X-series processor support DDR4 4500+(OC)/4400(OC)/4333(OC)/4266(OC)/4200(OC)/4133(OC)/4000(OC)/3866(OC)/3800(OC)/3733(OC)/3600(OC)/3466(OC)/3400(OC)/3333(OC)/3200(OC)/3000(OC)/2933(OC)/2800(OC)/2667/2400/2133 MHz*
• Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* For the latest information about memory, please visit msi.com
** Please refer the DIMM Slots section for more details.
Expansion Slots • 4 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
– Support x16/ x4/ x16/ x8 mode with the 44-lane CPU.
– Support x16/ x4/ x8/ x0,x8/ x4/ x8/ x8 modes with the 28-lane CPU.
– Support x8/ x0/ x8/ x0, x8/ x4/ x4/ x0 modes with the 16-lane CPU.
• 2 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
* Please refer to manual for PCIe 3.0 bandwidth table.
Multi-GPU Support • Supports 3-Way AMD CrossFire Technology
• Supports 3-Way NVIDIA SLI Technology
Storage • Intel X299 Chipset
• 8 x SATA 6Gb/s ports*
• 2 x M.2 slots (Key M)*
– Supports up to PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gb/s
– M2_1 slot supports 2242/ 2260 /2280 storage devices
– M2_2 slot supports 2242/ 2260 /2280/ 22110 storage devices
– Intel® Optane Memory Ready**
• 1 x U.2 port *
– Supports PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe storage
• Supports Intel Smart Response Technology***
* M.2 slots, U.2 port and SATA ports share the same bandwidth.
** Please refer to manual for Intel Optane Memory Configuration.
***The functions will be supported depend on the CPU.
RAID  Intel X299 Chipset
• Supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 for SATA storage devices
• Supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 for M.2 storage devices*
* M.2 PCIe RAID volume can be created with M.2/Optane Genie. Please refer to manual for M.2 PCIe SSD RAID.
LAN • 1 x Killer E2500 Gigabit LAN controller
Wireless LAN & Bluetooth Killer Wireless-AC 1535 module
– The Wireless module is pre-installed in the M2_3(Key-E) slot.
– Supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual band (2.4GHz,5GHz) up to 867 Mbps speed.
– Supports Bluetooth 4.1
Audio Dual Realtek ALC1220 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
– Supports S/PDIF output
USB • ASMedia ASM3142 Chipset
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) Type-A port on the back panel
– 2 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (Super Speed USB 10Gbps) Type-C ports(1 port on the back panel, 1 port available through the internal USB connector)
• ASMedia ASM1074 Hub
– 3 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) Type-A ports on theback panel
 Intel X299 Chipset
– 5 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) ports (1 port on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
– 7 x USB 2.0 (High-speed USB) ports (3 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
Back I/O Ports – 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 1 x BIOS FLASHBACK+ button
– 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 3 x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
– 2 x Wi-Fi Antenna connectors (optional)
– 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A port
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
– 5 x OFC audio jacks
Internal I/O Ports – 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 3 x M.2 slots (Key M x2, Key E x1)
– 1 x U.2 port
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
– 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports)
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
– 1 x 4-pin CPU fan connector
– 1 x 4-pin Water Pump connector
– 4 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 2 x Front panel connectors
– 1 x TPM module connector
– 1 x Virtual RAID on CPU connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x Slow mode booting jumper
– 1 x GAME BOOST knob
– 1 x Power button
– 1 x Reset button
– 1 x Multi-BIOS switch
– 1 x RGB LED connector
– 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED
OS Support

Windows® 10

Windows® 7 installation toll included on Drivers & Utilities Disc

Form Factor • 12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm)
• ATX Form Factor
Accessories • Drivers & Utilities Disc
• Motherboard User Guide
• 4 x SATA Cable
• I/O Shield
• SATA Cable Labels
• 1 x SLI HB Bridge M
• 1 x 1 to 2 RGB LED Extension Y Cable 80cm
• 3D X-MOUNTING Screw Pillars
• Case Badge
• 2 x Antenna

The MSI Gaming M7 is a very good looking motherboard, all black with just some metal accents coming from the MSI steel armour which they have included on the memory slots and PCIe slots. Once it’s powered up, there’s a bit more color with the added LEDs in the heatsinks and I/O cover which you can tailor to fit your case with MSI’s Mystic Light software and the included LED extension for the onboard LED connectors.

MSI also hasn’t forgotten about the serious overclocker with this motherboard – with features such as dual BIOS chips and BIOS Flashback+  and also handy power and reset buttons with an added “slow” jumper to aid in LN2 overclocking. They’ve included voltage read points dubbed “V_Check points Lite”. I think Lite is the keyword here. The point are so small I had a hard time locating them and to use them you need very steady hands and a magnifying glass to read the labels.

Gamers haven’t been overlooked with MSI’s software and hardware tools such as Gaming boost, Nahimic 2+, dedicated Virtual Reality hardware to deliver the best experience possible and dual Realtek ALC1220 Codec for front headphones and rear 7.1 channel high definition audio.

The next table lists the high-level feature set of the MSI X299 GAMING M7 ACK. All images and descriptions provided by MSI.

MSI X299 GAMING M7 ACK Features

UNMATCHED MEMORY PERFORMANCE

MSI motherboards are crammed with features to fuel your gaming rig’s memory with more speed, higher overclockability and increased stability.

ENHANCED STABILITY WITH OPTIMIZED MEMORY LAYOUT

Optimized traces and a fully isolated memory circuitry ensures perfect stability and performance, so you never have to worry about your system crashing during games.

DIGITALL MEMORY POWER DESIGN

An all-digital power design offers lower power consumption and precise voltage delivery for enhanced efficiency for a non-stop gaming experience.

SHIELD YOUR MEMORY SIGNAL WITH STEEL ARMOR

Steel Armor protects your memory and memory slots from both physical damage and electrical overcurrent by adding extra ground points. But it also ensures a clean data signal for your memory by shielding it from electromagnetic interference (EMI), for a smooth gaming experience.

EXTREME STABILITY & COMPATIBILITY TESTING

MSI conducts thorough memory testing with the most popular memory brands under extreme conditions to ensure your system runs stable no matter what. Our memory partners include brands like Corsair, Crucial, Kingston, G.Skill and many more to optimize memory modules, configurations and even improve overclocking.

DESIGNED FOR OVERCLOCKING

Combining industries best components with MSI’s top notch R&D design, you can count on this motherboard to deliver world class performance. System tuning and troubleshooting tools are at your disposal to push your system to new heights.

OC ENGINE 2

This external clock generator gives you more freedom in BCLK adjustments to achieve the maximum overclock for your setup. It also offers lower jitter & power consumption resulting in a rock solid system under extreme conditions.

OC PCB

Leading PCB design and added layers allow us to optimize all traces for overclocking. Power and signal traces are isolated, resulting in higher efficiency, steadfast stability and top-notch performance.

BIOS FLASHBACK+

Simply flash an old or new BIOS version and start overclocking within minutes. BIOS Flashback+ even works without a CPU, memory or graphics card installed!

V-CHECK POINTS LITE

Multiple readout points are available to measure the exact voltages your CPU and memory are running at in real-time. You can use up to 3 multi-meters at the same time.

STAYING COOL

 Cooling your PC is essential for reliable performance. We’ve made sure to include enough fan headers with full control to allow you to cool your system any way you want.

LOOKING COOL WHILE KEEPING COOL

High quality materials and smart fan optimizations contribute to cooling all essential components, which is key to making sure your system runs stable at the best performance during long gaming sessions.

FULLY CONTROLLABLE FAN HEADERS

 MSI motherboards let you manage speeds and temperatures for all your system and CPU fans, giving you full control to set up a cool & silent system. The fan headers are conveniently placed with the most popular CPU coolers in mind.

OPTIMIZED FOR WATER COOLING

 Designed to support the most popular All-In-One & custom water cooling solutions on the market. A dedicated water pump PIN header supports up to 2 amp, giving you full control of the water pump speed. A clearly marked ‘keep-out-zone’ allows for easy and safe installation and a perfect fit.

PERSONALIZE YOUR GAMING RIG

Customize and set up your own color scheme with RGB Mystic Light. Select any of the colors from the palette using your smartphone or the Mystic Light App to match your system style. Bored of the same colors? Simply change the complete look of your system in 1 second!

MILLIONS OF MARVELOUS COLORS, GREAT SELECTION OF EFFECTS

 With multiple colors available, you are the artist to create your own unique gaming rig. Done selecting colors? Choose between several LED effects to really make your system come alive and enjoy your personalized design!

MYSTIC LIGHT SYNC:
SYNCHRONIZE YOUR LED EXPERIENCE

 With the convenience of Mystic Light Sync, you can control RGB LED solutions from other brands, such as CPU coolers, keyboards and mice or RGB system fans.

YOUR IN-GAME ADVANTAGE

Outsmart and outperform your opponents in-game using an array of unique MSI GAMING tools. Clever hardware & software tools, created to keep you one step ahead of the competition and boost your skills.

GAMING HOTKEY

Simply assign functions to any key whether to launch your favorite games, load profiles or do real-time overclocking with the push of a single button. The possibilities are endless!

1-SECOND OVERCLOCKING!

Need more power from your CPU and memory to get more FPS? MSI Game Boost enables one-second overclocking, giving you the performance boost you need. Simply turn the dial or use the Gaming App and your PC gets another adrenaline shot!

WANT MORE PERFORMANCE? TRY MULTI GPU!

Gaming enthusiasts are always looking for more performance to get the ultimate experience. Using multiple graphics cards is a great way to find out just how good it gets. MSI GAMING motherboards fully support multi GPU technologies and have optimal PCI-E slot placement for the best thermal performance.

*works best with MSI graphics cards

BE THE FIRST ON THE BATTLEFIELD

This MSI GAMING motherboard supports all the latest storage standards. This allows you to connect any ultra-fast storage device, giving you in-game benefits. Start games faster, load levels faster and have a real advantage over your enemies.

OPTANE: BOOST YOUR HDD TO PERFORM LIKE AN SSD – Gamers and PC Enthusiasts can now enjoy the performance of an SSD on their HDD by coupling it with the new Intel® Optane™ Memory device. Intel® Optane™ technology provides an unparalleled combination of high throughput, low latency, high quality of service, and high endurance. All MSI 200 Series motherboards are ready for Intel® Optane™ Memory.

M.2 SHIELD FROZR

World’s fastest SSDs can start to lower performance when getting hot. Part of the motherboards heatsink design, M.2 Shield FROZR is the next generation M.2 Thermal solution avoiding this by offering the best thermal protection to make sure the SSD maintains maximum performance.

2X TURBO M.2

Enjoy a blazing fast system boot up and insanely quick loading of applications and games with MSI motherboards. Delivering speeds up to 32Gb/s per device using Gen3 x4, Turbo M.2 is over 5 times faster than a regular SATA III connection!

XBOOST YOUR STORAGE PERFORMANCE 

 This great little tool is very simple to use and automatically detects your storage devices connected to the system. When enabled, X-Boost optimizes your SSDs to keep your system fast and maximize storage performance, making sure you reach the battlefield even quicker or saving you a lot of time when transferring data.

IMMERSE YOURSELF INTO VIRTUAL WORLDS

Integrating the very best of cutting edge technologies on MSI hardware provides a smooth VR ride. Through joint efforts with major VR brands, combined with unique MSI features geared to VR, MSI brings gamers and VR professionals a vivid and realistic experience in which content truly comes alive.

PULL YOURSELF INTO THE GAME WITH VR BOOST

Only MSI products are equipped with VR Boost. When using a VR headset, you want to have a smooth experience. Traditional USB ports can suffer signal drops, significantly impacting performance of connected devices. VR Boost is a smart chip that ensures a clean and strong signal to a VR optimized USB port, giving you an enjoyable VR experience.

OPTIMIZED FOR THE BEST VR BRANDS

Want the best of the best VR experience without any compromise? MSI motherboards offer everything you need when exploring the possibilities of VR. By closely working with the industries’ leading VR vendors, we make sure you get the best possible gaming experience when choosing Virtual Reality.

STRAIGHT INTO THE ACTION WITH ONE CLICK TO VR

Both hard- and software need to be in tune for a smooth VR experience. One Click to VR makes it very fast and easy to get primed for VR. A single click sets all your key components to their highest performance and makes sure other software applications won’t impact your virtual adventure. Click here to learn more about MSI VR

SOUND THAT PULLS YOU INTO THE GAME

Get the most immersive sound experience when gaming. MSI Audio Boost delivers the highest sound quality through the use of premium quality audio components. This lets you enjoy breathtaking, game-changing sound to create the most exciting gameplay.

AMPLIFY YOUR GAME WITH AUDIO BOOST 4 PRO

Audio Boost is a high quality audio solution offering a true advantage over your opponents when gaming. Use Audio Boost 4 PRO to locate your in-game enemies with pin point precision to give you that competitive edge, whether you are using your front or rear audio output. Audio Boost 4 PRO comes with 2 dedicated HD audio processors with dedicated amplifiers so you can use headphones and speakers at the same time.

DEDICATED FRONT & REAR HI-FI AUDIO PROCESSOR

Powered by two EMI-shielded HD audio processors with built-in amplifiers, Audio Boost 4 PRO lets you enjoy the purest sound quality in both stereo and surround sound. Both front and rear connectors are fueled by a dedicated HD audio processor to make sure you get to experience studio grade sound quality, no matter where you connect your headphones or speakers.
120dB SNR / 32-bit
Supports DSD Super Audio CD playback & recording (64x better than regular CD quality)

DOMINATE THE GAME WITH THE LOWEST LATENCY

Get ready to crush your enemies on the battlefield with MSI GAMING LAN. Featuring the highest quality components tuned to deliver the best online gaming experience without lag.

KILLER™ DOUBLE SHOT PRO

Killer™ DoubleShot Pro allows the Killer™ Ethernet connectors and the Killer™ Wi-Fi adapter to work together for the ultimate high speed attack. The Killer Network Manager decides which apps runs on which connection for gaming traffic optimization. This will give you the max throughput as high as 1.867 Gbps.

LAN PROTECT TO SHIELD YOUR SYSTEM AGAINST POWER SURGES

Experience smooth networking with Intel® LAN. Intel® LAN is optimized for championship level online and LAN eSports by reducing CPU overhead and offering exceptionally high TCP and UDP throughput. This means your CPU can be used more effectively, giving you more FPS when gaming.

BUILT ON EVERLASTING QUALITY

Using only the finest quality components and integrating the latest technological innovations delivers the best possible gaming and professional experience. Rigorous quality testing under the most extreme conditions ensures a super reliable, high performance motherboard.

FORTIFY YOUR SYSTEM WITH PCI-E STEEL ARMOR

MSI PCI Express Steel Armor slots are armed with more solder points on the motherboard for a stronger hold, preventing any damage due to heavy-weight graphics cards. Steel Armor also protects PCI Express signals against electromagnetic interference for a pure gaming experience and even higher overclocking.

SUPER STABLE GAMING WITH THE HIGHEST QUALITY COMPONENTS

MSI uses Military Class 5 components, which is the latest evolution of the industries’ highest quality standard. These high quality components are shielded by the best protection to make sure your system runs smoothly under the most extreme gaming conditions.

 ULTIMATE MOTHERBOARD PROTECTION

We’ve made sure you can enjoy your system endlessly. MSI motherboards feature Double ESD protection with double layer grounding around the motherboard mounting holes, preventing Electrostatic discharge (ESD) surges from damaging the motherboard.

MAXIMIZE YOUR USB DEVICE PERFORMANCE

Transfer your favorite games, music and movies over USB faster than ever. MSI offers a wide variety of options to connect and boost your USB 3.1 devices, delivering lightning-fast transfer speeds up to 10Gb/s!

DOUBLE BANDWIDTH WITH LIGHTNING USB 3.1 GEN2

Using multiple USB 3.1 devices has never been faster! Featuring the Lighting ASmedia 3142 USB 3.1 Gen2 controller, MSI motherboards offer never before seen USB speeds when connecting multiple USB devices at the same time. The Lightning USB connectors are covered with gold to ensure a bitter signal and performance.

X-BOOST YOUR USB PERFORMANCE

When enabled, X-Boost optimizes your devices for even better transfer speeds and can provide up to 20% increase in USB performance, saving a lot of time when transferring data. This handy tool is very easy to use and automatically detects & optimizes the USB devices connected to your system.

BOOT UP GUARANTEED

Run into trouble when updating your BIOS or somehow corrupted it? Don’t worry, SYSTEM SAVER offers 3 easy to use options to successfully boot your system again.

EASY BIOS RECOVERY WITH BIOS FLASHBACK+

Run into trouble when updating your BIOS? Simply flash the old BIOS version back and continue gaming within minutes with BIOS Flashback+. BIOS Flashback+ even works without a CPU, memory or graphics card installed!

DUAL BIOS

Still aren’t able to successfully boot? Having 2 physical BIOS chips allows to have a plan B. Simply move the onboard switch to select the secondary stock BIOS and try booting from there. The second BIOS chip contains the factory default BIOS.

INSTANTLY OPTIMIZE AND BOOST YOUR PERFORMANCE

CLICK BIOS 5 provides easy access to XMP memory profiles to optimize your internal memory timings and speeds for maximum stability and performance in-game. Safely overclock your CPU with a single button for more performance using MSI Game Boost.

Retail Packaging and Accessories

Below we see a slide show of the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK’s retail packaging. MSI did a fine job with the packaging as you can see, the top left corner of the box is slightly misshapen. This occurred during shipping but there wasn’t any damage done to the motherboard or the other contents of the package. The front has a picture of the board and large lettering indicating the model, easily seen on retail shelving. Moving to the back we have a quick overview of the motherboard’s specifications and features.

The board came neatly wrapped in anti-static plastic resting in its own box located on top of a second container holding the accessories. As for accessories, there are plenty: the usual manual, utility disc and rear I/O shield along with four SATA cables and a one to two RGB LED extension. They have also included a High-Bandwidth SLI bridge, some standoffs for any 3D printed accessories you care to add to the board and a pair of antennae for the WIFI/bluetooth M.2 card that comes already installed on the board.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The MSI X299 GAMING M7 ACK

As I said previously, the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK is practically solid black with the exception of the steel armour accents and would easily work with any color scheme. The plastic I/O guard extends the length of the motherboard and is equipped with RGB LED’s at intervals between the PCIe slots.

On the back of the motherboard you can see the two x16 electrical PCIe slots as well as two x8 slots. You’ll also notice the huge socket 2066 CPU retainer backplate. One good thing with the new socket is that most coolers that fit the previous LGA 2011 v3 will also work on LGA 2066.

Gaming M7 – Front

Gaming M7 – Back

A Closer Look

The first thing that catches the eye in the PCIe area is the extra large PCH heatsink. This is MSI’s M.2 Shield FROZR which is intended to protect your M.2 drives from accidental damage as well as operate as a thermal solution/heatsink. The shield is held closed with two small screws. Removing these and opening the shield on its hinge reveals the two M.2 slots for additional drives. The back of the arms have thermal tape affixed to them (see picture below) which acts as an interface between the M.2 drives and the arms of the shield. This helps dissipate some of the heat these drives can produce. The only drawback I found was, it’s not possible to change or add an M.2 drive without first removing your graphics card.

You’ll also notice the four full length PCIe slots which come with MSI’s steel armour. This helps strengthen the PCIe slots themselves to support the heavier graphics cards without flexing and also helps shield the signals from EMI (electromagnetic interference ).

Gaming M7 – PCIe Area

Moving to the top of the Gaming M7 we have two sets of four DIMM slots on either side of the CPU. To the top left there’s the eight-pin and optional four-pin ATX CPU power connectors. The 4-pin is optional but MSI’s Click5 BIOS suggested I engage it as I started stetting voltages manually. The bigger i9 CPUs will benefit from having the extra power so choose a power supply accordingly. To the far left in that picture is the fully digital IR 35201 controller next to the 10 year rated dark capacitors.

On the right side at the top is where the debug LED is located — Great for troubleshooting, and when everything is running normal it reports the CPU temperature, no need for additional software. Just to the top of the DIMM slots there’s the dedicated water pump header. It looks like a typical four-pin PWM fan header but supports up to 2A to accommodate water pumps. If you look closely along the top right edge of the PCB the V_Check Points Lite are located just beside a row of resistors – as I said they are easy to miss. Just below the main 24-pin ATX connector there’s also a USB3 front panel header.

Gaming M7 – Upper Lert

Gaming M7 – Upper Right

Moving across the board to the lower left is the audio section which would normally be covered by the plastic shrouding along this edge.  Below the dual Realtek chips is the front panel audio header. Moving to the right there’s an RGB LED header and a couple of system fan headers. As we move across the bottom of the board the right side gets a bit busier. Here we have a couple USB2 headers and a VRAID header. Right next to them are the oh-so-convenient power and reset buttons along with the Game Boost button for one touch overclocking. Directly above the reset button is the dual BIOS switch and just below the U.2 connector is the “Slow Mode” jumper for LN2 overclocking.

Gaming M7 – Lower Left

Gaming M7 – Lower Right

Here’s another one of my favorites, the clear CMOS button and the BIOS Flashback+ button which pairs with the vertical USB2.0 slot. Moving to the right there’s a PS2 port and a couple of USB2.0 slots for the mouse and keyboard along with 4 USB3.1 Gen1 ports. The Killer wifi antennae connect back here as well as the Killer Lan. There’s a couple of Lightning USB3.1 Gen2 type “A and “C” and lastly the gold plated audio jacks with S/PDIF.

Gaming M7 – I/O Ports

Stripping the MSI X299 GAMING M7 ACK

The heart of the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK is the 12 phase DrMOS power delivery. The IR 35201 eight phase PWM controller routes power through doublers located on the back of the motherboard to the IR 3555 60A combined driver/MOSFETs for improved efficiency and improved overclocking capabilities. MSI has also used their TitaniumII  chokes which are smaller and more efficient than traditional chokes along with their low ESR dark capacitors with an increased lifespan of over 10 years.

Gaming M7 – VRM Exposed

IR 35201 Eight Phase controller

IR 3555 60A Fets

As you can see below the heatsinks both have LED connectors for the motherboard the larger one sporting the MSI Dragon when lit. They both made great contact and did a fine job of keeping the X299 chipset as well as the VRM nice and cool even when the voltages were being pushed. As I mentioned earlier, the large M.2 FROZR shield has thermal tape applied to help keep those blistering M.2 drives cooler.

Gaming M7 – Heatsinks

Here we get a good lok at the Gaming M7’s audio section. It’s powered with dual Realtek ALC 1220 audio processors with built-in amplifiers. One is dedicated to the front audio output for headphones and the second dedicated to the rear 7.1 channel speaker output. Both are routed through Chemi-Con capacitors which are widely considered to be one of the great choices for the best sound output. The audio area is isolated from the rest of the motherboard circuitry with an LED border and MSI uses separate PCB layers for the left and right audio channels to ensure clean signals.

Gaming M7 – Audio

The MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK also features the Killer E2500 LAN and Killer wireless AC 1535 adapter. Using the included Killer Double Shot Pro allows you to piggyback the two for up to 1.867 Gbps. They’re also protected from power surges with Lan Protect.

Killer E2500 Ethernet

Killer Wireless AC 1535

Wireless Antennae

Below are some thumbnails, click for a bigger view, of the other miscellaneous integrated circuit chips on the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software

MSI’s Click BIOS 5 is easy to navigate and quite intuitive. From the main screen it’s easy to access the main parts of the BIOS but is mostly information based. For the real work that’s where the Advanced screen comes in with a push of the F7 key. I would have added a slide of the MSI Board Explorer but every time I accessed that page in BIOS the PC would freeze and require a hard re-start. Any of slides below can be examined more closely by right clicking and opening the image in a new window.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking through the settings section in the advanced screen we find items such as the boot menu and the save and exit options.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here’s where I spent a lot of time, the OC section of the BIOS. All the main CPU control setting can be found here: voltages, multipliers for CPU and cache etc… You also access the Digitall power section here for LLC settings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next section I dedicated to the DRAM settings since there’s a ton of them. I’ve also included a slide of the overclock setting profile page.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Below are some slides of the included software from MSI, such as the Command Center for in Windows overclocking and fan control, and Mystic Light LED control. All the software is accessible through the MSI App Manager desktop icon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Test Setup, Benchmarks, and Overclocking

Listed below is the test system used for benchmarking. The Data used for comparison was taken from the i9 7900x review by EarthDog who was using an ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe

Test Setup
CPU Intel i9 7900x
Cooler -EK-XLC Predator 360
Motherboard -MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK
RAM -Mixed G.Skill 4×8 GB @ 3600 CL 16
Graphics Card -GTX 980Ti K|NGP|N Edition
Solid State Drive -256GB Samsung 950 Pro NVMe
Power Supply -SuperFlower Leadex 1K Platinum
Operating System -Windows 10 x64

We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks which tests rendering, memory performance, and single/multi-threaded CPU performance. For 2D benchmarks we’ll use SuperPi 1M and 32M, wPrime and Intel XTU. For rendering it’s Cinebench R11.5 and R15. Memory performance is checked against AIDA64. For encoding, we use x265 (HWBOT Version) and PoV Ray. A more real-world test is included in 7zip. Testing is performed with the CPU at 4 GHz to eliminate any inherent differences in stock BIOS options. Memory speed is XMP, unless otherwise specified.

 

Memory Bandwidth and Throughput Benchmark – AIDA64

At the time of this review AIDA64 didn’t have full support for the Intel i9 7900x. Most of the tests came within a few percent of each other which is expected when comparing motherboards. You will notice though that in the FPU suite there seemed to be quite a variance in the results. More than I would attribute to a different motherboard.

Aida64 Memory and Cache Benchmark

Motherboard Read Write Copy Latency
MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK 95174 94727 81472 70.7
ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe 90501 88143 73927 74.6

Aida64 CPU Benchmark Tests

Motherboard Queen PhotoWorxx Zlib AES Hash
MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK 108924 42516 900.2 45464 11840
ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe 108615 45787 903.4 45434 12023

Aida64 FPU Benchmark tests

Motherboard VP8 Julia Mandel SinJulia
MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK 8071 83611 44638 12025
ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe 8378 75093 40073 12124

CPU Rendering/Encoding Benchmarks – Cinebench R11.5 and R15, PoV Ray R3.73, HWBot X265 and 7Zip

Cinebench R11.5

Cinebench R15

POVRay

HWBot X265

7ZIP

Legacy CPU Benchmarks – Super Pi 1M, 32M, Wprime 32M,1024M and Intel XTU

 

SuperPi 1M

SuperPi 32M

WPrime tests

Intel XTU

As you can see from the benchmarks above the results are right in line with expectations of an upper tier motherboard. The MSI and ASUS motherboards traded blows with a couple percentage points here and there but overall they were pretty even with no clear winner.

Pushing the Limits

The MSI X299 GAMING M7 ACK hit 4.7 GHz on the CPU. It seems to be fairly stable at this level, running Aida64 Stability Test without issue, Prime95 ran for about 20 minutes but crashes to desktop so a bit more voltage would be needed for full stability at this speed. I was also able to raise the Cache speed to 300 and the memory to 3800 MHz at CL18. The system ran fairly strong at these settings as I said just a hair away from being 24/7 stable. What I would like to comment on is how “hungry” this 10 core 20 thread CPU got when I starting to push it. When I first booted to 4.7 GHz, I ran a few benchmarks and they were scoring terribly. So I went back to BIOS and added a bit of V_Core but when trying to boot into Windows the PC would crash. My next move was to add some VCCIN, which is the main voltage rail that feeds the CPU – all internal voltage are fed from this. I found that for 4.7 on this CPU I needed 2.05 V on the VCCIN rail and possibly a bit more for stability. I really didn’t put too much time into “stability” since, personally, I wouldn’t run a CPU like the i9 7900X at those voltages 24/7.

Intel i9 7900X @ 4.7 GHz

I also spent a couple hours working with the RAM just to test how strong the IMC was and how it handles 10 cores and 20 threads. My main interest is competitive benchmarking and some benchmarks rely heavily on memory and cache speeds. While testing the memory I was running at a more-conservative 4.5 GHz, which for this CPU, I would feel comfortable running as my daily speeds and settings. The core voltage was quite reasonable at 1.22 V and VCCIN was bumped up to 1.95 V for stability in P95. I would also like to add at this point that I was impressed with the EK predator 360 AIO’s ability to keep this bad boy cool. As you will see in the Intel XTU screenshot it was maxing at 69°C which was about the same temperature it hovered at for Prime95. The difference being during the XTU run I had a few other voltages bumped up to accommodate the cache speed of 3200 MHz and the RAM running at 3800 MHZ CL 14-14-14-28. Which even at 4.5 GHz took a bigger bump voltage wise than I expected.

Conclusion

MSI has found a good balance here between the gamer and the overclocking enthusiast. For the enthusiast we have high quality power delivery and easy on board power, clear CMOS and BIOS Flashback+ functions which make it easy to push the limits. Then there’s the high speed Killer LAN and onboard WiFi, VR hardware support, and dual-High Definition audio for the serious gamer. Not to mention all the complimenting software that goes with it.

The all-black look of the motherboard is aesthetically pleasing on its own. When powered up , it has just the right amount of added LED effects and combined with the Mystic Light software, the user is in full control to customize any way they like.

I was able to overclock the i9 7900x to roughly 40% over base speeds without any power or heat issues coming from the board. I will say that pushing the bigger CPUs past 4.5 GHz on this motherboard is going to require more tweaking in the BIOS than just adding V_Core. I was very happy with the DRAM performance and still find MSI’s Memory Try It a great feature. Being able to take two, 2X8 GB sets of RAM with different speeds and timings (both sets I tested are Samsung-based) and have them running stable at 3600 MHz and 3800 MHZ with a single setting in BIOS is beyond convenient.

Overall I’m impressed with the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK. With a retail price of $399.99 USD currently at Newegg.com it comes in $90 cheaper than one of its direct competitors, the ASUS Prime x299-Deluxe. This isn’t MSI’s top tier motherboard but I can’t find anything it’s missing and the performance was outstanding. I have no qualms giving it the Overclockers Approval!

ocapproved

Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

Shawn Jennings – Johan45

————————————————

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discussion
  1. So the 140 watt processors work fine, the 165 ones are not even out, so that is good news.

    EDIT: the old sandy bridge chips E chips were way too power hungry for the boards and the chip I am looking at is another 165 watt chip. I am thinking the gigabyte board aorus 9 looks good but I'd rather not go through five boards due to the usb blowing components out. EVGA said it was something they were looking into when they laid out later boards but right now I am very concerned about buying another board to have to replace with with an upgraded version that has weird electrical issues that the old x79 dark has. Note I still use the dark board because it was best option for 3970x. I figure speaking up now might be the difference between another dark board and one that has only mirror idiosyncrasies.
    I can tell you this much I had no issues with board power running the 10 core at 4.5 stable and 4.7 benching. Possibly it might run out of gas when going down the LN2 road and running something like CB15 at 6+ GHz but this is a gaming board
    ah is a 4 pin going to be enough? My old xenon phi chips needed server board with two eight pin atx plus a twenty four pin main atx connector and the usb when it draws too much power through the board with a phi chip tends to have electrical issues. evga had issues and had to replace a lot of x79 boards due to the 3970X chips being binned phi chips and required two 8 pin atx plus the 24 pin main connector.

    I am actually wondering if it might have been better to figure out how to put four (instead of two or 1.5) 8 pin atx supplemental power on the boards so that if the board does not need the power it does not draw it but not having the pins means that 75 watts plus 150 watt plus 150 watts is what you have to work with on 24 plus 8 plus 8, verse 24 plus 8 plus four is 75 plus 150 plus 24.

    Four 8 pin atx would be 32 leads or 16 mains and 16 grounds. more than the 24 pin supplies and it has control logic as well.

    4 pin = 2 up (yellow 12 volt power) + 2 back (black 12 volt ground return)

    (10 amps x 12 volts) x 2 = 240 watts

    rated to carry 24 watts

    6 pin = 3 up (yellow 12 volt power) + 3 back (black 12 volt ground return)

    (10 amps x 12 volts) x 3 = 360 watts

    rated to carry 75 watts

    8 pin = 4 up (yellow 12 volt power) + 4 back (black 12 volt ground return)*

    (10 amps x 12 volts) x 4 = 480 watts

    rated to carry 150 watts

    Might actually be more grounds to supplement the grounds or returns on the 24 pin atx standard. You need as many grounds as mains, since power is drawn down the main and back to the power supply on the return or ground. direct current is like sata one lane each direction ac is like parallel ide connectors. ie 3 mains and 5 grounds. add up all the mains on the 24 pin and all the supplemental and all the grounds and they should be the same number.

    So gigabtye and evga are using two eight pin and msi is using 1.5 might be intersting to compare what other vendors are using on their boards. espeically consider the usb c powered monitors, that would draw through the motherboard as well.