MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC Motherboard Review

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Its a good day to be a PC enthusiast I have to say. A couple of weeks ago, Intel released their new Haswell-E enthusiast line of CPU’s and motherboards. Our very own Lvcoyote had a chance to review the flagship CPU, the i7 5960X, as well as a couple of other motherboards so far. Today, I bring you the first MSI X99 offering in its high end gaming board, the X99S Gaming 9 AC. This board is packed with some neat features such as the new Streaming Engine. It offers game play recording that takes the load off the CPU and potentially allows for more FPS and better quality recordings among other things it does. There are some some architectural differences such as the first non-server implementation of DDR4. It is time to see what fruit this tree shall bear!

Specifications and Features

Moving on to our first section, we take a look at the specifications. Below is a table with data populated from the MSI website for this board.

Some of the major things you can take away from this is of course the change to the LGA2011-V3 socket, which supports the X99 chipset. The pin-out is of course a bit different, so Ivy Bridge-E CPUs will not fit in this socket.

DDR3 memory is now a thing of the past on this platform with the new standard being DDR4. DDR4 brings a lot lower voltage (1.2-1.35 V standard) and some faster speeds (some kits are starting at 3200MHz!), as well as a few more pins – 288 versus 240 on DDR3. For now, that comes with the slight penalty of having much higher CAS rating than DDR3. For example, I have a set of Kingston DDR3 2666 MHz sticks rated CAS 11 at 1.65 V while the DDR4 kits are coming in at 2666 MHz at 1.35 V and a CAS rating of 15. In time, the speeds will get faster and timings tighter, just like when DDR3 was first released. Don’t forget, this enthusiast platform runs quad-channel memory.

As for specifics on this board, it supports 4 way SLI and CrossFireX multi-GPU technologies (dependent on CPU as to how the lanes break down – see below for details). It has the Streaming Engine (which you can get a few more details below as well), 10 SATA3 ports, SATA Express and M.2 (32GB/s) ports, up to 18 USB3/2 ports, the Killer Network E2205 NIC, as well as using the Realtek ALC1150 audio CODEC for sound. One last thing to note, this board is not standard ATX, it is EATX form factor. Below is the complete list of specifications.

MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC
Chipset  Intel X99 Express Chipset
CPU Support Supports New Intel Core i7 Processor Extreme Edition for LGA2011-3 socket
Memory • Supports eight DDR4 DIMMs 2133/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000*/3100*/3200*/3300*(OC)DRAM (32GB Max) – Supports Quad-Channel mode – Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory – Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
Expansion Slots • 5 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, support up to 4-way mode
– 1-way mode: x16/ x0/ x0/ x0/ x0
– 2-way mode: x16/ x0/ x0/ x16/ x0*, 16/ x0/ x0/ x8/ x0**
– 3-way mode: x16/ x0/ x0/ x16/ x8*, x8/ x8/ x0/ x8/ x0**
– 4-way mode: x8/ x8/ x0/ x16/ x8*, x8/ x8/ x0/ x8/ x4**
* For the CPU that supports 40 PCIe lanes
** For the CPU that supports 28 PCIe lanes
Streaming Engine • Supports H.264 hardware video/ audio encoding up to 1920×1080@ (24p/25p/30p)
Multi-GPU Support
• Supports 4-Way AMD® CrossFireTM Technology*
• Supports 4-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology (For the CPU that supports 40 PCIe lanes)
• Supports 3-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology (For the CPU that supports 28 PCIe lanes)
* Supports Windows 7 and Windows 8/ 8.1
Storage

• • Intel X99 Express Chipset
• 10 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (2 ports reserved for SATA Express port)*
– SATA1~6 support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10
– SATA7~10 ports only support IDE mode and AHCI mode.
– Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology (Windows 7/ 8/ 8.1)
• 1 x SATA Express port*
• 1 x M.2 port, supports up to 32Gb/s speed**
– M.2 port supports M.2 SATA 6Gb/s module
– M.2 PCIe interface does not support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.
* The SATA Express port or SATA5~6 ports will be unavailable when installing the M.2 (Gen2 x2 mode) module in the M.2 port.
** Intel RST does not support PCIe M.2 SSD with Legacy ROM.

USB • Intel® X99 Express Chipset
– 6x USB 3.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB 3.0 connectors*)
– 6x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB 2.0 connectors)• AsMedia ASM1042AE
– 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel•VIA VL805
– 4x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
* Internal JUSB3 connector supports MSI Super Charger.
Audio • Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
– Supports S/PDIF output
LAN/ Wireless LAN / Bluetooth • 1 x Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN controller*
*The Killer Network Manager is only available for Windows 7/ 8/ 8.1 currently. The supported drivers for other operating systems would be available on the website if provided by vender.• Wi-Fi/Bluetooth expansion module with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 chip.
– Supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual band (2.4GHz, 5GHz) up to 867 Mbps speed.• Wi-Fi/Bluetooth expansion module with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 chip.
– Supports Bluetooth v4.0 (includes BLE* and Bluetooth 3.0+HS)
* BLE: Bluetooth Low Energy
Internal and Back Panel I/O

Internal

– 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 10 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 1 x M.2 connector
– 1 x SATA Express connector
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
– 2 x USB 3.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.0 ports)
– 2 x 4-pin CPU fan connectors
– 3 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x TPM module connector
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 9 x V-Check connectorsts
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x Power button
– 1 x Reset button
– 1 x OC Genie button
– 1 x Multi-BIOS switch
– 1 x OC Genie mode switch
– 1 x Audio power switch
– 1 x Slow mode booting switch
– 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED
– 1 x Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module connector
Back Panel

– 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 2 x USB 2.0 ports
– 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 8 x USB 3.0 ports
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
– 5 x OFC audio jacks

BIOS • The motherboard BIOS provides “Plug & Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
• The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.
Dimension • 12 in. x 10.4 in. (30.5 cm x 26.4 cm) EATX Form Factor
Mounting • 9 mounting holes.

 

I also included a Features list (again from the MSI website)…

  • Supports New Intel® Core™ i7 processors Extreme Edition in LGA 2011-3 socket
  • Supports Quad Channel DDR4-3333(OC) Memory
  • Turbo M.2 : Delivering next generation M.2 Gen3 x4 performance with transfer speeds up to 32 Gb/s
  • SATA Express + USB 3.0 + SATA 6Gb/s
  • Streaming Engine: Fantastic Full HD hardware streaming at 60 Mbps without impacting CPU performance
  • Multi-GPU: 4-Way NVIDIA SLI & AMD CrossFire Support
  • OC Engine: Reach higher overclocking results with more flexible BCLK adjustments at 100/125/167MHz.
  • Audio Boost 2: Reward Your Ears with True Quality
  • Killer Ethernet: Kill Your Lag
  • USB Audio Power: Super Stable 5V Power & Better Signal Transmission over USB
  • XSplit Gamecaster: Show off you skills to the world with a 2 year premium license for this popular streaming software
  • Guard-Pro: Improved Protection and Power Efficiency
  • OC Genie 4: Overclock in 1 Second
  • Gaming App: Boost your framerate
  • Click BIOS 4: Easily Fine-tune Your System
  • Sound Blaster Cinema 2: Benefit from Creative software to get a more realistic surround sound experience
  • Gaming Device Port: Optimized with Triple Gold-plating for High Polling Rate Gaming Devices
  • Wi-Fi 802.11AC with speeds up to 867Mbps, Bluetooth 4.0

Getting into more specifics for this board, MSI has been using their Military Class Components for the last couple of generations. In this case, we are up to Military Class 4, which consists of a Hi-c CAP, Super Ferrite Choke, and Dark CAP. These all help your PC run more efficiently, more stable in high load (say, gaming) and overclocking situations.

We again see that this board/platform uses DDR4 memory which offers less power use, higher speeds, and higher densities than DDR3.

Along with the Military Class 4 Components, MSI has what they call “Gaurd Pro”. What this entails is several forms of protection for the board such as Circuit Protection (selective PCB layers), Humidity Protection (via treated PCB), High Temperature protection (quality components), ESD protection (covered I/O ports), and last but not least EMI Protection (follows FCC Compliance rules).

One of the newest features is the Streaming Engine. The X99 platform does not have an integrated GPU like Z97/mainstream platforms do. In that environment, the onboard GPU takes over those functions (Intel Quicksync) while using CPU cycles and can cause a drop in frame rates when recording game play. MSI’s Streaming Engine, using the AverMedia decoding chip, takes the load off the CPU so one does not have to sacrifice FPS when streaming your gaming. The device supports recording at 1080p @ 60 MB/s and uses high-definition H.264 hardware compression. MSI also throws in a two year membership to the XSplit Gamecaster live streaming service.

Next up is the onboard Killer E2200 NIC. As we know from the past, the Killer NIC, is, for all intents and purposes, a networking traffic cop… at least the software is. It actually auto senses gaming traffic and prioritizes it to allow for the best gaming experience (network wise). One can also change the settings manually inside the software. Continuing on with the network side of things, the Gaming 9 AC comes with a detachable Wi-Fi AC and Bluetooth adapter. The Wi-Fi portion uses 802.11 AC while the Bluetooth supports 4.0.

The Gaming 9 AC also uses the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC for audio, but MSI spices that up a bit with its Audio Boost. This covers a now industry standard isolated audio area. It features shielding to minimize EMI, dual headphone amps (up to 600Ohms), higher quality caps, direct power to the audio, and gold plated connections. All of which help to make for a better audio solution.

The M.2 slot is seemingly becoming standard on almost all levels of boards these days, and the Gaming 9 is not an exception. The M.2 slot supports speeds up to 3x faster than SATA3 ports, coming in at a smoking 32MB/s. Hopefully we will start seeing some devices that better support these speeds soon.

Not to be left out, overclocking plays a role in a lot of gaming motherboards as well. To that end, MSI has their OC Genie button that will give you up to 20% clockspeed increases with just a touch of a button. It is configurable as well, which gives you more flexibility in what clocks you want to settle on. Also worth noting, is the OC Engine. The X99, and X79 for that matter, use straps for the BCLK, so one can reach much higher values using the flexibility the different strap settings offer when overclocking.

icomilcl4

MILITARY CLASS 4 COMPONENTS – Military Class 4 is the next step in high quality components. The Hi-c CAP, Super Ferrite Choke and Dark CAP will make sure that your PC runs more stable under extreme gaming conditions.

HI-C CAP – A Hi-c CAP is a very small, but super-efficient capacitor. Besides ensuring enough spacing around a CPU socket to install large coolers, it also allows for 93% energy efficiency. Thanks to Hi-c CAP`s MSI mainboards are the most energy efficient in the market.

SUPER FERRITE CHOKE – Super Ferrite Choke uses a Ferrite core that is Super-Permeable. This allows the Super Ferrite Choke to run at a 35 degree Celsius lower temperature, have a 30% higher current capacity, a 20% improvement in power efficiency and better overclocking power stability.

DARK CAP – With their aluminum core design, Dark CAP`s has been a staple in high-end design mainboard designs and provides lower Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR) as well as its over-10-year lifespan.

 icoddr4 MORE SPEED, MORE BANDWIDTH, LESS POWER – MSI engineers made sure you can enjoy high speed DDR4 compatibility. DDR4 brings higher memory speeds at even lower power usage as low as 1.2v. DDR4 offers higher volume sticks, this means larger memory configurations are possible up to 128GB.
 icogrdpro Guard -Pro

  • Circuit Protection
  • Eco Power
  • Humidity Protection
  • High Temperature Protection
  • ESD Protection
  • EMI Protection

 

 icostrmngeng RECORD AND STREAM ALL OF YOUR IN-GAME ACTIVITY WHILE ENJOYING YOUR GAMES AT MAXIMUM FPS – Because X99 lacks an integrated GPU, Intel Quicksync is no longer available to help while streaming your gaming activity. MSI Streaming Engine captures video real-time through a dedicated hardware solution making sure you are free of any impact on CPU performance, where other solutions demand vital resources highly impacting FPS performance.
 icokiller KILLER™ E2200 GAME NETWORKING –The Killer™ E2200 Intelligent Networking Platform is built for maximum networking performance for online games and high-quality streaming media. Featuring Advanced Stream Detect™, Killer E2200 automatically detects and accelerates game traffic ahead of other network traffic for smoother, stutter-free in-game performance and the competitive edge. With this exclusive, automatic traffic prioritization, games and real-time chat get priority over low-level system chatter, giving you the lowest latency for game data on the most controllable network hardware available.
 icowifibt INTEL® WI-FI AC & BLUETOOTH –The MSI GAMING motherboards come with an easily unpluggable Intel® Wi-Fi / Bluetooth module.The support of 802.11 AC and Bluetooth 4.0 ensures that you have the fastest available transfer speed.
 icoaudb2

REWARD YOUR EARS WITH TRUE QUALITY -Get ready for ear-drum shattering sound, with MSI Audio Boost 2! With Audio Boost 2 we’re delivering the highest audio quality with the use of Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 2 so you can enjoy crystal clear sound and music through 8-channel HD Audio.

ISOLATED AUDIO PCB -With traditional onboard audio the signal is distorted by electromagnetic signals from the rest of the PCB. Audio Boost 2 acts like a dedicated soundcard by physically isolating the audio circuitry which is separated by a red LED path. Less interference gives you a more clear audio signal.

DIRECT AUDIO POWER -Enjoy a heavy caliber audio experience with Direct Audio Power. A dedicated power input to Audio Boost 2 allows for a more powerful and stable power delivery, resulting in a more explosive and pure sound experience.

DUAL HEADHPONE AMPLIFIERS -Prepare for an eargasm. The built-in dual headphone amplifier rewards your high quality headphone with the most amazing studio level sound quality up to 600Ω delivered from your gaming PC.Tired of having to connect your headset in difficult to reach places? MSI GAMING motherboards are designed to be easy to use, featuring front & rear audio outputs fueled by Audio Boost 2.
Dual Headhpone Amplifiers High Quality Audio Capacitors.

HIGH QUALITY AUDIO CAPACITORS -With the use of professional Nichicon Japanese capacitors, specially designed for audio purposes, MSI GAMING motherboards provide the highest possible audio signal filtering. Delivering high fidelity crystal clear sound with exceptional acoustics and realism.
Acoustic series
Lower Tolerance
Lower Dielectric Absorption
Lower ESR
Lower Leakage Current
Higher Stability

GOLDEN AUDIO CONNECTORS – With golden audio connectors you get the best possible signal output with less chance of distortion.
Up to 600Ω crystal clear sound with exceptional acoustics.
Dedicated amplified output (red) optimized for studio-grade headgear.
Superb signal conductivity and will not wear over time.

USB AUDIO POWER – When connecting multiple USB devices, most motherboards will be unable to deliver a strong 5V power signal to all USB ports. This is highly noticeable with high-quality external USB DACs where sound quality degrades as the motherboard is unable to deliver a perfect USB signal.
Only MSI USB Audio Power continuously delivers a stable 5V to the USB ports on motherboards, making sure you can continue to enjoy the crystal clear audio standard you expect.

 icom2 PUSH YOUR SSD EVEN HARDER WITH TURBO M.2 – Delivering speeds up to 32Gb/s using Gen3 x4, Turbo M.2 is more than 5 times faster than a regular SATA III connection! Enjoy a blazing fast system boot up and insanely fast loading of applications and games with MSI motherboards.
NEXT GENERATION M.2. Turbo M.2 is the successor to M.2 10 Gb/s, offering 3 times more performance up to 32 Gb/s using Gen3 x4. M.2 is packed in a small form factor and is compatible with 3 different sizes to fit most storage solutions. All latest generation Intel® based MSI motherboards feature Turbo M.2 storage.
 icoocgene OC GENIE 4 – OC Genie is the world’s first built-in hardware overclocking technology on motherboards. With this one-second overclocking option we’re giving you even more performance. Just hit the button and your PC gets another adrenalin shot. Delivering up to 20% of free extra performance for the CPU, memory and iGPU.
 icooceng OC ENGINE – Run into unstable situations when pushing your CPU to the limit? This occurs because the internal clocks are linked through the 100 MHz BCLK strap. Thanks to a integrated Clock Generator, MSI motherboards support more flexible BCLK adjustments, from 100 / 125 / 167 MHz straps. Using these straps prevents system crashing while overclocking on the edge and opens doors to achieve the absolute maximum. The MSI X99 motherboards all come with the next generation Clock Generator offering even lower jitter and power consumption resulting in even higher stability under extreme conditions.

Retail Packaging

Ok folks, here we are getting our first look starting with the retail packaging. Since this is the gaming line from MSI, we see the familiar and cool looking dragon with a red theme that represents its gaming line (with yellow being overclocking centric). Against the black background are some high-level features listed like the Audio Boost and Killer NIC. Flipping the box around to show the rear, we see more features/support listed. There isn’t too much on the sides per usual. This box has a flip open front. When you open the flap, the left panel details even more features and the right side gives you a ‘peek-a-boo’ of the board itself.

Retail Packaging - Front

Retail Packaging – Front

Back

Back

boxside2

First Side..

..And the other side

..And the Other Side

Inside Flap

Inside Flap

Board Showcase

Board Showcase

Both

Both

Last But Not Least - Top!

Last But Not Least – Top!

Accessories

That brings us to the included accessories. I won’t list everything that you get as the list is about as long as the specifications table above, but there is your typical complement of SATA cables, a rear USB/SATA header, voltage read point tools, SLI cable, and so on. A very complete accessory stack, that is for sure.

Accessories

Accessories

Meet the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC

And there she is good readers of Overclockers, the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC. We see MSI’s mostly black with red trim theme is prevalent here with this being their Gaming series. The VRM heatsinks have a large, mostly black color with red highlights. The PCH heatsink is the same except it has the MSI name and Gaming Series badge on it.

The socket area is fairly clean and flat with the four DIMM slots flanking each side of the CPU. Other items to note on the front are the Streaming Engine located below the first PCIe slot, the cover for the audio section on the lower left, and just above that is a cover for the rear I/O. There are voltage read points by the 24-pin ATX power connector, and at the top and center we see an 8-pin and 4-pin connector to supplement CPU power. I do like the overall design of the board. Placement of the components are not in any peculiar locations and everything looks to be easily accessible.

Flipping the board over to expose the back, we see the huge socket back platet, the flanking DIMM slots, and then the electrical setup of the PCI slots (16/8/8/16/8). Last up are a couple of shots of the board from different angles (queue “OOhhs and Ahhhs” please).

MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC - Front

MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC – Front

Back

Back

Aerial View

Aerial View

To the Left!

To the Left!

A Little Closer Now From the PCIe Area

A Little Closer Now From the PCIe Area

A Closer Look

Zooming in a bit on the board, I will start with the bottom half and work left to right. On the left under its shielding we see the audio section. This part of the board is separate from the other parts to help minimize EMI from other parts of the board. The actual Realtek ALC1150 CODEC/chip is hidden under the Audio Boost Faraday cage (trust me!). We see a total of five PCIe x16 physical slots good for up to quad SLI or CrossfireX. The other item that is blatantly obvious is the cover for MSI’s Streaming Engine between the first and second PCIe slots and the M.2 slot between the fourth and fifth.

Continuing on counter clockwise to the DIMM area, we see half of the 8 DIMMs, a front panel USB3 port, the 24-pin power lead, voltage read points, power/reset and Overclocking Genie button, the CPU fan header, and a glimpse of the 8-pin and 4-pin CPU power connectors.

Closer Look At the Bottom Half

Closer Look At the Bottom Half

Upper Right

Upper Right

CPU/Socket Area

CPU/Socket Area

I’ll regurgitate the bottom and back I/O specs listed above. TONS of USB3 slots ehh? Note the USB2 under the PS/2 port… those have a higher polling rate to help with the high polling rates that some USB based mice have for optimal response.

– 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 2 x USB 2.0 ports
– 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 8 x USB 3.0 ports
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
– 5 x OFC audio jacks

Bottom I/O

Bottom I/O

Back I/O

Back I/O

At this point we have seen all we can with its clothes on, now its time to drop trou and see whats shaking under the hood. No board is as pretty without its cladding, but here she is. We can clearly see the 7+2 power phases (7 CPU and 2 Memory) up top, the now bare Streaming Engine IC in the middle, the nuvoTon Super I/O chip on the left with the audio bits, and finally the PCH itself.

The next pictures show some closer in shots of the power bits around the CPUm and finally I took some shots of the bottom of each heatsink to show its making good contact. It uses screws and does a pretty good job!

Heatsinks Off!

Heatsinks Off!

Audio Shield Removed

Audio Shield Removed

Power Delivery - No Heatsinks

Power Delivery – No Heatsinks

Top Down On the Power Delivery Area

Top Down On the Power Delivery Area, BOOM

PCH Heatsink

PCH Heatsink

VRM Heatsink

VRM Heatsink

Below we can see some of the IC’s used on the board. I will list them in bullet points.

Nuvoton NCT6792D - Super I/O

Nuvoton NCT6792D – Super I/O

Winbond - Dual BIOS

Winbond – Dual BIOS

Killer Networks E2205

Killer Networks E2205

Asmedia ASM1042AE

Asmedia ASM1042AE – USB3 Controller

VLI Vl805-06 - USB 3 Controller

VLI Vl805-06 – USB 3 Controller

UEFI BIOS, Overclocking Software

Moving on to the UEFI, in my opinion MSI has one of the best laid out and UEFIs there is, and it looks good on top of it all. Traditionally, you see the MSI overclocking themed motherboards reviewed by me, but for the moment we have the gaming line that we mentioned earlier has their black and red theme. This of course carries over into the UEFI BIOS. The layout is pretty similar with some high-level information up top like the date/time, CPU type and frequency, and the Memory speed and capacity. There are shortcuts to overclocking the CPU (OC Genie Button) and the ram (XMP). Down the left side is the settings, OC (details on that in the second slideshow), and M-Flash. On the right are your Overclocking Profiles, Hardware Monitor, and Board Explorer.

Something I have grown to like in this UEFI is the ability to switch boot devices by dragging the appropriate icon to the front of the line. You will see the list of these icons below the system specs and time at the top center area. There is a great look, everything to me is easy to find, and the mouse responds well too. Overall a great job and great UEFI here.

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Next up are all of the overclocking screens. While this board isn’t specifically made to do so, it certainly does a good job of it. So, below I broke out several of the screens. Like its ‘made for overclocking’ kin have, the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC also utilizes a simple and advanced mode for overclocking. The simple mode should be plenty for most overclockers on ambient cooling. The advanced mode gets into more details of course. In talking memory, there are a ton of options there to change all the timings (primary, secondary, and tertiary).

Again, everything in the overclocking section is laid out well to me. I like that all the voltages you need are not buried in another menu. Everything is there and just a scroll of the mouse, or a page down away. I had no problems in the BIOS whatsoever, and for a new chipset that is a very pleasant surprise!

MSI Command Center

Sometimes you don’t want to have to reboot to mess with some settings, be it fans or overclocking for that matter. To that end, MSI has their windows based monitoring and overclocking software, Command Center. Here you can mess with clock speeds, memory timings, fan profiles and speeds, the iGPU, and even setup a RAMDisk. I had no problems using this software either!

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Test Setup, Benchmarks, and Overclocking

Listed below is the test system used for benchmarking:

Test Setup
CPU Intel 5820K @ Stock (for the motherboard) and 4.5Ghz Overclocked
Motherboard MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC
RAM 4×4 GB Kingston HyperX DDR4-3000 15-16-16-39 1.5v
Graphics Card AMD R9 295×2
Solid State Drive 256 GB OCZ Vertex 3
Power Supply SeaSonic SS-1000XP (80+ Platinum)
Operating System Windows 7 x64 SP1
Graphics Drivers Catalyst 14.7 Beta RC3
Equipment
Digital Multimeter

Below are the stock and overclocked results for this setup. Like usual in my motherboard reviews, I used AIDA64 (latest version), MaxxMEM, SuperPi 1M/32M, Wprime 32M/1024M, Cinebench R11.5/R15, and Pifast. In most cases there are very few performance differences between motherboards, so we are going with simple screenshots of the results. At this time, I do not have any other boards to compare the results to, so you will just see the screenshots. We will have more boards to follow and we can then make our comparisons in those future reviews.

AIDA64 and MaxxMEM – Memory Bandwidth and Throughput

Stock

Stock

4.5 GHz

4.5 GHz

 

Stock

Maxmemm – Stock

4.5 GHz

4.5 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 and R15 – CPU Rendering Benchmark

Cinebench 11.5 Stock

Cinebench 11.5 Stock

4.5 GHz

4.5 GHz

Cinebench 15 - Stock

Cinebench 15 – Stock

4.5 GHz

4.5 GHz

Super Pi 1M and 32M / Pifast – Single threaded CPU benchmark

Super Pi 1M - Stock

Super Pi 1M – Stock

4.5 GHz

4.5 GHz

Super Pi 32M - Stock

Super Pi 32M – Stock

4.5 GHz

4.5 GHz

WPrime 32M and 1024M – Multi threaded CPU benchmark

WPrime 32M/1024M - Stock

WPrime 32M/1024M – Stock

4.5 GHz

4.5 GHz

Pushing the Limits

So I had a chance to lean on the CPU a bit and ended up here… 4.623 GHz @ 1.44 V (load). I was getting towards the top of my temperature limit and pretty close to where I get a bit nervous about voltage (really nervous starts out at 1.5 V!). Due to some block issues, I had to use an AIO (NZXT Kraken X60). Once I get the new block in the loop, perhaps that clock speed will go up.

Getting here was a breeze as expected. I simply set the XMP profile to get my memory up to speed, which changes the BCLK to 125 note, set the CPU multiplier to 37X, raised the voltage to 1.45 in the BIOS, and viola one heck of an overclock and a much cooler running chip than Haswell and Devil’s Canyon at the same clocks. Bless you Intel, for using solder or something better than even the modified TIM you used with the mainstream level CPUs!

ptlwprime4623ghz

WPrime 32M/1024M 4.65 GHz

Conclusion

So Intel’s next generation enthusiast platform is here with my first look being the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC motherboard. While these types of boards are not my personal forte, I have to admit it was still a great motherboard and overclocked darn well too! Being a part of the gaming line, MSI packed it with the Streaming Engine (for those that record game play), the Killer NIC network port (to prioritize gaming traffic), USB ports that support high polling USB based mice, XSplit Gamecaster 2 year membership (to broadcast live your recordings). We also have the latest Realtek ALC1150 CODEC and the superior hardware and software that goes with it, all in an attempt to bring you a superior gaming experience over boards without such features… and they have succeeded.

The styling of the board, with its mostly black (real black, not dark brown!) and red theme, should appeal to a fairly broad audience as well. The layout of all the features from front panel USB, to voltage checking, to the SATA ports, don’t leave anything to be desired (though I have to admit I wish all board manufactures would angle the 24-pin power connector 90 degrees!). I have to admit, sitting here and writing this up, I cannot find anything fundamentally wrong with the board. This is the first time I can remember that I have a new chipset in my hand and everything (I tested) worked out the box. No BIOS updates, except to their latest that is the release BIOS on their website, nothing! So a big Kudos go out to MSI for getting something pretty stable out the door.

Last but not least is pricing. We all know that the enthusiast platform from Intel does tend to command a bit more dinero out of our pockets. The MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC comes in at $428.99 at Newegg.com. In the scope of the entire X99 market, this board is undoubtedly on the high end. It’s nestled below the ASUS RVE and surprisingly above the EVGA Classified. However, I do not believe those boards offer the specific gaming features that this board does. If you do not need the streaming features, AC/Wifi, a few less USB ports and SATA slots, MSI does have a lesser offering in the Gaming 7 to choose from. I still would have liked to see this priced a bit lower (perhaps $389?), but it isn’t outrageously out of line in the scheme of things. It does bring some unique features with it, that if used can make the price worth it.

To that end, a gaming board loaded with gaming features, robust enough to handle any ambient overclock, looks that anyone (not just a mother) could love, and most importantly stability out of the box with a new platform, leaves this board Overclockers.com approved!

Overclockers_clear_approved

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– Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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Discussion
  1. Nice review :thup:
    I wonder if this declared DDR3-3300 OC is even working on any modules. MSI has problems with memory clock for a long time and none of their boards that I had could make more than ~2666 stable ( max boot ~2800 ). Other users were also complaining at problems with higher clocked memory and sometimes XMP profiles.
    That is weird as actually only additional features and memory stability/overclocking is different in all these boards. Most Z97 boards have similar features or additional chips ( better LAN or sound ) so not much left to convince potential buyers.
    Does anyone have this motherboard working with just one GPU? What slot do you use? In the manual it recommends using PCI E2. Well iv tried this and this slot doesnt even recognise the GPU.
    Im currently using my R290 in PCI E1 slot one and works perfectly and the same for the other PCIE slots except PCI E2
    I did in the review, yes.
    The manual states PCIe slot 2 because it is hardwired to the CPU for its 16 PCIe lanes. Using any other slot the PLX gets involved and causes (negligible) latency.
    Are you sure the dip switches for that slot are enabled?
    Yap I have updated the motherboard Bios. Unfortunately I dont have another card to test but I would presume if it was a GPU issue, the other PCIe slots wouldnt work either
    Nice board. Crappy Slot layout if you want breathing room between a pair of video cards...I've never understood why mfgrs don't standardize on Slot 1, Slot 4, and Slot 7 as their full length ones so there are always 2 slots between video cards when running SLI/Xfire
    For multi-GPU that is exactly how it is laid out...If you use two, you go 1/3... 3 1/3/5, and 4 1/3/5/7. Dual slot gaps. :)
    EDIT: Oh.. you want two between the cards...
    Been playing with this board for a little while now. With a g3258, the highest bclk I could get working is just over 147.
    Overall...this is a nice overclocking board but it has definitely given me some hassles/issues:
    1) Bioses leave a lot to be desired. Even with the latest bios, the board tends to corrupt the bios and/or not save setting changes leading to freezes during posting and other weird issues. I've had to reflash both bioses no less than 10 times already.
    2) Getting the overclocking software to work is a monster pita. Talk about klugey. It's quite a process to get this set up properly...chipset drivers, .net 4, a couple patches (one that errors out for me telling me it doesn't apply to my system), Intel ME (which has so far simply refused to install properly)...geeez. Still haven't been able to get overclocking within windows to work. Forget about changing memory settings within windows, just ain't happening. Everyone has these overclocking features working on older and newer chipsets, what the heck???
    There's an issue with connectors on this board: one of the power connectors points sideways, to where the power supply is. There's no way you can put a connector in that slot. Also, the sata connectors point sideways, where in my computer the disks are. I put in "hooked" connectors, but that means i can only use the lower row of connectors. Hasn't this board been tested in a real computer casing?
    xtine
    There's an issue with connectors on this board: one of the power connectors points sideways, to where the power supply is. There's no way you can put a connector in that slot. Also, the sata connectors point sideways, where in my computer the disks are. I put in "hooked" connectors, but that means i can only use the lower row of connectors. Hasn't this board been tested in a real computer casing?
    Which power connector is sideways that you can't use? They all face the same direction.
    The vast majority of modern boards have the sata ports facing that direction. Either don't use the 90(hooked) sata plug or use it on the bottom....just like you have to do on every other board. ;)
    This board wasn't tested in a case. Correct, but what your issues are the same on 95% of boards.
    The right angle connector of the data cable is for connection to devices not the board.
    Yes, the 6pin near the first PCIe is oriented with the lock tab facing the rear of the case, just as with almost all boards.
    The board may not work with your current chassis, but that's a non issue.
    When you look for a new board, you know what will work in your system, else you upgrade to a new case.
    Remember, just like people, not all cases are created equal.
    Have to say.....this board would look good in a Tt Core P5 *wait, what wouldn't*
    NZKshatriya
    The right angle connector of the data cable is for connection to devices not the board.

    Sure. But the other side of the cable will not fit in the connector. This is the only way I can get the disks to work. I think it's kind of dumb to have connectors point sideways rather than up.