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MSI X99S Gaming9 AC Review

MSI X99S Gaming9 AC Review

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MSI X99S Gaming9 AC Review – Packaging and Bundle

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MSI X99S Gaming9 AC Review – The Motherboard

Shown above is the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC and it is an E-ATX board which uses a black PCB, mixing in various red sections to add some extra aesthetic appeal. We will cover some of the key features of the board as we look around it but in more general terms for now we start with Military Class 4 certification which includes the use of high quality components (Hi-C Cap, Super Ferite Choke, Dark Cap) to guarantee stability and long term reliability. MSI add some interesting tweaks to the X99 platform including OC engine which is an integrated clock generator which assists in BCLK changes, enhancing stability, from 100MHz up to 167MHz. MSI also note the inclusion of Guard Pro which includes Circuit Protection, humidity protection, temperature protection, ESD protection and EMI protection.

msi-x99s-gaming9-ac-review-pcie msi-x99s-gaming9-ac-review-sata

Looking down to the bottom left of the X99S Gaming 9 AC we begin with a look at the PCIe area. In terms of the “standard” items we start with a PCIe 3.0 16x slot and then continue on with 8x, 8x, 16x and end with another 8x. Inbetween the bottom two slots is our M.2 drive slot, supporting all the major form factors (Gen 3 4x capable) and then we get something rather different. Sitting between the top two slots, so underneath our main GPU, we have a section branded Streaming Engine. This contains a small PCB which houses an AVerMedia video processor which takes the load from our CPU (or GPU) when capturing our gameplay for broadcast/streaming. It features support for H.264, 60Mbps and 1080p/30 with full support for XSplit…software which MSI include a 2-year licence for in their bundle.

Elsewhere in this area of the board we have our dedicated audio area, separated by an LED track from the main PCB and covered by Dragon Armor, an EMI shield which continues up over the IO area. MSI use a Realtek ALC1150 8channel audio processor with Sound Blaster Cinema 2 software and boost the audio portion of the board by including a separate power connector. This helps power the dual headphone amplifiers (600Ohm compatible) for front and rear connectors. We also get Nichicon Japanese capacitors, well known for their audio quality (Acoustic series, low tolerance, low dielectric absorption, low esr, low leakage and higher stability). Finally on the audio front our USB connectors are guaranteed to provide stable 5V power to ensure good performance for those using USB audio devices.

Turning the board round we can see the Status LED which can assist with fault finding and next to that, our SATA ports. MSI include ten SATA 3.0 ports along with one SATA express on this board, supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. Then next to that we have our front panel USB 3.0 connector.

 

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MSI go with the standard 24pin power connector on this board and next to it we have our multi-meter read points. They then sit beside various buttons, reset, power and OC Genie. This one touch button kicks off some auto overclocking and provides us with an approved overclock for our installed components. Behind the buttons are four of our eight memory slots and these support up to 128GB of DDR4 split over four channels. MSI note support for speeds in excess of 3300MHz. Between the memory slots we find our socket 2011-3 area, supporting the latest Intel CPUs for that platform and sitting on the edge of the board are an 8pin power input along with a 4pin.

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Turning round to the I/O area of this board we start with a PS/2 connector and 2xUSB 2.0. This is the location of our “gaming device port” which includes 3x more gold than standard connectors along with 10x the durability and reduced oxidisation. Next up is a clear CMOS button and that is followed by eight USB 3.0 connectors. Above two of those sits our GB LAN connector, powered by the Killer E2205 controller. Next we have our dual band wireless-ac connectors, powered by a mini Intel 7260 card which features bluetooth 4.0 and we end with the optical audio and gold plated 3.5mm audio connectors. Also worthy of note is that the board features LED lighting around the audio section as well as on the heatsink logo. Finally we have support for 4-way SLI and Crossfire as well as fast charging via USB.

MSI X99S Gaming9 AC Review – Software and BIOS

MSIsoft

MSI provide us with a significant software suite on their gaming boards. As we mentioned before, part of this is XSplit and some Creative Audio software. Also included is our Killer NIC control panel, power saving software, Live Update to keep drivers/bios up to date, quick OC tool and Command Centre which helps us to monitor and tweak our board.

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In terms of the BIOS, MSI once again use their Click BIOS 4 which allows us to use our mouse and keyboard, just like the OS to quickly tweak our board. A basic summary screen gives us access to key features and we can then delve a little deeper into the settings, view information on the installed components, update our BIOS from USB and configure detailed fan profiles.

MSI X99S Gaming9 AC Review – Performance

Key Test Specifications:

Intel Core i7-5960X /Intel Core i7-4790K
ASUS Rampage V Extreme, Gigabyte X99-Gaming 5, Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 5
NVIDIA GTX 980
16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2800
16GB Corsair Dominator DDR3-2666
Samsung 840 Evo 1TB
Samsung 850 Pro 512GB (SATA Testing)
OCZ RevoDrive 350 (PCIe testing)
Plextor M6e 256GB M.2 SSD
Corsair AX1500i
Antec Kuhler 1250
Installed on a Dimastech EasyXL Test Bench
Windows 8.1 64-bit
NVIDIA Drivers: 344.07

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MSI X99S Gaming9 AC Review – Conclusion

Starting with the build quality and design of the X99S Gaming 9 AC we have a board which immediately creates a decent first impression. The black PCB looks great mixed with the red flashes and the choice of LEDs works well. That said, the main LED logo should be lower down as it is partially blocked by any decent high end GPU. Elsewhere around the board we note that the overall layout is good, plenty room in the slot layout for multiple GPUs to breath however the top slot is very close to the memory slots, so take care with any card that use a large backplate. Interestingly the screw holes are a little odd. We would have preferred a little more room around the bottom left one on the EMI shield to allow the use of thumbscrews. Also the Dragon Armor on the IO area actually uses the standard screw holes for attaching. This could create issues for those with hefty coolers who want a very secure fit in their case. We would have liked MSI to separately attach the shield. Really there are no significant concerns though, plenty of connectivity, loads of flexibility for the components which can be used and all current technology (SATA Express, PCIe 3.0, M.2 etc) all supported along with the enhanced audio features.

In terms of performance, lets start with the Streaming Engine. We noted in our time testing that the implementation was a little troublesome to begin with. However with the latest BIOS, drivers and software updates the situation has improved. We were able to run as if we had a dedicated, discrete capture card and noted no issues using storage which was out of the ordinary, such as our Plextor M.2 SSD. Elsewhere the Wi-Fi actually matches our main card here at HH HQ so we know that it offers excellent performance in AC mode and Killer NIC tech is tried and trusted too. We used Crucial and Corsair DDR4 in our testing, of various speeds, without issue and our GTX 980 ran as well as it has on other X99 boards. In terms of comparisons with other brands, we noted no performance issues on SATA, PCIe, M.2, USB, memory or the CPU. This is a very competitive board and while it didn’t win every bench, there were some (like USB 3.0 writes or PCIe) where it edged ahead.

For value, the extra software certainly strengthens the position of the MSI baord (especially the X-Split licence and dedicated hardware) and the easy OC options both software and via button allow even novice users to maximise the performance of their hardware. Additionally we hit 4.5GHz with ease in manual overclocking on our 5960X.

Summary: A board which certainly stands out from the crowd thanks to its dedicated streaming hardware. Very competitive performance and some great support for varied components.

Performance Award

Available from Newegg and Overclockers.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

Stuart Davidson is Senior Editor at HardwareHeaven having joined the site in 2002.

3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review!
    Totally fall in love with MSI X99S Gaming AC.

  2. I would love to have this new MOTHERBOARD

  3. andrew

    Sexy design and good review.Thanks and think over to take one home