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MSI X99S Gaming 7 Review

MSI X99S Gaming 7 Review

A couple of months ago we reviewed a high end X99 board from MSI in the form of the X99S Gaming 9 AC. It was packed with performance and features which is great, but it would be fair to say that not everyone has the need (or budget) for extras such as bundled Wi-Fi and the like. To cater for those consumers MSI has a product stack below the Gaming 9 and today in our MSI X99S Gaming 7 Review we look at one of those.

MSI X99S Gaming 7 Review – Packaging and Bundle

msi-x99s-gaming-7-review-box msi-x99s-gaming-7-review-bundle

As we saw previously MSI go with some familiar packaging for their X99S series boards, using the Dragon branding we associate with their gaming brand and noting some key features on the front. Inside we find decent bundle of extras which include the likes of product documentation and cable labels before continuing on through storage cables, IO shield, software disc and SLI bridge. We also get a handy set of headers which make case wiring quicker/easier and a power cable which takes a line from our PSU and passes it to the audio portion of the board for stable delivery.

MSI X99S Gaming 7 Review – The Board


Shown above is the MSI X99S Gaming 7 and it is an ATX board which uses a black PCB, mixing in various red sections to add some extra aesthetic appeal. As always 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.

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Looking down to the bottom left of the board we find a PCIe 3.0 16x slot and then continue on with 1x, 16x, 1x, 8x and end with another 8x. In between the slots is our M.2 drive connector, supporting all the major form factors (32GB/s capable). Elsewhere in this area of the board we have our dedicated audio area, separated by an LED track from the main PCB. 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 headphone amplifier (600Ohm compatible). 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.

The above components 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. 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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As expected, MSI go with the standard 24pin power connector and behind it 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 is an 8pin power input.


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 (The Gaming 7 supports fast charging). Above this is our GB LAN connector, powered by the Killer E2205 controller. We end with the optical audio and gold plated 3.5mm audio connectors (One running from the headphone amp).

MSI X99S Gaming 7 Review – BIOS and Software

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MSI provide us with a significant software suite on their gaming boards. This includes an XSplit licence 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 Gaming 7 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, MSI X99S Gaming9 AC
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

Cinebench R15
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Music Conversion (2CD lossless to MP3)
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Video Conversion 4K to 720p
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Memory Bandwidth DDR3/4 2666
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SATA3 (Samsung 850 Pro)
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Raid 0 (Intel 730 Series SSD)
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USB 3.0 (Corsair Voyager GTX)
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PCIe (Revodrive 350)
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M.2 SSD (Plextor M6e)
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MSI X99S Gaming 7 Review – Conclusion

Given that we have reviewed the Gaming 9 AC previously it seems appropriate to begin this section of the MSI X99S Gaming 7 review with a rundown of what we “lose” if choosing this model over the higher priced option…

The key aspects would be one less LAN port, one less headphone amp, no bundled Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and the lack of streaming engine to assist with X-Split capture. There are other minor aspects such as multimeter read points, extra power connector which will assist with extreme overclocking (in theory) and enhanced cover over the IO slots however those are the main changes. What we gain is a more compact PCB and lower cost. So if the above list doesn’t scream out “must have” to you then this could be the ideal board. And lets face it, one Killer NIC and headphone amp is likely enough for most people!

Looking around the board we also retain the high level of build quality with enhanced components used throughout as well as the protection aspects (Humidity, temperature etc). The inclusion of enhanced power for audio is great and we also get support for all the latest technology from multi card GPU (AMD/NVIDIA) to 128GB of DDR4 and the latest Intel socket 2011-3 CPUs. The X99S Gaming 7 also has a huge amount of potential on the storage front with 10 SATA 3 ports (supporting RAID) the SATA-Express connector and location between out PCIe slots for m.2 SSDs.

The impressive balance of price ($265/£191), features (all of the above, plus great I/O shield and X-split licence) and performance continues in the benchmarks where the Gaming 7 keeps pace with the Gaming 9 AC. In fact it would be hard for anyone to tell the two apart when running side by side. The Gaming 7 also competes well with boards from Gigabyte and ASUS which is great to see.

Summary: All of the performance of the X99S Gaming 9 AC without many of the extra features and cost that model offers. The X99S Gaming 7 offers a high quality, feature packed approach to X99 with a competitive price.

Gold Award


Available from Newegg and Ebuyer.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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