A great board that can literally be turned up all the way to 11.
T his is a fantastic looking board. A matt silver paint scheme covers the entire PCB resulting in a very clean look. Combined with the silver heatsinks and polished steel reinforcing on all the memory slots and full length PCI-E slots, it has a very refined look that’ll work well with any case colour scheme. In the top right area of the board are a bunch of overclocking specific buttons, switches, readouts, voltage check points and a dial.
Yes, a dial. While all the other things are for truly extreme overclockers, mere mortals have a simple eight position dial numbered 1 through 11 (they skip a few numbers). Simply setting this dial before you boot tells the system how hard to overclock your CPU when it starts up. For our i7 6950X with a default upper clock of 3.5GHz, position 11 resulted in an overclock of 4.5GHz, no effort required! The system wasn’t stable at this setting, just enough to boot into Windows and do light tasks. Stepping back to 10 on the dial resulted in a more stable 4.4GHz. This dial also adapts to the particular model CPU you’ve installed, with hexa-core Haswell-E or Broadwell-E CPU’s able to be pushed all the way to 5GHz. Unfortunately, using any setting on the dial above 0 resulted in fans running at 100% constantly but you can alter fan profiles to fix that.
The BIOS code read out display, while nothing new, has a unique trick that we hope catches on with other manufacturers. After a successful boot, error codes obviously aren’t needed anymore, so MSI have the display switch to a live CPU package temperature readout in degrees Celsius. Genius.
Connectivity wise, the rear IO panel has six USB3 ports, plus both a Type-A and Type-C USB3.1 connector, a PS/2 and two USB2 ports for mouse and keyboard, Wi-Fi SMA connectors, HD audio block, BIOS reset button and a special BIOS flash USB port that allows you to update the BIOS without requiring any CPU or RAM to be installed to work, neat!
Internally of note, a single U.2 port makes an appearance accompanied by an M.2 port to provide some diverse NVMe connectivity options. There’s also a USB3.1 Type-C connector on the right side of the board giving immediate compatibility for cases with a Type-C connector on their front panel.
The five PCI-E x16 slots are well staggered, allowing for a full 4-way SLI/CF configuration with an x8/x8/x16/x8 lane allocation. 3-way setups receive x16/x16/x8.
What’s in the box
The user manual, software and driver DVDs and rear IO face plate are all there. A full complement of ten SATA cables is accompanied by a sheet of cable labels. There’s also two Wi-Fi antennas, both of which have one metre of cable length to them and handily have magnets in their base so you can stick them to any metal surface, like your case, furniture or fridge (those attempting some serious ghetto cooling).
Four SLI bridges are included. None are HB bridges unfortunately.
Two extension cables for the on board RGB LED header are included, so too are six V-check cables for use with the on board voltage test points.
Finally, there’s two chassis wiring insertion aids as well as an MSI case sticker and door hanger.
BIOS, XMP and Turbo Boost 3.0
By far MSI had the prettiest UEFI interface of the boards tested. With all the important stuff shown front and centre in an easy to read format, by far the most pleasurable to navigate and operate of the boards tested.
Although the BIOS that came with our board had issues initially with Turbo Boost 3 and XMP both being enabled (wouldn’t boost to 4GHz), after a BIOS update the problem disappeared and simply enabling XMP was all we had to do, with Turbo Boost 3 automatically working, making this board the most compliant in the end, fulfilling our wishes of having XMP + Turbo Boost 3 enabled simultaneously.
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