Intels Haswell refresh is almost here, bringing with it a few new features and now you can purchase the latest range of MSI motherboards which not only support the new range of CPU’s, but also introduces the new Z97 chipset. The new motherboards come in two choices, the MSI Gaming Series and the MSI OC Series.
The Gaming Series ranges from $100 to $220, bringing with it a range of features that are ideal for gaming PC builds, with good memory and CPU overclock capabilities. The OC series takes things further, allowing professional levels of overclocking that will no doubt appeal to the enthusiast market, with prices ranging from $200 to $400.
The Z97 XPower AC will be the flagship of the range, supporting up to 4-way overclocked GPUs, thanks to a PEX8747 bridge chip from PLX which allows four PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, as well as a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot that is wired directly to the CPU root complex, bypassing the bridge chip completely. Everything else on this board is top of the line, the CPU is powered by an 8-pin EPS and 4-pin CPU connector and a 16-phase VRM with a water cooling compatible VRM cooler. There are 10 x SATA 6 Gb/s ports, an M.2 slot, 12 x USB 3.0 ports, AudioBoost, 802.11 ac WLAN, Bluetooth 4.0, and gigabit Ethernet.
The Z97 MPower MAX AC is just the next model down in the range. It only features a 12-phase VRM for the CPU, doesn’t feature the PCIe bridge chip, but it will still offer up three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots running in x8/x4/x4 when fully populated. Connectitivty is still pretty robust too with 8 x SATA 6 Gb/s, 1 x M.2, 10 x USB 3.0, 802.11 ac WLAN, Bluetooth 4.0, gigabit Ethernet, and the AudioBoost headphone amp built in.
Finally the sub $200 Z97 MPower MAX offers most of the features of the MAX AC, only missing out on the 02.11 ac WLAN, Bluetooth 4.0, liquid-cooled VRM heatsinks, and onboard OC fine-tuning buttons, something I know many gamers and system builders will not have a need for anyway.
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