With Intel’s new enthusiast Z97 motherboard platform not that far away, motherboard vendors are gearing up to show off their new product ranges. MSI have revealed to us their “next generation” motherboards ,which we believe are Z97, though MSI did not confirm or comment on this because of NDA reasons. However, we will go with the assumption that these are Z97 as I do not see what else they can be! Z97 will bring support for Haswell, Haswell Refresh and Broadwell CPUs as well as exciting new standards like SATA Express and M.2 storage ports. With MSI’s new Gaming Series of motherboards they are opting for a much simpler form of product segmentation – Gaming 3, Gaming 5 and Gaming 7 with a bigger number being a larger and more feature packed motherboard.
Before we dive into the features of MSI’s new motherboard series let’s first take a look at some of these motherboards. Now, as you might expect, these motherboards do not appear to be totally finished yet. Hardly surprising given that Intel’s Z97 motherboard chipset isn’t expected until May according to the latest rumours. Below you can see the Gaming 3 motherboard, the Gaming 5 below that and the Gaming 7 at the bottom. MSI haven’t given us any specifics but you can clearly see as we progress up the Gaming series the CPU VRMs become more substantial, the PCIe connectivity is expanded and so is storage connectivity.
MSI have offered us an insight into the features of their new motherboards. Firstly, they will offer M.2 storage ports which support up to 10 Gb/s speeds, that’s 67% more throughput than SATA III. This is due to the fact they are able to utilise PCIe lanes rather than traditional SATA based connections.
Another storage innovation is the hotly anticipated SATA Express. Again this is able to use PCIe connectivity to improve speeds over traditional SATA pathways. This, like the M.2 standard, offers 10Gb/s throughput and we should expect to see M.2 and SATA Express devices proliferate alongside the Intel Z97 launch later this year.
Some other features include a redesigned I/O panel which is now all black compared to the Z87 I/Os which were not.
Like MSI’s current Z87 motherboard USB Audio Power will be present on their Z97 Gaming series motherboards. This enables stable 5 volt delivery compared to traditional USB power solutions which can fluctuate much more.
Finally the last feature MSI were willing to share with us is the inclusion of XSplit Gamecaster software with all Gaming Series motherboards. There is a complimentary 6 month license to the XSplit Gamecaster premium service.
Expect MSI to have a load more motherboards and features ready for Intel’s next generation chipset launch but until then that’s all MSI have to share!
Images courtesy of MSI