MSI mainstay motherboard for HEDT X299 XPower Gaming AC. The XPower Gaming AC draws from overclocking and enthusiastic genealogy as well as includes more gaming focused features, designed to appeal to a wider audience. MSI also focuses on storage, including U.2 support and the ability to use five M.2 devices out of the box.
Reviews MSI X299 XPower Gaming AC
The previous generation MSI XPower model is mainly focused on extreme overclocking and fans who want to squeeze every last MHz of their CPU. The board is designed with enough power delivery to be able to handle anything thrown at it, as well as some overclocking accessories only. As time goes by, we've seen the line begin to blur the market between overclocking, fans, and games, and now we have crossover boards, like this one, that combine feature sets.
X299 XPower Gaming AC has a total of four PCIe slots that support up to 4-Way SLI / Crossfire. Slot M.2 is found between PCIe slots, each with its own heatsink. If three M.2 slots are not enough, MSI includes additional cards for two additional x4 PCIe 3.0 M.2 slots for a total of five. Unique to certain MSI boards, the upper M.2 heatsink depends on the base with the chipset heatsink and is held in place by a sliding tab for release. The heatsink is designed to be stronger than the other two slots and potentially cools the job better. All that said, the first two M2 slots are supported by the chipset: only the third M.2 slot uses the PCIe path from the CPU. In addition to the M.2 slot for storage, XPower Gaming AC has a U.2 port (also from the chipset) and a total of 10 SATA ports with eight feeds from the chipset and two from ASMedia controllers.
For overclockers, MSI implements some very useful features, especially when pushing the boundaries. In the upper right corner, by LED debug, are plus and minus buttons used to overclock both BCLK and CPU Ratio when in Windows. Right around the area is a voltage reading point that includes the main voltage domains including Vcore. It also has a jumper to force in. BIOS passes through errors, multiple BIOS, and even slow mode switches used to pass POST at low clock speeds that increase stability when using liquid nitrogen and extreme overclock.
Performance on XPower Gaming AC is very good around with it landing on the top of the results in almost all testing. Its strength uses slightly higher results than most of the motherboards we've tested, in our old idle and idle OS tests, but with just a few watts missing the bell curve. The load power found itself back with another device we tested, but still at the bottom looking for a more efficient board. The boot time is also on the average trailing side but successfully became the second fastest (five) MSI X299 board we tested. It appears that the MSI board completes one or two ticks later than most other boards in our POST time tests
In the USB connectivity path, XPower has USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) Type-A and Type-C on the rear panel, with a running port of the latest and more efficient ASMedia 3142 handler. In addition to the rear panel, the motherboard does have a header for the front panel USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) as well. An ASMedia 1074 hub controls six USB 3.1 (5 Gbps) ports on the rear panel, while the X299 chipset manages four USB 3.1 and six USB 2.0 ports between the header and the rear panel.
The networking tasks are all Intel - the cable port is handled by Intel I219-V and I211AT Gigabit LAN controllers and the wireless card is AC 8265. The audio comes through the enhanced Realtek ALC1220 solution.
Our manual overclocking results match most other X299 boards using the new CPU. For automatic overclocking, this board, like the M7 ACK does, still implements too aggressive too early voltage profiles when using Game Boost.
MSI X299 Strategy
MSI's X299 XPower Gaming AC holds the current flagship position of the MSI lineup, and makes its home in the Enthusiast Gaming segment along with X299 Gaming M7 ACK. There are currently a total of three boards in the Performance Gaming hierarchy, with the Arsenal line carrying the Tomahawk board. MSI has a standard Pro lineup for cost-effective options that have fewer features.
Information about Intel X299 and our other reviews
With the launch of Intel's Basin Falls platform, including the X299 chipset and the LGA2066 socket, a new generation of CPUs called Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X were also released. Skylake-X CPUs range from 7800X, hex-core parts, up to 18-core 7980XE multitasking giants. Between the other five CPU bookend increases in core count, as in the table below. The last HCC model will be launched over 2H in 2017.
Board partners have launched dozens of motherboards on this platform, some of which we will have a chance to check in the coming weeks and months.
X299 Motherboard Review Notification
If you have followed the little things from the story of the X299 motherboard, you may have heard some issues related to power delivery, overclocking, and the ability to cool this processor due to power consumption. In short, it comes to this:
- Skylake-X consumes a lot of power at peak (150W+),
- The thermal interface inside the CPU doesn’t do much requiring a powerful CPU cooler,
- Some motherboard vendors apply Multi-Core Turbo which raises the power consumption and voltage, exacerbating the issue
- The VRMs have to deal with more power, and due to losses, raise in temperature
- Some motherboards do not have sufficient VRM cooling without an active cooler
- This causes the CPU to declock or hit thermal power states as to not degrade components
- This causes a performance drop, and overclocked systems are affected even more than usual
There are some extraordinary work done by Igor Wallossek at Tom's Hardware, with thermal probes, thermal cameras, and performance analysis. The point is that motherboard vendors should be careful when it comes to default settings (if MCT is enabled by default) and provide sufficient VRM cooling in all scenarios - both heatsinks are heavier and heavier or move back to active cooling.