Articles: Mainboards

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By now we have discussed several flagship mainboards on Intel X79 Express chipset from very difference makers. This list includes products from ASRock, Asus, Gigabyte and Intel, but it is still missing one very important name – Micro-Star. This Taiwanese mainboard maker offers several different product models for LGA 2011 processors, so we will most likely have to go back to them at some point. However, today we would like to start with the top-of-the-line flagship mainboard from MSI’s Big Bang series. I have to say that “Big Bang” series targeted for computer enthusiasts and gamers has undergone certain changes and has been split into several sub-groups. The upcoming mainboards from this series for AMD processors will be marketed under the “Conqueror” brand name. The Big Bang mainboards based on high-performance Intel processors are now called “Marshal”. For example, MSI Big Bang-Marshal (B3) based on Intel P67 Express chipset. Big Bang mainboards based on Intel Extreme Series chipsets remained under the “XPower” brand. Last year we have already reviewed MSI Big Bang-XPower mainboard, designed for LGA 1366 processors. its successor for the new LGA 2011 platform is the MSI Big Bang-XPower II, which will be the main hero of our today’s review.

Packaging and Accessories

MSI Big Bang-XPower II mainboard arrived in a large box with a carry handle. The front of the box is decorated with the “Big Bang” aftermath, which gave the name to this series.

The package is designed in accordance with all contemporary standards. Its front flip-cover is attached with Velcro and if opened allows you to see part of the mainboard inside through a clear plastic window. The back of the package has a mainboard photograph and a brief list of its technical specifications. The mainboard inside sits in an individual box and so do the accessories. They are pretty numerous and include the following items:

  • Eight SATA cables with metal connector locks, four with L-shaped locks and another four - with straight ones;
  • A set including a bracket and cables for bringing additional two eSATA ports to the case back panel;
  • Back panel bracket with two USB 3.0 ports;
  • A bridge for AMD CrossFireX graphics configurations;
  • Two short and one long bridge for Nvidia SLI graphics configurations;
  • “V-Check Cable” adapter set for manual voltage monitoring with a voltmeter;
  • “M-Connector” block including modules for easy connection of the system case front panel buttons, indicators and audio;
  • I/O Shield for the back panel;
  • A booklet on proprietary software;
  • Two booklets with assembly instructions;
  • A poster with overclocking recommendations;
  • User manual;
  • Reliability certificate listing all component testing methods;
  • DVD disk with software and drivers.

I would like to point out a few things here. As we will see later on, the board doesn’t have any eSATA ports, but this shortcoming is fully resolved by an additional back panel bracket with two eSATA ports and a set of cables for them. At the same time it is surprising that only Micro-Star’s mainboards still do not come with such an important accessory as the front panel bracket with additional USB 3.0 ports. Instead they offer a bracket for the back panel, where the board already has four USB 3.0 ports. Of course, it won’t hurt to have two more ports there, but they could be much more useful in the front.

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