The recently discovered error in Intel’s sixth series chipsets that were releases in the beginning of this year is insignificant for most users. However, the negative resonance it created turned out very severe, having impacted not only Intel, but also numerous other companies and people in the computer industry. Setting up production of new chips revisions takes time and until them most mainboard and system sales have been frozen. Since there are no mainboards, the sales of new LGA1155 processors have also stopped, because there is nowhere to install them into. The “domino effect” has even touched upon the computer reviewers, who had to adjust their review schedules accordingly: it makes absolutely no sense to review mainboards that are being pulled from the channel and will never find their way into users’ computer systems. However, let’s not forget that the new chipsets belong to the mainstream category, while the performance crown still belongs to Intel X58 Express. We are very well familiar with the features and functionality of this core logic set, we have already tested about two dozens of mainboards based on it. However, the manufacturers keep refreshing their lineup of products based on this chipset, so it is always interesting to check out the latest newcomers in this segment.
Regular mainboards are universal solutions and computers built on them may be used in a variety of different fields. However, there is a group of users who get special treatment from the mainboard makers, who specifically design mainboards to meet their needs. These are hardcore gamers. For example, Asus has been manufacturing RoG (“Republic of Gamers”) mainboard series targeted for gaming fans and computer enthusiasts for a long time now. Gigabyte doesn’t yet have a special series, but they have an outstanding GA-X58A-UD9 mainboard equipped with seven PCI Express x16 slots, which allows using multiple graphics accelerators at the same time. It turns out that MSI also has a solution for uncompromising gamers who prefer multi-card graphics configurations. The most eye-catching feature of MSI XPower mainboard from the “Big Bang” series is the presence of six graphics card slots. However, this mainboard also boasts other interesting features. It supports a lot of other functions and technologies, which we are going to discuss in our today’s review.
Packaging and Accessories
MSI XPower mainboard comes in a large vertical box with a convenient carry handle:
There are two more boxes inside: one with the mainboard, and another one with an unprecedentedly large accessories bundle including the following items:
- Six SATA cables with metal connector locks, two with L-shaped locks, two with straight ones, and another two (white color connectors) specifically designed for SATA 6 Gbps devices;
- Three power adapters for SATA devices;
- Flexible bridge for two-way CrossFireX configurations;
- Three flexible bridges (two short ones and one long one) for 3-way SLI graphics configurations;
- I/O Shield for the back panel;
- QuantumWave discrete sound card;
- OC Dashboard external panel with a special cable and a mini-USB cable;
- A set including a bracket and cables for two eSATA ports on the back panel;
- An additional bracket with two USB 2.0 ports;
- “MSI M-Connectors” unit including adapters for easy connection of the system case front panel buttons and indicators, audio, IEEE1394 and a USB port;
- V-Check Cable set for manual voltage control using a voltmeter;
- DVD disk with drivers and software;
- CD disk with drivers and software for the sound card;
- A booklet with brief assembly instructions in several different languages;
- A colorful poster with the mainboard layout in several different languages;
- User manual;
- Overclocking guide;
- OC Dashboard manual;
- HDDBackup utility manual;
- Winki OS manual.
This extensive and diverse list of accessories does require a few comments on our part. Namely, we have to explain what the “V-Check cable” adapter set looks like. You can see it in the lower right corner of the photo above – short cable segments with connectors on the end. We have already seen quite a few mainboards that allow to manually control the current voltages. They have special contact spots scattered over the PCB or grouped in a single line. However, the size of these contact spots is usually very small, so it is challenging to keep the multimeter probes in the right place and at the same time to monitor the readings. You won’t have this problem with MSI XPower mainboard, because there are special pins combined into what they called “V-Check Points” panel. You just connect one of the cables in the V-Check Cable block to the corresponding pin and insert the multimeter probe into the other end. It provides very secure contact and keeps your hands free, so you can monitor the readings comfortably.
Moreover, I have to say a few words about the “OC Dashboard” panel. It is a little box with a small screen in the center and three control buttons at the bottom of it. You connect it to the mainboard back panel using enclosed proprietary cable and a standard mini-USB cable.
There are POST codes and their explanation displayed on the screen upon boot-up. Once the OS is loaded you can see the MSI logo, current time, or the rotating monitoring parameters: CPU voltage and temperature, fan rotation speed. However, this panel may serve not only information purposes. You can use the buttons on it to adjust the base clock frequency and voltages, i.e. overclock your system.