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MSI Z77 MPower Preview

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Hey guys,

 

The friendly neighborhood courier brought me a shiny new MSI Z77 Mpower motherboard. I cannot release any results at this stage, but I can show lots of pretty pics. :D

 

First up, the box.

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The bundle is pretty decent. There's a WiFi Antenna, SLI bridge, voltage read-point cables, case connectors and the flashy Military Class III certificate amongst the usuals you would expect.

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Probably the main thing that jumps out when looking at the board itself is how clean the PCB is. Every crevice of some boards is filled with arrays of capacitors and resistors, but the Z77 Mpower really is one of the simplest looking PCB's you will see, especially amongst high end boards.

 

MSI have also adopted a splash of yellow which seems to be their theme in recent times as seen with the recent 7970 and 680 Lightning models. Personally I quite like the color scheme. The yellow is quite subtle and no, there aren't any bullets or Gatling guns this time around ;)

 

The layout itself is pretty good. There are two fan headers at the bottom of the board (Yes!) The BIOS battery placement isn't ideal, but in the day and age of CMOS clear switches it is rare to need to have access to this battery. At first glance the voltage read points may look obscured by the 24 pin connector, but the board ships with small cables to connect to a DMM, so it's not a problem.

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Screws for all heatsinks! All but the cheapest boards should have screw down heatsinks so its good to see them here. The cleanliness of the PCB extends to the rear with immaculate soldering and no protruding components.

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A perfect illustration of the clean PCB is clearly illustrated by the shot of the socket area. Subzero overclockers will find nothing to hinder pots or phase evap heads. I don't recall ever seeing a socket area as clean and trouble free as this one.

 

The entire power delivery system is built with MSI's trademark Military Class III components, with DrMOS II integrated driver/mosfets, Hi-C capacitors and super ferrite chokes. I am not sure of the exact phase arrangement but I will check. I am guessing a 12+2+2 arrangement. You want to shove 2.0v + into the CPU? No problem.

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Moving over to the memory slot area, on the right we see the power and reset buttons and the OC Genie button which as an automatic overclocking feature. There's voltage check points and an auxiliary 6pin power connector which can be used to provide supplemental power to the GPUs. A debug LED readout can be seen on the left.

 

The memory slots themselves will handle whatever speed the IMC of your CPU is capable of. Unofficially there is support for DDR3-3000+.

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The SATA ports are the standard ports supported by the Z77 chipset.

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Here we have the PCIe slot arrangement. The 16x slots are all PCIe 3.0 capable, while the 1x slots are all PCIe 2.0. The top slot is a 16x electrical slot, the second and third are 8x capable. For multi GPU's this will be in the form of x16 for single card, x8/x8 for dual GPU, and x8/x4/x4 for tri-GPU. Remember that these are PCIe 3.0 slots (with an Ivy Bridge CPU), and are equivalent in bandwidth to a 16x/8x/8x PCIe 2.0 setup like you would see with X58.

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Moving over to the lower right section of the board, we see the manual switch to change between the two BIOSes. The other little button underneath the chipset heatsink is a feature called GO2BIOS. Usually, a user will hit 'del' to enter the BIOS at boot up, which can can be easy to miss. Pressing this button either powered up or down will automatically enter the BIOS on the next boot or reboot. It might sound gimmicky, but I think once you've gotten used to it, you won't want to go back.

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The last pic shows the back panel connectors. Due to the primary design goal of making a top class overclocking motherboard, The WiFi and Bluetooth dongles represent probably the only major additional non OC related features of the board.

 

We also have a welcome PS/2 port, CMOS clear button, six USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports. Ethernet duties are controlled by a Realtek RTL-8111E chip. Display capabilities come courtesy of Display Port and HDMI connectors. Audio outputs consist of an optical S/PDIF and the standard set of analogue ports. Audio capabilities are handled by a Realtek ALC 898 chip. Overall we have a full set of features for an overclocking themed board.

http://img33.imageshack.us/img33/8863/p1010693ip.jpg (Direct link.. one too many images)

 

I cannot wait to start clocking this baby. I am thrilled that MSI have developed an overclocker centric board and I am proud to have the opportunity to play with one.

 

BIOS shots and results to come in a week or so.

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So what's missing from this board to make it so clean? It seems like it's got all the features, but half the components. Where did they put everything else?

Edited by discoInferno

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So what's missing from this board to make it so clean? It seems like it's got all the features, but half the components. Where did they put everything else?

Most of the high end boards have all sorts of extras like SATA controllers, PCIe bridge chips, extra usb3, thunderbolt, pci slot, firewire etc etc. This board is designed as a fairly minimalistic overclocking product which does without those extras. Just the Bluetooth and Wifi are the main additions over a basic board. Of course the CPU and chipset handle more functionality than ever as well.

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The UEFI BIOS

 

Now that the Z77 MPower has been announced, it's ok to go ahead and post results. :D

 

I'll start off with the BIOS.

 

It follows MSI's familiar UEFI design. There are six sub menus to group most settings into categories. The Click BIOS 2 is replicated in software for changing in Windows.

 

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The System menu is where you will find items such as integrated peripherals, SATA configuration and PCIe settings.

 

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The OC menu is where we want to spend most of the time :D

The layout remains similar to MSI's earlier UEFI boards. There's a full range of overclocking settings on hand. Extreme voltage capability, PWM controls, and DRAM timing controls as well as power saving options.

 

One thing I like to mention is the Memory-Z feature. Selecting this option displays the XMP profile information of the RAM. It can be useful to compare the Memory-Z readings with the current settings if there is a problem with the memory.

 

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The range of DRAM timing controls isn't truly huge yet, but is still more than adequate for 99% of users. The extreme tweakers can expect more tertiary timings to be added once the launch BIOS is polished.

 

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There are six nameable BIOS profile slots. They can be exported and imported from USB.

 

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I think these voltages will cater for most of the overclockers out there. 2.15v Vcore and 2.46 Vddr will cover most mortals :p

 

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The ECO settings page is where the Hardware monitoring readings are found. Most of the CPU and motherboard power features can be found here. Also note that the onboard LEDs can be disabled for those with custom lighting.

 

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The utilities page features the M-Flash tool, which is used to update the BIOS from a USB drive.

 

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Benchies

 

Now for some results :D

 

I'll start off with a few results I grabbed in the little time I had for testing before it had to be packed up again. I want to spend a great deal of time and get to know this board over the coming weeks.

 

The focus of the MPower is overclocking. MSI really pride themselves on the quality of their components and test large samples of boards with 24hrs of Prime 95 testing at 4.6Ghz. While not a guarantee that something won't go wrong, it does give an indicator that the power system really has been thoroughly tested with more load than any system is likely to see.

 

For the Facebookers out there, there is a chance to win one.

We're running a 24hr competition hosted on the FB. MSI Fan Club

Check out it out if you use the Book of Face. :Pirate:

 

Test Setup:

3770K

MSI Z77 MPower

G.Skill TridentX 2400 C10

MSI GTX 670 Power Edition

Antec HCP1200

Win 7 64 w/ no SP

 

 

First up, one for the stability guys. 4.6Ghz @ 1.21v

 

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Memory overclocking looks good for a early BIOS. With a set of G.Skill Trident 2400C10, it was easy to boot and bench the 2666Mhz strap :thumbup: Memory clocking is one thing I really want to spend some more time on timings wise as well as try some BBSE and BDBG chip memory. I have no PSC to test unfortunately.

 

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Most of the following were some quick grabs with a bit of CPU clock, Bclk and memory clock. I will thoroughly test the limits more soon, and plan some sub zero as well.

 

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I will add more soon including some cascade runs and some multi GPU stuff. I also want to try other CPUs to find a better IMC!!!

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