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::>Motherboards > 2014 > 07 > MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

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Republish review

28-07-2014


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MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC motherboard: review and testing

“Dominate, Conquer, Destroy” these words greet us with the official page of the new flagship MSI gaming motherboard MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC. With the average cost at the time of reviewing about 325 dollars, the new product offers excellent equipping, which is aimed to support wireless interfaces Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0, has excellent opportunities for the organization of the disk subsystem, a large number of USB 3.0 ports, as well as a very interesting audio subsystem, reliable circuitry and upscale network controller. But first of all let's look at its detailed technical specification.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

The specs:

Producer

MSI

Model

Z97 GAMING 9 AC (rev 1.0)

Chipset

Intel Z97

CPU socket

Socket LGA1150

Producer

Intel Core i7 / Core i5 / Core i3 / Pentium / Celeron 4th and 5th generation: Intel Haswell, Intel Haswell Refresh, Intel Devil`s Canyon, Intel Broadwell

Model

3300* / 3200* / 3100* / 3000* / 2800* / 2666* / 2600* / 2400* / 2200* / 2133* / 2000* / 1866* / 1600 / 1333 / 1066 MHz

(*OC)

Chipset

4 x DDR3 DIMM- slots with memory support up to 32 GB

Expansion slots

3 x PCI Express 3.0 x16

х16

х8+х8

х8+х4+х4

3 х PCI Express 2.0 x1

Disk subsystem

Intel Z97 chipset supports:

1 x M.2 (M.2 2242, M.2 2260, M.2 2280)

6 x SATA 6 Gb/s (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10)

ASMedia ASM1061 controller supports:

2 x SATA 6 Gb/s

LAN

1 x Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 (10/100/1000 Мb/s)

Wi-Fi

Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260

802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2,4 / 5 GHz)

Max data transfer rate up to 897 Mb/s

Support of technology Intel WiDi

Bluetooth

Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260

Bluetooth 4.0 (with support Bluetooth 3.0 + HS and Bluetooth Low Energy)

Sound subsystem

Codec Realtek ALC1150

7.1-channel sound

S/PDIF Out

audio processing unit CMedia CM6631A

digital-analog converter Wolfson WM8741

analog-digital converter Ciruss Logic CS5346

Power connectors

1x24-pin ATX main power connector

1x8-pin ATX12V power connector

Fans

2 x CPU fan connector (4-pin)

3 х system fans slots (4-pin)

Cooling

Aluminum radiator on the chipset

Aluminum radiators on power subsystem elements connected by heat pipe

External I/O

1 x HDMI

1 x DisplayPort

1 x LAN (RJ45)

8 x USB 3.0

2 x USB 2.0

1 x Optical S/PDIF out

6 x audio jacks

1 х CMOS reset

Internal I/O

2 x USB 3.0 each with support of two USB 3.0 (19-pin)

2 x USB 2.0 USB 2.0 each with support of two USB 2.0

8 x SATA 6 Gb/s

1 х socket TPM

1 x connector of audio output to front panel

1 x set of front panel connectors

1 x CMOS

1 x power button

1 х reboot button

1 х automatic overclocking OC Genie

1 х diagnostic LED-indicator

1 x socket Direct audio

1 x switch Multi-BIOS

1 x switch Audio Power

9 х sockets V-Check

BIOS

2 х 64 Mb Flash ROM UEFI AMI BIOS

ACPI 5.0, PnP 1.0a, SM BIOS 2.7, DMI 2.0

Packaging

User’s manual

Warranty description booklet

Driver and utility disc

6 x SATA cables

1 х bridge NVIDIA SLI

1 x set of MSI M-Connector

1 x set of adapters to connect multimedia  

1 x door hanger

1 х sticker MSI GAMING

1 х interface panel plug

1 х power cable Direct audio

1 х module of wireless Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

2 x antenna Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

1 х ppanel with ports eSATA

Form factor,

Dimensions

ATX

305 х 244 mm

Producer website

MSI
Updated versions of BIOS and drives are available on support page

Packaging and content

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Packing of motherboard MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC traditionally is made of thick and high-quality cardboard, decorated in printing in the corporate style of MSI GAMING. On the front side, in addition to the name of the manufacturer and model of the device, is the support for modern wireless communication standard IEEE 802.11 ac, which operates at a frequency of 5 GHz and is capable of speeds up to 867 Mb/s. Also noted the presence of a network controller Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205, audio amplifiers Xtreme Audio DAC and technology Audio Boost 2.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Under the hinged lid, and on its reverse side is a description of the key features and supported technologies:

  • Audio Boost 2 - sound in addition to the flagship codec Realtek ALC1150 includes special audio capacitors of Nichicon Company, two amplifiers with the support of studio headphones with impedance up to 600 Ohms, as well as gold-plated audio outputs on the interface panel and case for protection against electromagnetic interference. Also note a nice bonus in the form of shielding strips with LED-backlit separating the part of PCB with audio subsystem from the other components.
  • Xtreme Audio DAC - audio output on the front panel of the case is provided by a separate audio processor CMedia CM6631A, which operates in conjunction with the driver ASIO 2.2, digital-analog converter Wolfson WM8741, analog-digital converter Ciruss Logic CS5346, as well as three amplifiers: one TI TPA6120A2 and two TI OPA1652.
  • Sound Blaster Cinema 2 – due to this technology the quality of sound in games and when playing multimedia content are significantly improved.
  • USB Audio Power - USB ports on the interface panel maintain a stable supply voltage of 5 V, which will be useful for connecting external audio amplifier.
  • Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 is a network controller that has the ability to automatically detect game traffic and raise its priority in relation to low-level system traffic, providing you with the lowest delay during transmission of the game data. It also provides 35% more bandwidth than competing solutions.
  • XSplit – together with motherboard there is a code for free use of software XSplit for six months, which is intended to carry broadcasts of gameplay on Twitch, YouTube, UStream and other services.
  • OC Genie 4 - automatic overclocking function which is activated by pressing a button on the circuit board or the supplied software.
  • GAMING APP - proprietary software, which allows you to control the acceleration of the system (including the graphics card), and switch between different modes of PC operation.
  • Multi-GPU - motherboard has support of technologies AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI for combining computing power of several graphics cards. 
  • Military Class 4 – there are only high quality components such as solid capacitors Dark CAP with increased to 10 years lifetime, SFC chokes with ferrite core, as well as capacitors Hi-c CAP with a tantalum core which are characterized by high energy efficiency and compact sizes, so they do not interfere with the installation of overall cooling systems.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

On the reverse side of the package there are logos above technologies, brief specifications, as well as a small advertising description of the motherboard.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Supplied set of motherboard MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC, in addition to the standard documentation and a disk with drivers and utilities includes:

  • six SATA cables;
  • bridge NVIDIA SLI;
  • the power cord Direct audio;
  • a set M-Connector (significantly simplifies connecting the front of the computer);
  • interface board plug;
  • the sticker on the system unit with the logo of series MSI GAMING;
  • set of adapters to connect the multimeter;
  • remote control panel with ports eSATA;
  • wireless interface module;
  • two antennas of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth;
  • cardboard henger with logo of series and inscriptions: "I’m sorry busy gaming" and " I'm Not Here".

Design and features of the board

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

The new product is made on a black with a matte finish printed circuit board. Look of quality device is perfectly complemented by the original radiators, made in the style of a third-generation line of MSI GAMING. Do note that there are two protective shrouds, one of which covers the interface panel, while the second is responsible for the screening of audio subsystem zone.

As for the layout of on-board components and easy building of the system based on MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC, all is performed at the highest level and no claims have arisen. Note that for convenience the kit includes a set M-Connector, which simplifies the process of connecting the front panel.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

On the reverse side of the PCB, in addition to the traditional base plate of CPU socket, it is possible to note the mounting screws of three radiators of cooling system. Also you can see a number of electrical components that do not fit on the front side.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

At the bottom of the board there are the following connectors: front panel audio leading-in socket, TPM port, LED-indicator, two slots for system fans connection as well as two leading-in sockets for connection of USB 2.0 interfaces. At the same time the base of one is pained in red color that indicates about the support of technology MSI Super Charger used to rapid charging of connected devices. Total number of USB 2.0 sockets is six: four are internal and two on the interface panel. Closer to right side there are two leading-in sockets of front panel as well as switch between two chips with BIOS firmware.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

A special attention is given to a socket Audio Power designed to connect supplied cable Direct audio, which is used for direct power supply to the audio subsystem. Also here is a power mode switch between standard and Direct audio power.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

The capability of organizing a disk subsystem is presented by eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports and socket M.2 that supports SSD-drives of formats M.2 2242, M.2 2260 и M.2 2280. There is a support of SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10. The operation of six SATA ports and interface M.2 is implemented by chipset while other two SATA 6 Gb/s operate due to controller ASMedia ASM1061.

Due to the absence of free chipset lines, connector M.2 (NGFF) shares bandwidth with two ports SATA 6 GB/s (not according scheme SATA5_6). Therefore, in the case of connection M.2-drive these interfaces will not be available.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

The right side of the motherboard MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC in addition to set of sockets for multimedia connection using supplied adapters, power, reboot and automatic overclocking OC GENIE buttons, has  four DIMM-slots for memory modules standard DDR3. RAM can operate in dual channel mode. To implement it the modules must be installed either in the first and third or second and fourth slots. Modules operate at frequencies from 1066 to 1600 MHz in the nominal mode and up to 3300 MHz is overclocked mode are supported. Maximum memory capacity may be up to 32 GB which is enough for almost any tasks.

Also here are two modules to connect removable panel with ports USB 3.0. The total number of USB 3.0 ports is four. Eight additional USB 3.0 sockets on the interface panel operate due to two controllers ASMedia ASM1074 and one ASMedia ASM1042.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Cooling system of the product includes three aluminum radiators: one for heat removal from chipset Intel Z97 while the others are connected with heat pipe cover elements of power subsystem.  In the process of testing the following temperature indices were fixed:

  • radiator for chipset cooling – 39.7°C;
  • radiators for cooling of processor elements power – 34.6°C.

As you can see, the preinstalled cooling system is highly efficient, and creats a good foundation for overclocking.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Processor power supply is performed via 12-phase scheme for computational cores and additional joints. Converter is based on a digital PWM controller ISL6388. The circuitry is collected by high-quality components which in accordance to corporate design Military Class 4 are certified according military standard MIL-STD-810G. They include: solid capacitors Dark CAP, chokes SFC and capacitors Hi-c CAP. Basic 24-pin and additional 8-pin connectors are use for power feeding.    

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Capabilities to extend the functionality of the motherboard MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC are represented by the following slots:

  1. PCI Express 2.0 x1;
  2. PCI Express 3.0 x16 (mode х16 or х8);
  3. PCI Express 2.0 x1;
  4. PCI Express 3.0 x16 (mode х8 or х4);
  5. PCI Express 2.0 x1;
  6. PCI Express 3.0 x16 (mode х4).

All three slots for graphics cards are connected to the processor and are divided between 16 lines of standard PCI Express 3.0. Therefore, depending on the number of graphics cards you will receive one of the following distribution schemes: х16 / х8+х8 / х8+х4+х4. Let’s recall that the last option is supported only in case if the graphics cards are based on the GPU of AMD company, as NVIDIA's solutions do not support the scheme with bandwidth x4.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

If you decided to take advantage of the integrated on the CPU graphics core then you have two video outputs: HDMI and DisplayPort, switching is carried out by chip PTN3360DBS.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Multi I/O capabilities are based on NUVOTON NCT6792D chip which controls the operation of system fans, PS/2 port and provides the monitoring.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

To support network connection there is gigabit LAN-controller Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 which has several software and hardware advantages for the prioritization of gaming and multimedia traffics.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Two ports eSATA 6 Gb/s located on the interface panel operate due to ASMedia ASM1061.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Correct operation of two additional USB 3.0 ports is provided by two controllers ASMedia ASM1074 and one chip ASMedia ASM1042AE.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Sound subsystem of MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC has a rather interesting design called Audio Boost 2. It is based on the flagship 7.1-channel HDA-codec Realtek ALC1150 which supports audio formats 2/4/5.1/7.1. It works in tandem with two amplifiers which can support the work of headphones with an impedance of 600 Ohms. Also here are high quality audio Nichicon capacitors, direct supply audio path technology (MSI Direct Audio Power), gold-plated audio connectors and shielding technology to protect against electromagnetic interference. Soft fine-tuning of the sound quality performs Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 2.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

The sound output on the front panel of the case is provided by a separate audio processor CMedia CM6631A, which operates in conjunction with the driver ASIO 2.2, digital -analog converter Wolfson WM8741, analog-digital converter Ciruss Logic CS5346, as well as three amplifiers: one TI TPA6120A2 and a pair of TI OPA1652.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Such bunch due to digital-to-analog converter Wolfson WM8741 controlled be driver ASIO 2.2, provides audio playback with the ratio signal/noise at a level of 120 dB.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Dual channel amplifier TI OPA1652 expands dynamic range and provides ultralow level of distortion (less than 0.001%)

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

In turn, thanks to TI TPA6120A2 you can easily connect to the front audio output even studio headphones with impedance up to 600 Ohms.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Analog-digital converter Ciruss Logic CS5346 is used for crystal-clear sound of your voice during battles. In addition, it significantly improves the quality of your microphone.

Also note that the sound system is soldered directly on the motherboard, but it is positioned as an independent unit that is physically isolated from the other components by a special band with lights, as well as the above-mentioned housing «DRAGON ARMOR».

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

One last thing worth mentioning is the special relay, which excludes the possibility of a specific sound when connecting/disconnecting the headphone or microphone.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Interface panel of MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC model contains the following ports:

  • 1 x HDMI;
  • 1 x DisplayPort;
  • 1 x LAN (RJ45);
  • 8 x USB 3.0;
  • 2 x USB 2.0;
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF out;
  • 6 x audio jacks;
  • 1 x CMOS;
  • 1 x PS/2 (keyboard or mouse).
  • 2 х connectors for antennas of wireless interfaces (for supplied module).

Besides the unquestionable advantages in the form of complete double-band module Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0, which supports standard IEEE 802.11ac and two operating bands (2.4 and 5 GHz), it is worth to note a large number of USB 3.0 ports, the capability to put interfaces eSATA using the complete panel, presence of two digital video outputs, as well as convenient connection of multi-channel speakers. As a result, this configuration deserves the highest praise.

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC

Motherboard MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC has five connectors for fans connection: two are used for power of CPU cooling system fans, and the other three are used to connect the system fans. All connectors in accordance with modern requirements are 4-pin that allows you to control speed of connected fan by PWM method.


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