It is very important to know when and where to pick your battles. While we continually see countless motherboards coming to market with enormous amounts of features, there comes a point where something else has to give in order to support another. There are only so many PCI lanes, only so many controllers. Once they are filled, either an additional controller must be added, or another feature must go away, there is just no way around it. So, with so many boards out there, and so many of them looking practically identical on paper….how does one choose?
For the last couple of generations, MSI has been making choosing a little simpler. They have chosen to break their line into segments; OC, Gaming and Standard. The simple names truly take the guesswork out of exactly what direction the board is tweaked in. There is, of course, some splashover in the lines, as the Gaming Series cards happen to OC very well, but certainly not as easily or to the extent that the OC boards are capable of. The OC boards have always performed very well on the gaming end, but the luxury features are typically stripped down in favor of extreme OC features and build. That has been the way with OS boards in general; strip down the features to allow the board to focus on squeezing out every possible ounce of OC. While that is great for LN2 drag races, it tends to not be quite as ideal when you are simply home playing a game. MSI took on the challenge of making the OC features more extreme, while still maintaining the level of features and accessories one would expect from a top tier board.
With the Z97 MPower Max AC, MSI is able to deliver a board squarely aimed at the overclocker that still boasts an incredible array of top tier features and accessories. The first glance at the MSI MPower Max AC shows off an enlarged CPU socket area to aid LN2 users in application of extreme cooling, which translates well into the mounting of any cooling solution. The MPower uses an 8-layer PCB filled with top quality Military Class 4 components for increased durability, longevity and cooler operation. Sporting the MSI OC board yellow/black color scheme, the main heatsink of the 20-phase DigitAll power design also features 3/8” barbs to add your board into your loop, while still running cool on air only. The top right corner of the full sized ATX board is populated with OC controls for one-click OC, BCLK control and voltage monitoring for up to three meters simultaneously. An abundance of connectivity is present, with eight SATA 6G connections as well as one M.2 SATA, twelve USB 3.0 ports and six USB 2.0. A completely redesigned Realtek 1150 based audio solution uses audio intended caps throughout, and is EMF shielded from the rest of the board. Intel Gigabit LAN, dual band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and WiDi keep you connected in every way imaginable. Pre-boot, the Click 4 BIOS presents powerful intuitive options, while Command Center allows for intricate tweaks in the Windows environment.