MSI Big Bang XPower II Motherboard Review

MSI pulls out all the stops to create the Big Bang XPower II. A true enthusiast class motherboard designed for over the top enthusiast rigs. The XPower II is able to satisfy the overclocker and fits the needs of the multi-GPU user looking for a bigger bang. And yes, you even get fake bullets and guns on your heatsinks.

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BIOS

MSI has had a UEFI BIOS for some time now and this is provided in the form of an American Megatrends Inc. UEFI BIOS ROM. Version 1.21B was used for all screen shots. This is not a publicly available BIOS, but we had to use it due to some initial BIOS issues Kyle had with the board during his testing. I stuck with this for all my testing, but switched to BIOS 1.2 public for all overclocking.

In the past I’ve been extremely, if not excessively harsh with MSI concerning their Click BIOS II. My complaints still stand. The interface needs work and MSI is slow to change. The needless double-clicking persists here as well, much to my continued disappointment.

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Once in the UEFI, you will see some information displayed at the top. CPU temperature, time and date, BIOS version, boot device priority, and installed CPU and memory information. There are also three preset operational modes, ECO, STANDARD and OC Genie II. The rest of the UEFI menu is laid out with a center display and flanking categorical buttons or panes. Once clicked information and settings for that category are displayed in the center. The information at the top remains constant unless you adjust clock speed settings or something drastic.

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After clicking on the settings button you’ll see four options in the center. System Status, Advanced, and Boot which are all submenus, the last item is save & exit which takes you out of the UEFI menu entirely and reboots the system. The System Status menu is what it sounds like. You can see the system time and date, detected SATA devices, some CPU, BIOS, and memory information. It’s pretty much exactly what you see in the top section, but there is slightly more information seen. The advanced menu brings up a listing of even more submenus. These are: PCI Subsystem Settings, ACPI Settings, Integrated Peripherals, USB Configuration, Hardware Monitor, Power Management Setup, and

Wake Up Event Setup.

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The first of these menus, the PCI Subsystem Settings allows you to enable or disable PCIe Gen3 mode or adjust the PCI latency timer. The ACPI Settings menu allows you to configure the ACPI standby state or the power LED. Integrated peripherals of course lets you enable or disable integrated hardware such as LAN or audio controllers. SATA controller modes are configured here as well.

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The USB configuration menu shows a listing of connected USB devices and allows you to enable or disable USB controllers. The hardware monitor shows temperatures, and fan speeds. For whatever reason voltages and other items are in the ECO / Energy savings menus rather than the hardware monitor. Just one of the many aspects of the board’s UEFI I do not agree with. The Power Management menu of course allows you to set EuP 2013 and restore after AC power loss settings. Again MSI made things more complex than they needed to by moving the rest of the ACPI/Power on events to another menu. Speaking of which, The Wake Up Event Setup menu has everything else the last menu should have had. Wake up Event By, Resume by RTC alarm, resume by LAN etc. are all here. The Boot Menu is the final menu under settings to talk about. This of course lets you setup up to 9 boot devices. You can also set boot priorities for hard disks, USB keys, and UEFI devices.

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The OC menu has all our performance oriented settings. At the top we have current CPU and DRAM frequencies displayed. Below that is our CPU base clock adjustment, strap setting, CPU ratio, internal PLL overvoltage, EIST, enhanced turbo, OC Genie button operation and more. We also have an additional submenu which only appears when the DRAM timing mode is set to manual. I’ll come back to that. Continuing to scroll down this menu brings us to Vdroop control, digital compensation level, CPU core OCP expander, core engine speed, core voltage, system agent voltage, CPU I/O and PLL voltages, and so on. Scrolling down again we see a few more settings, most importantly PCH 1.1 voltage and PCH 1.5 voltage settings. There is also another group of submenus at the very bottom. Overclocking Profiles, CPU Specifications, MEMORY-Z and CPU Features.

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Getting back to our first submenu in this section we come to the advanced DRAM configuration menu which is again only adjustable when the DRAM timing mode is set to manual. Once done we can enter the menu and you’ll find a couple pages of latency settings. The automatic settings are shown in the middle column and the right has our adjusted values. Command rate, tCL, tRP, tRAS, tRFC, etc. are all adjustable here. Overclocking profiles is the first submenu found at the bottom of the OC menu. This utility allows us to save and load OC profiles. Even those stored on a removable drive. As a result you can pretty much have unlimited profiles. Though there are 6 slots for profiles in UEFI as it is. That’s probably enough for most people.

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CPU Specifications is the next submenu of note. This one shows us information about our installed CPU. At the bottom there is the CPU Technology Support menu. There are no settings in that, but it does show a list of all the supported instruction sets, extensions and technologies the processor features. The MEMORY-Z menu allows us to view SPD information for our installed memory modules. When a given module is clicked on, you get more detailed information concerning the module. Initially only the default table is shown, but the XMP support information option at the bottom will show the XMP data as well.

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Our CPU features menu is the last submenu in the OC section. This one not only shows us various CPU features, but allows them to be enabled or disabled. Hyper-Threading, active processor cores, CPUID maximum, execute disable, virtualization, VT-d, C1E support, C-states, and more are all adjustable here. You may even limit the long and short duration power limits in watts if you should feel the need to do so. Core ratio limits can be set as well. The ECO menu is the energy savings menu. Here you can control the EuP 2013 option, or set CPU phase control, PCH, CPU I/O phase controller, motherboard LED control, C1E support or C-State support. The last two settings are actually duplicates from other menus. Finally the remainder of the PC Health options are displayed here. These are all voltage monitors. CPU core, system agent, CPU I/O, PLL, etc. Our very last section of note is the utilities section. This has our HDD Backup and Live Update utilities which actually require the drive disc. So there isn’t anything here, and these options act more like a shortcut to items on MSI’s driver disc more than anything. M-Flash is the only real embedded utility which is of course our BIOS flash utility.