MSI Z87 MPower LGA 1150 Motherboard Review

The "M" series motherboards from MSI have gained a lot of recognition recently being an upper quality not-so-high-priced motherboard for the computer hardware enthusiast. However while MSI brings us some of the best hardware you’ll find on the current market seemingly goes a bit off course with firmware and software.

Introduction

MSI is a very well known and popular motherboard manufacturer and has been in the business since 1986. In its history MSI has shipped over 150 million motherboards making it one of the largest motherboard manufacturers in the world. While it has diversified like its competitors, MSI remains best known for enthusiast motherboards. And just like its competitors MSI has had to branch out its motherboard offerings and brand these differently in order to further aid marketing those products to the desired consumers.

While the GAMING series seems to be growing in size, MSI still prefers to market its best motherboards as "MPower" or "XPower" motherboards. MPower and XPower motherboards represent MSI’s highest performance offerings. Currently the MPower and XPower motherboards dominate as the top MSI offerings for enthusiasts. The motherboard we have here is the Z87 MPower which is on the "lower" end of the MPower spectrum as the MPower MAX and Z87 XPower fall on top of it in the MSI product stack.

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The MSI Z87 MPower is based on the Z87 Express chipset by Intel. The Z87 MPower is constructed using a 6 layer tightly weaved fiberglass PCB. This offers increased humidity resistance and ESD protection. The Z87 MPower also uses an all digital 16 phase power design making use of Hi-C capacitors, dark capacitors, and super ferrite chokes. The thermal solution is a heat pipe based metal heat sink system designed to work in low airflow situations. This is ideal for water cooling or use in computer chassis which may not have optimal airflow. These are secured to the motherboard via metal screws rather than spring / tension systems using plastic which is often found on other motherboards.

Voltage check points and the debug LED allow for diagnostics of system issues or these can be used for tuning as it provides a hardware monitoring based capability allowing for greater accuracy than software alone would provide. Multi-BIOS II allows for BIOS redundancy and the ability to run more than one BIOS ROM if desired. Direct OC buttons are offered for fine tuning via the motherboard’s hardware in open case / test bench scenarios. The T-Topology as MSI calls it is an equalization of trace path distances for the memory slots ensuring that all the DIMM slots perform the same and don’t hinder overclocking when more than two DIMMs are used. While the CPU is a large variable in that, MSI has taken the step to avoid such things on the motherboard front.

This particular version of the Z87 MPower comes with an Intel Wifi, Bluetooth, and WIDI solution. A Killer NIC E2200 is provided for network connectivity. The Z87 MPower supports up to 8 SATA devices and 8 USB 3.0 ports. When it comes to multi-GPU solutions, 3-Way CrossfireX and 2-Way SLI are supported. Lucid’s VirtuMVP 2.0 feature is an added bonus as is onboard triple display capabilities.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The motherboard packaging is fairly standard although a "M" shaped flap can be raised providing additional motherboard information. Other than the striking appearance of the box it is standard fare in the industry. Our sample arrived undamaged and the following accessories were included in the box: OC Genie overclocking record, certificate of stability, User guide, software and application user guide, two driver discs, door sign, quick start guide, M-connectors, SLI bridge, SATA cables, WiFi module, wireless antennas, voltage check point cables, and an I/O shield.

Board Layout

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The layout of the Z87 MPower is almost ideal. I’m not really a huge fan of the placement of the onboard buttons. I prefer them to be near the DIMM slots. In a multi-GPU system the location of these buttons makes them unreachable in some circumstances. Aside from that I have no significant or any criticism of the motherboard layout. Aesthetically speaking the MPower and XPower series are all some of the best looking motherboards MSI has ever built.

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The CPU socket area is relatively clean. The cooling hardware is rather tall so there could be some fitment issues with some air coolers. So this is something to watch out for.

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There are 4 DDR3 DIMM slots supporting a total of 32GB of DDR3 3000MHz memory. Naturally such speeds are only possible through overclocking. These slots aren’t color coded most likely for aesthetic reasons. The proximity to the CPU socket is unfortunate, but this is an Intel design issue rather than an MSI one.

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The chipset is cooled via a large, flat passive heat sink. In front of it you will find 8 SATA ports, 6 of which are marked indicating which ones support RAID and SSD caching.

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The expansion slot area is well thought out. Three PCI-Express x16 slots which operate in an x16x0x0, x8x8x0, or x8x4x4 configuration. The Z87 MPower is certified for 3-Way CrossFire and only standard two-card SLI or dual card, quad-GPU Quad-SLI.

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The I/O panel has to make room for the WiFi module so it doesn’t appear all that packed in the photo. On the back panel you’ll find a clear CMOS button, 6x mini-stereo jacks, 1x optical out port, 2x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 6x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 3.0 ports, and 1x RJ-45 port.