MSI X99A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM LGA2011-v3 Review

MSI’s X99A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM is a mouthful, but the XPOWER series has been a favorite of ours here at HardOCP for years now. The latest X99 iteration has much to prove. Is the X99A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM another pretty face, or is it a fitting addition to the venerable XPOWER line?

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Motherboard Overclocking Software

MSI includes its Command Center software with the X99A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM. I’ve never liked the application and I haven’t exactly been kind about it when talking about it in the past. Unfortunately, that’s not changing here. The software packaged with the X99A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM is exactly the same as what’s been included with MSI motherboards for well more than a year now.

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First and foremost, the application doesn’t do what other motherboard manufacturer’s software packages do or doesn’t do things as easily or as intuitively. Hardware monitoring is something you have to effectively dig out of the Command Center menus. Command Center doesn’t perform any automated overclocking or fan tuning at all. These are practically basic features of the software packages offered by every other major player in the motherboard market. Fan control and other elements of the utility are not where you would expect them to be. In fact, nothing in the application follows a logical work flow. One problem is that there are two separate sections or categories for many functions with the same name. There are for example two DRAM menus. One of them just allows for adjustment of the strap settings and little else. The other one allows for the adjustment of timings and everything else. Largely the problem is that the user experience is all over the map with this software. Sometimes you use sliders to make adjustments. Sometimes you use check boxes, or click on plus and minus keys to make changes. Most of the other software suites from other brands have multiple components that make up the whole package. These can sometimes be installed individually or used without the main or common launcher. However, these software packages all follow a common theme with interface design elements that reduce the required learning curve. Once you "get it" you can do anything with the software. The lack of logical workflow, combined with this makes the user experience less desirable than it should be.

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With Command Center, you are working with what seems like a digital clone of an audio receiver from the 1990s. Other elements mimic that of other software out there. The fan control is an example of that as it allows you to set different plot points along a linear graph which correlate to temperature ranges and fan speeds. The smart mode and manual fan interface modes look entirely different though just to throw you for a loop. It is as though aspects of the application were designed by different people or groups of people with no common design direction and it shows. Another annoyance is that the software, while aesthetically pleasing it beats you down with satellite windows. Many things you do with advanced functions create a separate dialog box or window which you have to deal with. As I’ve said before, the utilities included with motherboards generally have two functions. They are used for tuning within windows and for hardware monitoring. If anything, they are used for the latter far more than the former. I think that some novices may get their feet wet with overclocking using such tools, but hardcore enthusiasts will only bother if the software is actually really good. It rarely is and I think MSI is on the lower end of the spectrum on this. Lots of motherboard makers do this better.

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There are other functions like the RAMDisk part of the package which actually does work very well. It’s a more or less stand-alone feature on ASUS’ ROG line while it’s integrated with Command Center here. I’d personally like to see this separated. It just adds bloat to the Command Center and people who want to use the RAMDisk software may not want to use Command Center or vice versa. I’m all for integration, when it makes sense. I just don’t think it does here.

Fortunately, MSI includes Intel’s XTU software which is overall excellent and much easier to use. In fact, it’s quite similar to GIGABYTE’s last generation of EZ-Tune software but more robust. I think this is what enthusiasts will likely use if they bother with Windows or OS based overclocking of any kind and I think that’s reasonable until MSI sees fit to redesign this thing. I do believe that there is some carry over in the code from the software package that predates Command Center. Some of the same crashes and problems occur in some versions of Command Center. Fortunately, I had no trouble with the software in this case.