MSI X99A MPower LGA 2011-v3 Motherboard Review

MSI’s X99A MPower promises to deliver a ton of features at a reasonable price. SATA Express, full speed M.2 support, and USB 3.1 compatibility are all examples of what this motherboard has to offer. The MSI MPower series has never disappointed us before, so we have high hopes for this motherboard.

Introduction

MSI is one of the most successful motherboard manufacturers on the planet. MSI has been a staple of the do it yourself computer hardware market for decades, developing a loyal following of customers. MSI was founded in 1986 and began its overclocking pedigree with i286 processor based motherboards and continues to put overclocking at the forefront of its MSI’s motherboard products. Its diverse product line gives enthusiasts a wide range of models and options in every conceivable price point. MSI has several model ranges and offerings which all have their unique features or target markets. The XPower and MPower series’ represent the pinnacle of MSI’s product offerings. Motherboards in these series’ have the highest build quality and are geared towards overclocking performance above all else.

We’ve had good luck with MSI’s motherboards as of late. While I’m not always a fan of its Windows based software MSI’s offerings have been as good as anything else on the market.

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The X99A MPower is based on Intel’s X99 Express chipset and is compatible with Intel’s socket 2011v3 processors. The X99A MPower is effectively a stripped down entry into MSI’s overclocking lineup. This motherboard lacks some of the additional options found onboard the X99S XPower AC. Still the X99A MPower has a lot to offer. The X99A MPower supports memory speeds up to DDR4 3333MHz, multi-GPU support for up to three graphics cards Gigabit LAN, SATA Express, and M.2 support. The main allure of this motherboard is USB 3.1 support which should allow for up to twice the performance and bandwidth of USB 3.0. Naturally this will require 3.1 devices to fully leverage this new standard. Additionally MSI’s own features such as OC Genie, OC Essentials, OC PCB, Military Class components, enhanced thermal design, multi-BIOS, V-Check points and more. The X99A MPower also features high grade audio components to satisfy audiophiles and gamers alike. The X99A MPower definitely has a lot going for it and therefore broad appeal.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The packaging is nothing special. The X99A MPower lacks the box flap and window that some of the other models in the series use. Inside the box is an entire tree’s worth of paperwork. You have an overclocking guide, software application guide, SATA labels, quick install guide, some sort of poster, and a do not disturb style door hanger. You also get some necessary items as well. SLI bridges and SATA cables are provided but there are no 3-Way SLI bridges despite the motherboard supporting it. MSI includes the M-Connectors for easy front panel connection installation. An I/O shield rounds out the included accessories.

Board Layout

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The layout of the MSI X99A MPower is good but there is one obvious problem. The only thing I don’t care for is the location of the onboard power and reset controls. With three graphics cards installed these would be absolutely unreachable. These controls really should be in the corner next to the memory modules and the 24-pin ATX power connector. Even installed in a case or on a test bench you would still be able to reach them. Another not so obvious problem is the location of the CMOS battery. You would have to remove the graphics card to access it. Dark capacitors can be seen all over the motherboard. These are rated for a 10 year life span which is far beyond the useful life span of a motherboard like this ensuring that these will never be a point of failure.

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The CPU socket area is clear of unnecessary obstructions. The MOSFETs are cooled with a simple heat sink which doesn’t take up unnecessary space. The Super Ferrite Chokes can be seen along with the motherboards many Hi-C Capacitors ensure efficient energy usage. These are low height allowing for good CPU cooler clearance.

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The X99A MPower has a total of eight 288-pin DDR4 DIMM slots supporting up to 128GB of RAM according to MSI’s website. These slots have single sided locking tabs for module retention. There wasn’t really a need for this given that the memory slots can be accessed without causing clearance issues between the RAM and the graphics card.

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The chipset itself is placed in the left hand corner of the motherboard. It is cooled with a black and yellow heat sink fashioned from aluminum. The SATA ports are all the right angle type and are all placed directly in front of the chipset cooler. To the left of those you’ll find the SATA Express connector which unfortunately uses a vertical type connection. I’d rather see it located as it is, but in a right angle form factor which would make for nicer cable management should you ever use this connector. The switch placement next to the chipset heat sink is good although I’d like these located near the 24pin ATX power connector.

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The expansion slot area is well designed for multi-GPU usage. Many lane configurations are possible. PCI-Express lanes can be allocated in the following ways: x16/ x0/ x0/ x0 x16/ x16/ x0/ x0, 16/ x8/ x0/ x0, x16/ x16/ x0/ x8, and x8/ x8/ x8/ x0. These all depend on the devices you have installed and whether or not a PCIe M.2 device is installed.

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The I/O panel has 2x USB 1.1/2.0 ports, 6x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 3.1 ports, 1x PS/2 keyboard or mouse combination port, 1x RJ-45 port, 1x optical outputs and 5x mini-headphone jacks for audio. A clear CMOS button is also provided.