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MSI Z97 Gaming 9 ACK (Intel Z97) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: May 14, 2015 2:12 pm
TweakTown Rating: 95%Manufacturer: MSI

Packaging

 

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MSI has done a nice job with the product box. It has the right amount of flare I have come to expect from premium products, including a window so you can see what you are buying.

 

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Packaging is done right, the board is well protected in its own mini-box, and all the accessories are individually packaged.

 

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The Z97 Gaming 9 ACK has a huge amount of accessories including an IO Shield, 6x SATA6G cables, eSATA cable, eSATA Bracket, eSATA power cable, Killer WIFI/BT module, 2x antennas, 6x V-Check cables, audio power adapter, SLI bridge, M-Connectors, door hanger, case badge, cable stickers, poster, manual, driver DVD, and an IO cover which comes installed on the board.

 

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MSI provides a Killer Dual Band Wireless-AC 1525 mini PCI-e add-in card. It's colored red, and while this is covered up by the IO cover, if you decide not to use the cover, it adds to the aesthetics.

 

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The motherboard features five fan headers; I have circled the 4-pin PWM headers in green and the 4-pin voltage mode headers in blue. The board has some of the best aesthetics I have seen. While many criticize all the things motherboard makers do to spice up their boards like adding animals and weapons to the heat sinks, I think MSI has done a tasteful job with their dragon.

 

It's neither tacky nor overpowering; instead it's quite elegant and adds value to the product. Even though I am well past my teens, I still find it cool. Aesthetics have become a big part of motherboards, and it would be foolish to ignore them. MSI's heat sinks with the IO cover add the needed aesthetics to compete in the modern motherboard market. The back of the board is pretty bare, which is a good thing.

 

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The IO panel is filled with all types of goodies including 8x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, Killer 1GBit NIC, gold plated audio outputs, S/PDIF digital, HDMI, DisplayPort, ClearCMOS and a PS/2 keyboard port. MSI has made sure that the IO panel reflects the color theme of the build, which in my opinion is a sound move.

 

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A single card will result in 16x in the top slot 16x slot and 0x in each of the remaining 16x slots for 16x/0x/0x. The PCI-E slots support 3-Way CrossFireX at 8x/4x/4x, or two way at 8x/8x/0x. The placement of the battery is excellent, as you don't need to remove the GPUs to remove it. While the placement of a top PCI-E 1x slot is good for many people, it limits the possibilities for GPU spacing, meaning you have to use dual slotted cards if you want to run 2-way SLI at 8x/8x.

 

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Eight SATA6GB/s ports are all colored black; however, 6 of them come from the Intel PCH while the two closest to the bottom of the board are provided by an ASMedia controller. Two USB 3.0 ports are directly routed to the PCH and one is angled at 90 degrees, providing great versatility.

 

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MSI provides a good number of overclocking features. A POST code display which shows the CPU temperature after POST is located in the bottom corner of the board and a BIOS selector switch for the two BIOS ROMs is located nearby. MSI included their OC genie which offers auto overclocking for novice users. Voltage read points are provided for those who want to know their real voltages. Power and reset buttons are located at the top of the board.

 

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The CPU VRM heat sink lights up and it lights up internally with clear plastic transferring the light. All the heat sinks make excellent contact with what they cool and they are all held down by metal screws.

 

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MSI provides an adapter for the Killer Wireless AC 1525 card.

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