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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

Circuit Analysis

 

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The VRM here is made up of 12 phases. Since the PWM is a 6 phase, each of those phases are doubled through 6x Intersil ISL6611A doublers/dual drivers. Each phase is then made up of one high-side and one low-side MOSFET. There are no backside MOSFETs, but the doublers/dual drivers are located on the back. MSI provides 12 Super Ferrite Chokes and 10x 330uF tantalum capacitors for a total of 3300uF output capacitance.

 

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The PWM is an Intersil ISL6388, and I haven't seen any other brand use this PWM yet, but I think it is Intersil's most advanced VRD 12.5 PWM. This is the first time I have seen Intersil call their PWM digital outside of their Ziker Lab's parts, so it is safe to assume it's a fully digital PWM. It's Intersil's most advanced VRD12.5 PWM; featuring up to 1.5MHz switching frequency, onboard NVM, and Advanced Linear EAPP Digital (Intersil's patented PWM scheme technology, but with a digital twist). The MOSFETs are from NIKOS in the PowerPAK packaged. The PK632BA is the low-side MOSFET capable of 20A at 2.6W. The high-side MOSFET is a PK616BA is rated for 13A at 2.2W, which means I should see cool operation and good overclocking performance.

 

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The memory VRM is driven by a single phase UPI Semiconductor UP1504 which probably has integrated drivers. The MOSFETs are the same as the CPU VRM, but double in quantity, which makes for a single powerful phase for better thermals. An MPS MPQ8675 is a point of load converter for the PCH power.

 

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The Z97 Gaming 9 ACK has two main selling points, its audio and networking capabilities. The networking is all powered by Killer products. An e2205 provides Killer Ethernet E2200 and a Killer 1525 provides Killer Wireless AC. Using both Killer networking adapters allows for a technology Killer refers to as Killer DoubleShot Pro. The technology allows for the automatic reallocation of bandwidth to either controller when needed. The software detects which connection is faster at any given moment, and routes more intensive traffic through it and less important traffic through the slower adapter.

 

This means if you turn on game, all other network traffic is routed through wireless and only gaming traffic through the wired NIC. This is unique and should provide the best networking intelligence leading to great performance, in this case Killer really is king since otherwise Windows would route all traffic through one adapter.

 

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MSI has done something really special with the audio on the Z97 Gaming 9 ACK. Not only do you have the typical Realtek ALC1150 with an amplifier (Texas Instruments OP1652 in this case), but MSI has also provided an entire CMedia powered audio card built onto the PCB for the front panel audio. The Realtek part of the board carries 12x Nichicon Gold series audio capacitors with some red film audio capacitors. MSI also added in separate PCB isolation for each audio circuit and put red LEDs on the underside of the motherboard. The Realtek solution is nothing compared to the CMedia solution.

 

For this next part to make sense, I should spell out how the Realtek system works. The Realtek system uses the Intel HD Azalia audio processor in the PCH, which sends out its digital signals to the Realtek ALC1150 which is a codec filled with DACs (digital to analog converter) and ADCs (analog to digital converter) which convert digital signals into analog and vice versa, allowing for the input and output of audio signals to and from the Azalia processor in the PCH.

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