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MSI X99A TOMAHAWK Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 2011 in Motherboards | Posted: Nov 11, 2016 5:48 pm
TweakTown Rating: 90%Manufacturer: MSI

Packaging and Overview

 

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The X99A TOMAHAWK's box features some camouflage and a picture of a missile in case you don't know what a Tomahawk missile is. The motherboard is protected within a smaller box and sits inside an anti-static bag.

 

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Accessories include a 2-way SLI bridge, six SATA6Gb/s cables, RGB extension cable, IO shield, M-Connectors, SATA cable stickers, manuals, and driver DVD.

 

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The MSI X99A TOMAHAWK has five 4-pin fan headers, just like many other motherboards in this price range. The single header circled in red is a PWM mode header, and the four headers circled in blue are voltage mode headers that will also control PWM fans.

 

The color theme is black, and the modern camouflage on the IO panel shield, VRM heat sink, and PCH heat sink help enhance the military theme look.

 

The PCI-E x16 slots and M.2 connector utilize metal shielding. The PCB is matte black. The rear of the motherboard is bare of larger ICs, except behind the CPU VRM, where a slim secondary heat sink cools the back-side MOSFETs. The audio area is physically isolated from the rest of the motherboard PCB, and the isolation is illuminated by red LEDs. You can turn the LEDs off through the BIOS.

 

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The IO panel on the X99A TOMAHAWK offers four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, a Clear CMOS button, PS/2 keyboard or mouse port, two 1Gbit LAN ports, and gold plated 7.1 audio ports with S/PDIF.

 

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The X99A TOMAHAWK's PCI-E layout isn't too hard to decipher, and the manual offers insight into lane allotment. With a 40 lane CPU, only x32 of the CPU's lanes go to the PCI-E slots; the rest go to M.2 and U.2. The middle x16 slot is wired x16, and the top slot is also wired x16, but will share x8 with the bottommost slot if it's occupied. You can run x8/x16/x8 with all slots occupied or x16/x16/x0 with two cards.

 

Things are a bit more tricky with a 28-lane CPU, in that the U.2 slot will still get x4 from the CPU, but the M.2 slot's bandwidth will only come from the PCH at x2 PCI-E 2.0 if you are using a PCI-E M.2 drive. That leaves x24 lanes from the CPU for the PCI-E slots, and the first slot will get x16 and will share x8 with the last slot, while the middle slot will get x8 instead of x16 it would get with a 40-lane CPU. You will be able to run x16/x8/x0 with two cards or x8/x8/x8 with three cards. The M.2 slot also supports SATA based drives and will share bandwidth with the SATA Express connector that gets its bandwidth from the PCH.

 

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Six of the ten SATA 6Gb/s ports are right angled. A right angled USB 3.0 header, and U.2 port sit right above the right angled SATA ports. The remaining four SATA ports are straight edged; two are shared with the SATA Express connector. A BIOS selector switch sits above the SATA Express connector.

 

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A second USB 3.0 internal header sits below the 24-pin motherboard power connector. The motherboard comes with basic overclocking tools such as a POST code display, power button, reset button, and an RGB LED strip header so you can control an RGB LED strip through the motherboard. The motherboard also supplies two USB 2.0 internal headers adjacent to some front panel headers.

 

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The heat sinks make solid contact with the motherboard, and all are held down by screws.

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