MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC Motherboard
MSI's highest end 'Gaming' motherboard to date.
Published: 22nd May 2014 | Source: RushKit |
Following on from out MSI Z97 Gaming 5, and Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 5 previews, we're showing off one of MSI's highest end boards from the Z97 series; the Gaming 9 AC. We were impressed by the extent MSI went to on the Gaming 5 to pack it with features aimed at gaming and from our preliminary looks of the Gaming 9 AC it seems these features have been improved upon with more added.
RushKit takes a quick look at the board:
In terms of aesthetics, the Gaming 5 and the Gaming 9 look very similar. Both employ a matte black PCB with the same heatsink designs, and the same layout in terms of PCIE lanes which is to be expected on boards such as this. However, on the Gaming 5, the audio is isolated between two PCB whilst the more advanced Gaming 9 AC employs electro-magnetic shielding over the audio tracers and I/O ports. This does look great as it does cover any silver parts of the I/O which would otherwise stand out.
Along with the obvious EMI shielding, it's clear MSI have put a lot of effort into putting the best possible audio solution onto the Gaming 9 AC. For a start, like the Gaming 5, the audio circuitry is isolated between two layers of PCB to reduce white noise as much as possible. We also find a switch, along with a power input which allows you to put in a dedicated power delivery in order independently drive the audio system. This again reduces any possible static that the audio system may pick up from other components and also may improve the performance of the on-board DAC. The sound then travels through dual headphone amplifiers which are capable of driving headphones up to 600Ohms. Along with this, as you'd expect on a high end audio system, we find high quality Nichicon audio capacitors as well as gold plated audio connectors. All in all, this is probably the most effort we've seen a company put in to on-board audio solutions, and it should allow it to compete with even the very best sound cards. If you did want to use an external solution, there's also an independent stable 5v USB port which would improve quality if you're using an external DAC.
As with all the other 'Gaming' branded MSI motherboards, we find a Killer E2200 networking chip. This allows for games to have their bandwidth prioritised by limiting the bandwidth of other programs that you may not be using at the time. This can improve ping times which may therefore reduce lag.
SATA express and M.2 ports are a new concept and don't have devices capable of utilising the extra speeds yet. However, the Gaming 9 offers both these ports which allow up to 10GB/s transfer rates so when the next generation SSDs do come out, you will be able to get the most out of them on this board.
The 'AC' in the Gaming 9's title refers to the on-board wifi capabilities of the motherboard. Although most of us using desktops now have hardwired connections or powerline adapters, it is still nice that MSI include the option to use wireless as it may come in handy in certain situations.
The Gaming 9 is marketed as a high end board, and to accompany that, we do see some more overclocking features than we saw on the Gaming 5. The Gaming 9 has more user friendly voltage checkpoints, along with on-board buttons for overclocking and power. We'll have to wait for the full review to see the performance figures of the Gaming 9, but from its feature set we're already impressed.
Thanks to MSI for providing the Gaming 9 AC. You can discuss your thoughts on the OC3D Forums.