Intel released nothing short of a kraken with the Core i7 5960X. Not only did we receive the first desktop 8-core CPU for the HEDT platform, but we got DDR4, a new socket and of course a new chipset. Usually a single change in either of these presents a massive challenge for vendors but having all that change at the same time is the equivalent of pulling the rug out from underneath them.

With X99, the opportunity came for MSI to hit the ground running with refined motherboards that not only deliver performance but bring in a host of new features previously unavailable to the HEDT platform. This is especially true for this chipset because X79 has aged and is very much out of tune with what’s on off er with Z87 let alone Z97.

With that we now have boards such as the X99X XPOWER AC. Not only does it have a host of new features that bring it in line with what the Z97 XPOWER AC has, but it extends this further. Since this platform has plenty of PCI Express lanes, (barring the 5820K), there’s no need for MSI to try and siphon off  PCI Express bandwidth from elsewhere to support both M.2 and SATA Express. With 40 lanes of traffic made available, MSI has allowed their M.2 slot to allocate up to a blistering 32Gbps of traffic to it. The great thing about this is that you can do this while maintaining your dual GPU configuration at full 16X speed or perhaps even triple GPU configuration at 8X speeds. All these lanes would come from the CPU and not the PCH (platform controller hub), thus leaving the PCH to support SATA Express as well as the standard SATA 6Gbps ports amongst other things.

MSI has done exactly that and offered the most connectivity options in the history of their motherboards. That is a total of 12 USB ports at the rear of which only two are USB 2.0, dual gigabit Ethernet, seven SATA 6 Gbps ports, a single SATA Express port and as mentioned before M.2 support.

Back again is the GPU ceasefire (turns off  specific PCI-Express lanes), direct to BIOS button, v-check points, LN2,slow mode, Bclk and CPU multiplier buttons and a whole lot more. For overclocking features, MSI has you covered and there’s nothing preventing you from reaching world record speeds or claiming high scores with this motherboard. It is simply a matter of fine tuning and pushing your chosen components to their limits.

Of particular interest to note is that MSI, despite DDR4 being very new and vendors having to deal with how it behaves, has included several memory clocking profi les and some helpful descriptions within their UEFI on how each setting affects performance and stability. Not only that, but the tuning options that MSI has made available are second to none off ering more than any other vendor at present. Navigating the UEFI is as smooth as it’s always been and sifting through pages upon pages of options is an overclocker’s dream which MSI has provided with the X99S XPOWER AC.

When we wrote this review, we were still on the first few iterations of the firmware, thus things were not as smooth as they would be on say the Z97 MPOWER, but that will change as the firmware matures and more is learned about the platform. In the meantime there’s no reason for you to not invest in this board. It even has the dedicated hardware controlled NIC and better than average audio solution. Given just how long this platform is going to be around, we would say that MSI definitely got off  to a great start and finds itself ahead in many ways. This board is not ever going to be cheap but it is one of two motherboards that we would consider when looking at the very high end of X99 motherboards.

CHIPSET : Intel X99
MEMORY : 8x 288 pin DDR5

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