MSI X99S MPower Motherboard Review

MSI know that if you’re going to hype a feature, it had better work under most configurations. The X99S MPower gets there by lane switching, but does it have enough added features to breach the $300 class?

What does it take to make a $300 motherboard? Combining Intel’s premium on the X99 chipset with the added motherboard layers needed to support its 2011-pin CPU interface, we can understand why entry-level motherboards come at a decidedly non-mainstream price. But if $250 can buy us a great board, and if most of the features needed to make those platforms “high-end” are already built into the chipset, what feature is so important that enthusiasts should pay an extra $50 to get it?

Asus answered that with 802.11ac Wi-Fi. ASRock decided that wasn’t enough and added dual GbE plus the 802.11ac controller. Yet, I slammed both of those boards for dropping the third PCIe 3.0 graphics slot whenever a PCIe-based M.2 drive was installed. It’s not that PCIe M.2 and three-way SLI are super popular, but rather that both vendors went cheap on PCIe 3.0 lane switches and caused the conundrum. If you’re going to charge someone $300 for a motherboard, don't leave out a few minor components.

You could say that we love the X99’s integrated features. Or you could say that we have an issue with products that don’t implement them properly. Either way, MSI’s X99S MPower includes the low-cost components needed to overcome its competitors' biggest headaches. But what of lust? Didn’t we see a similar slot configuration on the company’s own X99S Gaming 7? Which X99S MPower features will entice us to pay a $35-higher price?

X99 High-End Motherboard Features
 MSI X99S MPowerASRock X99 Extreme6/acAsus X99 Pro
PCB Revision4.01.071.01
ChipsetIntel X99Intel X99Intel X99
Voltage Regulator12 Phases12 PhasesEight Phases
100.0 MHz BCLK99.98 (-0.02%)99.94 (-0.06%)99.94 (-0.06%)
I/O Panel Connectors
P/S 2111
USB 3.0866
USB 2.0224
Network121
eSATANone1None
CLR_CMOS Button111
Digital Audio OutOpticalOpticalOptical
Digital Audio InNoneNoneNone
Analog Audio555
Other DevicesNone2x Wi-Fi Antenna2x Wi-Fi Antenna
Internal Interfaces
PCIe 3.0 x16 (Core i7-5960X, -5930K)4 (x16/x16/x0/x8*, x8/x16/x8/x8*) SLI x4, CrossFire x4, *=Forces M.2 to PCIe 2.0 x23 (x16/x16/x8) SLI x3, CrossFire x3, M.2 disables x8 slot3 (x16/x16/x8) SLI x3, CrossFire x3, M.2 disables x8 slot
PCIe 3.0 x16
(Core i7-5820K)
4 (x16/x8/x0/x4*, x8/x8/x8/x4*), SLI x3, CrossFireX x4, *=Forces M.2 to PCIe 2.0 x23 (x16/x8/x4), SLI x2, CrossFireX x3, M.2 disables x4 slot3 (x16/x8/x4), SLI x2, CrossFireX x3, M.2 disables x4 slot
PCIe 2.0 x16NoneNone1 (x4, shares 1x PCIe x1, 1x USB 3.0 controller [2-ports])
PCIe 2.0 x12 (open-ended)2 (+1x Mini-PCIe, Filled)2 (1x w/x16, 1x w/Wi-Fi)
USB 3.02 (4-ports)2 (4-ports)2 (4-ports)
USB 2.02 (4-ports)2 (4-ports)2 (4-ports)
SATA 6.0 Gb/s10 (Shares M.2/SATA-E)10 (Shares M.2/SATA-E)10 (2x Shared w/SATA-E)
SATA Express1 (Uses 2x SATA)None1 (Uses 2x SATA)
M.2 Interfaces
(Transfer Modes)
1 (PCIe 3.0 x4, PCIe 2.0 x2, SATA 6Gb/s x2)1 (PCIe 3.0 x4, SATA 6Gb/s x1)1 (PCIe 3.0 x4-only)
4-Pin Fan526 (5x PWM/DC dual-mode)
3-Pin FanNone4None
FP-Audio111
S/PDIF I/ONoneNoneOutput Only
Internal ButtonsPower, Reset, OC-Genie, Clock +/-Power, ResetPower, Reset, Mem_OK
Internal SwitchSlow Mode, BIOS SelectorDual BIOS SelectorXMP, EPU (low-energy), TPU (auto-overclocking)
Diagnostics PanelNumericNumericNumeric
Other DevicesNoneSerial COM, TB_Header, HDD-Saver, USB Type-ASerial COM, TB_Header, EXT_FAN
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA10x SATA 6Gb/s
(Includes M.2, SATA-E)
10x SATA 6Gb/s
(Includes M.2, eSATA)
10x SATA 6Gb/s
(Includes M.2, SATA-E)
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 10 (Ports 1-6)0, 1, 5, 10 (Ports 1-6)0, 1, 5, 10 (Ports 1-6)
Add-In SATANoneNoneNone
USB 3.0VL805 PCIe
ASM1042 PCIe
ASM1042e PCIe
ASM1072 Hub
ASM1042e PCIe
ASM1072 Hub
Networking
Primary LANIntel i210 PCIeWGI218V PHYWGI218V PHY
Secondary LANNoneAR8171 PCIeNone
WiFiNoneBCM4352 PCIe
802.11ac dual-band / BT 4.0
BCM4352 PCIe
802.11ac dual-band / BT 4.0
BluetoothNoneBT 4.0 / Wi-Fi ComboBT 4.0 / Wi-Fi Combo
Audio
HD Audio CodecALC1150ALC1150ALC1150
DDL/DTS ConnectNoneDTS ConnectDTS Connect
WarrantyThree YearsThree YearsThree Years

Today we’re comparing MSI’s X99S MPower to its closest rivals. But a look back at the X99S Gaming 7 review reveals that the MPower gains only a slightly larger voltage regulator, a slow-mode switch to assist extreme overclockers at boot, dual BIOS and a couple of buttons for firmware-level overclocking. None of these are particularly lust-worthy, though the aforementioned extreme overclockers might find value in the small upgrades.

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16 comments
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  • dovah-chan
    Have you guys gotten a sample of the X99S SLI Plus? I'm pretty interested in it because of its matte black scheme. Also it's a nicely priced board (for 2011-3 standards) that has guaranteed support for Xeons and ECC RAM.

    Maybe a throw down between it and Asus's X99-E WS for what board takes the workstation crown?
  • Crashman
    Yes, the SLI Plus arrived late for the roundup that included the Gaming 7. Since the Gaming 7 had arrived on time, the substitute model is still sitting in the intake bin :)
  • ElHarry
    PCIe 3.0 switches are not really minor components. They may not be very exciting, but they are a pain in the as to work with.
  • Wizard5678
    I like these motherboards and I have enjoyed your site content. Where else can someone source these items?
  • Wizard5678
    There is another source here: http://pcsdesign.ca/Products/Motherboards
  • Crashman
    324225 said:
    PCIe 3.0 switches are not really minor components. They may not be very exciting, but they are a pain in the as to work with.
    They're inexpensive (the ones that don't have logic) and available on cheap Z97 motherboards, so one would think that implementing them on an X99 board (rather than shutting things off) would be a priority.
  • Ctsephion
    Am I the only one that thinks they're capitalizing on the Metro series' font type?
  • RedJaron
    I've thought that a few times as well.
  • d3stroyah
    mobo reviews are so useless..like ones for ram modules..
  • RedJaron
    1904119 said:
    mobo reviews are so useless..like ones for ram modules..

    Why do you say that?
  • drwhimsy
    it has been suggested in other sources that the M is subject to an extensive burn-in and that it has the pick of components vs. the S, any confirmation?
  • MSIGeno
    Hey MSI Geno here,

    The X/M power series motherboards do go through a more rigorous testing phase and burn-in to ensure OC capabilities as well as stability. I am unsure if they cherry pick the best components for each of the X/M power series boards, but all of them use components that are of high quality to ensure the highest standards
  • KurtM
    I see that MSI has just released the X99A MPower with 2 USB 3.1 ports. In the block diagram in their manual (p.1-7), it shows the ASMedia ASM1142 USB 3.1 chip connected to the X99 PCH by an x1 PCIe connection. Is this correct? If so, then it will not be able to run at full USB 3.1 speed. Your Jan 21st article testing USB 3.1 on the MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK, and the block diagram in their manual for this MB shows a PCIe x2 connection to the ASM1142 chip. Is this just a mistake in their manual for the X99A MPower, or did they take a shortcut that cripples the USB 3.1 implementation?
  • Crashman
    1968154 said:
    I see that MSI has just released the X99A MPower with 2 USB 3.1 ports. In the block diagram in their manual (p.1-7), it shows the ASMedia ASM1142 USB 3.1 chip connected to the X99 PCH by an x1 PCIe connection. Is this correct? If so, then it will not be able to run at full USB 3.1 speed. Your Jan 21st article testing USB 3.1 on the MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK, and the block diagram in their manual for this MB shows a PCIe x2 connection to the ASM1132 chip. Is this just a mistake in their manual for the X99A MPower, or did they take a shortcut that cripples the USB 3.1 implementation?
    In this case I'd differ to the manual and use it to criticize the feature. But you're right, I should have hardware to test USB 3.1 implementation. What hardware would you suggest?
  • KurtM
    You could use the ASMedia ASM1352R development board used in the USB 3.1 Performance test article (Toms Hardware, Jan 21, 2015) -
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3.1-performance-benchmark,4037.html
  • Crashman
    1968154 said:
    You could use the ASMedia ASM1352R development board used in the USB 3.1 Performance test article (Toms Hardware, Jan 21, 2015) - http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3.1-performance-benchmark,4037.html
    I guess I can ask Chis if he still has it :)