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MSI X99S SLI Plus Motherboard Review

Our Verdict

MSI’s X99S SLI Plus is a $260 motherboard with a $197 price tag. If we believe what its competitors tell us, the company must be losing money on each one it sells. X99 platform buyers able to take advantage of temporary discount pricing ($179) and/or the $20 mail-in-rebate will probably feel foolish later if they don’t.

For

  • 3-way SLI support on Intel Core i7-5820K • Price • SATA-Express • SLI functions with a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 SSD •.USB 3.0 ports

Against

  • Mediocre CPU core overclocking • Only one SLI bridge included • Previous-generation audio codec

Introduction

Defining value is difficult when it comes to Intel's X99 platform, in part because the company designed it for professionals and performance enthusiasts. Compared to Intel’s highest-end mainstream processors, Haswell-E offers more cores at lower clock rates. That sounds like a recipe for reduced value in most applications, but there’s a catch. Haswell-E also has a 40-lane PCIe 3.0 controller.

Or does it? Of the available LGA 2011-v3 processors, the Core i7-5820K comes closest to the cost of Intel's Core i7-4790K, the highest-end Haswell part you can buy. The -5820K's frequency is 25% slower and it has 12 of its PCIe 3.0 lanes disabled. Yet, even with its lower clock rate and reduced PCIe lane count, this entry-level Haswell-E chip keeps its high-end label by wielding six potent cores. Oh, and then there’s the native support for three-way SLI.

  • dor_nob
    I think "mainstream" is something difficult to define. There are a lot of variables to consider when selecting a motherboard for a build (a big one being price), and the selection is made based on the needs of the individual who the build is being done for. "Mainstream" for a gamer or video editor will be different than "mainstream" for a casual internet browser. I think there is no single mainstream part(s).
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    "... The -5820K's frequency is 25% slower and it has 12 of its PCIe 3.0 lanes disabled. ..."

    This notion of selling crippled parts is extremely annoying. It would bother me less if the CPU was designed from the ground-up to be a 28-lane part, hence less transistors, less heat & power usage, more oc headroom, etc. But selling something that's deliberately hobbled in this way is a step backwards IMO. It also makes the 4820K a rather peculiar chip, since that does have 40 lanes. There's clearly no reason for the 5820K to be restricted, it's just a lockout, most likely done with dies that have faults in the relevant silicon. Tell ya what, let's market cars with one broken wheel as 3-wheelers, because that's a good idea.

    I'll be benching a 4820K soon with some 980s, anyone care to make predictions on how it'll compare to a 5820K for typical results? (3DMark11/13, etc.)

    IMO the entire 5K lineup is wrong, and it's only the way it is because there's no competition. The 5820K should be a 6-core with full lanes (40, whatever), the 5930K should be 8 core with the same no. of lanes, the 5960X should be 8 or 10 core at a higher clock with a lot more lanes (64, 80, etc.), enough for full 4-way x16 with plenty to spare for M.2, priced accordingly high to make it attractive to those happy to pay oodles for something really groundbreaking, rather than the lame 3GHz lapdog we have atm which IMO is not remotely the woohaa 8-core I was hoping for.

    Remember, the 3930K was an 8-core chip with 2 cores disabled, so we know Intel can easily produce affordable 8-core dies. The XEON line shows there are no technical hurdles to this (the specs of the 2687W v3 and 2697 v3 suggest the 5960X could easily have been made to run at 3.6+ base clock, they use the same lithography). Instead, it's now 2 generations past when we could have had a mid-range consumer 8-core, but we don't because Intel still doesn't need to make one.

    I hope AMD can get back into the game if for no other reason than to force Intel to stop messing around and finally push the tech forward in the manner we all know it's perfectly capable of doing. Enough with the tech crippling already!

    Ian.

    PS. Likewise, I'm tired of the mainstream chipset still only havng 16 lanes (ie. Z97 atm), resulting in all sorts of faffing around with SLI/CF tradeoffs vs. M.2/etc. usage. It's the mainstream chipset which needs to be more like 28 lanes by now, not the bottom of the high end.



    Reply
  • vertexx
    Crash - for 2-way SLI, can you use slots 1 and 3 if you want the spacing for better cooling? Would that be running x8/x8? I think the documentation recommends using slots 1 and 2 for dual, which has held me back from buying this board.
    Reply
  • tical2399
    Crash - for 2-way SLI, can you use slots 1 and 3 if you want the spacing for better cooling? Would that be running x8/x8? I think the documentation recommends using slots 1 and 2 for dual, which has held me back from buying this board.

    Yea cause pcie 3.0 8x is really going to hurt you performance. Sarcasm aside. There is not a card in existence that going to be bottlenecked by pcie 3.0 8x. Titan x included.
    Reply
  • danlw
    Even with the tight spacing in the bottom two slots, I suppose you could run 4 cards if they had water blocks on them.
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  • medu5a
    The benchmark charts for 3D gaming show a 4970K CPU, I think that's a typo.
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  • Crashman
    15818288 said:
    The benchmark charts for 3D gaming show a 4970K CPU, I think that's a typo.
    Yes, I'm trying to find these wherever I can and fix them before they get published. One chart gets copied to the same test on another spreadsheet but doesn't always get the hardware updated in the title.
    Reply
  • RedJaron
    MSI has really been impressing me lately. This is a preeminent example of sensible feature tradeoffs for great performance / price.
    Reply
  • baazing
    Crash - for 2-way SLI, can you use slots 1 and 3 if you want the spacing for better cooling? Would that be running x8/x8? I think the documentation recommends using slots 1 and 2 for dual, which has held me back from buying this board.
    I can verify that this will work. I have this mobo with a 5820k and 2 780 ti's with nzxt kraken g10 mounted coolers which forced me to place the second card in the 3rd pcie x16 slot, as they're 3 slot coolers. I verified that both cards get pcie 3.0 x8 bandwidth through the utility in gpuz.
    Reply
  • ykki
    This board's pricing (w.r.t. its features) really confused the heck out of me. How much of a profit is MSI making with these boards?
    Reply