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Three Z97 Express Motherboards, $220 To $280, Reviewed

MSI Z97 MPower Max AC Software And Firmware

Z97 MPower Max AC Software

Previously found working in our August round-up, the version of MSI’s Command Center included in the Z97 MPower Max AC couldn’t adjust CPU ratio or BCLK out of the box. It prompted me to download version 1.0.0.78, but the link wouldn't work for the several attempts my new tester took to get it running. The great news is the fresh perspective: While I might have spent time finding a solution, he did what a normal enthusiast would do; he gave up on software overclocking and went to firmware.

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The program's most useful basic menu function is its RAMDisk utility. Voltage settings worked, though they’d be more practical if our tester was able to adjust clocks from the same interface. Fortunately, the board is supported by Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, which MSI also includes.

Command Center includes an advanced voltage menu for nearly everything that a tuner might otherwise select from the UEFI. DRAM timings have been available through Command Center for as long as we can remember. But when they do work, they require a reboot.

Several “Information” menus show system status, including detected voltage levels and memory timings. Remote control for MSI Command Center still works from Android and iOS apps, as described previously.

Z97 MPower Max AC Firmware

Small changes between generations make MSI’s UEFI more consistent, even if the fonts and buttons for various items look disproportionate to each other. Handy XPM and O/C Genie activation buttons are found on the upper-left corner, but serious overclockers will want to dive into the OC menu.

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The Z97 MPower Max AC pushed our Core i7-4790K to 4.5GHz at 1.28V, reaching that target voltage while under load at the motherboard’s 1.245V setting. The motherboard’s DRAM voltage was similarly over-spec, reaching our desired 1.65V at its 1.620V setting, while pushing our DDR3-2800 to a stable 2829MT/s data rate.

Primary, secondary and tertiary timings are individually adjustable from the Z97 MPower Max AC’s “Advanced DRAM Configuration” submenu. If you know how to train your DRAM, you’ll like that MSI includes a DRAM Training menu on most of its performance boards. And, since we’ve never seen anyone gain anything from using this menu, we’d like to start a discussion with you training experts in the response thread at the bottom of this page.

MSI’s DitalALL Power menu allows users to set custom droop voltage (voltage sag under load) offset, loosen up power restrictions or even disable certain protection mechanisms. That’s so you can fry your processor, or at least use settings that would have fried warm components…to overcome overclocking limits in an extreme-cooling configuration.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.