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MSI X99A Godlike Gaming ATX Motherboard Review

MSI's latest X99 motherboard invokes divinity. Does it deserve our worship, or is it a false idol?

Benchmarks, Evaluation And Final Analysis

Test Bench Hardware

Test System Configuration
Hard DriveSamsung 470 Series MZ-5PA256, 256 GB SSD
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerAntec HCP-1200: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 14.4
ChipsetIntel INF 9.4.2.1019

Benchmark Suite

Benchmark Settings
3D Games
Battlefield 4Version 1.0.0.1, DirectX 11, 100-sec. Fraps "Tashgar" Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4X AF, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset,  4X MSAA, 16X AF, HBAO
Grid 2Version 1.0.85.8679, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA
Arma 3Version 1.08.113494, 30-Sec. Fraps "Infantry Showcase" Test Set 1: Standard Preset, No AA, Standard AF Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA, Ultra AF
Far Cry 3V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CCVersion 12.0.0.404: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CCVersion 14.0 x64: Filter 15.7MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CCVersion 7.0.0 (342), 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 kb/s)
Handbrake CLIVersion: 0.99: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48000 Hz, 2-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCodeStudio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat 11Version 11.0.0.379: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.68A, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 18.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 5.0: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.30 alpha (64-bit): THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.5.0, Benchmark Only
3DMark ProfessionalVersion: 1.2.250.0 (64-bit), Fire Strike Benchmark
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test
SiSoftware SandraVersion 2014.02.20.10, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia / Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks

Comparison Motherboards

Each board is set to stock clocks, Speed Step and energy saving features are enabled and the CPU fan is set to maximum. I use Windows default "Performance" power option preset for everything except idle power consumption where it gets set to "Balanced."

We're looking for oddities in the bench scores. Boring benchmarks are good benchmarks for motherboards. Dramatic score leads are due to motherboards cheating with hidden clock boosts while a board lagging behind is usually a configuration conflict.

Synthetic Benchmarks

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The Godlike demonstrates consistency with our past X99 boards, showing no hidden tweaks or overclocks are happening behind the scenes in our Futuremark suite.

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A slight lead in Sandra's multimedia section might seem something's off. The lead is rather small and isn't shown other places that it's insignificant. MSI's boards have shown a penchant for good RAM performance in the past and the Godlike doesn't disappoint, blowing past the ASRock boards and almost upending Asus' model.

Gaming Benchmarks

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Arma 3 and Far Cry 3 are the only places we see outliers. The Far Cry discrepancy actually was on a previous board, and we see the Godlike matching the other two competitors. The Godlike has a slight lead in Arma 3, but so did the Rampage, so this isn't indicative of anything on its own. By and large we see nice conformity.

Application And Productivity Benchmarks

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The real-world benches are all in-line with each other. Nothing to see here, folks, let's move along.

Power And Temperature

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With the abundance of features and LED lighting, the Godlike is not the low-power poster child. Even when turned off, it consumes 4W of power. Under a full Prime 95 CPU load it takes nearly 200W at the wall. That number goes up to over 400W when fully overclocked. That's about the same power as both of my last SBM builds combined. That extra power means some extra heat at the CPU and VRM. It's hardly excessive, and power efficiency is usually the last concern for the typical market for a board like this. Temperatures are a little higher than other boards, but definitely nothing to worry about.

Overall Performance And Efficiency

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As we saw in the last section, we know the Godlike draws a lot more power than its competitors so it's not a shock to see it so far behind in efficiency. But if we're honest, we admit that power consumption is one of the last concerns for someone looking for a premium X99 board.

Overclocking Performance

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The Godlike shows a slight lead in CPU overclocking and a tie in most other aspects. In mainstream boards, that's not terribly impressive. However in the premium space, it's quite common to spend additional money for even the slightest advantage. Combined with its impressive RAM bandwidth, the Godlike comes out near the top of the pile, if not king of the hill.

Performance Value

Talking value on top-shelf products is practically meaningless. You pay a steep premium to stay at the high-end of the technological ladder. Premium motherboards also typically throw in a number of features that can't properly be measured by benchmarks. Yes, the Godlike costs considerably more than the ASRock competitors listed here. It also has multiple USB 3.1 (Gen2 even) on the board itself, RGB lighting and AC wireless. The Asus Rampage doesn't have the second gigabit network port or the RGB lighting. It's understandable to pay a little extra for a board that has all of this in one.

Final Word

Is the X99A Godlike Gaming worthy of our devotion? Yes, I think it is. It's not the greatest at everything, but it does nearly everything very well. The one dark spot is the M.2 support with three or four GPUs on a 40-lane CPU. One could argue the only reason for a 40-lane CPU on a consumer board is for four-way GPUs. While the Godlike handles the graphics cards perfectly, the M.2 becomes the victim. I reiterate this is unfortunate because the builder who's willing to spend money on multiple GPUs is also the builder with the money for a PCIe-based M.2 drive to go with it. On the bright side, the Godlike does support Thomas' desire x8/x8/x8 GPUs with a x4 M.2 drive on a 28-lane CPU. I suppose on one hand I can understand MSI favoring GPU connectivity over storage after Thomas has lamented the number of boards that do the reverse. But if any manufacturer were taking requests, I'd say an X99 board supporting x8/x8/x8/x8 and two 3.0 x4 M.2 slots would be very tough to beat from a feature standpoint.

Does this M.2 quibble disqualify the Godlike from an award? Certainly not. It easily deserves an Approved as it has exceeded my expectations. I hesitate to bestow it our Recommended label as I can't say a board at this price is truly a "value" purchase. However, seeing as the Godlike does everything the MSI X99S SLI Plus does, only better, I certainly think the Tom's Hardware Choice award is in order.

In the end I quote Ferris Bueller. "It's so choice. If you have the means at all, I highly recommend picking one up."

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Eric Vander Linden is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews motherboards, specializing in high-end Intel chipsets.
  • Achaios
    "Godlike Gaming" You don't even need to read anything further to come to the conclusion that they are BS'ing you.
    Reply
  • There is one major problem with this motherboard which renders entire package f. useless and that is Killer E2400 which simply sucks.
    Reply
  • elbert
    The latest bios version supports Broadwell-EP and seeing some on newegg. I wonder if MSI godlike would allow blk OC? I know Asrock did this for Skylake kin Xeons few months back so any chance of some tweaking? I see the Intel Xeon E5-2620 V4 8 core for $433 which could make this high priced board much more appealing.
    Reply
  • 3ogdy
    Godlike.... What's next? Bible-Z-Power? CondomStrength-X? P-Dow-Pope?
    MSI G-Zus' E-ster (-E-leezation)? The Sacredblood competing with Sabertooh?
    Put a Devil's Canyon on a Pope's PowerLight 2016? Let's hope they won't have children.
    MSI 6-5P0T? The FL35HL16HT 4 (in collaboration with) YO'MOMMA stick?

    Introducing the new gaming seat from MSI: The Rectum Z! The ultimate X-perience!

    FFS...

    Seriously now,
    What if I happen to have boot problems or lag while gaming on that motherboard? Does that mean GOD doesn't LIKE me?
    What does it mean if there's a better board around? That God is gaming on bullshit hardware? I bet God can game better, right?

    And isn't it strange that it's nothing but a GodLike motherboard that's using the 2 most typical colors from hell - red and black? Wasn't heaven supposed to be white and all that?
    Reply
  • RedJaron
    18018456 said:
    "Godlike Gaming" You don't even need to read anything further to come to the conclusion that they are BS'ing you.
    It's bold, probably overzealous marketing. But no worse than Republic of Gamers, K|NGP|N, or many other brandings. But names and branding don't return performance results like this. If MSI is BS'ing me with this, I could use some more BS.


    18018531 said:
    There is one major problem with this motherboard which renders entire package f. useless and that is Killer E2400 which simply sucks.
    I've seen problems with the 2200, especially on Linux, but not so much for the 2400. I didn't have a single problem with it in my testing.


    18018562 said:
    The latest bios version supports Broadwell-EP and seeing some on newegg. I wonder if MSI godlike would allow blk OC? I know Asrock did this for Skylake kin Xeons few months back so any chance of some tweaking? I see the Intel Xeon E5-2620 V4 8 core for $433 which could make this high priced board much more appealing.
    You're talking completely different platforms. Broadwell is simply a die shrink of Haswell. Skylake is only on the LGA1151 socket right now. We haven't seen the Skylake successor to LGA2011-3 yet.

    If you dropped an E5v4 Xeon in here, yes, you could OC it using BCLK just like you could with all other Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, or Haswell Xeons. However, Broadwell doesn't change the BCLK like Skylake does, so you'd likely only be able to get a 5% OC.
    Reply
  • Onus
    At $540 on Newegg, this board costs almost as much as a whole PC that would be a modest but competent gamer. I don't see one on my short list.
    Reply
  • RedJaron
    18019057 said:
    At $540 on Newegg, this board costs almost as much as a whole PC that would be a modest but competent gamer. I don't see one on my short list.
    I made the exact same observation. Now I find myself making excuses at how my next computer needs to be X99. It's kind of like an SSD. Once you try one, it's hard to go back.

    . . . I think I need help, maybe an intervention. ;)
    Reply
  • elbert
    You're talking completely different platforms. Broadwell is simply a die shrink of Haswell. Skylake is only on the LGA1151 socket right now. We haven't seen the Skylake successor to LGA2011-3 yet.

    If you dropped an E5v4 Xeon in here, yes, you could OC it using BCLK just like you could with all other Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, or Haswell Xeons. However, Broadwell doesn't change the BCLK like Skylake does, so you'd likely only be able to get a 5% OC.
    True but they both use microcode to control their defaults. I understand Intel fix their microcode to close the exploit in future Xeon V5. Due to defaults and thus micro code in the broadwell-LP has changed could their be exploits for board makers?

    I also hear a broadwell-ep 5.1Ghz E5-2602 V4 may be coming.
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    18018456 said:
    "Godlike Gaming" You don't even need to read anything further to come to the conclusion that they are BS'ing you.

    Exactly - you didn't read anything. If you read the review, it's a very high quality board.
    Reply
  • joex444
    That PCIe breakdown is awful. The switching of the M.2 slot to PCIe 2.0 x2 from 3.0 x4 would be unacceptable; buying the NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs today is a premium purchase and anyone interested in that simply requires that it runs at 3.0 x4 - not 2.0 x2 (a mere quarter of the bandwidth). The fact with a 40-lane CPU you can only get 3.0 x4 M.2 working with 1 or 2 PCie cards is absurd even for a $200 board. The fact that a RAID controller operating with an x8 configuration counts as well means that you can have an M.2 NVMe 3.0 x4 SSD, an x8 RAID controller, and be unable to run SLI graphics. Unless you buy the cheaper 28 lane CPU - then you can have SLI, RAID, and NVMe 3.0 x4.

    The engineers who came up with this one probably were trying to get people who were considering the 5930K + $250 X99 board to consider the 5820K + $500 board - net cost is about the same, but clearly MSI would benefit more from the second purchase than the first.
    Reply