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MSI Z87 MPower MAX Motherboard Review

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Closer Look: Z87 MPOWER MAX

This is a full sized ATX motherboard, so you get the expected complement of slots (seven), DIMM sockets (four), and more SATA ports (eight) and USB ports (six USB 2.0 and ten USB 3.0) that you’ll likely ever need.

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The MPOWER MAX comes with more accessories than I’ve ever seen included with a motherboard: two software and driver DVDs, six latching SATA cables, back panel eSATA and USB 3.0 adapters, a WiFi/Bluetooth module with two magnetic-base antennas, a nice metal case badge…

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But that’s not all: you also get two manuals, a Certificate of Quality and Stability, a signed and dated 24-hour overclocking burn-in sheet with individual test scores, a very handy overclocking guide, wire leads for the onboard voltage monitoring points, a clever door hanger, and of course an I/O shield.

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Probably the first thing most people will notice about the board is the enormous black and yellow aluminum heat sink over and around the processor power circuitry. My first though was that this would preclude the use of many large air coolers, but my Thermaltake Silver Arrow, certainly one of the largest CPU coolers available, fits just fine.

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The Z87 chipset drops support for legacy PCI slots, so the MPOWER MAX is PCI-E all the way. An interesting feature is the mSATA socket at the lower middle of this image. If you install an mSATA SSD in this slot, you’ll lose the use of SATA port #5.

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At the front of the board we have two USB 3.0 headers (with, oddly, different orientations), the ATX power connector, and the voltage test point block.

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Working from the left, the I/O panel has a PS/2 mouse/keyboard connector, two USB 2.0 ports, a Clear CMOS button, the antenna connectors for the WiFi/Bluetooth card, four USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, an optical audio connector, two HDMI ports and one DisplayPort, two more USB 3.0 ports, and the analog audio panel, which uses gold-plated connectors. Four of the USB 3.0 ports are courtesy of the Z87 chipset, while two more are provided by a Renesas D720202 USB 3.0 controller. You might wonder how MSI provides 6 rear USB 3.0 ports and four front-panel USB 3.0 ports with chips that only support six ports total…the answer is the use of an ASMedia ASM1074 USB 3.0 hub, a trick I’m starting to see used in other boards as well.

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There’s more to go in the next section.


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