MSI Z87 MPower MAX Motherboard Review


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Z87 MPOWER MAX Proprietary Features

This board is designed for the user who likes to get down and dirty with their hardware, so it’s full of fun extra features. To begin, check out this button array. The Power and Reset buttons aren’t unusual, but the “+” and “-” buttons allow you to adjust the base clock frequency in 0.1MHz increments while the system is running are (0.1MHz might not seem like much, but remember that the base clock value is multiplied by the multiplier, so at the stock frequency, each 0.1MHz base clock increase means a 3.5MHz increase in operating frequency). A side note: the “+” and “-” buttons are non-functional unless you install the “Direct OC” software from the driver disk.

To the left of the power button is the OC Genie button. Pressing this button so that it latches down (while the system is OFF, please!) applies a modest but guaranteed to work overclock to the CPU and iGPU. But see that tiny switch with the blue LED just to the left of the OC Genie button? What’s that about?


That switch controls the degree of OC Genie overclocking, the first feature of this type I’ve seen. When the switch is down as in the image above, the LED is blue and the overclock (applied to a 4770K) is a boost multiplier of 40 and a CPU core voltage tweak to 1.1v. When the switch is up, an angry red LED illuminates and a higher multiplier of 42 (i.e. 4.2GHz) is applied at a voltage of 1.2v. MSI calls these two settings “Gear 1” and “Gear 2” in some places, and “Gamer” and “Turbo” in others. Note that you can also program the OC Genie button to apply your own overclocking settings as defined in the BIOS.


There are two BIOS chips to the left of the POST code display. The switch below them selects which one is used, and the choice is confirmed with a blue LED next to the active chip. The blue LED at the lower left of the POST code display is a hard drive activity LED, and the button below the POST code display forces the system into the BIOS at boot time. You might wonder why this is necessary: it’s because there’s a “Fast boot” option in the BIOS that speeds POST times but makes the keyboard unavailable, so you can’t drop into the BIOS by pressing the DEL key as you would normally. This button is for when you want to get to the BIOS after enabling “Fast boot”.


If you remove the two tiny screws that secure the backlit “Audio Boost” plate, you’ll find a Realtek ALC1150 sound chip. Backed by a Texas Instruments OP1652 audio amplifier, the 8-channel chip is one reason discrete audio cards just aren’t that popular any more. The metal “Audio Boost” plate isn’t just for show, according to MSI: combined with the metal base, it acts as an RFI shield for that part of the audio circuitry.


There are two 8-pin EPS power connectors, for those of you who like to crank LN2 cooling and really high power draws.


If you’re one of those people who don’t trust the voltage readings in the BIOS (you know who you are), the MPOWER MAX provides a set of voltage test points at the front edge of the board. MSI provides wire leads for these points so you don’t have to jam your multimeter probes in there. The points are even labeled, a nice touch. There are additional labeled voltage test points to the left of the CPU socket, although they’re just tiny solder pads.


MSI’s plug-in wireless card provides WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, 3.0+HS, and 2.1+EDR. Although the antenna connectors aren’t labeled, it’s obvious that the bottom connector is for Bluetooth.


At the bottom edge of the board are two system fan connectors, and like many high-end boards, each fan connector is a 4-pin PWM connector to allow speed control for PWM fans. On a board at this level I’d really prefer to see more fan connectors, and preferably two CPU fan connectors. Next are two USB 2.0 connectors (four ports total; the red connector provides high-current SuperCharger charging for tablets and similar devices), the previously-discussed POST code display and BIOS switch, and a mysterious unlabeled connector to the left of the BIOS switch whose function MSI does not document.


Let’s check out the UEFI BIOS in the next section.


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