Layout and Features
The Big Bang XPower combines a subdued color scheme and functional design to good effect. There's nothing jutting off the board at the wrong angle and socket areas are clean. The southbridge heatsink is considerably larger than what we've seen on other motherboards, but it neither intrudes nor detracts from the overall design.
Next up we've got the CPU socket and RAM slots. MSI has eschewed the use of traditional 'can chip' electrolytic capacitors in favor of what it calls "Hi-c CAPS." Supplementary information we've dug up generally indicates that these types of capacitors offer improved performance at high temperature and reduce electrical noise compared to standard solid capacitors. MSI claims that Hi-c CAPS improve overclocking potential, are more resistant to extremes of heat and cold, last up to 8x longer than 'average' solid state capacitors, and feature a 'unique self-repair mechanism.'
The DIMM slots sit hard against each other and are single-lever designs--gamers or enthusiasts with DIMM heatsinks even slightly larger than normal may find their modules don't fit particularly well.
The images above highlight some of the board's unique hardware features. On the top left, there's MSI's auxilary plug for providing additional power to the PCI-Express video cards, an x1 slot (for the system's sound card), and then two system fan headers, the FireWire header, and MSI's OC Genie tweaking solution all along the bottom. NEC's USB 3.0 controller is also visible just across from the first PCIe x16 slot.
Continuing along the bottom edge, we've a better angle on the touchpad power buttons, the two USB2 headers, and a box of four switches. Each of these controls a different overvoltage setting. Then there's an LED readout, the front panel connectors, another fan header, MSI's V-Check point, and the assorted SATA headers. The pair of white headers attach to the Marvell SATA 6G controller; the others connect to Intel's ICH10R. Note that if you have the 1.0 version of this board, the two Marvell headers are mounted vertically rather than on edge.