Haswell-E Debuts: Intel Core i7-5960X Processor Review
MSI and EVGA X99 Motherboards
Next up we have a board from MSI the X99S Gaming 7. Like the other X99-based motherboards we’ll be featuring here, all of the chipset’s features are available on the MSI X99S Gaming 7, but MSI puts their own spin on things as well. The MSI X99S Gaming 7 features a mouse-friendly BIOS / UEFI that’s quick and easy to navigate and offers an extensive array of overclocking and performance-related options. The board features super ferrite chokes, highly conductive polymer capacitors and / or solid capacitors throughout, which should offer increased stability and longevity, as well as lower total power consumption over cheaper products. The X99S Gaming 7 also has an all-digital PWM for more efficient power delivery.
The MSI X99S Gaming 7 supports “1 second overclocking” thanks to its OC Genie feature and button, but the UEFI sports all of the overclocker-friendly features we’ve come to expect from MSI for manual tweaking as well. The fan controls in particular are far more robust than previous-generation boards. MSI also includes their own software which gives users the ability the monitor and control system parameters from within Windows, with no need to reboot when making changes.
Other features of the X99S Gaming 7 include high-power USB3.0 ports for quick-charging and stable USB audio over long USB cables (MSI calls the feature USB Audio Power), double-ESD protection, CrossFire / SLI support, and it includes a 6-month premium subscription to XSplit GameCaster.
In addition to the aforementioned items, we should point out that the X99S Gaming 7 sports Sound Blaster Cinema audio with something MSI calls Audio Boost 2 technology. Audio Boost incorporates gold-plated audio jacks, EMI shielding, and high-quality audio filtering caps designs to enhance the quality of the audio output on the board. The X99S Gaming 7 is also outfitted with a Killer E2200 PCIe network controller from Qualcomm, for the lowest possible network latency.
We found the layout of the X99S Gaming 7 to be quite good and also really like the dark red and black features on the board, including the aggressive “dragon’s claw” heatsinks. Your tastes may vary, but we think this is one heck of a good looking motherboard.
EVGA also came through with a slick micro-ATX X99-based offering, the X99 Micro. This all-black beauty is the only micro-ATX board we received, but don’t let its diminutive size fool you—this board's got the goods. The EVGA X99 Micro is also outfitted with an 8-layer PCB that aids in PCB cooling, heavy-duty heatsinks on the chipset and CPU voltage regulation circuitry, and an array of other features targeted at enthusiasts and overclockers.
In addition to all of the features native to the Intel X99 chipset, the X99 Micro also offers a number of other goodies, like an on-board POST code error reporter and CPU temperature monitor, easy-access voltage check points, and an M.2 socket for fast solid state storage.
To keep a Haswell-E CPU fed, the X99 Micro is also packing a 6-phase PWM and a socket with higher gold content than standard sockets. The beefier PWM and higher gold content in the socket all add up to more—and cleaner—power being fed to the board and processor, which will aid stability and overclocking.
EVGA has also taken a couple of additional steps to dress the board up and facilitate overclocking. The X99 Micro sports a number of right-angled ports and connectors and it’s compatible with EVGA’s E-LEET Tuning utility, which gives users the ability to tweak settings from within Windows. Of course, the X99 Micro is also packing a feature-rich BIOS / UEFI in which all of its performance and overclocking-related options can be altered as well.
The EVGA X99 Micro comes with a couple of manuals, a driver and utility disk, some extension cables for the voltage checkpoints, four SATA cables, an IO shield, a two-way SLI bridge, and a metal cover for the backside of the IO brackets, to spruce up the inside of your system.