|MSI Z77 MPOWER LGA1155 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Tuesday, 02 October 2012|
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Closer Look: Z77 MPOWER
The box informs us that this motherboard is part of MSI's "Big Bang" series, and that it is "OC Certified" and will "Change the game of overclocking."
The accessories package comprises the standard multi-language manual, a separate software manual, SATA cables, an SLI bridge, voltage probe wires, quick installation guide, a quality certificate, I/O port shield, external antenna for the built-in WiFi, and a huge fold-out Overclocking Guide. The Overclocking Guide is a nice touch and caters to both beginning and experienced overclockers.
The layout of the motherboard is standard for a Z77 platform. There are three PCI-E x16 slots (the third of which is covered by a sticker informing you that you'll need an Ivy Bridge processor to make full use of it). Since PCI-E is now part of the CPU, you'll get PCI-E 3.0 performance on the x16 slots if you're running an Ivy Bridge CPU, and PCI-E 2.0 performance under Sandy Bridge CPUs. Lanes are allocated among the three slots based on the number of cards you have in them. The possible configurations are:
Although MSI doesn't promote this board as being capable of three-way SLI/CrossFireX, it would probably work well with PCI-E 3.0 video cards and an Ivy Bridge CPU, since the doubled speed of the PCI-E lanes would make the x8/x4/x4 configuration equivalent to x16/x8/x8 in PCI-E 2.0 terms.
The PCI-E x1 slots are handled by the Z77 chipset and will always be PCI-E 2.0.
The rear I/O panel has a combo PS/2 port for gamers for whom USB keyboards with their limited 6 key rollover simply won't do. Under that are two USB 2.0 ports. Proceeding to the right we see the Clear CMOS button (very handy for the overclocking crowd this board is aimed at), the Bluetooth antenna, the plug for the WiFi antenna, and the Ethernet port; under these are six USB 3.0 ports. Next are the optical audio port, HDMI, and DisplayPort connectors, and last is a standard analog audio panel.
At the edge of the board we see the front panel audio connector, two four-pin PWM system fan connectors (all fan connectors on the board are four-pin PWM type), a Trusted Platform Module connector, and a "JLED3" connector for a "Voice Genie" accessory we don't get in this country...
The JFP2 and JFP1 split front panel connector MSI seems to be standardizing on is next, followed by an enhanced USB 2.0 port (with red background inside the connector) that can supply 1.5 amps for charging high-current USB devices like tablet computers. Last are two standard USB 2.0 connectors. See that little black button at the top center of the image? It's the "GO2BIOS" button. Pressing this button once will force the motherboard to drop into the BIOS the next time you boot, regardless of the current state of the system. You can be in Windows or the system can be turned off; the button will still work.
For extra chips we have an ALC898 handling the audio duties, a NEC/Renesas D720201 chip providing four extra USB 3.0 ports on the back panel, a Fintek F71889AD chip for system voltage and temperature monitoring, a P13PCIE multiplexer/switch chip to reallocate PCI-E lanes, and a Parade PS8101 to support the HDMI output. You may notice I didn't specify what the ICS 2646182 chip is for...because I couldn't find anything on this device.
OK, so far everything we see is pretty standard. But what makes this board special?