Review: MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC Motherboard

MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC Featured Main

The MSI Z87 Gaming 9 AC motherboard is one of MSI’s top boards for the Z97 chipset from Intel. The gaming series boards offer some great features like Killer LAN, Xtreme Audio DAC, and built in WiFi AC and Bluetooth. The new board as we already mentioned is using Intels’s latest Z97 chipset, so we will share some details on what that has to offer over the Z87 chipset from last year. We have a lot of features and benchmarks to get through, so let start of by taking a closer look at the written specs of the motherboard.

Features

MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC board Features

  • Supports 4th and 5th Gen Intel® Core™ / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1150 socket
  • Supports DDR3-3300(OC) Memory
  • M.2 + USB 3.0 + SATA 6Gb/s
  • Xtreme Audio DAC: Experience the Purest Sound Quality
  • Audio Boost 2: Reward Your Ears with True Quality
  • Killer Ethernet: Kill Your Lag
  • USB Audio Power: Surve Stable 5V Power & Better Signal Transmission over USB
  • XSplit Gamecaster: Show off Your Skills and Achievements
  • Guard-Pro: Improved Protection and Power Efficiency
  • Gaming App: Boost Your Frame Rate
  • OC Genie 4: Overclock in 1 Second
  • Click BIOS 4: Easily Fine-tune Your System
  • Multi-GPU: NVIDIA SLI & AMD CrossFire Support
  • Sound Blaster Cinema 2: Realistic Surround Sound Experience
  • Gaming Device Port: Optimized with Triple Gold-plating for High Polling Rate Gaming Devices
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, Intel® Wireless Display

Being a gaming motherboard, we can straight off the bat see the features aimed of those looking to build a high-end gaming PC. The Killer LAN and Wireless AC are of course important in keeping your connection stable, and while most will of course stick with a LAN for their gaming needs, the WiFi is still handy for those that need it or or even at LAN parties or friends house.

We have been seeing motherboard manufacturers stepping up their game when it comes to the included audio and MSI haven’t skimped on that part and include an Extreme Audio DAC with 8 channel HD  support and Audio Boost 2 with Creative SB Cinema 2. We know some will still wish to go the dedicated route with a separate sound card, but its definitely nice to see some decent audio support included, which can go a long way in terms of overall gaming quality. They also included USB Audio power for stable 5V and enhanced audio quality for those using USB headphones.

We have included the full specs below, but now let’s move onto the board itself and talk about any other features it may have.

Full Specifications

CPU 
• Supports 4th and 5th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors, and Intel® Pentium® and
Celeron® Processors for Socket LGA1150

Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.

Chipset
• Intel® Z97 Express Chipset

Main Memory
• Support four DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000*/3100*
/3200*/3300*(*OC) MHz DRAM, 32GB Max

– Dual channel memory architecture
– Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
– Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory

Slots
• 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, (support x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4 modes)
• 3 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots

On-Board SATA

• Intel Z97 Express Chipset
– 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1~6)
– 1x M.2 port*
– M.2 port supports M.2 SATA 6Gb/s module
– M.2 port supports M.2 PCIe module up to 10Gb/s speed**
– M.2 port supports 4.2cm/ 6cm/ 8cm length module
– Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10***
– Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology and
Intel® Smart Connect Technology****

• ASMedia ASM1061 Chipset
– 2 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA7~8)

* The SATA5 and SATA6 ports will be unavailable when installing a module in the M.2 port.
** M.2 PCIe interface only supports UEFI option ROM, NOT support legacy option ROM.
*** M.2 PCIe interface does not support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.
**** Supports Intel Core processors on Windows 7 and Windows 8/ 8.1

USB
• Intel Z97 Express Chipset
– 4x USB 3.0 ports available through the internal USB connectors
– 6 x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors*)

• ASMedia ASM1074 Chipset
– 6 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel 

• ASMedia ASM1042 chipset
– 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
* Internal JUSB1 connector supports MSI Super Charger.

Audio
• Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
– Supports S/PDIF output

• CMedia CM6631A (for JAUD1)
– USB 2.0 High speed audio

 LAN 
• 1x Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN controller*
* The Killer Network Manager is only available for Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 currently.
The supported drivers for other operating systems would be available on the website if
provided by vendor.

 Wireless LAN • Wi-Fi/Bluetooth expansion module with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 chip.
– Supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual band (2.4GHz, 5GHz) up to 867 Mbps speed.
– Supports Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)
Bluetooth 
• Wi-Fi/Bluetooth expansion module with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 chip.
Supports Bluetooth v4.0 (includes BLE* and Bluetooth 3.0+HS)
* BLE: Bluetooth Low Energy

 Multi-GPU
• Supports 3-Way AMD CrossFire™ Technology*
• Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
* Supports Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.

 Internal I/O Connectors
– 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 1 x M.2 port
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
– 2 x USB 3.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.0 ports)
– 2 x 4-pin CPU fan connectors
– 3 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x TPM module connector
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 1 x Direct audio power connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 9 x V-Check connectors
– 1 x Power button
– 1 x Reset button
– 1 x OC Genie button
– 1 x Multi-BIOS switch
– 1 x Audio power switch
– 1 x Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module connector
– 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED

 Back Panel I/O Ports
– 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 2 x USB 2.0 ports
– 8 x USB 3.0 ports
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
– 6 x OFC audio jacks
– 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096X2304@24Hz/ 2560X1600@60Hz/ 3840X2160@60Hz/1920X1200@60Hz
– 1 x DisplayPort, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096X2304@24Hz/ 2560X1600@60Hz/ 3840X2160@60Hz/1920X1200@60Hz

This plarform supports dual-display function

HDMI+DisplayPort
Extend mode
(Extend the desktop to the second
and third monitor)
Clone mode
(Monitors have the same screen)

BIOS

• The motherboard BIOS provides “Plug & Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices
and expansion cards of the board automatically.
• The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records
your motherboard specifications.

Dimension

• 12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm) ATX Form Factor

Mounting

• 9 mounting holes.

Support for the 4th generation Intel® Core™ processors Supports the 4th generation Intel® Core™ processors with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.02Intel® Pentium® processors, and Intel® Celeron® processors.
Overclocking The Intel® Z87 Chipset also enables overclocking features of unlocked 4th generation Intel® Core™ processors.
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology (Intel® RST)3 With additional hard drives added, provides quicker access to digital photo, video, and data files, and greater data protection against a hard disk drive failure with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10. Support for external SATA (eSATA) enables the full SATA interface speed outside the chassis, up to 3 Gb/s.
Intel® Rapid Recover Technology (Intel® RRT) Intel’s latest data protection technology provides a recovery point that can be used to quickly recover a system should a hard drive fail or if there is data corruption. The clone can also be mounted as a read-only volume to allow a user to recover individual files.
Intel® High Definition Audio (Intel® HD Audio)4 Integrated audio support enables premium digital surround sound and delivers advanced features such as multiple audio streams and jack re-tasking.
Intel® Smart Response Technology5 Implements storage I/O caching for faster response times of application startup and quicker access to user data.
Intel® Smart Connect Technology6 Provides faster application refresh by allowing applications to be updated in a low power state.
Intel® Rapid Start Technology[d:1262] Allows quick system resume from the hibernate state.
Universal Serial Bus 3.0 Integrated USB 3.0 support, provides greater enhancement in performance with a design data rate of up to 5 Gb/s with up to six USB 3.0 ports.7
Universal Serial Bus 2.0 Hi-speed USB 2.0 support with a design data rate of up to 480 Mb/s with up to 14 USB 2.0 ports.
Serial ATA (SATA) 6 Gb/s Next generation high-speed storage interface supporting up to 6 Gb/s transfer rates for optimal data access with up to six SATA ports.8
Serial ATA (SATA) 3 Gb/s High-speed storage interface supporting up to six SATA ports.
eSATA SATA interface designed for use with external SATA devices. Provides a link for 3 Gb/s data speeds to eliminate bottlenecks found with current external storage solutions.
SATA port disable Enables individual SATA ports to be enabled or disabled as needed. This feature provides added protection of data by preventing malicious removal or insertion of data through SATA ports. Especially targeted for eSATA ports.
PCI Express* 2.0 interface Offers up to 5 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking with up to eight PCI Express 2.0 x1 ports9, configurable as x2, x4, and x8 depending on motherboard designs.
4th generation Intel® Core™ processor PCI Express 3.0 Interface Intel® Z87-based platforms enable the processor PCI Express 3.0 port to be configurable as a 1×16, 2×8, or 1×8 and 2×4 which enables support for Thunderbolt™ technology depending on desktop motherboard designs.
USB port disable Enables individual USB ports to be enabled or disabled as needed. This feature provides added protection of data by preventing malicious removal or insertion of data through USB ports.
Intel® Integrated 10/100/1000 MAC Support for the Intel® Ethernet Connection I217-V.
Green technology Manufactured with lead-free and halogen-free component packages.

1. Introduction

Craig O'Sullivan
Craig O'Sullivan

Creator of Geektech.ie Passionate about Technology and always looking for that next cool gadget or app

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