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September 14, 2016

MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium Motherboard Review


When it comes to choice of motherboards for competitive overclocking, the MPower/XPower from MSI are one of the popular ones for overclockers around the world and has been used by renowned overclockers i.e Benchbros, Wizerty, Vivi and Zzolio for competitive overclocking. 

MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium is one of MSI's latest XPower motherboard that comes with a new titanium-silvery accent which made its debut during Computex 2016, and we have it here at Tech Critter's lab. Special thanks to MSI Malaysia for making this review possible! Let's move on with the article and see what the MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium is capable of.

(The MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium retails at $429.99, which is approximately RM1781) 

Specifications



Unboxing


The MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium ships in a silvery reflective box that easily distinguishes itself as a premium product on the shelf. Brief features and specifications of the motherboard can be found at the back of the box, and opening the front lid will show more of its highlighted features as well as a shield-shaped display window that allows you to see a part of the motherboard.


The X99A XPower Gaming Titanium comes with a handful of accessories, i.e Software and Drivers CD, User's Guide, label stickers, door hanger, SATA III Cables, RGB LED strips extension cable, SLI bridges, rear I/O shield, etc.


In terms of design, the titanium silvery metallic finish PCB, steel shroud covering the PCIe and DIMM slots of the X99A XPower Gaming Titanium bears a striking resemblance to its Z170 counterpart, the Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium. All of course, except for the layout and titanium backplate that enhances the rigidity of the motherboard which MSI should really consider including in the next revision of the X99A XPower Gaming Titanium - if there's any. 



Other than its titanium silver-y metallic finish PCB and steel shroud covering the PCIe and DIMM slots, the VRM heatsink, chipset heatsink, rear I/O and on-board audio shroud of the X99A XPower Gaming Titanium comes in the same accent to compliment the motherboard's Titanium theme.





The X99A XPower Gaming Titanium packs a whopping 12 power phase design and an extra 4-pin power connector for some extra juice, in case one decides to push their system a bit more further with this board.


The steel shroud, aka DDR4 steel armor and PCIe steel armor as what MSI has claimed, has more solder points on the PCB for more strength and protects both the DIMM slots and PCI-Express signals against electromagnetic interference to provide better performance over the traditional design. 






Aside of its commendable build quality, the X99A XPower Gaming Titanium has some pretty sweet on board features as well - Voltage check point for overclockers to monitor the crucial voltage to achieve a stable and high overclock result, supporting features such as BCLK control button, dip switch for slow boot mode and BCLK/Ratio, Game boost button for instant auto overclock with on board presets, PCIe enable/disable switch.


A direct on-board USB 3.1 Type-C port can be found next to the Discharge Button (with lighting icon) for quick access with USB 3.1 Type-C devices. Other than that, you'll find 2 x front USB 3.1 Gen1 connector for PC chassis with multiple front USB 3.1 ports support, U.2 connector for latest U.2 storage devices, 8 x SATA III connector.


You'll find 2 more dip switch around the SATA Express connector, the top dip switch provides multiple BIOS support for recovery purposes, while the dip switch on the side allows you to enable/ disable the SATA Express connector.


The OC retry button (left) allows you to retry your current overclocking settings in case if you're really confident that it will work, and the force enter BIOS button (right) allows you  to enter the BIOS directly, a very useful feature for troubleshooting, especially when it comes to competitive overclocking.


The Turbo M.2 as what MSI claimed, is more than 5 times faster than a regular SATA III connection and capable of delivering speeds up to 32Gb/s using Gen3 x4. Just like both the DIMM slots and PCIe slots, the Turbo M.2 connector comes with the same Steel Armor provides best signal quality.


While it's rather optional, the MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium does comes with an extra 4-pin molex connector to supply additional power to the PCIe in case if you need more power to run a SLI/Crossfire setup.


High quality Chemi-Con Audio Capacitors are used on the isolated audio PCB to provide better audio quality over most on board audio conventional design.


The handy BIOS flashback button for quick and easy BIOS recovery makes the job easy for extreme overclockers who is always striving for the best results, or enthusiasts who wants to tweak their system to perform at its best. 



The rear I/O consists of 1 x P/S2 keyboard mouse combo port, 2 x USB 2.0 ports, Clear CMOS button, USB 2.0 port for USB BIOS flashback function, 6 x USB 3.1 Gen1 type-A ports, Intel powered Gaming LAN Ethernet port, USB 3.1 Gen2 type-A and USB 3.1 Gen2 type-C port, Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 8260 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth module, and the audio jacks.


UEFI: Ez Mode



UEFI: Advanced Mode





Software: MSI Command Center

Similar to most OS based system tweaking software from its competitors, the MSI Command Center software allows you to adjust the necessary parameters such as BCLK/Ratio and voltages for CPU overclock and applying it real-time so you won't have to restart your system in order to get into the BIOS screen just for that purpose. 




You can perform Game Boost via MSI Command Center as well, but applying these preset requires a reboot and the result may vary through the type of CPU used.





The software comes also with a series of monitoring tool that will come in handy for the advanced users, such as Hardware Monitor, Memory, CPU and Motherboard to display the necessary details for system monitoring and tweaking.


Other features such as DRAM Timings adjustments (reboot required), Fan adjustments and real-time on board temperature are part of the MSI Command Center software as well.


What's more, the MSI Command Center can be controlled via mobile app on Android smartphones too if need to adjust the settings and you happens to be away from your system, or just to impress your friend with this cool feature which they don't get to enjoy with their entry level motherboard.

Software: MSI Gaming App


If you're not into the advanced tweaking and just wanted to make things quick and easy, the MSI Gaming App is the software you need. Be it adjusting your system performance mode, enabling OSD for benchmark purpose, monitor color adjustment with 'Eye Rest' and the RGB LEDs configuration, all these tasks can be easily done with a single click on the buttons on the UI.


Software: Nahimic Audio Software


The audio software is done by Nahimic, an audio company that helps to develop 360-degree systems for the French military in the past, licensed to MSI to provide a more immersive gaming audio for its users. Other than its preset based audio boost feature, the Nahimic Audio software comes with additional features such as noise cancellation for microphone, as well as a screen recorder for gamers or game streamers to share their gaming experience with the world at ease.

CPU & Memory Overclock Overview

Starting off with the CPU overclocking, we gave the preset a try and see just how well the MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium can handle our Intel Core i7 5820K. As CPU plays a big role in overclocking due to different behavior of each CPU, ours didn't manage to run stable on the 4.9GHz preset and an unsafe amount of voltage to get it stable. Through manual adjustments, we managed to get the Intel Core i7 5820K running at 4.8GHz with 1.45V on the Vcore.

Moving on to memory overclocking, we find it rather uncomfortable as the maximum frequency available in the drop down box is only at 3200MHz. Going above 3200MHz on the memory requires bumping up the BCLK, which requires additional adjustments on other voltages, especially the PCH voltage. Due to limitation of the memory kit and CPU we have here, the highest achievable frequency that survives through the stress test is only 2666MHz. It's not really the motherboard's fault but the CPU and memory kit on our end.

Final Thoughts
While it doesn't really comes cheap, we can't overlook the fact that the MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium is one of the best X99 motherboard we have tested to date. 

Overclocking wise, the MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium has all the handy feature you'd ever wanted when it comes to all the tweaking needs. Features such as slow boot mode, BCLK step up button, discharge button to clear off all the settings in one touch, easy recovery with BIOS flashback and multiple BIOS switch, etc makes overclocking more enjoyable and easier too - well, minus the memory overclocking part.

Other than the overclocking-friendly features, MSI did a pretty good job on its software as well. Easy performance boost, RGB LEDs adjustments are some of the best features of the MSI Gaming App which will benefit gamers and those who doesn't want to go through all the hassle of manual tweaking but still wanted to get some extra performance and bling out of their system. The bundled Nahimic audio software is another added value to the MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium for a free audio boost for a more immersive gaming, music and movie experience.

Down to the price, $429.99 is a pretty hefty price to pay for a X99 motherboard but if we were to consider the features it can offer, the MSI X99A XPower Gaming Titanium is consider a worthy investment for enthusiasts who is into a overclockable high-end system.

Pros
  • Solid build quality and good aesthetics
  • Very good overclocking friendly feature
  • Good software bundle, especially the Nahimic audio software
  • Use of high quality components
  • Extra 4pin molex power for additional power for the PCIe slots
Cons
  • Costly
  • Limited frequency option on the memory frequency drop down list

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