MSI X99S MPower Motherboard Overview and Overclocking Guide
My last experience with an MSI board in the past three years was with the X79 BigBang XPower 2, which turned out to be one of the strongest X79 motherboards. This didn't surprise me, as MSI has made a name for themselves over the years as a go-to for enthusiasts, gamers, and overclockers alike, but what impressed me was how well MSI had executed the hardware and BIOS to overclock better than most X79 boards I had tested.
Since the X79 days, MSI has revamped their hardware and lineup, offering motherboards targeted at specific segments. While the X79 BigBang XP2 I had tested was aimed at those who want everything tossed into one board, today I am looking at one of their segmented boards, specifically aimed at giving users the best overclock possible.
MSI provides five fan headers on their X99S MPower; two of the headers are PWM, and three are voltage mode. Both CPU fan headers are PWM controlled, and the system fan headers are voltage controlled. The board itself is well setup for extreme cooling. The heat sinks for the PCH and VRM are separate, which helps a lot when using extreme cooling, since you can remove the VRM heat sink without affecting the PCH cooling. The PCI-E layout is a bit different than some other boards we have seen; it supports 3-Way SLI. The M.2 slot is very fast, supplying 32GB/s of bandwidth, which is more than double the speed of standard M.2 ports.
With more and more things being integrated into the CPU and PCH, there isn't much that sets motherboards apart, but the voltage regulator is still one part that differs greatly between motherboards. With the X99 platform, the VRM area has been effectively reduced by half, while the current demand has been almost doubled due to the high TDP of the new CPUs. The X99 VRM is possibly one of the most important parts of any X99 motherboard, especially when it comes to overclocking.
Memory Regulator Analysis
This is the first time I have seen a Powervation branded PWM used on a motherboard; they seem to be focused only on DC/DC buck controllers. MSI is using two of them here, one for each memory set. The PV3203 is a dual-phase digital PWM. Each memory phase is made up of two ONSemi NTMFS4C05N, and a single NTMFS4C08N, which are more than enough for the DRAM's main voltage rail.
On the left, we have two drivers; there are two sets of these on the back of the board for both sets of memory VRMs. On the right, we have an unknown chip, but it is most certainly in charge of PCH power.
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