MSI Z87 XPower Motherboard Review

MSI is aiming for all-out performance with its flagship LGA 1150 motherboard – the Z87 XPower. Can the 32 phase VRM, overclocking-orientated features, host of add-on controllers, and support for 4-way graphics configurations give MSI’s Z87 XPower motherboard success in the enthusiast sector?

Adamant to make a stake in the ultra high-end motherboard scene, MSI stuffs its XL-ATX Z87 XPower with features that will have extreme overclockers and enthusiast-grade gamers filled with excitement. 32 VRM phases powered by a DigitALL PWM controller, over-sized voltage regulation heatsinks, V-check points, onboard overclocking buttons, and MSI Military Class 4 components have the overclocking options covered.
But MSI isn’t aiming for a board that can deliver high CPU frequencies without doing much else. Support for 4-way SLI and CrossFire configurations via a PEX 8747 switch, ten SATA 6Gb/s ports, WiFi and bluetooth connectivity, a high-grade audio chip, and Killer’s E2205 network controller prove that an all-round king of motherboards is what MSI wants to achieve with its Z87 XPower.
The specifications sheet looks promising, as does the yellow and black colour scheme, but is MSI’s Z87 XPower able to prove its worth whilst being put through our tests today?
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Features:
  • Supports DDR3-3000(OC) Memory
  • 32 Phase DigitALL Power Design
  • 4-way Multi-GPU: 4-way NVIDIA SLI & AMD CrossFire Support
  • OC Certified: Military Class Burn-in Test Passed
  • Military Class 4: Top Quality & Stability
  • OC Genie 4: Overclock in 1 Second
  • Click BIOS 4: Easily Fine-tune Your System
  • PCI Express Gen 3: World’s 1st PCI Express Gen 3 Motherboard Brand
  • Audio Boost: Reward Your Ears with True Quality
  • Killer Ethernet: Kill Your Lag
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3: Amazing Headphone Surround & Gaming Sound Enhancement
  • Lucid Virtu MVP 2.0: Uncompromised Game Response Performance
  • Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, Intel® Wireless Display
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MSI ships the Z87 XPower in a large box which shares the motherboard’s yellow and black colour scheme. Key features and some of the related images are featured on the packing’s rear side.
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Opening the X-shaped flap gives a sneak peek at the motherboard itself, through a transparent plastic window. Further information regarding the Z87 XPower’s power delivery components, multi-GPU capability and overclocking features is outlined on the cardboard flap.
manuals
The Z87 XPower is supplied with a host of documentation which includes usage of the board, software and applications, a certificate of stability, and a quick installation guide. A pair of discs provides drivers and utilities. Also included is a light-humoured door hanger which reads “Busy Breaking World Records” on one side and “Out Buying LN2″ on the other.
As part of MSI’s Gaming Series of components, the Z87 XPower is supplied with a Gaming Series badge.
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MSI provides a large poster which features an annotated image of the Z87 XPower motherboard. The poster is very convenient when trying to find a specific connector on the board.
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A guide and individual overclocking record certificate also form part of the supplied documentation. Our specific sample motherboard has been cleared for a 4,200MHz CPU frequency using an Intel Core i7 4770K processor. The record also outlines the test platform used and some benchmark scores when overclocked.
bundle
The bundle consists of:
  • 6x SATA 6Gb/s cables
  • 3x 2-way SLI bridges (1 extended)
  • 1x USB 3.0 PCI breakout
  • 1x dual eSATA and 4-pin molex PCI breakout
  • 1x eSATA to SATA cable
  • 1x 4-pin molex to dual SATA power cable
  • 2x MSI M-connectors (front panel cables and speaker)
  • 4x V-check cables
  • 1x WiFi/WiDi/BT module (with screw)
  • 2x WiFi antennae
  • 1x IO shield
mouse-mat
As it is part of MSI’s gaming range of components, the Z87 XPower is accompanied by a 25×21 centimetre SteelSeries-designed mousemat.
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The Z87 XPower sports a yellow and black colour scheme which is now associated with MSI’s ‘Power’ series of motherboards. A matte black, eight layer PCB and all-black expansion slots help to enhance the aesthetic appeal of what is a very attractive motherboard.
Measuring in at 34.5 x 26.4 cm, the Z87 XPower conforms to the XL-ATX form factor. Make sure that your case is capable of housing this larger-than-ATX board; we used an NZXT Phantom 630.
memory-slots
Four DIMM slots are capable of housing up to 64 gigabytes of DDR3 memory. MSI claims that the Z87 XPower is capable of utilising memory frequencies of up to 3000MHz – we will be putting that claim to the test.
A BIOS selection switch located beneath the DIMM slots gives users the freedom of being able to manually switch between the primary and secondary BIOS if one of them is corrupted.
onboard-buttons
Eight onboard buttons give overclockers the option of tweaking settings via the motherboard directly. One set of +/- buttons controls the base clock, while the other adjusts the CPU core ratio. A base clock step switch allows the increment to be adjusted from 0.1MHz to 1MHz.
The Z87 XPower employs an onboard discharge button which essentially provides a complete factory reset. This button is far easier to access and use than removing the battery with multiple graphics cards installed.
Seven V-check points can be used to obtain direct voltage readings from the CPU, DDR, and other motherboard components.
32-phase-VRM
MSI manages the Z87 XPower’s 32 phase VRM with a ‘DigitALL Power’ digital PWM controller. Digital control helps to provide more accurate readings and inputs in comparison to its analogue predecessor.
Three considerably-sized metal heatsinks are connected by a flattened heatpipe. The upper and left sinks are given the task of cooling 16 of the 32 DrMOS4 MOSFETs, along with two thin metal strips which cool the remaining 16 transistors on the board’s rear side.
All 32 chokes are passively cooled by incidental airflow striking their large surface area. Extreme overclockers or watercooling users would be wise to use a fan which blows air directly onto the power-delivery chokes.
The central heatsink cools PLX’s PEX 8747 48-lane, PCI-E 3.0 switch chip.
8-pin-connectors
A pair of 8-pin power connectors is found in the standard location in the board’s upper-left corner. MSI leaves enough space between the two VRM heatsinks to avoid issues when trying to connect the power cables.
Also found in the upper-left corner is the connection for MSI’s removable WiFi/WiDi/BT module. We’ll talk about this device in greater depth further into the review.
PCI-slots
4-way SLI/CrossFire is made possible by the intelligent spacing of the Z87 XPower’s five PCI-E X16 expansion slots. There is also plenty of cooling space available for users with dual-card setups. We are glad to see MSI providing a full seven expansion slots rather than leave some spaces wasted as we have seen on other boards in the past.
Located near to the PLX chip are eight PCI-E lane switches which allow the Haswell CPU to feed all sixteen of its Gen3 lanes directly to a single expansion slot – PCI_E2. This is convenient for users with a single graphics card as the dedicated PCI-E x16 slot is powered by sixteen lanes coming directly from the CPU, bypassing the latency-increasing PLX switch.
When more than one expansion slot is occupied, the lanes no longer bypass the PLX chip and are instead split between the add-on cards. The lane arrangements are: (0, 16, 0, 0, 0), (16, 0, 0, 16, 0), (8, 0, 8, 16, 0), (8, 0, 8, 8, 8).
MSI adds a 6-pin PCI-E power connection above the uppermost expansion slot. This port is to be used when the Z87 XPower is tasked by the additional power requirements of multi-GPU configurations. There is no need to jeopardise cable management and attach the power connector when a single graphics card is being used.
front-panel
Headers for HD audio, four USB 2.0 ports, and front panel buttons are found in their typical locations. Two 4-pin fan headers are also found on the Z87 XPower’s bottom edge.
MSI places the GO2BIOS button adjacent to the central USB 2.0 header. This puts it in a location that is difficult to access when the XPower is installed inside a case. Positioning it near to the overclocking buttons in the board’s upper-right corner would have been a better location. The button provides direct access to the BIOS when Windows 8′s quick-posting, fast boot mode is enabled.
ceasefire-switches
A feature that has particular importance to users with extreme cooling setups for their graphics cards is the Cease Fire switch. Each of the main PCI-E X16 lanes can be individually shut down to prevent its operation – a much quicker procedure than draining a watercooling loop and physically removing the card when troubleshooting or testing.
mSATA-and-heatsink SATA-and-USB-3
Located below the large PCH heatsink is an mSATA connection. The slot steals a lane from SATA_5 which operates at 6Gb/s from the Z87 chipset. We are very pleased to see MSI using a 6Gb/s connection, rather than crippling an mSATA SSD with a 3Gb/s transfer rate as we have seen on many motherboards in the past.
Ten SATA 6Gb/s ports are found on the Z87 XPower, the first six of which are powered by the Z87 chipset, while the remaining four get their bandwidth from a pair of ASMedia ASM1061 controllers. Both the right-angled and upwards-facing USB 3.0 headers are connected to the Z87 chipset’s native ports.
It would seem that MSI is opting for the Z87 chipset configuration which consists of six SATA 6Gb/s ports, four USB 3.0 connections, and eight PCI-E 2.0 lanes (two of which are then used by the ASMedia SATA 6Gb/s chipsets).
audio-chip
MSI equips the Z87 XPower with Realtek’s ALC1150 codec built around the motherboard manufacturer’s ‘Audio Boost’ system.
The Audio Boost system consists of an ALC1150 chip which feeds its raw signal into a Texas Instruments OPA1652 operational amplifier backed by “high-quality” audio capacitors. The amplified signal is then directed towards gold-plated audio outputs.
This entire process takes place along an isolated circuit (the illuminated yellow line on the board’s left edge) which helps to minimise quality and signal losses via interference.
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XPower branding is embossed into the main MOSFET heatsink, with a vibrant yellow ‘X’ located on the smaller secondary sink. MSI has done a good job of making the VRM and ‘Northbridge’ heatsinks attractive, while maintaining a functional and interference-free design. All three sinks should be low profile enough to avoid interference issues with large CPU coolers such as the Phanteks PH-TC14PE.
rear-IO
All eight of the rear panel’s USB 3.0 ports are powered by ASMedia’s ASM1074 chipsets. Gigabit LAN is provided by a Killer E2205 network controller.
Motherboard rear ports:

  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo
  • 1x Clear CMOS button
  • 2x WiFi antenna connectors
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 8 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF-out
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
  • 1 x 6 in 1 OFC audio jack
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 2 x HDMI
aerials
A pair of magnetic WiFi antennae gives the single-band, 2.4GHz Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 connection a dual-stream link capable of up to 300Mb/s using 802.11n technology. Bluetooth 4.0 and Intel Wireless Display technology are also provided by the chip.
We used the bluetooth connection without problems. Unfortunately, the wireless connection wasn’t as stable. It was simple connecting to our Tenda N60 wireless-N router, but at no point were we able to achieve a connection speed greater than 144.0 Mb/s, according to Windows 7. We would strongly suggest this problem is related to the Intel wireless card, not MSI’s motherboard, as our Edimax EW-7733UnD adapter had no problems connecting at 300Mb/s.
A workaround may be possible, but it may also require changing router security settings.
fan headers on board
The red circles in the above image indicate the location of each fan header. MSI equips its Z87 XPower with seven 4-pin fan headers, two of which are designated for use with a CPU cooler, another three that feature temperature-related control, and two which operate at a manually-set static speed.
Motherboard slots and connectors:
  • ATX 24-Pin power connector
  • 2 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connectors
  • 1 x 6-pin ATX 12V power connector (additional power for PCI-E x16 slots)
  • 2 x 4-pin CPU fan connectors
  • 5 x 4-pin System fan connectors
  • 10 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  • 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)
  • 1 x Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth module connector
  • 14 x V-Check points (7x V-Check connectors, 7x V-Check spots)
  • 1 x Discharge button
  • 1 x Multi BIOS Switch
  • 1 x Base Clock step switch
  • 1 x GO2BIOS button
  • 1 x OC Genie button
  • 1 x Reset button
  • 2 x Base Clock control buttons
  • 2 x CPU Ratio control buttons
  • 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
  • 1 x Power button
  • 1 x OC Genie mode switch
  • 1 x PCIe CeaseFire Switch
  • 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED
board-installed
As shown in the above image, we installed the nVidia GTX 760 2GB graphics card in the MSI Z87 XPower motherboard’s dedicated PCI-E x16 slot. The second slot from the top bypasses the PLX chip by instead using 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes that are routed directly from the CPU. This will help to eliminate the latency that the PLX chip would have input to the system’s graphics connection.
The Z87 XPower motherboard looks excellent when installed in a black-themed system. Some black and yellow memory would further enhance the appearance, along with better cable management than my attempt.
board-lighting
Between the onboard buttons, MSI logo, and Audio Boost system, MSI’s Z87 XPower features its fair share of lighting.
lighting light-strip
The MSI and Audio Boost logos glow a yellow which matches the board’s colour scheme. The isolated audio circuit is also illuminated yellow.
MSI Click BIOS 4

Firstly, we can report that our Roccat Kone XTD mouse worked perfectly in the MSI Z87 XPower motherboard’s UEFI BIOS; however Leetgion’s Hellion mouse refused to function correctly.
This is quite worrying as some of the motherboard’s options, such as selecting the on-screen OC Genie 4 button and quickly altering boot drive priorities, require the use of a mouse.
MSI_SnapShot
The main page provides access to all six primary subsections. Boot device priority, system frequencies, and component temperatures are also outlined on the page’s upper edge.
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System settings and options can be accessed via the settings subsection of the UEFI BIOS. From here, boot devices can be set and integrated controllers can be enabled or disabled.
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The main overclocking page features enough voltage, frequency, and setting adjustments to please most overclockers.
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OC-9_8 OC-9_6 OC-9_5 OC-9_4
OC-9_3 OC-9_1 OC-9 OC-8
OC-7 OC-6 OC-5 OC-4
OC-3 OC-1
Entering some of the OC page’s various subsections reveals settings that are geared towards hardcore overclockers. We would be surprised if anybody had complaints about the number of adjustable overclocking settings that MSI’s Z87 XPower motherboard possesses.
M-Flash
The M-Flash page allows a new BIOS to be installed, or current BIOS profiles to be backed up and shared.
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Up to six overclocking profiles can be saved to the Z87 XPower motherboard. If six unique overclocking configurations aren’t enough, profiles can easily be saved to a USB flash drive and used when required.
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Hardware Monitor shows a graph of CPU (or system) temperature and associated fan speeds. The graph highlights the fan speed curve when different minimum and maximum temperature thresholds and operating frequencies are set.
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Board explorer highlights some of the Z87 XPower’s main connections, including the DRAM and PCI-E slots, SATA ports, fan headers, and rear IO connections. Hovering over a specific area gives users an insight into which connections are currently being accessed, for example two SATA ports, or the WiFi antennae.
MSI equips the Z87 XPower motherboards with a feature-rich UEFI BIOS that gives hardcore overclockers plenty of flexibility. The system doesn’t feature the most attractive layout on the market, nor is it the easiest to use. We feel that enthusiasts wanting to push for high-frequency overclocks will be able to overlook the interface’s design which is somewhat clunky in comparison to the implementations by Gigabyte, Asus and to a lesser extent, ASRock.
I think the interface would be far more intuitive if MSI separated the user-definable options from status indication for voltages, frequencies, and other specifications. Without the odd voltage level or frequency being displayed between a list of user-definable settings, the overclocking page would have a far cleaner interface which would be easier to operate.
Novice users will quickly get lost in the sea of options, but that isn’t a problem due to the fact that MSI is targeting an audience which is experienced at overclocking.
MSI Control Center Software
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MSI’s control center software allows for motherboard settings to be tweaked in a Windows environment. Some of the settings that can be adjusted include CPU core ratios and fan speeds.
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A set of ‘advanced’ pages provide DRAM timings control, fan speed adjustment, and voltage management.
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Four ‘information’ pages provide data related to system voltages, temperatures, and operating frequencies.
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The ‘setting’ subsection can be used to record component temperatures, voltages or fan speeds. The software also features a built-in warning alert which can be used to signal dangerous voltage levels or operating temperatures.
OC Genie 4 (Automatic) Overclocking:
OC-Genie-4-OC
Activating MSI’s OC Genie 4 automatic overclocking tool resulted in a CPU frequency of 4.0GHz. OC Genie 4 really is as quick and easy to use as MSI’s advertising suggests; the system is overclocked just seconds after clicking (or pushing) the OC Genie 4 button.
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OC-Genie-cpu-z-validation
4.0GHz was achieved by way of a 40x multiplier meaning that the base clock remained at the default 100MHz. Memory frequency remained untouched at 2133MHz.
While a 500MHz overclock for the 4770K chip is little to get excited about, the fact that the CPU voltage has been reduced by 100mV does help to give an additional sense of worth to the OC Genie 4′s automatic configuration.
The automatic overclock validation can be found here.
Manual CPU Overclocking:
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4.5GHz-BIOS-3 4.5GHz-BIOS-4
After spending many hours trying to tweak various settings in the hope that we could smash through the 4.5GHz barrier, we realised that we were out of luck. Not even pushing up to 1.400V core voltage, reducing memory frequency to 1333MHz, or tweaking a variety of other settings could get the 4770K past 4.5GHz.
4.6GHz-BIOS 4.6GHz-BIOS-2
One final attempt using a 1.375V core voltage and 2.0V on VCCIN did give us stability for the few minutes of Prime95 that we ran at 4.6GHz. Temperatures were reaching the 90°C mark though, so we wouldn’t be happy using this configuration on a daily basis. 4.6GHz proved to be our limit; not even 2.25V on the VCCIN could change that.
We settled for a stable and well-cooled 4.5GHz CPU frequency throughout overclocked testing.
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OC-validation
4.5GHz is a respectable overclock for the hit-or-miss Haswell chips, but we were hoping for a little more with our retail 4770K processor being powered by an overclocking geared motherboard. We have several other 4770k samples and most of them so far seem fairly limited to around 4.4ghz-4.5ghz. Disappointing when you consider the last generation 3770k could easily hit 4.8ghz-5.0ghz with good cooling.
It would be unfair to criticise the Z87 XPower for only managing a mid-range overclock until we discover what our potentially-mediocre chip is capable of when coupled with other boards.
To reach 4.5GHz, we needed to provide the i7 chip with 1.350V. We opted to set the CPU ring frequency to its default value of 3.5GHz but increased its voltage to 1.15V in an attempt to gain stability. VCCIN voltage was left on auto in an attempt to reduce temperatures as an increase wasn’t required.
Our 4.5GHz frequency validation can be viewed here.
Base Clock Overclocking:
We wanted to see how high we could push the base clock while still maintaining a respectable level of stability. Base clock overclocking is unlikely to interest the wide majority of people using K-series chips, but it can help to provide additional megahertz to an overclock – something which could prove very important for extreme overclockers.
We reduced the core ratio, CPU ring multiplier, and DRAM frequency to maintain near-stock frequencies, hence allowing us to increase the base clock to its stability limit. 1.350V was provided to the CPU in an attempt to reduce power limitations.
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155MHz-base-clock
Using the 1.67x base clock strap, we managed to push up to 155MHz. This setting appeared to be on the edge of stability in Windows; we completed multiple short period stress tests, but also suffered more than one BSOD.
Memory Overclocking:
While a system’s maximum memory frequency may be heavily swayed by the CPU’s individual memory controller, the motherboard’s performance can also help to obtain higher speeds.
We switched to our 2933MHz set of G.Skill Trident X memory, but the board would not post no matter what we tried. We reinstalled the previous memory to disable Intel X.M.P and manually set the DRAM frequency to 1333MHz, but we still didn’t have any luck booting with the G.Skill set.
This is where Asus’ MemOK button would come in very handy and allow us to boot at a stable setting, but MSI doesn’t have any sort of comparable implementation.
We had no choice but to resort to our 2133MHz Team Xtreem memory kit which we know is capable of 2666MHz with our 3570K chip on the Z77 platform.
2400MHz-CPU-Z
2400MHz-validation
With relaxed timings of 11-12-12-28-1T and a voltage of 1.70V, we managed to post at 2600 and 2666MHz, but we couldn’t obtain enough stability to allow a successful boot which didn’t BSOD within five minutes. 2400MHz proved to be the limit for MSI’s Z87 XPower and our retail Core i7 4770K.
While overclocking results are never guaranteed from platform to platform or chip to chip, we would have expected at least 2600MHz from the Z87 XPower and 4770K’s enhanced memory controller. Only time and more testing with other motherboards will tell if the chip’s IMC is to blame.
Our 2400MHz memory overclock validation can be viewed here.
Especially during our time spent overclocking memory, we noticed that the MSI Z87 XPower motherboard was reluctant to operate at high frequencies (which were known to be stable) after a failed overclock attempt. We counteracted this shortfall by booting at near-stock settings before returning to overclocking attempts.
To test the MSI Z87 XPower, we paired it with an Intel Core i7 4770K processor and 8GB of 2133MHz memory from Patriot. We will be outlining the MSI Z87 XPower motherboard’s performance with the Core i7 4770K CPU at its stock frequency of 3.5GHz and when overclocked to 4.5GHz.
Due to MSI’s ‘always-on’ turbo mode, the 4770K was actually operating at a 3.9GHz core frequency at ‘stock’ speeds.
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Motherboard Test System:
Settings:
  • MSI Z87 XPower BIOS v1.0.
  • GeForce 320.49 VGA drivers.
  • Intel 9.4.0.1017 chipset drivers.
Software Suite:

  • 3DMark
  • 3DMark 11
  • PCMark 8
  • Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0
  • SiSoft Sandra 2013 SP4
  • Cinebench 11.5 64 bit
  • Super Pi
  • VLC Media Player 2.0.7
  • CyberLink Media Espresso 6.7
  • HandBrake 0.9.9
  • ATTO
  • Battlefield 3
  • Metro 2033
  • Sleeping Dogs
PCMark 8 is the latest version in the popular series of PC benchmarking tools. Improving on previous releases, PCMark 8 includes battery life measurement tools and new tests using popular applications from Adobe and Microsoft. Whether you are looking for long battery life, or maximum power, PCMark 8 helps you find the devices that offer the perfect combination of efficiency and performance for your needs.
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pcmark 8
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PCMark 8 shows a healthy improvement from overclocking.
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.
3dmark 11
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With MSI’s Z87 XPower providing a CPU frequency boost to 4.5GHz, 3DMark 11 barely shows an improvement.

3DMark is Futuremark’s latest gaming-orientated benchmark. It can be used to benchmark and compare everything from mobile devices, such as smart phones, tablets and laptops, to high-end gaming systems. The benchmark is available for Windows, Windows RT Android and iOS.
With 3 separate tests, each of which is intended to be used alongside a specific classification of hardware, 3DMark is a very versatile benchmark. Ice Storm is intended to be used with mobile devices, Cloud Gate is good for use with laptops and home PCs, and Fire Strike can be used to push the performance of gaming PCs.
We used the ‘Fire Strike’ benchmark which is designed to be used on gaming PCs. We opted for the Normal setting, NOT the Extreme mode.
3dmark
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A greater CPU frequency helps to improve 3DMark’s physics score.

Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures
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heaven
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Unigine Heaven shows a slight increase in minimum FPS when MSI’s Z87 XPower is used to overclock the CPU.

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software.
Sandra is a (girl’s) name of Greek origin that means “defender”, “helper of mankind”. We think that’s quite fitting.
It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what’s really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCI-X, PCIe (PCI Express), database, USB, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.
Native ports for all major operating systems are available:
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x86)
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x64)
  • Windows 2003/R2, 2008/R2* (IA64)
  • Windows Mobile 5.x (ARM CE 5.01)
  • Windows Mobile 6.x (ARM CE 5.02)
All major technologies are supported and taken advantage of:
  • SMP – Multi-Processor
  • MC – Multi-Core
  • SMT/HT – Hyper-Threading
  • MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE 4.1, SSE 4.2, AVX, FMA – Multi-Media instructions
  • GPGPU, DirectX, OpenGL – Graphics
  • NUMA – Non-Uniform Memory Access
  • AMD64/EM64T/x64 – 64-bit extensions to x86
  • IA64 – Intel* Itanium 64-bit
sandra arithmetic
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sandra memory bandwidth
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Processor Arithmetic performance increases with the higher CPU frequency.
CINEBENCH R11.5 64 Bit is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and Mac OS X). And best of all – it’s completely free.
cinebench
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Cinebench turns the CPU frequency increase into greater performance.

Super Pi is used by a huge audience, particularly to check stability when overclocking processors. If a system is able to calculate PI to the 2 millionth place after the decimal without mistake, it is considered to be stable in regards to RAM and CPU.
We used Super Pi’s ’32M’ benchmark setting.
super pi
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Super Pi shows great improvements with a 4.5GHz CPU frequency.

The Matroska Media container is a very popular, open standard Multimedia container which is usually found as .MKV files. It is a very popular format in enthusiast circles and can be played directly in VLC or Windows Media Player with suitable codecs installed.
We played our 1080P MKV rip of The Dark Knight using the latest version of VLC Media Player.
mkv 1080p
CPU utilisation manages to decrease with an increased CPU frequency, although the 1% difference has little meaning, especially when numerical rounding is taking into account.

CyberLink MediaEspresso 6 is the successor to CyberLink MediaShow Espresso 5.5. With its further optimized CPU/GPU-acceleration, MediaEspresso is an even faster way to convert not only your video but also your music and image files between a wide range of popular formats.
Now you can easily playback and display your favourite movies, songs and photos not just on your mobile phone, iPad, PSP, Xbox, or Youtube and Facebook channels but also on the newly launched iPhone 4. Compile, convert and enjoy images and songs on any of your computing devices and enhance your videos with CyberLink’s built-in TrueTheater Technology.
New and Improved Features
  • Ultra Fast Media Conversion – With support from the Intel Core i-Series processor family, ATI Stream & NVIDIA CUDA, MediaEspresso’s Batch-Conversion function enables multiple files to be transcoded simultaneously.
  • Smart Detect Technology – MediaEspresso 6 automatically detects the type of portable device connected to the PC and selects the best multimedia profile to begin the conversion without the need for user’s intervention.
  • Direct Sync to Portable Devices – Video, audio and image files can be transferred in a few easy steps to mobile phones including those from Acer, BlackBerry, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and Palm, as well as Sony Walkman and PSP devices.
  • Enhanced Video Quality – CyberLink TrueTheater Denoise and Lighting enables the enhancement of video quality through optical noise filters and automatic brightness adjustment.
  • Video, Music and Image File Conversion – Convert not only videos to popular formats such as AVI, MPEG, MKV, H.264/AVC, and FLV at the click of a button, but also images such as JPEG and PNG and music files like WMA, MP3 and M4A.
  • Online Sharing – Conversion to video formats used by popular social networking websites and a direct upload feature means posting videos to Facebook and YouTube has never been easier.
For our testing today we are converting a 4.4GB 720p MKV file (1h:58mins) to Apple Mp4 format for playback on a portable device. This is a common procedure for many people and will give a good indication of system power.
media-espresso-settings
Hardware acceleration is disabled to provide an accurate interpretation of the CPU performance.
media espresso
stock-media-espressoOC-espresso
Using the MSI Z87 XPower to obtain a 4.5GHz overclock reaps great rewards from media conversion tasks.

HandBrake is a fantastic free program that can be used to convert video files to many common formats for portable devices. HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multi-platform, multi-threaded video transcoder, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.
We used the latest V 0.9.9 version.
For our testing today we are converting a 4.4GB 720p MKV file (1h:58mins) to MP4 format, using HandBrake’s ‘Normal’ profile, for playback on High-Resolution devices. This is a common procedure for many people and will give a good indication of system power.
handbrake
Handbrake shows a healthy decoding time decrease from the overclocked CPU.

The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Measure your storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Several options are available to customize your performance measurement including queue depth, overlapped I/O and even a comparison mode with the option to run continuously. Use ATTO Disk Benchmark to test any manufacturers RAID controllers, storage controllers, host adapters, hard drives and SSD drives and notice that ATTO products will consistently provide the highest level of performance to your storage.
SATA performance
Z87-SATA-Kingston-HyperXASMedia-SATA-Kingston-HyperX
The native Z87 SATA 6Gb/s port allows our Kingston HyperX 3K SSD to show if its full performance potential.
Unfortunately, the SATA 6Gb/s ports wired to ASMedia’s ASM1061 connection show far more constrained performance. The decrease in transfer rates is related to the fact that the ASMedia chip uses a single 5Gb/s PCI-E 2.0 lane to power two SATA ports which are supposedly capable of up to 6Gb/s each.
Shown above is the importance of using the chipset’s native SATA 6Gb/s ports for maximum performance. If all of the Z87 SATA ports are being utilised, we would recommend using the ASMedia connections for lower priority devices such as optical drives and mechanical HDDs.
With its emergence as the new standard for high-speed portable devices, USB 3.0 performance on a modern motherboard needs to be good to ensure that data transferral bottlenecks aren’t created.
We tested USB 3.0 performance using a Kingston HyperX 3K SSD connected to an Icy Box IB-223StU3 USB 3.0 enclosure. ATTO was the benchmark which was used.
usb 3
Z87-Port ASMedia-ASM1074-port
Performance differences between the Z87-native USB 3.0 ports and those powered by ASMedia’s controllers are non-existent.
One thing we did notice is that MSI’s Z87 XPower motherboard doesn’t feature any form of ‘Turbo’ USB 3.0 mode. We have seen ASRock and Asus successfully activate UASP on some of their motherboards’ USB 3.0 ports to unlock limitations relating to transfer speeds. We hope that MSI incorporates a similar ‘Turbo Mode’ on its future motherboards to allow the full potential of USB 3.0 to be utilised.
According to EA, Battlefield 3 garnered 3 million pre-orders by the day of its release. It is unknown at present whether these figures are worldwide or just for the US. The pre-order total makes it “the biggest first-person shooter launch in EA history”, according to the publisher. The engine is beautiful on the PC and very demanding of the partnering hardware.
We used the game’s demanding ‘Ultra’ setting and a 1920 x 1080 resolution to push today’s gaming hardware.

battlefield 3
A slight decrease in Battlefield 3′s frame rates is observed when the MSI Z87 XPower system is overclocked. This small difference could be related to a systematic or measurement error.
Sleeping Dogs started development as an original title, but was announced in 2009 as True Crime: Hong Kong, the third instalment and a reboot of the True Crime series. As a result of the game’s high development budget and delays, it was cancelled by Activision Blizzard in 2011. Six months later, it was announced that Square Enix had picked up the publishing rights to the game, but the game was renamed Sleeping Dogs in 2012 since Square Enix did not purchase the True Crime name rights.
sleeping-dogs-settings
Sleeping dogs
The frame rates of Sleeping Dogs remain constant after an increase in CPU frequency.

Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter video game with survival horror elements, based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The game is played from the perspective of Artyom, the player-character. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro system, but occasionally missions bring the player above-ground.
We used the game’s built-in benchmark set to ‘Very High’ quality to offer an intense challenge for the gaming hardware while also making playable frame rates a possibility.
metro-2033-bench
metro 2033
As is the case with Battlefield 3, Metro 2033 shows a slight decrease in performance when our overclocked settings are applied. Perhaps the CPU Ring frequency fixed at 3500MHz is having a slightly negative effect on gaming performance.

We measured the power consumption with the system resting at the Windows 7 desktop, representing idle values.
The power consumption of our entire test system is measured at the wall while loading only the CPU using Prime95′s Small FFTs setting. The rest of the system’s components were operating in their idle states, hence the increased power consumption values (in comparison to the idle figures) are largely related to the load on the CPU and motherboard power delivery components.
power consumption
MSI’s efficient Military Class 4 power delivery components show good idle numbers when the system is at stock and overclocked frequencies.

There is no doubt that MSI has created an excellent motherboard in the Z87 XPower. Designed for hardcore enthusiasts and extreme overclockers, the MSI Z87 XPower provides both of its primary audiences with plenty of features to keep them more than pleased with their purchase.
Overclocking potential of the MSI Z87 XPower motherboard seemed to be strong, thanks in large to the board’s extreme 32 phase VRM. MSI provides users with a plethora of parameters and settings that can be tweaked to squeeze every ounce of performance from an overclocked system. The BIOS does seem reluctant to push frequencies to known-stable levels after a failed overclock, but first reducing the settings to near-stock numbers does provide a workaround.
Until we test our retail Core i7 4770K processor on other motherboards, we can’t accurately state just how strong the Z87 XPower’s overclocking performance is. We can say that 4.5GHz is a respectable overclock for a 4770K chip operating at sensible voltages for day-to-day use and utilising high-end, consumer-level cooling.
Memory overclocking wasn’t as strong as the boosts available to a CPU. The MSI Z87 XPower failed to post with G.Skill’s 2933MHz Trident X memory kit installed. We couldn’t push our 2666MHz-capable Team Xtreem memory kit as far as we could on a 3570K-based Z77 system either. This could be related to our 4770K chip’s memory controller, but we would still expect the Z87 XPower motherboard to post with G.Skill’s XMP-enabled memory kit installed.
As far as features go, MSI has crammed just about everything an enthusiast could wish for onto its Z87 XPower. Twelve USB 3.0 ports, ten SATA 6Gb/s connections, a Killer NIC, built-in wireless connectivity, and a high-end audio system help to show that the Z87 XPower is an all-round, high-end motherboard, not just a ramped-up, overclocking-only PCB.
Expansion options on the XL-ATX motherboard are about as good as it gets. Support for 4-way SLI/CrossFire, thanks to the PLX PEX8747 switch chip, along with effective cooling spacing for lesser multi-GPU configurations allows extreme gamers and record breakers to use the Z87 XPower without having to worry about clearance or running out of PCI-E lanes and connections. The dedicated PCI-E X16 slot is a thoughtful addition.
While we liked the quantity of adjustable parameters the Z87 XPower’s Click BIOS 4 UEFI interface offers, the layout of the system would benefit from some improvements. Situating non-adjustable voltage or frequency information in the same list as user-definable options gives the interface a slightly cluttered feel. We would prefer readouts to be separated from adjustable parameters.
One of the strongest features of MSI’s Z87 XPower motherboard is its appearance. The eye-catching yellow and black colour scheme is easy to match with other components such as black graphics cards and memory. MSI also takes the time and effort of ensuring its heavy-duty heatsinks complement the rest of the board’s aesthetic appeal by placing ‘X’, ‘XPower’ and ‘MSI’ logos on them. Illuminated MSI and Audio Boost logos act to further enhance the style.
Priced at £349.99 from Overclockers UK (at the time of writing), the MSI Z87 XPower motherboard’s price tag and target audiences force it to compete directly with Asus’ Maximum VI Extreme and Gigabyte’s G1 Sniper 5. Deciding between these boards is going to be very difficult, but MSI’s option certainly won’t leave you disappointed.
With strong overclocking performance thanks to its extreme power delivery components, enthusiast-friendly expansion options, plenty of worthwhile onboard features, and an attractive design, the MSI Z87 XPower is an excellent motherboard which is well worth its asking price to enthusiasts and hardcore overclockers.
Pros:
  • Plenty of worthwhile features (ten SATA ports, twelve USB 3.0, Killer LAN, WiFi, bluetooth).
  • 4-way SLI/CrossFire support.
  • Lots of overclocking options.
  • Strong CPU overclocking potential.
  • High performance power delivery components.
  • Hugely impressive bundle.
  • Very attractive design.
Cons:
  • Some parts of the UEFI BIOS are cluttered.
  • Memory overclocking not great – couldn’t post at 2933MHz.
  • Board is initially reluctant to provide stability after a failed overclock attempt.
Puppy says: An excellent motherboard from MSI, the Z87 XPower is definitely worth buying if you’re a hardcore enthusiast or extreme overclocker.
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About Yomal Malinda

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