Page 1: Test: MSI Z97 GAMING 9 AC
With the Z97 series, Taiwanese manufacturer MSI are taking a different approach to gaming motherboards. Out of individual motherboards they forged an entire series meant to cater to the highest demands of customers with gaming interest. This article will be all about the new flagship, the Z97 GAMING 9 AC, and we will be examining what the company has come up with this time.
Apart from the flagship, there are also the smaller models "Z97 GAMING 3", "Z97 GAMING 5" and "Z97 GAMING 7". There is a significant difference to the other gaming boards "Z97-G43 GAMING", "Z97-G45 GAMING" and "Z97-GD65 GAMING" who still bear the old naming scheme. Only the new series features the new M.2 slot. Except for the "Z97-G43 GAMING", the other models have been equipped with the older mSATA slot. And finally, MSI also provides mini-gaming boards such as the Z97I Gaming AC. And if you are into overclocking, you may take a look at the MPOWER series, which includes the Z97 MPOWER MAX AC.
For the Z97 GAMING 9 AC, MSI has again come up with something special. In addition to the upper price segment features of three mechanical PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, three PCIe 2.0 x1 slots, 12 USB 3.0 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, eight SATA 6G ports and a M.2 slot, the sound system was given particular attention: for an onboard solution, this one has a lot to offer, setting the board apart from MSI's other gaming boards as well as from the competition.
Like all current motherboards, the PCB of the Z97 GAMING 9 AC is black. And what color would be better suited to the red accents of the MOSFET and PCH heatsink? Other than that, all slots and ports are black. The I/O panel and the audio system have been covered. Especially in the latter case, the cover serves to reduce and avoid interference. This board will fit in any ATX case.
Z97 GAMING 9 AC
|Street Price||230 EUR|
|Northbridge / CPU features|
|Chipset||Intel Z97 Express Chipset|
|Memory banks and type||4x DDR3 (Dual Channel)|
|Memory expansion||max. 32 GB (with 8 GB DIMMs)|
|SLI / Crossfire||SLI (2-Way), CrossFireX (3-Way)|
|PCI Express||3x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 / - / -, x8 / x8 / - x8 / x4 / x4)
3x PCIe 2.0 x1
|Serial ATA, SAS and
|6x SATA 6G with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 on Intel Z97
2x SATA 6G with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 over ASMedia ASM1061
1x M.2 on Intel Z97 (shared, 10 Gbit/s)
|USB||12x USB 3.0 (8x on the I/O panel, 4x via headers) two Intel Z97, eight more than 2x ASM1074, two ASM1042AE
6x USB 2.0 (4x the I/O panel, 4x via headers) on Intel Z97
|Graphic interface||1x HDMI 1.4a, 1x DisplayPort 1.2|
|WLAN / Bluetooth||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n / ac, Bluetooth 4.0 on Intel AC 7260|
Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 1x Gigabit LAN
|Audio||8-Channel Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec + CMedia CM6631A|
Nothing has changed in the packaging: just like the PCB itself, the dominating color is black. You can also see the typical gaming dragon. Above to the left we see the MSI logo, and right next to it there's a specific reference to the audio and LAN feature. Directly below we find the gaming logo and the model name.
The included accessories
The box contains the following accessories:
- I/O panel
- Motherboard manual incl. driver and software DVD
- Software & Application User Guide
- Quick Start Guide
- six SATA cables
- WLAN / Bluetooth module incl. two antennas
- 2-Way SLI Bridge
- V-Checkpoints adapter cable
- eSATA Kit
- Audio Power Cable
- MSI gaming stickers and door sign
- Cable sticker
MSI packed quite a number of accessories, though it's something the buyer may well expect. Of course included are the I/O panel, the manual and the driver disk. But beyond that, the buyer gets six SATA cables, a WLAN/Bluetooth module incl. antennas, an eSATA Kit, an SLI bridge and the V-Checkpoints adapter. Also important are the M-Connectors and cables stickers for installing and securing the components. As a supplement, you also get MSI gaming stickers and a door sign. You will have all that is necessary to assemble your gaming system.