Despite the fact that Intel Z97 chipset appeared in the market long ago, mainboards on this platform have not lost their vitality till nowadays. The MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC is an acknowledgement of this. Being a representative of top-tier segment, this product is supposed to be an ideal match for gamers and enthusiast overclockers who look for stability and unbelievable facilities. Let’s see what kind of benefits this model can offer to the army of sophisticated users.
The full-format ATX MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC motherboard is based on Intel Z97 chipset that supports Intel Core Haswell/Haswell Refresh CPUs with LGA1150 socket. Wisely-elaborated printed circuit board (PCB) accommodates four DIMM slots for DDR3 modules of 32 GB overall capacity (with XMP profiles). The integration of expansion and graphics cards becomes possible due to three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots & the same amount of PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots. If equipped with two videocards, the board supports CrossFireX and SLI graphics configurations; moreover, there is chance to unite three videocards in s single configuration thanks to CrossFireX technology.
Storage subsystem is rich in eight SATA III 6 Gb/sec ports, six of which are realized by means of a chipset, integrated within the chipset; they allow for the creation of RAID 0/1/5/10 configurations. The other two ports are monitored due to a separate two-port controller ASMedia ASM1061. In addition, the model houses M.2 slot that provides for the installation of drives via 1x SATA 6 Gb/sec port and 1x PCI Express 2.0 slot.
As far as Haswell-based processors come with an integrated graphics core and the chipset supports the employment of processor graphics, PC monitors might be connected via HDMI 1.4 port (maximal resolution: 4096x2160) and DisplayPort 1.2 (maximal resolution: 4096x2160).
The connection of peripherals is realized with the help of twelve USB 3.0 ports and six USB 2.0 ports. Four 3.0 v and six 2.0 v ports are managed via an integrated controller. Two more 3.0 v ports are managed by ASMedia ASM1042 controller with PCI Express 2.0 x1 interface, while the rest six ports, also introduced at the rear panel, are based on two ASMedia ASM1074 USB-hubs.
To continue, Z97 Gaming 9 AC features 24-pin and 8-pin sockets for the PSU connection. The VRM system is organized according to 12-channel scheme, based on 6+1-phase PWM controller (Intersil ISL6388). It should be noted that ISL6611A power channel doublers, which include MOSFET-drivers, are located on the reverse side of the PCB.
Cooling subsystem consists of a pair of heatspreaders, joint by a heat-pipe, and a separate chipset heatsink. The who heatspreaders are installed on MOSFET-transistors of VRM system. Besides, the mainboard offers five 4-pin sockets for the connection of fans (two – for CPU cooler and three – for system fans).
Audio subsystem Audio Boost 2 deserves cheering. It takes quite a lot of space on the PCB and is covered by a metal shield. Upon the whole, the system consists of 8-channel Realtek ALC1150 HDA-controller, C-Media CM6631A USB audio processor with ASIO 2.2 support, Wolfson WM874, as well as two paired amplifiers (Texas Instruments L4562MA) and headphones amplifier (Texas Instruments TPA6120A2).
The analogue-to-digital conversion process is entitled to Cirrus Logic CS5346. All audio elements, including Nichicon capacitors, are isolated from other components to provide for a pure and strong sounding. The connection of audio peripherals might be fulfilled thanks to six golden-plated 3.5 mm mini-jacks and a single optical S/PDIF.
The availability of Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 controller ensures the connection of the mainboard towards local network. This controller enables automatic tuning of traffic, ensuring minimal lags during online gaming. Additionally, the model is furnished with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 adapter; it supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac standards and Bluetooth 4.0 connection.
The motherboard from MSI offers a range of additional trifles that are sure to enhance system performance. Among them: the availability of Power and Reset button on the PCB, Clear CMOS button, OC Genie (for automatic system overclocking), Slow Mode Booting switch (LN2), Multi BIOS Switch that enables switching between two BIOS chips, Audio Power Switch, V-Check stock, POST-codes indicator, and PS/2 port. One of the key advantages offered by Z97 Gaming 9 AC is the availability of advanced utilities.
This mainboard is shipped in a middle-sized cardbox that counts a number of components. Hence, all customers will find there a user’s manual, a pair of DVDs with drivers and dedicated software, seven SATA cables, a rear panel plug, SLI bridge, a dedicated adapter from peripheral socket to audio power adapter, V-Check Cable x6, a wireless network module, two antennas, and an adapter from peripheral socket to two SATA power sockets.