Asus’ ROG series motherboards are most sought-after by enthusiasts for overclocking and building high-performance and gaming PCs. Other options in the same segment are high-end motherboards by Gigabyte, such as the GA-Z77X-UP7, which we reviewed a few days ago. No doubt these motherboards are packed to the gills with all sorts of components that are exclusive to enthusiast-class boards – voltage check points, wireless adapters, high-quality capacitors, a raft of connectivity options and so on. However, these best-in-class motherboards command a heavy premium, costing no less than Rs. 27,000. If you don’t have that high a budget and still want a feature rich motherboard, there are some very good options for under Rs. 20,000 such as the MSI Z77 MPower, which we’ve got with us today.
An affordable alternative to fully-loaded motherboards
Design and features
MSI claims its MPower motherboards can sustain heavy overclocking long periods of time. These motherboards go through 24 hour burn-in test with a highly overclocked CPU. So you can expect stable performance thanks to the Military Class III components that have been used, such as the capacitors, chokes, MOSFETs, and so on. MSI has included a certificate that assures efficiency, stability and quality.
Looks mean and offers a very decent feature set
The Z77 MPower gives an impression that it packs some serious meat. The most striking features of the motherboard are the graphite colour heatsinks with bright yellow streaks around the CPU socket and the PCH chip. The heatsinks around the CPU socket are connected by an 8 mm-thick copper pipe for effective heat dissipation from the 16-phase design for CPU power. There’s ample room around the CPU socket, so fitting large air coolers and liquid cooling kits shouldn’t be a problem.
To the top right are LED indicators that indicate phase activity and the OC Genie button. When switched on, the OC Genie button automatically analyses the installed CPU and memory and uses optimal values for automatic overclocking. You can use it for hassle-free overclocking or as a reference point to further overclock. Moving down, there’s a small cluster of voltage check points for measuring the voltages of the memory, integrated graphics and CPU core with a multimeter. Further down are LED debugger, a USB 3.0 header and six SATA ports. The Z77 chipset supports two SATA 6Gb/s ports and up to four SATA 3Gb/s ports, and this board doesn’t feature additional ports via discrete controllers.
Two SATA 6Gb/s ports and four SATA 3Gb/s ports
Just below the SATA ports are two BIOS chips and a tiny DIP switch to switch between them. If the main BIOS goes bad, you can switch over to the backup BIOS. There’s also a button called GO2BIOS, which when pressed at boot up or while in the OS will take you to the BIOS at the next boot up. Right at the bottom is a row of headers, which includes three USB 2.0 headers, two for system fans and a front panel audio header.
Check points for measuring voltages with a multimeter
The Z77 MPower sports seven expansion slots, out of which four are PCIe x1 and three are PCIe x16. The PCIe slots offer a combined x16 link, which means it will split to dual-x8 with two cards installed and x8/x4/x4 with three cards installed. The ample amount of spacing between the PCIe x16 slots ensure there’ll be sufficient breathing space if multiple dual-slot graphics cards are installed.
Like in any high-end motherboard, the rear panel is quite chunky. There are six USB 3.0 ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI and DP video outputs, optical S/PDIF and jacks for 8-channel audio. The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi adapters are a bonus. The package includes a Wi-Fi antenna that connects to a tiny socket at the tip of the adapter.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi adapters amidst a big bunch of USB 3.0 ports
Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K
Memory: G.Skill RipjawsX 8GB (4GB x 2 @1866MHz)
Graphic card: AMD Radeon HD 6870
SSD: Plextor PX-256M2S
Power supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit
Before starting with the tests, we updated the BIOS to the latest version. With the RAM running at full speed (using XMP profile) and Turbo Boost enabled, we were all set to throw our battery of tests to assess the performance of this board. This board logged 5638 points and 4685 pionts in PCMark 7 and 3DMark 11 respectively. It took 20 seconds to transcode a 1 minute MPEG video to H.264 and 13.9 seconds to render a test scene in POV-Ray at 800 x 600. We found absolutely no lag in performance and the scores logged were at par with other Z77 motherboards using the same settings.
Verdict and Price in India
At Rs. 17,900, the Z77 MPower is good value for money taking the feature set and performance into consideration. It’s a good Rs. 10,000 cheaper than the full-blown models such as the Asus Maximus V Extreme and Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP7. It doesn’t come with as much goodies (USB 3.0 brackets and additional cables) and an unimaginable number of power phases, but it’s still a very good option for overclocking and building high-performance PCs and gaming machines.
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