This board won't be for everyone, in fact it will likely only find a home in a minority of gamers or enthusiasts and although you might not need the power of X99 or HASWELL-E, you sure as hell should want it. MSI sent us though an X99S Gaming 7 to see what all the fuss was about and it sure is nice.
We have seen a few MSI Gaming series motherboards here and as impressive as they were, the X99S Gaming 7 took this to a new level. HASWELL-E or Intel Socket 2011-3 is the enthusiast grade CPU for those that need the extra cores or for those gamers who want to simplify their life and be able to game and transcode at the same time on the same rig. The X99 platform supports 8 RAM modules and the latest iteration of the Socket 2011 (V3) CPUs. The socket has a built in mounting plate for coolers and more connectivity than the more commonly used Z87/Z97 Intel 1150 CPU range. The price difference in CPUs is big, in fact the Socket 2011-3 CPUs are more than double the cost of the mainstream socket 1150 CPUs but it doesn't end there. X99 uses the newer and more expensive DDR4 RAM which makes it a real commitment for a system builder to take this path.
With all the cost and high end components involved in a HASWELL-E build, the motherboard becomes a key consideration, if you 'cheap out' on the board, you might limit your performance options but if you go for the most expensive, it could come at the cost of a lower speed CPU or perhaps less of the pricey DDR4 RAM. This is where the MSI X99S Gaming 7 Motherboard comes in. It's a fully featured motherboard in the middle price range that means system builders don't have to compromise too much on price to get great audio, pleasing aesthetics, good connectivity such as M.2, abundant SATA, multiple graphics cards, USB 3.0 (including 2 internal headers) and overclocking features to squeeze every last drop of performance from the platform.
It's a full sized board with a lot of features - the only omission we noted was WIFI/Bluetooth. The key features that immediately got our attention were
- M.2 port for an SSD
- Dual BIOS
- 2 USB 3.0 internal headers
- Onboard power, reset, OC Genie buttons and a 2 digit Debug LED.
- 3 Way Crossfire and 3 Way SLI
- SATA Express
- AudioBoost 2
- Killer LAN
This is everything a gamer could want and more, the audio also has an optional external power connector to give the ALC1150 based platform a little more juice if you want it. Looking at the rear ports, we also see a Killer E2205 Ethernet port, Gaming device connector (PS/2 ), 8xUSB 3.0 and 2xUSB 2.0 ports as well as a clear CMOS button for those uncomfortable moments.
Other features like Total Fan control, fast boot, OC Genie and support for Quad Chanel DDR4 2133 through to 3333 (OC) memory are also included. The Debug LED has a dual function and will display the CPU temperature once you have successfully booted without any errors.