When Intel launched its Sandy Bridge-E processors and accompanying X79 chipset, MSI didn't have an ultra-high-end board ready to show off. At the time, we were told that a new member of the company's Big Bang family was on the way, but it wasn't quite finished. Fast forward a couple of months, and the Big Bang-XPower II is ready for a formal outing. After teasing us with a single image of the board back in November, MSI is back with details on its latest flagship. From where I'm sitting, it looks like an absolute beast.
Let's start with the power circuitry, which might be the most obscene part of the board—in a good way. In addition to a standard 24-pin power connnector and its expected eight-pin accomplice, the XPower II packs a second eight-pin connector and a six-pin PCIe-style power plug. According to MSI, these multiple connectors conspire with a 22-phase power delivery system to channel up to 770W to the CPU. Anyone looking to take advantage should probably pack a tank of liquid nitrogen.
The board features eight DIMM slots with support for up to 128GB of RAM. There are also seven PCI Express x16 slots lined up on what looks like an ATX-XL circuit board. Four-way SLI and CrossFire configurations are supported, of course, and hardware switches allow individual graphics cards to be disabled without removing them from the system. Like the onboard voltage probing points, the graphics switches will likely appeal only to hardcore overclockers. Most folks should appreciate the dual BIOS chips and usual assortment of high-end electrical components, though.
Unfortunately, the press release doesn't expand on the board's X-Fi integrated audio, which can clearly be seen in some of the shots. There's no word on a price, either, but you can expect the XPower II to be an expensive luxury. Premium X79 boards have already pushed into $400 territory.