MSI lifts the curtain on Z87 MPower motherboards

You didn't think MSI was going to sit out this round of Z87 motherboard previews, did you? The firm has revealed its overclocking-oriented Z87 MPower and MPower Max, providing a glimpse of new features and hinting at what we can expect from the company's other Haswell offerings.

An updated collection of high-end electrical components populates the MPower boards: there are fancy capcitors, chokes, and digital PWMs. The circuit board is a "completely new design," too. MSI has tightened the fiberglass weave and increased the number of board layers from four to six. Humidity and ESD resistance have also been improved, MSI says.

The MPower boards are OC Certified, which means they've survived a 24-hour burn-in test with a "highly overclocked CPU" and no airflow around the motherboard. MSI seems to have tuned the layouts for water and liquid-nitrogen cooling solutions that generate little ambient airflow.

Upgraded integrated audio is on the menu for the MPower boards, which combine components from Creative, Realtek, and Texas Instruments. Realtek supplies the ALC1150 codec chip, TI kicks in the OPA1652 headphone amp, and Creative supplies its Sound Blaster Cinema software. MSI's so-called Audio Boost implementation also features special capacitors and trace routing to the rear outputs. Those output jacks are gold-plated, of course.

On the networking front, Qualcomm's Killer NIC complements multiple wireless flavors. An Intel Wi-Fi module provides 802.11n connectivity in addition to WiDi support. Bluetooth 4.0? Check.

Interestingly, the MPower boards will come with a rebranded version of Intel's Extreme Tuning Utility software for Windows. Overclockers will also be able to use MSI's own Command Center Lite application, which promises a stripped-down interface and access to "the most important overclocking features." RAMDisk software purportedly valued at $35 is included in the box, too.

If you prefer to do your system tweaking in the firmware, the MPower boards have an updated version of MSI's ClickBIOS UEFI. Fan controls have apparently been improved, and there's a new hardware monitoring capability with real-time graphs. Users will be able to quickly compare stored configuration profiles, MSI claims, and they'll be able to use a new Board Explorer feature to troubleshoot bad hardware connections.

I'm a little surprised to see MSI leaning on Intel for Windows tweaking software, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; the XTU app is pretty good, and I like the idea of a separate, streamlined Command Center utility. Most enthusiasts will probably do their tweaking via the firmware, which makes me especially curious about the changes MSI has made there. I expect most of MSI's Z87 boards to share the same firmware enhancements.

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