MSI X99A Tomahawk mobo has a laser focus on the high end

MSI just released another of its Arsenal series of motherboards: the X99A Tomahawk. At first the name might seem understated compared to the Mortar and Bazooka lower-end boards, but make no mistake—MSI is referencing the Tomahawk cruise missile. That's fitting, as the Tomahawk fills out the top of MSI's arsenal with some high-end features.

This all-new X99 board from MSI supports Broadwell-E processors out of the box. As you would expect from an X99 motherboard, it has eight RAM slots that support up to 128GB of DDR4-3333 memory. With an appropriate Xeon processor, the board even supports ECC and registered DIMMs. Both SLI and Crossfire are supported, of course, in up to three-card configurations. MSI reinforced the three PCIe x16 slots with "Steel Armor" that it claims will prevent the slots from being damaged by heavy graphics cards.

Durability is sort of a theme with this board. MSI has advanced its component choices to "Military Class V"—whatever that implies—and claims that the chokes on this board are capable of running at 220° C (even if the rest of the PC might be melting at that point). MSI adorns the rear edge of the board with a large aluminum EMI shield that covers the output cluster and the onboard Realtek ALC 1150 codec, as well. That audio hardware supports 7.1 surround and S/PDIF output, and MSI equipped the board with a pair of fancy TI OPA1652 headphone amplifiers that should drive just about any kind of headset.

The onboard networking comes courtesy of two Intel controllers, one an I218LM and the other an I210AT. The two ports can be teamed for greater throughput, and MSI's Gaming LAN Manager software provides quality-of-service management intended to prioritize gaming applications to prevent other network requests from increasing latency while gaming. The X99A Tomahawk is equipped with the rest of MSI's usual gaming-related features too, including Game Boost automated overclocking and MSI's "Gaming Device Port."

Speaking of ports, this board has a wide assortment. Ten SATA 6Gbps ports, a SATA Express port, a U.2 port, and a Steel-Armored M.2 socket provide homes for primary storage. MSI says that with a 40-lane CPU installed, users can make use of every one of those connections, in case they should need to equip the machine with 12 drives. Intel's X99 chipset provides four USB 3.0 ports via a pair of internal headers, and eight USB 2.0 ports. MSI also equipped the Tomahawk with two AsMedia chips to provide four more USB 3.0 ports on the back panel, as well as USB 3.1 Type-C and Type-A Gen2 connections.

Unlike the Z170A Tomahawk, the X99A version has a stealthy black-and-silver color scheme. That sort of thing might matter to the kind of person who wants a neutral canvas for LED lights inside a windowed case. Fortunately, the X99A Tomahawk supports MSI's "Mystic Light" header for software control of LED lightstrips, too. MSI hasn't announced availability or pricing for the new board yet.

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