MSI X299 XPower Gaming AC mobo taps every bit of Skylake-X

Intel's Core X CPUs and X299 platform bring a truckload of processor cores and memory bandwidth to the table, and MSI's X299 XPower Gaming AC motherboard adds to that package with integrated Intel 802.11ac, Bluetooth connectivity, and a whopping five M.2 slots when the included PCIe riser card is installed.

Prospective buyers will need an extra-large case for the X299 XPower, given its E-ATX form factor and 12" x 10.1" (31 cm x 27 cm) dimensions. That real estate is occupied in part by the large LGA 2066 CPU socket, the eight metal-reinforced memory slots flanking either side of the CPU, the three M.2 slots built into the motherboard, and the four steel-jacketed PCIe x16 slots. Folks with a hankering for quad-SLI or Crossfire insanity can run those slots in x8-x8-x16-x8 mode with 44-lane Intel chips, while 28-lane chips support x8-x8-x8-x4 splitting. It's not clear whether the board relies on a spendy PLX switch to distribute all that connectivity, given its M.2 complement.

The board also has a pair of Intel  Gigabit Ethernet controllers in addition to the aforementioned Wi-Fi chip. An included PCIe x8 riser card brings the total number of M.2 slots to five. The pair of devices attached to the riser card can be used in a VROC RAID configuration with the proper supporting hardware.

Much hay has been made about the power and cooling requirements of Intel's biggest and baddest Skylake-X CPUs, and the X299 XPower is equipped with an impressive-sounding 12-phase voltage regulation circuit. The beefy power components could allow improved overclocking results compared to motherboards with less robust designs. Hopefully the heatsink over the VRM has been designed and implemented with care.

Pack rats will be able to add up to 10 SATA drives and a U.2 device to the board, although the U.2 port likely shares connectivity with other slots and ports on the board. The rear I/O panel includes BIOS flashback and CMOS clear buttons, six USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type-A connector, one USB Type-C jack, audio jacks, Wi-Fi antenna terminals, and a PS/2 port. Additional USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 ports are available by using the headers on the motherboard. The accessory package is also loaded to the gills, with six SATA cables, a hard PCB SLI bridge, installation thumbscrews, a printed I/O shield, and a carrying pouch in addition to the dual-M.2 riser card.

Surprisingly little information is available about the RGB LED illumination built into the motherboard, but it does have a 5050 connector for adding RGB LED strips. The lightshow can be controlled with MSI's signature Mystic Light lighting control application. The company provided no pricing or availability information for the X299 XPower Gaming AC.

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