MSI Z77 MPOWER Mainboard - Military Class Burn-in Test Passed (Part 1)

4/9/2013 2:54:12 PM

This mainboard shows off many upsides. Some are similar to other typical Micro-Star mainboards, some are exclusive. However, they are quite hard to work with and require your good patience.

Micro-Star mainboard from the Big Bang series have the same characteristic: the name. The products, completely different from other series, are designed to meet different processors and platforms and to have various functions, bearing no difference to the brand’s main product. They can boast about recognizably distinctive features such as the compatibility with graphic cards from different companies or a lot of PCI Express ports, but when MSI Z77 POWER entered this series, it may seem strange at first. Seemingly a common mainboard couldn’t stand out of other models. It was also produced by using hi-quality “Military Class III” component whose warranty and stability are recognized the certificate accompanied, like for other usual mainboards. It’s distinctive that this mainboard passed an additional test after coming through all quality controls. This is not a normal test but an intense 24-hour test of an overclocked in the famous Prime95 utility, which creates heavy complex loads. This stressful test not only aims at operation but also confirms the mainboard’s overclocking potential and allows marking it as “OC Certificated”.

“OC Certificated”

“OC Certificated”

I must say that the OC certification procedure is solely the distinctive feature to recognize MSI Z77 MPOWER, yet not the only feature. In our review, we tend to reveal new characteristics and functions that we have never seen in any Micro-Star mainboards, new BIOS and new threats. All of these as well as power consumption and much more will be discussed in this article.

Packing and accessories

Like other Micro-Star from BB series, the front of MSI Z77 MPOWER box is decorated with a big explosion.

The front can be flipped open, to reveal a large picture and a list of crucial functions

The front can be flipped open

The front can be flipped open.

Continue to describing the back, where you can find picture of the mainboard’s back control panel and its official technical specs

Beside the mainboard packed in an anti-static bag, you will find the following accessories:

·         Four ATA cables with metal connector locks, half with L-shaped and another half with straight types

·         A flexible bridge for configuring 2-way NVidia SLI graphics

·         A Wi-Fi antenna

·         I/O Shield for the back panel

·         “M-Connector” lock including modules supporting easy connection to the front case’s buttons, indicators and sound

·         “V-Check Cable” adapter set for monitoring voltage manually with a voltmeter

·         User manual

·         A booklet on proprietary software

·         Illustrated guide for overclocking

·         A booklet summarizing assembly instructions

·         Reliability certificate listing all component testing methods

·         DVD with software and drivers



Design and function

I must say that the picture of MSI Z77 doesn’t seem attractive: only the decorative stripes on the heat-sinks brighten up the dark black and gray PCB. But, the board is very pleased when working: you could tell it’s a hi-quality product well made from the start, although I have to say that the color-coding of the memory DIMMs, graphics card ports and SATA connectors can make its exterior a bit funnier and make the assembly process a little easier.

One of the typical features of Micro-Star mainboards is using hi-quality “Military Class III” components, which sturdiness and stability are guaranteed by the accompanying certificate. The heating components of the digital processor voltage regulator circuitry are topped with two sophisticatedly shaped heat-sinks. A thick 8 mm (instead of 6mm like from other manufacturers) heat-pipe connects these heat-sinks to the center, which doesn’t cover any special components but simply provides additional heat-dissipating surface and shows off the device hi-end rank. All heat-sinks including the fourth one on the chipset are tightly attached with screws.

The mainboard

The mainboard

The mainboard can get one discrete graphics accelerator to work at full speed of PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16, or two to work at x8 speed. If you are using an Ivy Bridge processor, you will have a third slot at disposal, but the slot operating speeds will switch to x8/x4/x4, according to function of the Intel Z77 Express chipset used in this board. You can set up ATI CrossFire or NVidia SLI graphics configurations inside. In addition, there are 4 PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots for extended cards. The chipset also supplies the board with two SATA 6Gbps ports and four SATA 3Gbps ports. There’s no additional onboard SATA controller.

The back panel of the mainboard provides the following ports and connectors:

·         PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse

·         Two USB 2.0 connectors, six USB ports are available as three onboard pin-connectors

·         Clear CMOS button

·         Two USB 3.0 connectors (blue connectors) operated via Intel Z77 Express chipset, other four ports are operated through Renesas µPD720201 controller, plus there is also an onboard pin-connector for two more USB 3.0 contacts

·         Bluetooth 3.0+HS and Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g/n wireless module

·         A local network port (network adapter is built on Gigabit Realtek RTL8111E controller)

·         Outputs for HDMI and DisplayPort Video

·         Optical S/PDIF plus six analogue-audio jacks provided by the eight-channel Realtek ALC898 codec



There, I need you to pay attention to some points. First, this is for our first-time experience of a Micro-Star mainboard integrated with wireless technologies. There were other mainboards, but we didn’t have any chance to test them, except for some very old MSI mainboards that came with a separate Bluetooth module. Second, the USB 3.0 ports in the chipset are accompanied by a Renesas controller. Only the earliest mainboards with USB 3.0 support were equipped with Renesas (NEC) controllers, but lately they have been almost replaced with controllers from other manufacturers. So, why are these chips still used in MSI mainboards? Because Renesas µPD720201 is a new four-port controller, which belongs to the third generation of USB 3.0 controllers from Renesas. These new chipsets are more compact, more energy-saving and even faster than the predecessors. These were all undeniable advantages of the back panel layout. The only disadvantage is the lack of the eSATA port.

The layout

I would like to show you several other peculiarities of the mainboard. The graphic card slot has convenient and wide latches. The CPU Phase LEDs indicate the number of running phases in the processor voltage regulator circuitry, which automatically changes depending on the operational load. In addition of Power On, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons, there is also an OC Genie button, allowing for automatic overclocking the system. Another useful feature is GO2BIOS button, which will enable you to enter the BIOS upon the next boot-up without any of your effort. There is a special switch allowing you to assign one of the two independent BIOS chips as primary. The POST code indicator will help to identify start-up problems. You can use V-Check Points and enclose V-Check Cables to measure all important voltages manually. An additional six-pin connector that supplies power for multi-card graphic configuration is a controversial advantage, because the existing power supply connectors won’t be free and you have to use some kind of adapter for that. There are five four-pin fan connectors. Four system fan connectors allow for lowering the fan rotation speed even if you are using a three-pin fan, but it won’t work with a CPU fan.


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