Preview: The Ultimate X58 Motherboards


MSI Big Bang-XPower

MSI Big Bang-XPower

Compared to the Gigabyte, the MSI Big Bang-XPower is closer to being a 'normal' board. At least it's a standard ATX board, though it belongs to MSI's high-end Big Bang series. Unlike the Gigabyte, the XPower has one fewer PCIe x16 expansion slot and there's also a key difference in that its 4-way CrossFireX/SLI is restricted to single-slot graphics cards due to the lack of space. MSI has also not gone with more controllers for more SATA ports; there's just a Marvell chip for the additional two SATA 6Gbps ports.

Instead, MSI's focus seems to be more oriented towards enthusiasts and their need to tweak. Hence, you'll find tools like voltage check points, an external dashboard for monitoring and changing of frequencies and even an onboard switch to lift the voltage limits in the BIOS. In this sense, MSI's approach is closer to that adopted by ASUS and its Republic of Gamers series rather than Gigabyte's heavy storage and stability slant.

Given its ATX dimensions, we were a bit worried about the layout, but the XPower did well enough, with only the two white SATA 6Gbps ports placed in a rather awkward situation. We can imagine that in certain situations, these SATA ports may not be too usable but these scenarios shouldn't pop up too often. As usual, MSI has trotted out its full complement of proprietary technologies, all of which should be familiar to anyone who has seen a recent MSI board. While not all are useful, there are some highlights that are worthy of consideration, like OC Genie and SuperPipe. MSI has also incorporated its 'military grade' aspects that it has used for a few of its premium motherboard and graphics products and you'll find the same type of expensive (and long lasting) components onboard.

The MSI Big Bang-XPower is a new model, so we haven't managed to get any retail price as yet. However, we believe that it would be more affordable than the Gigabyte UD9, though 'affordable' is a misleading term when describing these high-end, premium X58 motherboards.