Preview: MSI Big Bang Z77 MPower Motherboard
An Alchemy of Big Bang and MPower
The Beginning of Overclocking Approved Mobos?
The Big Bang series of motherboards from MSI has always had larger-than-life presence. From the recently seen MSI Big Bang-XPower II to the current MSI Z77 MPower, this series evokes a sense of awe, even amongst the most hardcore of overclockers and rig builders. The Big Bang series also comprise of 'historical' series like the Trienergy & Fuzion, XPower and Marshal. Hence, we have seen our fair share of MSI Big Bang series motherboards, these boards are high-end products that feature some of the latest technologies and the latest Z77 MPower is no exception.
The MPower series is actually a sub-series within Big Bang. The former is featured in both LGA1155 and LGA2011 boards. The Z77 MPower is the flagship Intel Z77 Express-based board to support MPower - a moniker that refers to the board being OC Certified after passing the company's own internal testing. According to MSI, the OC Certified standard is "... an all-new standard for overclocking stability and a major extension of MSI's Military Class certification". OC Certified is MSI's stamp of approval from their overclocking testing procedure to guarantee stable overclocking results. The Military Class burn-in test for OC Certified status is the 24-hour Prime95 burn-in test with a liquid-cooled overclocked CPU. You can refer to our previous report for more details on the testing process.
The MSI Big Bang Z77 MPower is a standard ATX board that support LGA1155 CPUs, such as the latest third generation Intel Core CPUs (Ivy Bridge). According to its manual, the board actually supports overclocked DDR3 memory modules that have been rated up to 3000MHz! With its Military Class III CPU VRM components, this board is really begigingto be overclocked.
No Extra PCIe Lanes Added
We start our inspection from expansion slot configuration. The arrangement of its three PCIe Gen3 x16 slots and the four PCIe 2.0 x1 slots is identical to the MSI Z77A-GD65 board. For a board of this pedigree, we were half-expecting it to feature a PLX PXE 8747 switching chip that takes in the 16 PCIe lanes from an Ivy Bridge processor and support 32 PCIe lanes via high speed switching for various multi-GPU setups. Hence, it seems that the MPower sub-series is mainly focused on delivering the overclocking edge (OC Certified) with guaranteed performance and stability (Military Class III CPU VRM components).
Still In Full Military Class III Glory
Moving up north from the PEG slots, we can see the power regulation system for the LGA1155 processor that boasts of Military Class III components (first discussed in this article), the board features an impressive cooling system for its VRM components as we notice the three heatsinks that are connected with a 8mm thick heat-pipe which is dubbed SuperPipe (this has been a mainstay in their upper-class boards since 2009). In its current heat transfer configuration, it's likely that the SuperPipe is dissipating heat from the two of the larger heatsinks which sit directly on the MOSFET ICs (DrMOS II), to the smaller heatsink. The larger VRM heatsinks remind us of gun barrels, just like those of the MSI Big Bang-XPower II.
High Urban Density
The four DDR3 memory slots are located beyond the CPU socket and the manual claims that the board is able to support memory modules that are rated up to 3000MHz. Just beyond the clips of the DIMM slots, near the edge of the board, we see a DrMOS alarm LED and twelve CPU Phase LEDs. Hence, the CPU has a total of 12 power phases for a reliable flow of power to the CPU. But unlike some boards where these LEDs light up to indicate the number of power phases in active operation, the implementation differs on the MSI Big Bang Z77 MPower. Instead of the expected, the DrMOS alarm LEDs will light up the LED when a corresponding MOSFET IC has overheated.
We are puzzled by the position of a system fan power connector, which is located just above the onboard control buttons, making it difficult to connect or reach for most fans given their logical positions within a modern casing. The onboard control buttons (Easy Button 3) themselves are placed in tricky spot which will likely be blocked by an optical disc drive (ODD) in a tower system, hence making them inaccessible once installed within a chassis.