MSI showed off some of their motherboard redesigns at Computex and their Dragon Gaming theme is getting a complete revamp. Still sporting the red-and-black theme, the Gaming lineup now copies some details from ASUS’ ROG and TUF family, and incorporates some interesting design and naming choices. MSI is ranked third in the motherboard market in terms of volumes of product shipped, tying with ASRock, who seems to be equally aggressive in their rollout and product redesigns as well.
It starts off with the new X99A-GODLIKE, which is predictably a LGA2011-3 motherboard aimed at gamers who want their rig to look super-stylish. It has a full compliment of memory slots (eight in all, in quad-channel mode), and doesn’t deviate too far from the traditional spacing around the CPU area set by Intel. That might prove a pain in the ass for some aftermarket cookers, but water-cooling setups will be perfectly fine. The rear I/O features five USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type C port and two USB 2.0 ports at the top. There’s a built-in WiFi card pre-installed, as well as what looks like a 6.35mm TRS connector for headphones or stereo speaker setups.
The GODLIKE also features MSI’s Audio Boost 3 sound setup, which consists of a Realtek ALC1150 audio chip, an ESS Group D/A converter, four audio amplifiers (not socketed, like Gigabyte’s AMP-Up setup) and gold-plated connectors to prevent rusting. MSI says this is enough to power 600 Ohm studio-grade headphones through the 6.35mm audio jack, which would be a first for any motherboard vendor.
Visible in the photograph are five PCI-Express 3.0 slots, four of which are electrically 16x compatible (although PCI-Express lane allocation will change with each component added in), and one of which runs at PCI-E 2.0 x4 speeds, leeched from the X99 chipset. There’s only a single M.2 slot for SSDs, along with six SATA 6GB/s ports and two SATA Express ports. At the top of the board to the right is the voltage measuring point along with the OC Genie buttons which allow you to change settings and overclock the motherboard without needing to do so in the BIOS. Networking is catered for by Killer E2205 Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac wireless with 2x MIMO capability.
Also on display was the Z170A-G45 Gaming, MSI’s replacement to the Z97-G45 Gaming. A lot of the standard features apply here, like Killer NIC Ethernet and SLI/Crossfire capability, but this board has a third PCI-E 3.0 slot all the way at the bottom, indicating that there’s a PLX bridging chip hidden somewhere, possibly underneath the chipset’s heatsink. Two M.2 slots are available, rated for operation up to 32Gib/s and 10Gib/s respectively (top and bottom), but the lower one will probably pull its lane allocation from the chipset, while the top one will be connected directly to the CPU and will consume four PCI-E 3.0 lanes for itself.
All the memory slots are only keyed for DDR4 DIMMs, so there’s no option for anyone sticking to DDR3 for now. There are now only two SATA 6GB/s ports available, next to two SATA Express ports, but these can be repurposed to provide four more SATA 6GB/s ports. MSI will likely never sell a plastic motherboard guard for this board, which is fine for the target market, I guess. Connectivity wise, there will be four USB 3.0 ports on the rear I/O panel, one USB 3.1 Type C connector, and two USB 2.0 ports for a keyboard and mouse.
No release date or price has been announced for these two boards, but we’ll likely only see the X99A-GODLIKE land in South Africa in a month or two, while the Z170A-G45 will be available a month or two after Intel’s Skylake launch in 2H 2015.