updated 12:40 am EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
Pricing set at three different levels, finer details seen in GT72 Dominator Pro
During Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, a number of hardware companies made official announcements to line up with Intel's release of the Haswell Extreme Edition processors. MSI had a big presence at the expo, including the display of three of its X99 motherboards and laptops like the GT72 Dominator Pro for use in tournaments.
Three X99 motherboards were on display at the show, including the X99S SLI Plus, X99S Gaming 7 and X99S XPower AC. The X99S SLI Plus is the lowest-level ATX board, priced around $200, with support for 2011-3 sockets. The X99S Gaming 7, another ATX form factor board, is priced around $300. Both boards feature 10 SATA 3 ports, eight DIMM slots with support up to 3333MHz, four X16 PCIe slots, quad Crossfire or three-way SLI, Turbo M.2 and 12 USB 3.0 ports. The Gaming 7 also includes Killer Ethernet and a two-year license for XSplit Gamecaster.
MSI X99S XPower AC
The final board, the X99S XPower AC, allows quad-SLI and Crossfire, a better thermal design, dual Ethernet and an E-ATX form factor. Many of the features are similar to the X99S Gaming series, but MSI is positioning the board as more of an overclocker's or enthusiast's board. Pricing is said to be around $400.
For the new boards, there were some challenges to tackle the X99 chipset. Marketing Specialist Mark Tran said that the BIOS was the most challenging, as it had some points that needed to be worked through. This included issues with memory stability, but it's something the MSI was able to overcome after spending a long time writing a new BIOS. Getting to higher speeds is still a work in progress, but the company will be releasing updates as they are created. No news was available on top overclocking speeds internally at the show, as it was said that the company didn't hat a lot of time with the boards.
MSI X99S Gaming 7
However, the boards do have perks as well, since they allow for better SLI applications with more X16 PCI-e slots available. The boards aren't just working with Haswell Extreme Edition processors, but also Haswell-based Xeon enterprise processors. With the type of processors involved, MSI added that the boards can also be used for a mix of workstation and server applications. However, they do include other touches, like MSI's audio boost sound in boards other than the X99S SLI Plus. Other small items, like markings on the boards for PCB thickness, have been added as well.
MSI X99S SLI Plus
While not on display at PAX, MSI is releasing two more motherboards for the X99 chipset. Also coming is an additional entry in the Gaming series with the X99S Gaming 9 AC, as well as another overclocking board in the X99S MPower. The Gaming 9 comes with a video streaming card, called the MSI Streaming Engine, to allow hardware to handle the task rather than depending on the CPU. Additional boards could be coming, according to Tran, but nothing is set in stone. If a micro-board were to be produced, the company would need to find a way to overcome the loss of memory capacity.
MSI had a number of notebooks in use at PAX, as it was offering tournament play at the booth for the duration of the show. Electronista was able to talk to Marketing Specialist Vincent Chen about one of the machines in use, the GT72 Dominator Pro that was announced in July. The desktop replacement machine was designed to be a direct descendent of the GT line, with an emphasis on streamlining the machine.
While the specifications have already been announced, some of the smaller details like the cooling and power management were detailed. The bottom panel of the GT72 has been changed to a one-plate design that offers users easier access. The design makes the upgrading process easier for owners, including the replacement of the graphics with some extra knowledge.
Power management adds some additional features, one of which allows users to control the power features manually. While many notebooks will change the power states of the graphics during certain applications, users can force the GPU to be on. The manual process can be used to override power-saving modes.
No new information was available on video cards the company, but some news is due September 19. Nvidia 970 and 980 cards are coming as a replacement to the 700 series. No new information on the recently-announced AMD R9 285 cards was available yet either, as MSI is still working with AMD on some of the details of the cards. However, cooling with 10cm fans, individual fan control and the return of the MSI Afterburner app are expected.