The MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC motherboard is similar to the MSI Z97 Gaming 5 we reviewed a few months ago, although it adds a few things to the design. The Aesthetics on the Gaming 9 Motherboard is what we liked the most, especially the added shield covering the Rear I/O Panel and its sound card section. This really gave the Gaming 9 a little more edge compared to the Gaming 5 for visual appeal. Another great touch on the MSI Gaming 9 motherboard is the added LEDs to the heatsink; this gave it a great feature for users that desire to modify. We can see great potential in color changes and what we like to call it “making it your own” kind of style.
When it comes to the software package, MSI continues to include an abundant variety much like the MSI Z97 Gaming 5 Motherboard. The extensive software package that came with the motherboard really made it stand out. They continue to impress in this sector with each new motherboard release. It’s like getting all the bells and whistles without paying that premium price tag. Many users tend to find some of this to be bloatware, but we find many of the applications to be rather useful. We did see quite a few software improvements as well, and this was especially appreciated since this board offered quite a bit of unique features such as the Killer E2205 NIC, Audio Boost 2 updates, and Xsplit Gamecaster. All of these were designed to enhance your experience while gaming or playing media. On top of that, we really like the fact that the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC Motherboard included the Bluetooth and AC Wireless card in the WiDi device that can be used as an option.
For performance, this motherboard performed as we expected. Because this board was developed on an ATX format, the layout hasn’t changed much and much like the MSI Gaming 5, the only major change was the addition of the M.2 PCIe Gen 2 x2 slot. With the 4770K, we found that our 2133MHz memory was able to run at the advertised speeds with little to no work. All we had to do was enable the XMP profiles and we were set.
When it came to testing the motherboard and overclocking, we found that the board performed quite well under its default settings and its automatic OC Genie settings. Now, while the OC Genie is normally more then most will need, we did manage to get the 4770K overclocked to 4.6GHz stable for testing and with a very manageable vcore. We have come to understand that the days of overclocking your processor past 5GHz is pretty hard with today’s hardware. So 4.6GHz is not bad considering our temps didn’t peak past 75C. To be honest, the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 board tested great in terms of the ease of use and overclocking the 4770K. While the overclocking will vary from chip to chip, the motherboard does play a big role in its overclocking stability. We didn’t have any stability issues with the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC board up to 4.6GHz. Once we wanted to move higher, vcore and heat became our enemy in this sector. Still, with the 4770K Processor, all we had to do was find its sweet spot with speed and voltage and we were off to the races. Once you find that, this motherboard is rock solid.
We found the board priced at $284.99 on Newegg.com, If you take into consideration the MSIGaming 5 was $159.99 during launch you may think that its priced high. However if you take into account the additional accessories and features the Gaming 9 offers, we find this board to be priced correctly, and is even somewhat aggressively positioned next to its current competitors with the same features. However, if you feel like you don’t need all the bells and whistles the Gaming 9 offers, MSI’s Gaming 5 or Gaming 7 may fit the bill with the lower price and almost the same performance. Taking everything into account, we cheerfully honor the MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC Motherboard with the PureOverclock Editors Choice Award. It is a rock solid and aesthetically appealing piece of hardware.