While the Intel Z97 chipset has been out for a while, that doesn’t mean that the chipset is no longer viable, systems built around the Z97 chipset and Intel socket 1150 processors will be popular for a few more years. As people are looking to build small LAN boxes or even SteamOS systems, there are many motherboards to choose from. Most have limitations on certain aspects such as overclocking, overall performance, or lack of gaming oriented features. MSI has gone to great lengths to make their Z97I Gaming AC mITX the perfect motherboard for small systems. Have they succeeded? Let’s take a look at what the Z97I Gaming AC mITX motherboard has to offer.
Taking a quick glance at the MSI Z97I Gaming AC motherboard, we find that it has two DDR3 slots, a single PCIe x16, four SATA 6Gbpx ports, and an internal SuperSpeed USB 3.0 header. When we take a look at the available network connections, we find that it has a KillerNIC Gigabit ethernet and WiFi built in. Audio is provided through an 8-channel Realtek ALC 1150, MSI’s USB Audio Power that provides a stable 5V to the USB ports, Audio Boost 2, Nichicon Japanese capacitors for a superior audio signal and gold plated audio connections. All this is packed onto a tiny mITX motherboard priced at $206 plus shipping and a 3-year warranty from MSI.
It’s not unusual for some motherboards to come with WiFi built onto them, and the Z97I Gaming AC has built-in WiFi, however it is done through a removable module. Situated between the motherboard I/O cluster and the PCIe slot, there is an unusual 19pin connector for the module. This Intel based module provides WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and WiDi (Wireless Display), which does require a WiDi receiver that does not come with the motherboard.
MSI Z97I Gaming AC Features and Specifications
|MSI Z97I Gaming AC Specifications|
|Part Number||Z97I AC|
|CPU Socket Type||LGA 1150|
|CPU Type||Core Pentium / Celeron / i3 / i5 / i7|
|Memory||2x DDR3 3300 (OC)
|Expansion Slots||1 PCI-E 3.0 x 16|
|Storage||4x SATA 6.0Gb/s
|Onboard Video||Support with CPU integrated graphics|
|Onboard Audio||Realtek ALC1150
|Onboard LAN||Qualcomm Killer E2205
Intel Dual Band AC 7260
Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)
|Rear Ports||1x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse
1x LAN RJ45
4x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
2x eSATA 6Gb/s
1 Optical S/PDIF OUT
|Internal I/O||2x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
6.7in x 6.7in
Let’s take a look at the retail packaging for the MSI Z97I Gaming AC motherboard before we do the install and get to testing its performance.