MSI Z97I Gaming AC Mini-ITX Motherboard Review


MSI Z97I Gaming AC mITX Motherboard Review

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

  • Supports 4th and 5th Gen Intel Core / Pentium / Celeron processors for LGA 1150 socket
  • Supports DDR3-3300(OC) Memory
  • USB 3.0 + SATA 6Gb/s + eSATA 6Gb/s
  • Audio Boost 2: Reward Your Ears with True Quality
  • Killer Ethernet: Kill Your Lag
  • USB Audio Power: Sure Stable 5V Power & Better Signal Transmission over USB
  • XSplit Gamecaster: Show off Your Skills and Achievements
  • Guard-Pro: Improved Protection and Power Efficiency
  • OC Genie 4: Overclock in 1 Second
  • Gaming App: Boost Your Frame Rate
  • Click BIOS 4: Easily Fine-tune Your System
  • Sound Blaster Cinema 2: Realistic Surround Sound Experience
  • Gaming Device Port: Optimized with Triple Gold-plating for High Polling Rate Gaming Devices
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, Intel Wireless Display
MSI Z97I Gaming AC Specifications
Part Number Z97I AC
CPU Socket Type LGA 1150
CPU Type Core Pentium / Celeron / i3 / i5 / i7
Chipset Intel Z97
Memory 2x DDR3 3300 (OC)
Dual Channel
Maximum Memory 16GB
Expansion Slots 1 PCI-E 3.0 x 16
Storage 4x SATA 6.0Gb/s
Raid: 0/1/5/10
Onboard Video Support with CPU integrated graphics
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC1150
8 Channels
Onboard LAN Qualcomm Killer E2205
Intel Dual Band AC 7260
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.0
Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)
Rear Ports 1x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse
1x LAN RJ45
1x DisplayPort
4x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
2x eSATA 6Gb/s
6 Ports
1 Optical S/PDIF OUT
Internal I/O 2x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
Physical Spec Mini-ITX
6.7in x 6.7in
Warranty 3 Years

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.