As I said in the introduction this is our first board from MSI, so we were not that sure what to expect. MSI uses a black PCB with blue and black accents on the components. This design makes for a pretty cool looking motherboard.
Starting at the CPU socket all Sandy Bridge motherboards use a 1155 socket. You might be wondering if you will need a new CPU cooler, but the 1155 uses the same mounting system as the 1156 so if you are using an 1156 CPU cooler you don’t need to worry about getting a new one. This motherboard uses a 6-phase SFC (Super Ferrite Choke) choke setup. MSI says this design provides 30% better efficiency than standard chokes. Part of MSI’s Military Class II components also includes Hi-c CAP’s (Highly-conductive polymerized capacitor) which provide an 8x longer lifetime than traditional Solid CAP. Finally the Solid CAP design which has a claimed lifetime of 10 years.
Moving over to the memory slots you have 4 slots, each color coded for dual channel setups. This motherboard supports DDR3 1066, 1333, 1600, and 2133 (OC). Moving over from the memory you have your ATX power connection and 3 3pin SYSFAN connections. I always like to see a lot of fan connections on the motherboard. As far as SATA connections go you have 4 SATA 3GB/s ports (black) and 2 SATA 6GB/s ports (white). The ports are faced away from the motherboard.
At the bottom corner of the board you will notice 3 buttons. The first 2 are the power and reset buttons, which are nice to have on a motherboard, especially if you are testing a system out. The third is the OC Genie button. When this button is pressed the system will restart and instantly overclock itself to the optimum setting. We will check out this feature later in the review. Along the bottom of the board you have headers for USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Firewire and front panel audio. The red USB headers are actually MSI’s SuperCharger USB port, it allows you to charge tablets via the front USB ports on your case. Normally USB ports give you .5A of power output, but with the i-Charger software, you can them running at 1.5V volts; enough power to charge your tablet and even to charge your smartphone faster.
As far as expansion ports you have 2 PCI-E x16 ports, 3 PCI-E x1 ports and 2 PCI ports. For your I/O ports you have 1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, 8 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 coaxial SPDIF port, 1 optical SPDIF port, 1 Firewire port, 1 Ethernet port, and your 6 port audio connections. There is also a small Clear CMOS button on the back.