MSI Z97I Gaming AC Review – Thanks to advancements in both processor and motherboard technologies, the micro-ATX and mini-ITX form factors have received tremendous response from enthusiasts who are looking to build HTPCs or compact gaming PCs for places with limited space.
MSI Z97I Gaming AC, Size Has Become Irrelevant
MSI is one such proponent of this concept, and with the MSI Z97I GAMING AC, they set out to prove that you can also game well on small PCs. Being a mini-ITX motherboard, a number of things have to be reduced on the Z97I GAMING AC. This includes the number of DDR3 DIMMs, of which there are only two, being able to support up to 16GB, with speeds of up to 3,300MHz when overclocked, four SATA III 6.0Gbps ports and one PCIe 3.0 slot.
Having said that, MSI managed to stack in a generous number of I/O ports at the back, including four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, two HDMI ports, one DisplayPort and six audio ports that support surround sound speaker systems. Despite being a small-sized motherboard, the Z97I GAMING AC has a lot of features built into it, such as the Audio Boost 2 system which not only comes with EMI shielding, but has enough power flowing through it that allows the audio ports to drive headphones and speakers with high impedance levels. Not only that, there’s also the Killer E2200HD LAN port that is synonymous with MSI’s GAMING motherboards, and also uses the same Hi-C capacitors, super ferrite chokes and Dark capacitors that ensure the motherboard’s components last as long as possible, even when running overclocked processors and RAM.
The Z97I GAMING AC performs exceptionally well for its small size, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was a full-sized giant monolith that’s running things in the background. We even managed to overclock our Intel Core i7 processor a fair bit, and it ran very smoothly. That said however, the motherboard does have several issues that users will need to be somewhat aware of. Due to the motherboard’s small footprint, some sockets, such as the CPU fan and the ATX power sockets are oddly placed.
We also recommend using a small to medium-sized CPU fan so as to not obstruct the PCIe port, unless you’re using it to run a HTPC that does not require a graphics card.The MSI Z97I GAMING AC is an excellent motherboard that runs as well as its ATX-sized counterparts. It’s an excellent motherboard to consider if you want to build a small HTPC, or a small gaming rig for tight spaces.
- A very compact, but very feature-packed motherboard
- Overclocks well
- Awkwardly-positioned ports on the board
MSI Z97I Gaming AC Specifications
- CPU Support: Intel Core Processor
- CPU Socket: LGA 1150
- Chipset: Intel Z87 Chipset, Intel Z97 Chipset
- Memory Type: Dual Channel Memory