It has been held as fact that for the past couple of years, gaming is helping to prop up a slowly decreasing desktop PC market. While many casual PC users have transitioned to tablets, laptops or 2-in-1s, the gaming community, and particularly the rise of eSports, has been accredited as filling that void. MSI’s current raison d’être across almost all of its product range is towards the gamer, and I was given an extensive tour of the products on display.

(I must apologize for the delay in this article. A combination of pre-planned holiday and confirmation of details led to this, along with our Podcast from the event, being published later than planned.)

Motherboards

Standing front and center in MSI’s motherboard repertoire is the new MSI X99A Godlike Gaming (or GODLIKE GAMING, officially) motherboard. An insight into the naming reasons behind the X99A Godlike is apparently from old-school Unreal Tournament and many titles since - when scoring successive kills in a round without dying, a user will achieve many awards:

Killing Spree – 5 kills
Rampage – 10 kills
Dominating – 15 kills
Unstoppable – 20 kills
GODLIKE – 25 kills
WICKED SICK – 30 kills

The idea is that the X99A Godlike is at the pinnacle of gaming. By virtue of the list above, perhaps the phrase ‘godlike’ is more user friendly as a worldwide moniker than ‘wicked sick’ or the equivalent sounds for successive kills in a short time period (monster kill, holy ****).

Naming aside, the purpose of this motherboard is to introduce several new features to MSI’s high end range. Some of these will be seen as gimmicks, while others have a valid usage scenario. Despite the bad lighting at the booth, here’s what it looks like:

The most obvious element on the motherboard is the LED lighting. Luckily we’re not fixed on green here – these LEDs are RGB to the tune of 256 colors, and use an onboard controller that provides a Bluetooth connection to the controls. This allows the LEDs to be controlled through an Android application, and the system will either implement a variety of effects, a fixed color system or can/will respond to music played on the Android device (after a quick analysis of the music track). It is worth noting that despite the Bluetooth module external to the main WiFi card, the LEDs are switched off when in a deep sleep mode and thus only active when machine is actively working.

Aside from the LEDs, the extensive heatsink arrangement covering the rear IO, acting as an EMI shield for the audio and moving towards the chipset is a relatively new application for MSI. This is more for aesthetics than pure cooling, but as MSI wants to push that red and black color theme over almost anything, we get an extension here. Within the rear IO, MSI has used a special EMM codec and paired it with a 6.35mm TRS headphone jack, specifically for driving more professional audio equipment without an adapter.

The audio side of the X99A Godlike Gaming (and other gaming motherboards, as well as gaming laptops) will get an enhancement to the software side for audio in the form of the Nahimic audio interface. Nahimic is a French company with roots into military fighter training simulations, and the claim with Nahimic’s software is that it has the power to enhance gameplay through adjusting the audio through their algorithms.

This seems to be a software solution, and the demo they had at the booth used a predefined FPS video with some music in the background. Nahimic also removes the EQ settings in exchange for this control, which raises my suspicions as to exactly how complex (or not) the software is. When we get a product in to test that has the Nahimic features, we’ll go through the software in detail for sure.

Another feature (again apologies for the poor lighting images) is the use of protective shields around the PCIe slots:

These are fixed to the motherboard in several places each and designed to help protect the PCIe slots. The main reason from MSI (one other manufacturer will have these as well) is that the weight of modern high end graphics cards, particularly those using copper cooling or dual GPU arrangements, is beyond the recommended PCIe limit specification. As a result, during transportation, MSI has seen returns where PCIe slots have been ripped from their mounting and thus this is a way to attempt to avoid those returns. It is perhaps worth noting that this feature will only be on the high end X99A Godlike Gaming for now, but it would seem that MSI is at least testing the waters before bringing it down to a lower price band.

Networking has been a consistent feature of MSI’s Gaming brand over the last couple of generations, and the Godlike Gaming is no different. I have posted about using the Killer software package many times over the years, especially in relation to cost and the futility of the software, but nonetheless MSI sees it as a positive marketing tool and the X99A Godlike Gaming comes with dual Killer network ports as well as a Killer 802.11ac 2T2R WiFi card. The idea with this is that users can determine which software goes down which pipe – such as gameplay and streaming over network and VOIP over WiFi. This is despite the fact that outside of the property, that priority setting has no practical advantage. MSI is also promoting the use of the new Killer NIC and WiFi modules, to which one would assume they have paid a premium in order to use.

The Godlike Gaming is still in development, although MSI hopes to have it on the shelves in the next few weeks. Pricing is still unknown.

100-Series Motherboards

Suffice to say, Computex confirmed a few things about Skylake that had appeared in various unconfirmed leaks in recent months. The chipset series will be known as the 100-series, compared to the 9-series for Z97 or the 8-series. The main brackets will be the Z170, H170, B150 and H110 chipset designations, with Q170/Q150 and potentially some others to follow. MSI had a number of these to show off, with the LGA1151 socket for Skylake processors.

Front and center is the Z170A-G45 Gaming, poised to be MSI’s main price-point sensitive gaming model at launch. Astute users might note that the power delivery area has more phases than the equivalent previous Z97 model, and we also get dual PCIe 3.0 based M.2 running at four lanes each as well as SATA Express. Intel hasn’t released information regarding the 100 series chipsets yet, although if we are led to believe some of the leaks in the market, the chipset has more PCIe lanes to play with and thus we will see a number of varied M.2/SATAe implementations, particularly those using PCIe 3.0, with the 100-series. This includes USB 3.1 controllers, such as those from ASMedia, and even potential for Thunderbolt 3 without sacrificing other functionality.

More notes to the Z170A-G45 Gaming include Audio Boost 3 (Audio Boost 2 based ALC1150 + Nahimic software), USB 3.1 provided via the ASMedia codec as it isn’t native as of yet, Killer networking, support for DDR4 and voltage points for extreme overclockers on a budget. It is worth noting that it seems MSI has done away with the OC Genie button on this model. With any luck the software/BIOS still has auto tools for users, but given previous important battlegrounds, attacking the $160-$200 market is going to be key for all motherboard manufacturers when Skylake is launched.

On the regular channel side for the spectrum, and lower down the price ladder, MSI also had a few other motherboards to show. This includes the Z170A-G43 with PCI slots but still with M.2 and the B150M PRO-VD for business oriented customers. COM and LPT ports are still present in this market, and I could imagine that the B150M model here is targeting those mid-to-low end, high volume markets.

The PC Mate and Café lines are MSI’s answer to the internet café question in parts of Asia, Africa and South America. With the potential growth of eSports, users in these regions might head to a gaming café in order to play games with at least a hint of physical interaction with others, rather than sit at home. This is a razor thin profit margin market, as these cafés want capable machines without spending a lot – particularly if 30-50 machines need to be built. The Z170 series also allows for some semblance of overclocking, and it’s worth mentioning here that the Z170A PC Mate looks as if it has one PCIe 3.0 x16 and one PCIe 3.0 x8, suggesting that even SLI or Crossfire is a consideration for these markets.

Not to be forgotten the H170 line also gets a PRO-VDH version and sat next to a Braswell based SO-DIMM motherboard in the booth. If the H170 line follows the H97 and older lines, we probably will not expect to see CPU overclocking although some DRAM adjustments might be possible. This is perhaps indicated by the power delivery and the heatsinks in place.

All-in-Ones: The AX24 and G24 GE
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  • Ian Cutress - Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - link

    I should point out that if you go beyond page 1 (yes shock, there's more than one page) there's a selection of AIOs, laptops and others. Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, July 1, 2015 - link

    "The site died when Anand left.."
    ------

    I've been coming to Anandtech since day one.. and it certainly hasn't died. No where close. Nor has it gone down hill. It's always retained that certain something that keeps many of us coming back.
    Reply
  • barleyguy - Wednesday, July 1, 2015 - link

    I've also been here since day one. I still think the site is top notch, but the advertising has been getting way more intrusive lately. The fake menu ad in the upper right and the popup on entry are examples.

    I really hate intrusive advertising, to the point where I use ComSkip to watch TV, and pay Pandora to have ad-free radio. I don't run adblock in my browser though, because I want sites to survive. But if the ads get so intrusive that I don't enjoy coming here, my visiting habits will change.

    </rant off>
    Reply
  • chizow - Monday, June 29, 2015 - link

    Oh geez it looks like MSI gave their interns free reign on the 3D printers and Papier-mâché kits this summer.

    Some of that stuff is really tacky though, "Godlike" and I guess we also see why dated SLI bridges are never going to go away. They've just become a new accessory for Nvidia and AIBs to cash in on.
    Reply
  • junky77 - Monday, June 29, 2015 - link

    GT72 with GSync is already here.. GT72 2QD with GSync is already selling Reply
  • Meaker10 - Monday, June 29, 2015 - link

    The original GS30 dock with a bios update in the notebook supports optimus through the internal display so without any wonky cables you get the full gaming experience, it works flawlessly with the Titan-x Reply
  • KateH - Monday, June 29, 2015 - link

    So, I'm a pretty big fan of this AiO with dGPU slot. I'll wait until there's a 24" 2160P panel option available before I seriously consider a purchase, but with the right panel and a mid-tier FirePro / Quadra GPU, this could be a seriously potent compact workstation for a lot less $$$ than the 5K iMac. With all my primary Adobe tools (Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator and Première) now GPU-accelerated I don't think the mobile i7 would be a big bottleneck and the whole thing would sure put out a lot less heat than my current workstation (OC'd FX8350 & 290X) Reply
  • TheJian - Monday, June 29, 2015 - link

    5 days and still no Fury X review? How hard is it for an AMD portal site to get a card? Still no 300 series reviews at all and those are two weeks old. The benchmarks are already everywhere else so what gives? I guess I get it, since it seems pretty tough to get some benchmarks they win in. 5 days later only 4 reviews on amazon (on hates it, none of them VERIFIED purchases) and a single review at newegg (a 2nd admits he doesn't have it...ROFL) and not VERIFIED either. Maximum PC could only get one card for a very short time for 4 sister sites, tomshardware getting their own card since they didn't even have a whole day with it, among others saying very short time with one. But if you read enough sites you get enough games and points of view to see it wasn't worth the wait and HBM (as I suspected) had no bearing on things even at 4K. I mean at 8.9B transistors (a billion more than 980ti) and a LOT more bandwidth I expect a 4K sweep especially using more watts too. Heck with AMD's slide showing a dozen games with fury x beating 980ti I expected a sweep at all resolutions. Advertising a 500w water cooler when everyone has trouble hitting 10% (and techpowerup among others show you only get 5% for that 10% and most couldn't hit the 10% anyway, IE extremetech failed to hit 4.7% OC) is another problem. Using 66w playing a bluray at techpower vs. 14w for 980ti sounds like Nvidia shield tv vs. xbox1/ps4 for this task.

    Hexus, techreport, hardocp, legitreviews (check here for OC FuryX vs. OC 980ti -WOW that's ugly), pcper, hardwarecanucks, hothardware, maximumpc, hardwareheaven, techpowerup etc, shows it's pretty tough to write a pro AMD article without looking kind of silly on this part. Good luck Ryan ;) People are claiming they have whining cards in the wild too (amazon), so is it really fixed for retail? Note no review yet is VERIFIED so not even sure they've shipped at amazon or newegg though the amazon xfx card is showing 1-3 months before shipping (and it's the only reviewed card, with 4, one hating it), so maybe they shipped a few in that brand. Sapphire the only maker having a $650 price and not in stock anywhere. AMD supposedly claimed to some sites it would sell for $509 in europe but I can't see how. Are they not aware at AMD that euro to dollar is far closer today? Is that british pound and not euro? That's about $800 usd. In euro it's $571 (Either way kind of weird but I think brits pay more for NV too so maybe not so strange). It looks like they can barely get enough out the door for a few hours of reviewing and many stores seem to be waiting for their first shipments for multiple brands. No DVI or HDMI 2.0. Multiple sites reporting pump whine and coil noise from the cooling system. I could go on but you can all read the benchmarks yourselves (and I advise you do before buying!). This card is not what was hyped IMHO.

    http://wccftech.com/amd-20nm-gpus-horizon-tsmc-ram...
    Heck I 1/2 thought this chip was 20nm with all the bragging they did.
    “20nm is an important node for us. We will be shipping products in 20nm next year and as we move forward […],” said Lisa Su"
    She goes on to say 20nm plays a part in all of their businesses (pro graphics too). Well when? 390 turned into a rebadge and fiji turned into not enough and 28nm.

    http://wccftech.com/amd-radeon-fury-x-reportedly-s...
    Is the whine gone or not? Will the nano come with a 2.0 HDMI port for living room TV's?

    There is only a few more sites I read (for major parts anyway that I am actually pondering purchasing) so you guys are almost last. Ouch. Not impressed with anandtech here, OR FuryX.

    http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/graphics/2015/06/...
    One more review. Yet another review showing 10% of less (8%) and netting far less than the OC in actual results. Most seem to get half of the OC, while NV will give you 20% basically straight up for 20% (see legitreviews for example or any 980ti card with Ocing included). From Bit-tech:
    "The overclocking results are rather disappointing; we only managed to squeeze between 2 and 5 percent more from the card. This is in comparison to our GTX 980 Ti, where we saw gains of around 20 percent"

    Wccftech says AMD has admitted it shipped production units with the whine and it should be fixed on future units (ok, so some unlucky users WILL hear this? Surely they RMA so how long before you play with your card?). Just noticed they updated the article saying early production units HAVE it. Normally wouldn't quote those guys but it explains the amazon guy I guess and AMD's own words from Su and the other AMD guy so not exactly rumors here. Again, good luck to Ryan explaining all of this stuff. I have ultimate faith he's whipping up his best spin ;) It's not a bad card, but the problem for AMD is the competition is NOT radeon 290x as most seem to end up comparing it to end the end after seeing their benchmarks (well, it's a massive leap over 290x...Whatever). You need to beat the OTHER guys stuff, not just your own.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Monday, June 29, 2015 - link

    Ryan has explained it multiple times already. They've run the benchmarks, you can see the numbers now in Bench. The article is missing because Ryan is ill. Reply
  • yefi - Monday, June 29, 2015 - link

    In the original UT, Godlike is the highest accolade, there is no "wicked sick". This also seems to assume the being wicked is more impressive than being a God, hmm... Reply

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