MSI has unveiled its top of the range X79 motherboard on its Facebook page - the Big Bang XPower II - and it really is a feature packed board, but it looks like MSI's marketing team has run out of ideas. Why? Well, simply because MSI has borrowed heavily from Gigabyte's G1 series of motherboards when it comes to the heatsink design, which in this case is also very much gun inspired.
MSI appears to have packed the board to the brim with features, in fact, it's so full that MSI had to go for an XL-ATX form factor. The Big Bang XPower II has no less than seven x16 PCI Express slots, although only two of them have 16 lanes worth of bandwidth, while the remaining five appear to be x8 slots. The labelling in this case is anything but clear, but Intel's new CPUs don't support enough PCI Express lanes for all the slots and we can see at least one set of switches on the board. There's also a set of dip switches that are labelled PCI-E CeaseFire which suggests that it's possible to manually disable at least some of the slots.
Moving on we have 10 SATA ports, of which six are SATA 6Gbps as far as we can tell, although four of those ports should be from third party chips which aren't visible due to the rather large chipset heatsink. There are also two 90 degree angled connectors for four USB 3.0 ports, two pin headers for four USB 2.0 ports and one pin header for a FireWire port. We're disappointed to see the old NEC/Renesas USB 3.0 host controllers on this board, as they're not quite keeping up with the competition these days.
Other bits of interest includes X-Fi MB2 audio, which we presume is software based, although a piece of metal is hiding the actual audio components, measurement points for Voltages, a POST 80 debug LED display, a power, OC Genie, Multi BIOS button and a pair of buttons labelled Direct OC. MSI has also added a pair of 8-pin 12V connectors and a 6-pin power connector in a really poor placement in front of a pair of the x16 PCI Express slots. Speaking of power, the board has a 24-phase VRM design, plus an additional four phases for the memory. We should commend MSI for only having 4-pin fan headers, although the location of some of them is pretty poor.
Around the back we're looking at a PS/2 port, six USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a FireWire port, a pair of Gigabit Ethernet jacks which appear to be utilizing two different Intel network controllers, 7.1-channel audio with optical and coaxial S/PDIF out and what appears to be a CMOS reset button.
Then there's that thing about the heatsinks, people have already complained enough about Gigabyte's G1 series of motherboards, but apparently MSI didn't notice this and has come up with its own gun inspired design. The VRM area is cooled by what looks like a Gatling gun, or in more modern terms, a mini gun, whereas the chipset itself has been fitted with what we guess are supposed to be six rounds of ammunition, although they look more like crayons to us and the gold-ish color doesn't help in this case either. The chipset is connected via a flat heatpipe to a secondary heatsink which appears to be cooling little else, whereas the VRM heatsink is connected via a heatpipe to the Gatling gun. Not the most classy design and there's even a cut out in the Gatling gun to allow for access to the screw hole beneath it.
As for pricing, well, we'd guess MSI will be charging a pretty penny for the Big Bang XPower II, as with all the components thrown in, it's not going to be cheap to make. It's clearly gunning for Asus and Gigabyte, although we think MSI has missed the mark a little bit and it's sad to see that they couldn't come up with their own ideas for the heatsinks. On the plus side, MSI went with passive cooling, all x16 PCI Express slots and eight DIMMs, something we're sure will appeal to plenty of potential buyers.
It's a week to go until the launch, so all is likely to be revealed very soon. Stay tuned folks! :)