The MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC is a high-end motherboard that stays true to its focus on gamers. The colour scheme is one that has long appealed to gamers and so are the features.
MSI understands that very few gamers will use four-way SLI and CrossFire on the LGA1150 platform. With that in mind, the company wisely omits its support and invests the money saved in a high-end audio solution, Killer NIC, enhanced storage connectivity, and 802.11ac WiFi. Three-way CrossFire and two-way SLI support is still present.
Appearance of the dark black and red motherboard is excellent, and the red LEDs only serve to further the board’s aesthetics. Dragon Armor also adds an interesting look to the Z97 Gaming 9 AC. Layout, on the other hand, can cause some issues with graphics card compatibility.
Users with two dual-slot graphics cards are forced to accept limited cooling performance from tightly packed boards, or settle for interference on the bottom-edge connectors. The headache only worsens for users with two triple-slot graphics cards.
MSI’s UEFI is simple to use and provides plenty of functionality, even if its appearance could be improved. And as far as software goes, MSI includes a comprehensive suite with a particularly useful hardware monitoring and tweaking program.
Undoubtedly the Z97 Gaming 9 AC motherboard’s crowning feature is its near-audiophile-level sound system. With additional features such as 802.11ac WiFi, additional storage expansion, and Killer’s E2205 NIC, MSI has created a well-balanced motherboard in the Z97 Gaming 9 AC.
The MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC motherboard’s £202.99 price tag sees it sat in a relatively quiet region of the gaming motherboard market. The board’s closet competitor is Gigabyte’s Z97X-Gaming GT. In that battle, the differing audio solutions, 802.11ac WiFi support, and 4-way CrossFire/SLI compatibility are the key differences that a buyer would have to choose between.
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- Excellent audio solution with high-end components.
- Attractive colour scheme and style.
- Killer E2205 and Intel 802.11ac WiFi connectivity.
- Strong bundle with plenty of worthwhile items.
- Onboard buttons and voltage check-points.
- Good software package including an XSplit Gamecaster license.
- Layout can cause cooling or interference issues with two graphics cards.
- UEFI can seem cluttered.
- No SATA Express.
KitGuru says: While MSI’s Z97 Gaming 9 AC does have its downsides, the board’s focus on gaming features, competitive price tag, and attractive colour scheme are enough to make it an excellent choice to high-end gamers looking for a motherboard that fits their £200 budget.