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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Asus ROG's Centurion headset includes an audio station with a built-in amp


Asus and its Republic of Gamers division announced a new "true 7.1" gaming headset, the Centurion, which sports 10 discrete neodymium magnet drivers (30mm center, 40mm front left and right, 20mm rear left and right, and 40mm subwoofer). Wondering how Asus ROG arrived at those different size drivers?

"The size of the drivers are selected according to their purposes. When you think about it, around 80 percent of the time there is important speech or sound effects coming from in front of you, which makes the center channel more important than the rest for mid-frequencies, so 30mm drivers are used. The front and subwoofer channels need to deliver a lot of bass so 40mm drivers are used. The side and rear channels are for indirect sound effects and bass is left up to the subwoofer so 20mm drivers are used. In general, you will notice the same goes with home theater speaker sizes," Asus says.

Asus ROG bundles a plug-and-play USB audio station with the Centurion. That essentially means you're bypassing your soundcard or onboard audio. To make that a more appealing proposition, the USB audio station packs a Hi-Fi grade ESS 9601 headphone amplifier, the same as used by some home theater audio brands such as Onkyo.

The headset comes with two sets of ear cushions, one that's made of protein leather and the other constructed from memory foam cloth. This is one of the differentiating factors between the Centurion and the similar looking Asus Strix 7.1. The other thing that's different is Asus swapped the detachable microphone for a retractable one. Otherwise, there isn't much that separates the Centurion from the Strix 7.1.

There's also a microphone built into the audio station. Asus claims it actively detects and counters more than 90 percent of environmental noise, including mechanical keyboard clicks and background chatter.

Other features include a headset stand, customizable lighting effects, and compatibility with Asus Sonic Studio, a software sound utility that includes an EQ and 7.1 surround speaker level-balancing. The Asus ROG Centurion will be available next month for £210.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Graphics Card Review


Sometime back we had reviewed the MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G which happens to be the third in line of the present Pascal card lineup from nVidia falling just after the GTX 1080 and the newly launched Titan X.
Today thanks to MSI India we managed to get our hands on the more popular of the top two dogs, we have with us today the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Graphics Card for review!

The GTX 1080 Gaming X is not only equipped with the latest GDDR5X memory but is also miles ahead of the its predecessor the GTX 980 and even the newer GTX 1070 when talking about raw specifications. Coming in with 2560 active shader units and 64  ROPs the memory is clocked at a staggering 10 GHz effective, which gives the GPU 320 GB/s of memory bandwidth over a 256-bit wide memory interface.

Packing and Accessories


The packing from MSI is still the same but with a little bit more red color and a larger product image.
The front sports the product name and the actual card's picture occupying most of the real estate. Mention to features such as VR Ready and TwinFrozr VI technology are clearly highlighted.

At the back nothing special is mentioned and we again hear about the new cooler and the revamped MSI Gaming App.

Inside we get a set of accessories neatly packed in a thin cardboard box under which you find the actual card safely wrapped in an anti-static bag perched in a thick styrofoam cavity. Accessories are humble in number and include a Driver DVD, stickers and decals for the cases, user guide and a leaflet reminding you to register your product online for effective warranty support.

Closer Look and Features 


MSI stuck to their conventional design and color scheme with the GTX 1080 but have added some small yet noticeable changes that makes the GTX 1080 Gaming X an entirely new offering from grounds up. The unit measures in at 280x145x42mm.

The card is black and red equipped with the new TwinFrozr VI cooler which make the plastic shroud a bit more angular on the right side. This not only makes it look a bit more aggressive but also gels in well with the entire dragon theme. Left side is entirely black with red scale like highlights that actually light up in red color by default when the card is powered on.

At the back MSI added a solid black aluminum backplate that imparts great tensile strength to this large unit. The stenciled dragon is still there but what's new is that the perforations are no longer round holes but more like a dragon's scales. I few brownie points to MSI for adding such small but important detail.

It is a double slot card with a DL-DVI-D connector, three DisplayPort connections (v1.4), and an HDMI port (v2.0) putting out a maximum resolution of 7680 x 4320. NVIDIA also updated DisplayPort to be 1.2 certified and 1.3/1.4 ready, which enables support for 4K at 120 Hz and 5K @ 60 Hz, or 8K @ 60 Hz with two cables.

The new TwinFrozr VI coolers comes with the newly designed TORX 2.0 fans which helps to push and dissipate 22% more air in and off the card for effective cooling. These fans don't spin at all as long as the temperatures are under 60°C after which they gradually spin wrt the temperature. MSI calls it their Zero Frozr mode which delivers pin drop silent performance.

Double Ball Bearings give the unique MSI TORX 2.0 Fans a strong and lasting core for years of smooth gaming. They also remain virtually silent while spinning under load, keeping your graphics card cool during intense and lengthy gaming sessions.

The card unlike the reference model which requires a 6-pin connector rated at 160W feeds upon a 6+8 pin PCIe power connector which gives it an upper power limit of near 300W. This ensures enough overclocking headroom for this unit.

SLI support is now restricted to just two way SLI for gaming and no support for tri or quad SLI is supported in games. Also if you are going for 4K at 60 Hz and above, NVIDIA recommends a new high-bandwidth SLI bridge called "SLI HB," which occupies both SLI fingers. The old bridges will work fine at lower resolutions.

I'm not sure how many of you will understand this but this square shaped plastic bracket on the side is called the "anti-flex" bracket and connects the additional line of armor protection over the PCB directly to the chassis's expansion slot. Imparting added support to the PCB and cooler taking anti-warping steps to a next level!

The card itself is made up of multiple layers of protection and cooling aides broadly to be named as namely as the front shroud, a pair of fans connected directly to the heatsink, a covering layer that is a seperate cooling unit for the VRM and memory chips, the main PCB itself and then the backplate to seal the deal.

The heatsink is composed of a thick aluminum mesh and the baseplate is made of nickel-plated copper to move the heat to the smoothed and flattened heatpipes put in a SuperSU fashion, one 8mm and four 6mm, which will maximize heat transfer from the base plate.

This arrangement efficiently puts the massive nickle-plated copper base that cools the Pascal GPU underneath in direct contact with the pipes and also reduces their length significantly for faster heat dissipation.

PCB comes shielded by its own armor like protection that protects the memory chips and a heatsink to keep the VRM cool. The PCB is MSI custom design and follows the Military Class 4 standard that ensures durable and constant performance under extensive load conditions of gaming or overclocking.

From this picture of the PCB its clearly visible that the Pascal based 16nm GP104-400-A1 GPU sits in the middle surrounded by GDDR5X memory chips from Micron that are rated at 1250 MHz (10,000 MHz GDDR5X effective). A massive 10-phase power delivery system constituted of Hi-C Caps, Super-Ferrite Chokes, and Japanese solid caps drives the card. Considering the power consumption capacity of this model MSI has rightly chosen the components for the power delivery system.

Benchmarks and Overclocking 


Installing this 1.1Kg card was easy and it powered up like a breeze once we booted up the system.
GPUZ reported the correct frequencies with 1683Mhz on the clock and 1251Mhz on the memory, avoiding any out of the box OC controversy here.

For the benchmarks we used the following test setup configuration --
CPU: Intel Core i7 6950K OC at 4.2Ghz on all ten cores
Motherboard: MSI X99A Tomahawk
RAM: Kingston HyperX Predator 16GB DDR4 (4x4) 3000Mhz Memory Kit
Cooler: Corsair H100i GTX Push-Pull Configuration
Graphics Card: MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8GB DDR5X
Storage: Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD
Power Supply: Corsair AX860i 860W 80+ Platinum
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
GPU Driver: NVIDIA ForceWare 368.69

Just like the previous Pascal cards that we've got our hands on the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G was a treat to overclock. With a little tweak and effort we got ourselves a stable card at 1823Mhz on the clock and 1401Mhz on the memory giving us a boost of 1963Mhz at a gargantuan bandwidth of 358.7GB/s

AIDA64 Extreme Edition GPGPU

The AIDA64 GPGPU test not only calculates the read, write and copy speed of the graphics card and processor but is also very useful in observing the SHA-1 Hash and AES-256 score. These are indications of how well the GPU can handle number crunching or real life image or video rendering. Higher score shows a better card.

The scores that the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X put up are really noticeable since at its stock frequency the card surpasses the fastest GTX 980Ti out there in the market!

Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Unigine Valley 1.0

A compilation of 26 beautiful scenes rendered and run via the raw GPU power of the system. It emulates any game or graphical work that you'll perform on the system scoring it on various parameter. We ran the test on Custom preset and settings at 1920x1080 resolution, quality to ultra and extreme tessellation.


One drawback over here is that Unigine Heaven & Valley benchmarking suits can't recognize more than 4GB of VRAM so the results are much lower than what they could've been in real life. Thank god there are games to test that!

3D Mark Fire Strike


Fire Strike by 3D Mark is a test suit that plays a cinematic scene to determine the FPS, GPU temperature and CPU temperature scaling everything via a cumulative score. It is a great tool to benchmark your GPU since the render is GPU dependent.

3D Mark 11 Professional Edition 


Another variant of the Fire Strike by 3D Mark, used mainly for scoring the GPU performance.

Crysis 3


I can't start gaming benchmarks without running my all time favorites Crysis 3 but its a game that no system loves! The CryEngine 3 behind this scenic beauty can bring down any system to its knees and I mean any system. I set everything to Ultra at 1920x1080 resolution with MSAA 4X and motion blur high.

Rise of the Tomb Raider


The latest installation of Lara Croft in the spectacular Rise of the Tomb Raider 2016 with stunning graphics and rich location makes it a great game to benchmark with while enjoying in the due course! We used DX12 and settings were at Ultimate on full HD resolution.

Alien Isolation 


Its a great game for people, like me, who love to hunt down Xenomorphs or aliens with guns blazing all over the place. The game is highly optimized for PC and supports DirectX 11 with Tessellation, real-time Direct Compute radiosity, and shadows making it an ideal game to benchmark with settings at Ultra.

Batman Arkham Knight


Since the game is powered by Epic's Unreal Engine 3 and supports DX11 tessellation so playing this game on 1920x1080 resolution with all settings maxed out can be any modern system's 'worst nightmare'!
In this case I dared to set hardware acceleration physx to high and even anti-aliasing to GeForce TXAA high!

Battlefield 4


Based on the DICE's Frostbite Engine 3 this game not only taxes a CPU and GPU both by reproducing lush details on the screen but also utilizes the DX11 and DX11.1 features coupled with 64-bit binaries! Settings were at Ultra with antialiasing deferred at 2x MSAA and ambient occlusion enabled.

Fallout 4


Fallout 4 takes place in post-apocalyptic Boston in the year 2287, 210 years after a Nuclear war. Bethesda's Creation Engine drives the game's strong first- and third-person presentation. The game takes advantage of DirectX 11 and can be highly taxing on most of the PC hardware. At full HD resolution shadow and godrays quality was set to high along with everything else cracked to max.

Far Cry Primal


A game that takes the concept of going back in time a bit too far, set in pre-historic central Europe where man is still fighting the forces of nature to become the dominant species on Earth. Based on Ubisoft's latest Dunia Engine, the game takes advantage of DirectX 11 and is heavily taxing on high-end GPUs. We used Very High preset at 1920x1080 resolution since that's what is considered the sweet spot for this game.

Ashes of the Singularity


Developed by Oxide Games & running on the Nitrous Game Engine Ashes of the Singularity is a real-time strategy game set in the future where descendants of humans (called Post- Humans) and a powerful artificial intelligence (called the Substrate) fight a war for control of a resource known as Turinium.
We've used the in-built benchmarking tool and the result is shown in an average of all the graphical tests conducted over various locations and topographies of the game. DX12 API, Quality set to Extreme, 4xMSAA and everything else to high.

Hitman 2016


Agent 47 is back and in this sixth installation of the infamous Hitman series everything is notched up ranging from gameplay to graphic engine. The game uses an in-house game engine by IO Interactive called the Glacier game engine that is one of the first to leverage DirectX 12. The sole purpose of including this game in our benchmark today was to see how the GTX 1080 performs in DX12 mode.
Settings are at Ultra on full HD resolution.

DOOM 


Finally we've introduced this much awaited titled to our benchmarks! Developed by ID Software Doom or popularly written as DOOM is a reboot of the older Doom series. Its fast and scary with more than enough variety of guns that you can ever imagine or even use!
Its OpenGL and quality is set to Ultra.

Noise & Temperature 


The fans on the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X don't spin till the card hits 60°C or more. We recorded the maximum temperature in Celsius that our card hit during extensive gaming & sound was measured in decibels from a distance of 3 feet. This was performed for both stock and overclocked speeds.

My Verdict

Its quite obvious that the GTX 1080 is a great card no doubt so this section won't be too long! Talking specifically of the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G, the card is all business and no nonsense. The card comes overclocked out of the box including the memory which is something that the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X lacked in and this in turn gives it a massive performance boost in gaming and other tasks.
In terms of overclocking this might be the best card we've come across & tears through the competition at 358.7GB/s of raw bandwidth at an astonishingly low power consumption taking efficiency to a whole new level. I love how MSI kept the two fan cooler design intact and saved it from being a card of the size of a footlong sandwich!
But at around $700 this is a pricey piece of hardware even for a 1080 & might only attract people who want nothing but the best playing games on UHD screens with a single card that is still physically smaller but packs ground breaking horsepower.
I give it a 8/10

Friday, 16 September 2016

MSI and EKWB make a badass watercooled GTX 1080


MSI's been kicking out PC hardware solutions for three decades now, getting its start with motherboards and later getting into the graphics card business. To celebrate 30 years of hardware design, it's releasing a limited edition GeForce GTX 1080 with a rather spiffy looking cooling solution.

The limited edition card is liquid cooled with a custom designed full cover EK waterblock. MSI describes the look as "exceptionally classy," a point we won't argue, and if you want to add some additional bling you can light up the card with infused RGB LED lights through the MSI Gaming app.

This is a closed loop cooling solution with no setup or maintenance required. It's fully assembled and needs only plugged into a PCI Express x16 slot with the accompanying radiator assembly mounted to a 120mm fan slot (and of course it needs connected to your power supply).

The full cover water block is made from precision crafted aluminum. Underneath it all is a nickel-plated copper base that takes the heat from the Pascal-based GPU. It's all attached to a water cooling radiator that combines EK's CSQ design with its latest radiator core engine. High-static Vardar fans developed in-house and a DDC pump round things out.

There are three modes you can run the card in that alter the boost and base clockspeeds. They are as follows:
  • 1,860MHz / 1,721MHz (OC mode)
  • 1,835MHz / 1,692MHz (Gaming mode)
  • 1,733MHz / 1,607MHz (Silent mode)

The card's Silent mode keeps clockspeeds at stock based on Nvidia's reference blueprint, whereas the other two modes kick things up a notch. Power requirements are similar to that of a stock card—500W or greater PSU, though you'll need both a 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe connector instead of just an 8-pin.

MSI didn't say when the 30th Anniversary card will be available or for how much. As a point of reference, its liquid cooled GTX 1080 Sea Hawk X graphics card streets for $1,150.

The Mafia 3 system requirements are here


Mafia 3 is now just a few weeks away, and that means that it is officially time to start sweating about whether or not your rig has the stones to run the thing. Allow me to help, courtesy of the minimum and recommended system specs posted earlier today.

First up, the PC you need, according to 2K:
  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit
  • Intel CPU: I5-2500K
  • AMD CPU: AMD FX-8120
  • RAM: 6GB
  • AMD GPU: Radeon HD7870
  • Nvidia GPU: GeForce GTX 660
  • Video Memory: 2GB
  • HD: 50GB (free space)
And then, the PC you want:
  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit
  • Intel CPU: I7-3770
  • AMD CPU: AMD FX 8350 4.0 Ghz
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • AMD GPU: Radeon R9 290X
  • Nvidia GPU: GeForce GTX 780 or GeForce GTX 1060
  • Video Memory: 4GB
  • HD: 50GB (free space)
Both ends of the scale seem pretty reasonable to me for what they are—that is, minimum and recommended—and it's always nice to see Windows 7 on the board. The system requirements post also gave us this wonderfully retro-styled announcement image that looks like something straight out of a magazine. Sweet ride, too.

Mafia 3 comes out on October 7.

SteelSeries Rival 500 mouse promises gaming ecstasy for your thumb


The general shape of the computer mouse hasn't changed all that much over the years. Subjectively some gaming models are definitely more comfortable to use than others, though there's no one-size-fits-all mouse that everyone agrees is the bees-knees. In the absence of such a design, SteelSeries decided to build a new rodent from the ground up around the gamer's thumb and hand movements. Meet the Rival 500.

"The Rival 500 is the first true multi-button gaming mouse engineered to maximize gaming efficiency, while keeping the gamers movement and comfort in mind," said Ehtisham Rabbani, SteelSeries CEO. "We created a MOBA/MMO mouse that fits your hand and not the other way around."

SteelSeries said it reimagined the traditional multi-button grid layout of most mice by incorporating natural hand movement into the design of the Rival 500. More specifically, it replaced the squeezed buttons of a grid format with what it calls a "Next-Gen" side button layout that's supposed to make identifying, clicking, and combo clicking precise and easy.

To that end, the Rival 500 sports the first flick down switches. From the perspective of SteelSeries, flick down switches represent the fastest way to make a move since the buttons respond to the gamer's natural flick movements rather than requiring a traditional button press. And if you find yourself not wanting to use the bottom switches on the side of the Rival 500 (they look like concave paddles), you can lock them with a physical switch on the underside of the mouse.

There are 15 programmable buttons in all, each of which is rated for 30 million clicks. The Rival 500 also features an optical PixArt PMW3360 sensor with an adjustable CPI (100 to 16,000), 50g acceleration, 1ms polling rate (1,000Hz), 1:1 tracking accuracy, and customizable RGB lighting.

If you want tactile alerts to in-game situations, you can enable them via software. SteelSeries says it carefully placed the alerts in the center of the mouse so that you'll feel them in your palm without them affecting the mouse's tracking.

As is often the case, the Rival 500 is designed to fit right-handed gamers. It's available now direct from SteelSeries for $80 (€90).

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

MSI's VR One is a Pascal-powered PC in a backpack


The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have ushered in an emerging era of VR gaming, though both solutions require that you tether the headset to a relatively powerful PC. As per PC Gamer MSI's new VR One backpack cuts that cord, or at least redirects it to a PC that you wear on your back.

The VR One is being pitched as the world's first-ever VR backback. It's a concept that MSI has been working on throughout the year and is now showing off at the Tokyo Game Show.

Wearing a laptop on your back doesn't sound all that appealing when you'll already be dancing around immersed in VR, though the VR One weighs just 3.6kg, which MSI says qualifies as the lightest (and thinnest) backpack PC system on the planet.

MSI isn't giving a detailed accounting of the specs just yet, instead just saying it comes with an overclocked CPU and GTX 10-series graphics card. It also comes with a pair of battery packs that can keep you in the game for up to 1.5 hours (LEDs indicate how much battery life remains).

In short, it's a standalone PC that you wear like a backpack to avoid tethering your Rift or Vive to a desktop system. That means no worries of tripping over cables, though woe betide you if you manage to tumble to the ground or trust fall into a wall while bouncing around your VR gaming space.

As for the VR One's looks, MSI says it ran with a "futuristic robot machine style." It's going to draw inevitable comparisons to a proton pack from Ghostbusters, especially now that a remade version of the classic movie is introducing Ghostbusters to a whole new generation.

Finally, let's talk cooling. The VR One sports dual 9cm fans and nine heatpipes. According to MSI, noise is kept 'near-silent' at under 41 dBA, allowing you to game into the wee hours of the night "without waking up your pets and parents." And hopefully you're light on your feet.

MSI says the VR One is optimized for the VIve. That's not surprising, since the Vive uses a pair of wireless lighthouses instead of a connected (and stationary) sensor. The VR One has a single HDMI port, one mini DisplayPort, a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port, and four USB 3.0 ports.

MSI didn't say how much it plans to charge for the VR One and whether or not there will be different configurations. It also isn't ready to discuss a release date.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

MSI X99A Tomahawk Motherboard Review


MSI is a name that needs no introduction to any PC enthusiast or gamer. With a rich catalogue of motherboards, graphics card and laptops the brand caters from entry level components to high end hardware.
Today courtesy to MSI India we have one of their newest & most interesting motherboards with us for review, we have wit us the MSI X99A Tomahawk Motherboard for review! Coming from the Arsenal Lineup of motherboards the MSI Tomahawk derives it name from the ICBM Tomahawk Cruise missile and not from the primitive Tomahawk weapon used by the Red Indians which you were thinking *wink*

The Arsenal motherboards consist mainly of budget board like the mortar, grenade and bazooka but with the Tomahawk MSI has pushed this lineup to the premium segment with some bare minimum features.

Packing and Accessories


The MSI X99A Tomahawk comes in a plain and simple packing signature of the Arsenal series boards. The product name is written in bold crisp font on a green camouflaged background which all gels well with the theme of the product but strangely MSI misprinted the image of a real life Maverick missile on top of the box instead of the Tomahawk missile! Hope they'll be correcting this grave error in their next batch of boards. 

Backside of the box comes with a colorful labeled diagram of the motherboard highlighting key features and specifications.
Open the box and you will find the motherboard lying in an anti-static bag underneath which are placed all the accessories.

Looking at the motherboard itself a few things are clear from the get go, its a matte black motherboard with mild accents of off white in a few areas. Also there are only three full length PCIe slots indicating towards the budget nature of the product.

On the accessories front the MSI Tomahawk might be that X99 motherboard right now that comes with the least number of accessories and by least I mean least! We have a 2-way SLI bridge, four SATA 6Gb/s cables, quick connect front-panel connector or the G-connectors what MSI calls them, warranty pamphlet, user manual, and installation DVD with software and drivers.

Closer Look and Features


The Tomahawk is pretty much similar to the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon on a fly but look closer and we realize that its much different in every sense possible. Its matte black with fragmented hues of off white and shiny metal. Infact the motherboard is so black that it'll get lost in your cabinet when powered down! Talk about stealth techniques

The CPU socket area is really very clean with enough space to accommodate any CPU cooler in the market. A prime reason for this is the absence of a PCIex1 slot near the DIMM slots which enabled MSI to move the DIMM slots half and inch downwards releasing more space in the surroundings.

The LGA 2011-3 socket over here is not the MSI "Turbo Socket" with extra pins but a standard one.

DIMM slots are standard with all black color and support for DDR4 memories at frequencies upto 3333+Mhz. Though during my testing I managed a stable 3600Mhz with a quad-channel kit.

The DIMM slots comes with its dedicated all digital power delivery system controlled by Powervation’s PV3203 Digital Dual-Phase Synchronous Buck Controller which is a highly capable and tested option.

Turn your gaze towards the PCIe area and we see three PCIe 3.0x16 slots and two PCIex1 slots for devices of a bygone era! A M.2 slot is also provided that we'll discuss later on.
All the three full sized PCIe slots are armored to support large and heavy graphics card. If you are using a 40 PCIe lane CPU then the configuration would be as follows for SLI configurations:

Single Card: 16x/0/0/0
Dual SLI: 16x/16x/0/0
Tri SLI: 16x/16x/8x/0

An interesting thing over here is that MSI has optimized this motherboard for dual and tri GPU configurations which is the standard with the new graphics card lineups eliminating support for quad GPU configurations. Also the two PCIex1 slots placed strategically between the first and second PCIex16 slots increases the space between the PCIex16 slots increasing air flow when a dual-GPU configuration is used!

The M.2 slot can accommodate a SSD upto 110mm in length which is the longest possible dimension for a M.2 SSD. This M.2 slot shares its PCIe lanes with the U.2 connector and the bottom most PCIex16 slot which means you can use only one of these three ports simultaneously since no discrete SATA controller or bridge is provided on the board to save cost, routing these ports directly through the CPU or the X99 PCH itself.

At the bottom end there are two physical buttons namely as power and reset button along with a debug LED display that displays the CPU temperature once successfully booted into windows.

On the left side of the board we have the Audio Boost 3 technology powered by a Realtek ALC 1150 8-channel CODEC and protect by an LED illuminated isolation strip to prevent any static distortion. This arrangement is solidified with gold plated Chemi-con capacitors and three Texas Instruments  OP1652 op-amps to power headphones and provide a surround sound experience.

The I/O panel is a standard panel but comes with one USB 3.1 support in form of one Type-A and one Type-C connector.

Since the X99 PCH doesn't have native 10GB/s support so MSI included a ASMedia ASM1142 controller. This is a budget X99 motherboard hence Intel controller was not used which is a more expensive alternate with added benefits like the ThunderBolt III technology support.

For controlling the LAN operations MSI opted for Intel I211AT NIC on the Tomahawk motherboard.

In terms of connectivity MSI went in for a clever layout and didn't stuff in all the 10 SATA 3 6GB/s ports on one side but split them in two areas. On one side you can see two SATA express ports and four SATA 3 ports right in between a U.2 port and a USB 3.1 Type-C front panel Header.
Rest of the four are aligned at right angle below the PCH heatsink near the dual BIOS dip switch

Also the USB 3.0 ports are controlled via a VIA VL805 controller taking away any additional load from the X99 PCH since the USB 3.1 Type-C front panel header is already connected to it directly.

Removing the heatsinks and shields we can see some of the vital components of the MSI X99A Tomahawk such as the X99 PCH itself. The surrounding area is clean since no PCIe bridge or native controller is employed on the board.

The power delivery to the PCIe devices is handles by a four channel Fintek F7540B multiplexr/demultiplexer.

Fan speed, I/O activity and even temperatures of various components on the motherboard are managed and channeled via the Nuvoton’s NCT6792D chip.

The CPU is powered by an 8-phase Military Class-5 power delivery system controlled by a Intersil ISL6388 PWM controller and constituted of 10-years rated Titanium Choke and Black Caps. This is not an all digital power delivery system but a reliable one for sure.

BIOS and Bundled Software

BIOS Overview


UEFI BIOS is getting more and more common with each manufacturer opting for it due to its simple and flexible interface along with the option to navigate via a mouse rather than a keyboard exclusive BIOS. MSI is no different and has offered not one but two versions of BIOS, EZ and Advanced versions, with the MSI X99A Tomahawk so as to suit every customer's needs.
On boot up by default you'll be greeted with a more comprehensive and detailed EZ BIOS screen. This is a crammed up screen that has the details about all the components installed on the board along with options laid out neatly under clear tabs on the left side. If you want to change fan speeds, maybe boot devices, or use its automated overclocking function or XMP, you can do so quickly and easily.









On pressing the F7 key you'll be teleported into the Advanced BIOS version or the traditional MSI UEFI BIOS version. This is a version that all the over clockers will love since the settings are broadly laid out with tab heading like Over Clocking Settings itself. A plethora of features are there out of which I'm showing you a selective few.

Bundled Software 

This is the era when manufacturers provide customers with not just a motherboard and utility softwares that act more like blotwares if nothing else. Gigabyte App center is already what I've reviewed a lot of time & it has never failed to impress but MSI is no less rather  a bit more refined in their approach.
The heart of the software set is the MSI command set which gives you general features and information regarding the CPU, GPU, Fan Speed, IGP etc Its the same as that of the other gen 2 X99 motherboards from MSI so to save time I'll use snaps from my previous review for this one.

Benchmarks and Overclocking 

Putting all the components together and booting up into Windows was a breeze with the MSI X99A Tomahawk. Everything worked properly and installed properly without any issue. The motherboard looks elegant and all black when off or nearly black even when powered on for that matter.

For the benchmarks we used the following test setup configuration --
CPU: Intel Core i7 6950K OC at 4.2Ghz on all ten cores
Motherboard: MSI X99A Tomahawk
RAM: Kingston HyperX Predator 16GB DDR4 (4x4) 3000Mhz Memory Kit
Cooler: Corsair H100i GTX Push-Pull Configuration
Graphics Card: MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8GB DDR5X
Storage: Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD
Power Supply: Corsair AX860i 860W 80+ Platinum
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
GPU Driver: NVIDIA ForceWare 368.69

In terms of overclocking I managed to push the Intel i7 6950X to 4.4Ghz at just 1.4v and the memory to a massive 3600Mhz. Even the GTX 1080 Gaming X reached a stable 1823Mhz on the clock and 1401Mhz on the memory!

For benchmarking purposes we'll keep the 6950X at 4.2Ghz at 1.35v and memory at 3000Mhz XMP 2.0 profile. This is done since I feel 4.2Ghz is a standard frequency for this chip and the results would be more closer to real-life performance.

AIDA64 Cache & Memory Benchmark


AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a great tool to bench your CPU and RAM in terms of their read-write-copy abilities. Our i7 6950X showed an impressive score along with the Kingston HyperX Predator kit.

AIDA64 GPGPU


The reason for including this benchmark was to simply observe the AES and Hash Test which is a determent of how easily your CPU or GPU can crunch complex calculations and higher score is always regarded better.

7-zip


7zip is a compression and decompression program that utilizes the processing power of the CPU alone. It is a synthetic benchmark that gives results very close to real life scores.

Intel XTU


The Intel XTU utility not only helps one to overclock and test the system stability all in one place but also can be used to benchmark the processor in terms of comparative score.

Fritz Chess


We've included Fritz Chess this time which is a nifty little benchmarking tool that stresses the CPU to crunch logical algorithms depicting a chess game. The benchmark can only stress four cores of the i7 6950X to 100% and a comparitive score is generated which is really very high!

wPrime v2.10


wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton’s method for estimating functions.

SuperPi Mod 1.5


A program meant to calculate the value of Pi stressing the CPU and Memory. A lower score is better and we can see the great score that the Ultra Gaming has obtained.

CrystalDiskMark 5.0.2


CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that analyses different types of hard drive. Giving sequential benchmark write and read statistics in MB/s. A simple program that is very useful. As seen the Corsair Neutron GTX performs very well on the MSI X99A Tomahawk.

My Verdict

When the new iteration of X99 motherboards hit the market two things were constant for all the boards irrespective of the manufacturing brand, firstly they are expensive with some models coming in with extravagant price tags. Secondly, the motherboards are loaded with RGB LEDs which to some extent is an over kill if not too tacky for some!
But with the X99A Tomahawk MSI has taken a path less traveled delivering ground breaking performance and just the right combination of aesthetics, slots and layout at a competitive price tag of around £ 230 or Rs 23,000 in India which is somewhat same to many of the less powerful Z170 PCH boards in the market.
For me the MSI X99A Tomahawk is the perfect X99 PCH motherboard for anyone who doesn't have a ton of cash to spend but is looking to build a machine to harness raw computational power without an extravagant number of NVMe or M.2 SSDs.
I give it a 9/10