MSI X79 Big Bang XPower II Review

👤by Richard Weatherstone Comments 📅10-01-12
Bang and the dirt is gone! Well not quite but it certainly put the other motherboards on test into the shade. It has to be said the ASRock put up a valiant fight but the two boards are like chalk and cheese when the overall features are compared. The ASRock could be forgiven though as the two highest performing boards are aimed at totally different markets. The MSI Big Bang XPower II is an all out, balls to the wall extreme performance motherboard that has it all, power efficiency when you want to save on electricity, extreme performance when you need it; performance by the bucket load!

The packaging is almost perfect with only the accessory box needing tweaking but that is a very minor point in what is overall a very tidy, well presented product. Aesthetically, the motherboard looks fantastic. Sure the heatsinks may not be everyone's cup of tea but give them time and they do grow on you. Despite the Marmite looks of the heatsinks there can be no doubting that they perform very well. Under normal circumstances, the CPU core expander which alters the PWM speed can be left at auto but even when the speed is doubled, the heatsink kept the MOSFET temps under control. The ASRock Extreme4-M needed external cooling at full overclocked speeds. I'm no kid but the bullets and guns theme becomes appealing after awhile and they are subtle enough not to detract from the overall theme of the motherboard. If you don't like the bullet heatsink you could always cover it up with 4(!) dual slot graphics cards. Not only that but the four cards can hail from either of the big two, AMD or NVIDIA as the MSI Big Bang XPower II has 4-way SLI capability along with CrossfireX which for all intents and purposes is perhaps the biggest attraction of the mainboard.

Speaking of BIOS settings, the Click BIOS II is very good, perhaps now it has matured it could be said that it is one of, if not the best on the market at present. The Big Bang XPower II's BIOS has some very neat features too, none more so than the power protection/limitations which can be adjusted to best suit your uses. These features (disabled or increased) enabled this motherboard to hit the highest overclock we have achieved yet with our i7 3960X topping out at 5075MHz. While this is an astounding achievement in itself, I couldn't help feeling frustrated by the test setup's closed loop watercooling as there was clearly more left in the tank should CPU temperatures have been more adequately controlled.

There are a few little niggling design errors that do tend to irk and while nothing major, slightly spoil the overall products appeal, especially when in use. Why MSI thought it would be a good idea to place the reset switch at opposite ends of the board to the power button I simply cannot fathom. It's also worth noting that while the CPU socket will be perfect for watercooling or indeed extreme cooling, air coolers may have a more difficult time due to the size and proximity of both MOSFET heatsinks which are situated above and below the CPU socket area. With this board supporting up to 8 DIMM's, heatsink orientation may therefore become an issue, especially oversized heatsinks and let's be honest here, who is going to run this motherboard with a small CPU heatsink? It is therefore recommended you have a tall heatsink able to clear the MSOFET heatsinks or purchase low profile memory. You could of course always invest in watercooling or a cauldron of LN2, which is what this motherboard is really screaming out for!

Overall then, the MSI Big Bang II XPower II is a magnificent motherboard; it has everything you could want from a top of the range product. Perfect it isn't but it is the motherboard that has come closest thus far in our testing and therefore is deserving of our Gold award - very well done MSI!

+ Fantastic overclocking ability
+ User friendly UEFI BIOS
+ Great aesthetics
+ Excellent on-board Features
+ LED Debug
+ 4-way SLI
+ Good packaging
+ Cool running

- Power/Reset buttons oddly placed
- Gimmick heatsinks may be an issue for some
- Air cooling may be problematic with large heatsink and all DIMM slots populated

*Note* Pending further reviews of the Big Bang XPower II's main competitors, today's review sample could also receive our top 'Elite' award - please check back regularly.

Click here for an explanation of our awards at Thanks to MSI for providing today’s review sample.

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