Finishing up some of the announcements and late arrivals into our inbox, is MSI’s product launch range for Intel’s new X-Series processors, as well as some GPU updates. The X299 release with socket 2066 has left many motherboard makers creating many different varieties of motherboards to cover the rather bewildering array of CPUs, from 4 cores with Kaby Lake-X, to the 18-core CPUs with Skylake-X, ranging from 16 PCIe lanes to 44.
The flagship board from MSI is the X299 GAMING M7 ACK. It’s has a 10 phase power supply, twin M.2 thermal solution that flips up, plenty of RGB options, and support for 3D printed shrouds. One quirk is the inclusion of dual amps for audio, to drive speakers and headphones separately. Networking is similarly double stacked with dual Killer Ethernet, plus Killer 1535 Wi-Fi.
The PRO CARBON AC is for those that like to mod, as it comes with exchangeable heatsink covers to help personalize your board, again supporting 3D printing (it includes covers that are black, silver and gold in the box). The X299 TOMAHAWK is MSI’s take on the whole military grade or rugged design philosophy, this time integrating stainless steel ‘armor’ that reinforces key components, making them more rigid, as well as styling.
Most of the boards feature headers for USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C ports with front-mounted headers, as well as ports on the rear I/O. U.2 is getting more recognition, like many of the other boards (SSD manufacturers just need to release consumer drives for the ports). RGB lighting has some form of integration too, either through headers on the board, or LEDs around key locations.
MSI also showed off two graphics cards that will be available soon. The GTX 1080 Ti Lightning Z is MSI’s top-end 1080 Ti offering that will come with all the bells and whistles of a high-end overclocked GPU befitting of the 1080 Ti, but also on show was something a little more interesting. While still a concept card at this stage, the rather long-winded name of GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X 11G is a fairly standard 1080 Ti, but with the inclusion of a USB Type-C port on the I/O panel.
The USB Type-C connector was heralded as the one-true port to rule them all, feature a reversible connector as well as 10Gb throughput, or 40Gb with Thunderbolt 3, but also act as a display adapter and power delivery system, not just data. Sticking the port on a graphics card could finally mean a single port connection to a monitor, delivering 4K content, power and data, all over the same cable. While this may not be useful for monitors by itself, thinking more in terms of VR, then the single-port connection would help massively, instead of dealing with a breakout box of up to 5 cables for a VR headset. How MSI intends to deliver this is another matter, as sharing a GPU plus USB controller and power delivery system all on the same card would likely cause issues. Perhaps an additional riser card with loop-backs is needed. We’ll have to wait and see.
With all the X299 boards coming out, motherboard manufacturers still have another set of boards to contend with too, AMD’s X399 platform for Threadripper, so expect to see a number of additional boards in the future.