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    MSI X99S SLI Plus

    Last month saw me getting all excited about Intel’s Core i7 5960X processor but that cost almost £800. More plausible for the majority of us is the sub-£300 six-core/twelve threaded Core i7 5820K. The problem with both those options is that the X99 motherboards that house them generally cost in the region of £300 themselves.

    When you’re spending £800 on a CPU maybe that might make sense, but when it’s the same cost as the processor it should certainly give you pause for thought. Thankfully MSI have come to the rescue with the cheapest X99 board I’ve seen.

    ‘Cheap’ makes it sound like some flimsy green circuit board that’s barely capable of waking its CPU up in the morning. But that’s far from the truth. The first thing that struck me was just how robust the board feels. I’ve tested some bendy boards in my time, and this thing feels reassuringly solid. But it’s the fact that the feature set is all present and correct that really impresses, it barely feels like there’s been a compromise made to get down to this price level.

    There’s the full eight DIMM memory configuration, which will allow for up to 64GB of speedy DDR4 memory, and you’ll not be left wanting for next generation storage support either. Unlike some other X99 boards I’ve tested there are both M.2 and SATA Express connections in place, and the PCIe based M.2 is of the full length variety too.

    The big thing for gamers is that it’s fully certified for Nvidia’s SLI as well as AMD’s CrossFireX multi GPU arrays. Intel’s Haswell E chips have more PCIe lanes than standard chips even the cut down 5820K so having that premium SLI licence on such a price-sensitive board is a positive boon.

    You’re not missing out on the back panel, USB 3.0, SATA 6 Gbps ports or onboard motherboard controls either. As for performance, that is a short of the mark when it comes to both CPU and gaming benchmarks but only by enough to be noticeable in testing result spreadsheets, and definitely not in the real world. It doesn’t have any problem getting to decent overclocking levels. I still managed to hit a fairly standard 4.3GHz with the X99 SLI Plus and my Core i7 5960X CPU.

    So where are the problems then? To be honest, I couldn't really find any. It’s definitely not as feature rich as the packed Asus X99 Deluxe, but then you’re also not going to find yourself particularly missing anything the MSI board omits. If you’re considering making the switch to an X99/Haswell E machine, then this is the ideal smart money motherboard purchase.


    Components and materials
    A piece of kit is quite literally the sum of its parts. We look for the fastest chips, the highest core counts and the most modern materials.

    Real world performance
    Each piece of kit we look at must be examined on its own merits. If it’s a mouse, how does it feel? Is it too heavy or light?  If it’s a memory stick, an item designed for portability, how much data can it hold? Does it read and write data quickly?

    Some kit looks good, some looks bad. Aesthetics are often taken into account, as depending on the item, it can be a factor in your long term satisfaction.

    It may be the highest-performing piece of kit in its category, but  is it within reach of most consumers? We like to see components that are not only best in class, but offer value for money too. 

    £148 - 9/10

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