What happens when a vendor adds 802.11ac to Killer networking? You get an ACK - specifically, the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK. This motherboard includes 3-way SLI and Crossfire support, dual M.2 slots with a unique heatsink design attached to the chipset, both front and rear USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) ports, dual Realtek audio chips, Killer based networking, and plenty of RGB LEDs to light up the case. 

MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK Overview

With the X299 platform, users tend to drop into one of two categories: the all or the nothing. A user investing in X299 is either trying to get everything, every feature, with multiple graphics cards and displays and lots of memory, or they are trying to get the high-end on the cheap. I remember the days when investing in X58 to get a Core i7-920 and overclocking it was seen as the height of aiming at performance, compared to investing in a Core i7-800 series platform. Back then, X58 was a stepping stone into HEDT. But here, the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK, or M7 ACK for short, is clearly aimed at users who want it all: more cores, more memory, more graphics cards, more storage, more network connectivity, and most importantly, more LEDs. If you wanted to light up the night, this is one motherboard that can certainly do that for you.

Buy MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK on Amazon.com

Aside from features and LEDs, there is one consistent metric in all motherboard reviews. Our performance results placed the M7 ACK right in the middle of the pack, performing well overall. The form of Multi-Core Enhancement it has runs the benchmarks in the 3.6 GHz range, as do the majority of other motherboards tested. The main system performance win was the fact that it was the fastest MSI board to boot that we have tested so far. But users investing in this system should look into the overclocking.

Manually overclocking our Core i9-7900X was met with little fanfare, as this board happily took our i9-7900X CPU to 4.6 GHz before running into our temperature limit. Using the automated OC tool, Game Boost, was a different story. We were only able to reach the 2nd boost level before the CPU was throttling due to the voltage causing temperatures to be too high for the settings. Through it all, the smaller heatsink covering the VRMs did a good job keeping temperatures to an acceptable level during our extended stress testing peaking at 75C while overclocked to 4.5 GHz.

The M7 ACK allows users to have all the options for storage connectivity. There are eight SATA ports along with two M.2 slots. These slots are both covered by the unique hinged heatsink attached to the chipset heatsink. Both M.2 slots support PCIe and SATA modules, and share bandwidth with the U.2 port and SATA ports. 

The board comes with four full-length PCIe slots in positions 1, 3, 4, and 6. Those slots are all connected through the CPU and intended for video cards. PCIe slots 2 and 5, both PCIe 3.0 x1, are connected through the chipset. For connectivity, there is a total of four USB 3.0 ports (three managed by ASMedia 1074, one by the chipset), three USB 2.0 ports (chipset), and two USB 3.1 ports (Type-A and Type-C, ASMedia 3142) on the back panel. Internally there are additional headers for both USB 3.0/USB3.1 as well as two USB 2.0 headers. 

For networking, MSI chose to go with an all Killer-solution here. The board uses Rivet Networks latest Killer E2500 NIC for wired duty and the  Killer Wireless-AC 1535 module for wireless, which comes pre-installed in the M2 (Key E) slot. The 802.11ac module supports Bluetooth 4.1 and speeds up to 867 Mbps. The networking is built into the name of the motherboard - Killer networking and 802.11ac gives 'AC' and 'K', for ACK.

Pricing for the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK is $390 at Newegg and $365 (from $420) at Amazon. This price point puts it in some decent company in the the $350-$400 range including the ASRock Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 currently listed at $390 (from $399), the ASUS ROG Strix X299-XE Gaming at $370, and the GIGABYTE X299 AORUS Ultra Gaming Pro priced at $350. If U.2 is needed, the MSI board is the hands down choice, otherwise, users will need to filter through faetures they need and want as well as consider looks and price. 

MSI X299 Strategy

MSI brings a current total of eleven X299 boards to choose from: the MSI X299 XPower Gaming AC holds the flagship title and makes its home in the Enthusiast Gaming segment along with the X299 Gaming M7 ACK. There are a total of three boards in the Performance Gaming hierarchy in the X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC, Gaming Pro Carbon, and X299M Gaming Pro Carbon AC (mATX). The Arsenal line carries the three Tomahawk boards, the X299 Tomahawk, the X299 Tomahawk Arctic and the X299 Tomahawk AC, while the Pro lineup for professionals has three motherboards; X299 SLI Plus, X299 Raider, and X299M-A Pro.

MSI's X299 Motherboard Lineup (1/29)
Amazon Newegg
X299 XPower Gaming AC [review planned] $450 $450
X299 Gaming M7 ACK [this review] $366 $380
X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC Review 9/21 $273^ $330
X299 Gaming Pro Carbon   $320 $320
X299M Gaming Pro Carbon AC [in editing] $277 $290
X299 Tomahawk AC   $273 $290
X299 Tomahawk Arctic Review 11/20 $280 $280
X299 Tomahawk   $256 $270
X299 SLI PLUS Review 11/29 $232 $220
X299 Raider   $215 $220
X299M-A Pro   - $237^

^ Third Party Sellers

Information on Intel's X299 and our other Reviews

With Intel's release of the Basin Falls platform, encompassing the new X299 chipset and LGA2066 socket, a new generation of CPUs called Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X were also released. The Skylake-X CPUs range from the 7800X, a hex-core part, all the way up to an 18-core 7980XE multitasking behemoth. Between the bookend CPUs are five others increasing in core count, as in the table below. The latter HCC models are set to be launched over 2H of 2017.

Skylake-X Processors
  7800X 7820X 7900X   7920X 7940X 7960X 7980XE
Silicon LCC   HCC
Cores / Threads 6/12 8/16 10/20   12/24 14/28 16/32 18/36
Base Clock / GHz 3.5 3.6 3.3   2.9 3.1 2.8 2.6
Turbo Clock / GHz 4.0 4.3 4.3   4.3 4.3 4.3 4.2
Turbo Max Clock N/A 4.5 4.5   4.4 4.4 4.4 4.4
L3 1.375 MB/core   1.375 MB/core
PCIe Lanes 28 44   44
Memory Channels 4   4
Memory Freq DDR4 2400 2666   2666
TDP 140W   140W 165W
Price $389 $599 $999   $1199 $1399 $1699 $1999

Board partners have launched dozens of motherboards on this platform already, several of which we will have an opportunity to look over in the coming weeks and months. 

Other AnandTech X299 Motherboard Reviews:

To read specifically about the X299 chip/platform and the specifications therein, our deep dive into what it is can be found at this link.

X299 Motherboard Review Notice

If you’ve been following the minutiae of the saga of X299 motherboards, you might have heard some issues regarding power delivery, overclocking, and the ability to cool these processors down given the power consumption. In a nutshell, it comes down to this:

  • Skylake-X consumes a lot of power at peak (150W+),
  • The thermal interface inside the CPU doesn’t do much requiring a powerful CPU cooler,
  • Some motherboard vendors apply Multi-Core Turbo which raises the power consumption and voltage, exacerbating the issue
  • The VRMs have to deal with more power, and due to losses, raise in temperature
  • Some motherboards do not have sufficient VRM cooling without an active cooler
  • This causes the CPU to declock or hit thermal power states as to not degrade components
  • This causes a performance drop, and overclocked systems are affected even more than usual

There has been some excellent work done by Igor Wallossek over at Tom’s Hardware, with thermal probes, thermal cameras, and performance analysis. The bottom line is that motherboard vendors need to be careful when it comes to default settings (if MCT is enabled by default) and provide sufficient VRM cooling in all scenarios – either larger and heavier heatsinks or moving back to active cooling. 

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  • Qasar - Monday, March 5, 2018 - link

    quote from Ian :
    As for the glut of X299 reviews, we have different reviewers for each chipset/socket: Joe on X299/Z370, Gavin on AM4, Tracy on TR4. Tracy has been waylayed due to lack of hardware, Gavin is new so getting up to speed, and Joe is powering through. Joe is only just moving to Z370 as well, and has a few of those already half-done.

    that could explain things a little as to why there are very few ryzen reviews.......
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - link

    Anyone knows they're intel shills, also toms (both part of purch) at least toms safe face with more dignity.
  • ralstonater - Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - link

    "The 802.11ac module supports Bluetooth 4.1 and speeds up to 867 Gbps."

    While technology moves at incredible paces I wholly doubt that the wireless AC supports that fast of a connection ;)
  • Joe Shields - Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - link

    Corrected. Thanks!
  • GDogKC - Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - link

    I have been running this motherboard for almost 6 months. Would agree with some of the comments so far. I have had less than satisfactory results with the wireless, particularly with the bluetooth radio. The 802.11ac connection has been okay.

    I also have had issues with the power state management with Linux and Virtualization(Hyper-V/Docker). I have always been able to figure some BIOS settings the worked but frustrating.

    Understand that some of my issues may be self inflicted, but have not had similar issues on prior builds. Overall an average board with an average experience.
  • StrangerGuy - Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - link

    X299 aka who cares? For the price of one cheapest X299 board you can review four B350M boards that are infinitely more relevant.
  • vicbee - Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - link

    Frankly I don't get the aggression, particularly from the more tech savvy individuals. Perhaps your pedantic (or not) logic keeps you from recognizing that your posts hold little value until your real name and the company you work for can be identified and verified. I don't know about Killer and their product's worth but I don't know you either, only that you feel that AT is writing something you find unacceptable and the best you can do is disparage. Certainly not a way to stimulate conversation and raise the level of understanding.
  • jabber - Monday, March 12, 2018 - link

    I'm just thinking what the comments would have been say 4 years ago had AMD put out a chipset/CPU combo that required a "Review Notice" regarding such dreadful thermals? Intel gets a pass I guess?

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