X99A GODLIKE Gaming LGA 2011-v3 Motherboard Review
MSI’s X99A GODLIKE has not only a pretentious name but more features than you can shake a stick at. The decision to use a game reference from a series that long since died out is a puzzling one. While we're not going to pretend to understand MSI’s marketing, it has built what may be one of the best "Red and Black" motherboards of all time.
Micro-Star International or MSI as it’s more commonly known is one of the world’s leading motherboard manufacturers. It is a multi-billion dollar corporation with over 13,000 employees worldwide. The company has a diverse product portfolio the same as its chief competitors. MSI’s product lineup includes all in one PCs, desktops, graphics cards, motherboards, laptops, tablets, bare bones systems, servers, and more. The company remains primarily known for its motherboard products. MSI has embraced the gaming niche market wholeheartedly renaming most of their products as a means of targeting PC gamers. The X99-A GODLIKE represents one of its most expensive and feature rich offerings and is the company’s flagship X99 offering.
The MSI X99A GODLIKE GAMING is based on the X99 Express chipset and is compatible with Intel’s socket 2011-v3 CPUs. This includes both Core i7 and Xeon offerings. Because this motherboard is targeted towards high end gaming builds the feature set has been focused towards that end. Because MSI, like everyone else believes that onboard lights and gaming are synonymous MSI has included its new "Mystic Light" feature. This is one area where MSI trashes the competition...if that is something you are concerned about. GIGABYTE offers 7 colors, ASUS, a mere 256. MSI shames them with 2048 colors and 8 visual lighting effects.
While I do like many of MSI’s more recent products, the company has always annoyed me with its literature and website being saturated with marketing terms that come from the wet dreams of some PR firm. Some of these terms aren’t necessarily MSI’s fault. Killer Networks "Killer Double Shot-x3 Pro" is one piece of marketing drivel that reduces one’s IQ every time they type it. When browsing MSI’s website it can be difficult to cut through the marketing speak and get to the core of what features are actually features and which ones are just BS marketing terms. I’ll get to terminology like the "Killer Double Shot x3 Pro" and how that’s nonsense in a bit. What you need to know is the direction that MSI has taken with its products and specifically with the X99A GODLIKE. MSI really wants to position this motherboard as the best gaming motherboard on the planet. The gaming extends from the hardware to the included software. MSI has "Steelseries" certification and an application installed with the software / driver package can auto-detect Steelseries peripherals and configure these. XSplit Gamecaster software has also been included for streaming your games.
The name, for those of you who haven’t been into PC gaming for more than 10 years may not be aware of the name’s origins. The name comes from the Unreal Tournament series which had a dismal entry in 2007. The game was underwhelming and basically no one played it for more than a week or two. Previous games such as Unreal Tournament 2004 had huge critical and financial success. People still play that game today, although not in the huge numbers they once did. Whenever you would achieve a streak of kills the tournament announcer voice would proclaim "double kill, multi-kill, etc." until your kill streak reached "GODLIKE" status. This required a fairly lengthy kill streak.
Why MSI would choose a term that most millennial gamer’s wouldn’t recognize I have no idea. This is almost as relevant as anything with the "Fatal1ty" name on it. Old timers like me know the GODLIKE reference well. Perhaps the company is targeting us older gamers as we’ll likely be the only people who can afford its X99A GODLIKE which is not only GODLIKE in the feature department, but the price department as well. This is MSI’s most expensive offering. At the time of this writing Newegg is carrying the GODLIKE for $554.
Main Specifications Overview:
Detailed Specifications Overview:
The packaging of the X99A GODLIKE Gaming is absolutely stunning as far as boxes go. The box art is nice, but inside you’ll find high quality cardboard with a magnetic seal. Beyond that the motherboard is in a nice plastic and cardboard container. Inside the box is a huge host of accessories. Inside you’ll find: A trees worth of paper. A user guide, application guide, door sign, SATA labels, SATA cables, SLI bridges, wireless antennas, a USB 3.1 type-C / Micro-USB flash drive with dragon logo, and an I/O shield.
Aesthetically speaking the X99A GODLIKE is one of the most stunning motherboards I’ve ever seen. The thing is absolutely gorgeous. The X99A GODLIKE Gaming motherboard has "heavy plated armor" according to MSI’s marketing department. While I’d love to grab some ammunition or a battle axe and put that claim to the test, I’ll just say that the armor serves roughly the same purpose as ASUS’ Thermal Armor does. It’s cosmetic more than anything. Supposedly the shroud around the I/O panel acts as EMI shielding, and it is EMI shielded. The rest of it near as I can tell doesn’t have the coverage to channel air flow in any meaningful way, nor does it cover well enough to keep dust off the PCB. The paint job and general edges are filed down enough to prevent you from hurting yourself. The armor itself is still somewhat flimsy as it lacks rolled edges to prevent you from cutting yourself while handling it as well as adding some rigidity to the longer flat sections. The PCB itself is black with all the red in the color combination being found on the metal "armor" parts.
The motherboard layout itself is quite excellent with no major issues that annoy me. The CMOS battery is buried under the shielding which isn’t convenient but that’s basically all I have to complain about. The motherboard is made with an 8-layer, tight weave fiberglass PCB. It is supposed to have increased humidity resistance and ESD protection. As you might expect from a premium offering, the motherboard’s cooling hardware is screwed down and doesn’t use those sorry post tension pins. Hi-C Capacitors, dark capacitors, and super ferrite chokes are found throughout the design of the X99A GODLIKE Gaming motherboard.
The CPU socket is clear of major obstructions. The motherboard’s 12 digitally controlled power phases are visible near the outer edge of the motherboard. The DrMOS MOSFETs are cooled with a large heat sink with embedded heat pipes. The color scheme matches the "heavy armor plate" as MSI puts it. The MSI X99A GODLIKE also features the Extreme OC Socket design which has more voltage pins in it and is designed to achieve higher overclocks.
The X99A GODLIKE Gaming motherboard features 8 288-pin DDR4 DIMM slots supporting up to 128GB of DDR4 memory at speeds up to DDR4 3400MHz through overclocking. The slots are not color coded to denote proper dual or quad-channel memory mode operation. This is unfortunate, but it was clearly done for aesthetic reasons. As usual, single sided locking tabs are used for module retention.
The chipset is covered by a large, flat heat sink with an embedded heat pipe. The chipset also sits directly in front of the expansion slots and directly behind the SATA and SATA Express ports. The chipset’s temperature never exceeded 90F-95F during our testing so the cooling hardware seems quite good at its job.
The expansion slot area is solid with a couple of minor issues. One problem though is the placement of the M.2 slot. 22110 type devices aren’t supported due to their length. Only 80mm and shorter M.2 SSD’s may be used with the X99A GODLIKE. The thermal armor actually extends between the expansion slots and again it’s fairly thin. It sticks up slightly to avoid hitting the PCB. You can easily push it down and make contact with the PCB if you wish. Not that you would want to. The expansion slots themselves have a metal bracket on them that we’ve started seeing lately on several motherboards. These are designed to reinforce the slots to handle the ever-increasing weight of modern GPUs, many of which are now coming with factory water cooling systems which are self-contained. A traditional waterblock adds some weight, but may be lighter than the factory air coolers. However cooling solutions like the one on the Fury X are another matter. You are practically putting a Corsair H80i onboard your GPU at that point. There is no PLX chip, so the X99A GODLIKE depends on the CPU’s PCIe lanes for expansion capabilities. Physically the slots are x16/x8/x8/x16/x8 electrically. The following configurations are actually supported: x16/ x0/ x0/ x0/ x0, x16/ x0/ x0/ x16/ x0, x16/ x0/ x0/ x16/ x8, or x8/ x8/ x0/ x16/ x8 with a 40 lane CPU.
The I/O panel area is covered with what MSI calls its "Dragon cover." While it’s sturdier than what was on some of the XPower motherboards it’s still pretty flimsy. Aesthetically it looks fine but it cheapens the feel of the board. I have to admit, inside a case the motherboard would look amazing. The back panel has 2x USB 2.0 ports, 6x USB 3.1 ports, 1 of which is a type-C port. There are connections for the Killer Networks wireless controller, 5x mini-stereo jacks for analog audio, 1x optical output, 1x full sized headphone jack, 2x RJ-45 LAN ports, 1x PS/2 mouse or keyboard port, and lastly it has a clear CMOS button.