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MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC – MSI’s top tier gaming offering for the Haswell refresh

Testing & Methodology

We’ve expanded our testing suite considerably since the X79 chipset release, and will continue to use the same methods for most of the motherboards and CPU’s we test. In the interests of thoroughness and accurate results, we run each test at least three times, and some tests more than that. We average the total of all the tests from each benchmark then report the average here.

The OS we use is Windows 7 Pro 64bit with all patches and updates applied. We also use the latest drivers available for the motherboard and any devices attached to the computer. We do not disable background tasks or tweak the OS or system in any way. We turn off drive indexing and daily defragging. We also turn off Prefetch and Superfetch. This is not an attempt to produce bigger benchmark numbers. Drive indexing and defragging can interfere with testing and produce confusing numbers. If a test were to be run while a drive was being indexed or defragged, and then the same test was later run when these processes were off, the two results would be contradictory and erroneous. As we cannot control when defragging and indexing occur precisely enough to guarantee that they won’t interfere with testing, we opt to disable the features entirely.

Prefetch tries to predict what users will load the next time they boot the machine by caching the relevant files and storing them for later use. We want to learn how the program runs without any of the files being cached, and we disable it so that each test run we do not have to clear pre-fetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows occupies so much memory. Vista fills the memory in an attempt to predict what users will load. Having one test run with files cached, and another test run with the files un-cached would result in inaccurate numbers. Again, since we can’t control its timings so precisely, it we turn it off. Because these four features can potentially interfere with benchmarking, and and are out of our control, we disable them. We do not disable anything else.

One thing to note is that we are revamping our testing method in order to better represent motherboard performance and offering to you guys the consumer. Also we want to make it an easier read for you without miles of endless charts. Please feel free to provide feedback on what you think as many benchmarks will be shuffled or removed completely.

Test Rig

Test Rig
Case Open Test Bench
  • Intel Core i7 4790K (Haswell – LGA1150 – Z97)
  • Intel Core i7 4770K (Haswell – LGA1150 – Z87)
  • Intel Core i7 4960X (Ivy Bridge-E – LGA2011 – X79)
  • MSI Z97 Daming 9 AC
Ram GSkill TridentX 2666MHz
CPU Cooler Swiftech 240mm rad custom loop
Hard Drives Western Digital Velociraptor 1TB 10000RPM 6Gb/s Hard Drive
SSD 1x Kingston HyperX 240GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD
Optical ASUS DVD-Burner
GPU Nvidia GTX 780
PSU Thermaltake Toughpower XT 1475W Gold
Mouse Tt eSPORTS Black Gaming Mouse
Keyboard Tt eSPORTS Meka G1 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Test Suite

We will use the following applications to test the performance of the Z97 Chipset (Motherboard, Processor).

SuperPi Mod 1.5
Wprime 1.55
PCMark 7
3DMark 11
Cinebench R11.5
Truecrypt 7.1
Unigine Heaven 4.0
Metro 2033
Batman Arkham City
Sniper Elite V2


The Z97 platform is actually very similar to the Z87 in the terms that the CPU is really the limiting factor for most day-to-day clocks.

The CPU clocking for this chip on air/water walls right at 4.8GHz and wont walk past it no matter what, yet some chips I have tested retail go as high as 5.1 on air/water but it really is all lottery/luck of the draw.


Much like we saw on the Gigabyte board the voltage setting is very similar although this took slightly more voltage to be stable but we are talking .02V higher to be 100% stable. The fact that this chip walls at 4.8GHz across multiple boards is a bummer and I am hoping I will find a few better chips in the future as I only found one that exceeds 5.1GHz to date.

Important note: Overclocking can cause component failure. Please exercise caution when attempting any level of overclock on system components.



PCmark 7


PCMark from board to board much like we saw with the Gigabyte board there simply is little variance you can gain as the new platforms have been very efficient so you’re talking very minimal differences and within the margin for error.


3DMark 11


3DMark reaffirms what we have seen so far that the bus on the new platforms in terms of graphics with modern high-end cards simply is not a bottleneck and so gamers will see marginal performance increase from upgrades if they have one of the platforms listed, however older platforms such as X58 or 775 based rigs would definitely see some performance increases.



This tests single threaded performance and clock efficiency by processing digits of the number pi. Going from the 4770K to the 4790K you can see there is a defined difference of over 3 seconds on the long test and .2 on the quick test.



WPrime is similar to Superpi, but is multi core aware and you can set the core count. We used 8 threads to take advantage of the 4770K & 4790K’s HyperThreading ability and 12 thread on the 4960X. as you can see here thread is kind with the 4960X simply having more cores/threads to do work, its not to say its efficiency is better it simply has more to work with but then again its also over 3x the price, so take that into consideration. the 4790K and its higher frequency definitely took a nice lead over the 4770K and decidedly so did well in the MSI board however due to the fact that we do not have a reference Intel board to compare to we simply do not have much for a comparative sample or a “Control” board to reference or test against.

Cinebench R11.5

“CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer’s performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more. MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based). The resulting values among different operating systems are 100% comparable and therefore very useful with regard to purchasing decision-making. It can also be used as a marketing tool for hardware vendors or simply to compare hardware among colleagues or friends.”

Here you can see where the high-end rendering work can be done. There are some definite improvements on the x86 processing, however the OpenGL rendering is definitely seeing a small increase but due to it rendering on the card the benefit simply is not there as it is only slightly helped by the higher clock speed.



Transcoding has become more popular now and the latest Sandy Bridge processor added support for AVX instruction for faster video transcoding. the new Haswell chips simply make some excellent performance increases with the higher 4GHz base clock speed.

Truecrypt 7.1


TrueCrypt is a real world application that gives a good indication of the true performance of our latest processor.The 4790K once again simply pulls a impressive result here as its increased speed simply flexes its muscle.

Unigine Heaven 4.0

Unigine Heaven is a benchmark program based on Unigine Corp’s latest engine, Unigine. The engine features DirectX 11, Hardware tessellation, DirectCompute, and Shader Model 5.0. All of these new technologies combined with the ability to run each card through the same exact test means this benchmark should be in our arsenal for a long time.


Unigine Heaven on a discrete GTX 780 gains very little here and I think this is simply limited by the GPU as heaven is super stressful and the ability to increase simply is not bottle necked by the new super efficient platforms.


Metro 2033

metro 2033

Metro 2033 shows increases at the max FPS which tells me that the frequency does unpipe things at the top end but even that is limited as the average still hangs very close to the others.


Batman Arkham City

Batman AC

Batman shows similar gains at the top end while the average FPS between the Haswell chips are close, although admittedly Batman does seem to a bit more CPU bound as you can see a definite increase of 2 solid FPS at the average.


Sniper Elite V2

sniper elite V2

Once again Sniper Elite V2 has been exceeded by insane FPS levels but the top end really jumps in the MSI board and the 4790K as we see close to 40+ FPS higher at the max FPS compared to the 4770K and even more so than the 4960X

Review Overview

Performance - 9
Value - 7.5
Quality - 9
Features - 9
Innovation - 9


The MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC is a great board that has an amazing audio solution, but a tough price tag

User Rating: 5 ( 1 votes)

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