A missile that hits all but one target.
When we did our X99 round up a couple of issues ago the MSI X99 XPower Gaming Titanium was our favourite board of the bunch. It had all the features you could want in a premium board without going overboard and had the looks and performance to match.
The X99A Tomahawk thankfully has taken much of the DNA found in that top-end Xpower board and has brought it down to a more reasonable price for the masses. From the updated UEFI interface to the strengthened PCI-E x16 slots, RGB LED header and even the BIOS error code readout display that reverts to showing CPU package temperatures after POST has completed, it’s obvious that MSI has tried to include as much of the high-end features on this board as possible.
Connectivity wise the three PCI-E x16 gen3 slots plus two PCI-E x1 gen2 slots are well arranged and will satisfy most users’ needs. Unfortunately, while an SLI bridge is provided it’s not of the new high bandwidth variety used by Nvidia’s latest GTX 10-series. There’s also a solid offering of high bandwidth drive connection options with one each for M.2, U.2 and SATA Express drives.
The rear IO panel sports everything you’d expect, including dual gigabit Ethernet ports and a clear CMOS button. USB bandwidth is a tad light, with almost half of the ports still being USB2.0, however you still get four USB3 ports plus two full speed USB 3.1 ports, one as a Type-C connector, for some future-proofing.
We dropped in an i7 6950X and 32GB of DDR4 rated for DDR-3200 and ran some benchmarks. Unfortunately, the performance hasn’t filtered through from the impressive Xpower offering to the Tomahawk. In all tests this board came in last by a good margin, behind even the ASRock Fatal1ty X99 that sits at the same price point.
Overall this is a great quality board with more features than the Fatal1ty and while the performance is a little disappointing, short of bitcoin mining or doing heavy compute work it ultimately doesn’t amount to much, if any, difference when gaming