One of the many interesting ways in which motherboard companies diversify their product ranges is with networking opportunities. In most product stacks, manufacturers use Realtek and Intel network ports with reckless abandon, while a few also use wireless connectivity or Killer network solutions to add value to their product. MSI has now added another potential into their mix with their ‘ACK’ branding. The acronym can be described as 802.11ac + Killer, with both solutions coming from Qualcomm Atheros’ networking solutions. What makes this combination new, aside from using an Atheros WiFi solution, is that MSI is allowing ‘Killer Smart Teaming’ which allows the wired and wireless network to act together, offering a 1.867 Gbps maximum network throughput.

The ACK feature will come to their highest end motherboards first – the Z97 Gaming 9 ACK and the X99S Gaming 9 ACK should be available in the market shortly with the WiFi/software updates. Both of these boards also feature a stylistic upgrade on their rear IO panels, as shown above. Aside from this, both motherboards are the same as their non-ACK counterparts.

Unfortunately, MSI’s marketing is a little misleading. In order to take advantage of the teaming effort as proposed, with the wireless data taking video streaming and the wired taking the gaming, there is no thought made to the data actually travelling out of the home and down the cables. For example, my 16 Mbps connection will still only run at 16 Mbps outside of my home, even if I connect the machine with both wired and wireless to my router. It also relies on the router also prioritizing this data over other machines on the network, or being able to handle the data in an appropriate fashion.

One of the reasons I personally like the myriad of networking options on motherboards today is because it becomes more important for home networking, allowing greater speeds and greater ranges wherever the system is placed. This is especially important when a user (or multiple users) are streaming from a home NAS. Trying to use a form of hybrid teaming to deal with data travelling outside the home for gaming purposes might be a misplaced venture. While it means that data is separated and we’re not dealing with the windows stack/software to prioritize the data through one network connection, it is still limited by the router's prioritization protocols and external data rate. The best use case for this might be someone with Google Fiber, although one network connection should still be able to deal with streaming and gaming at the same time.

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  • LoneWolf15 - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    Raise your hand if you feel the Killer NIC adds value to your purchase.


    For me, Intel wired and wireless NICs add value over Realtek, QCA, and (in most cases) Broadcom. The QCA Killer NIC has never added value for me in any way, and I'd prefer a vendor just delete it and charge me less.
  • Bob Todd - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    This. I'll pay extra for Intel networking. And with a gigabit network throughout my house, I have no need or desire to burden my wireless network with machines that already have a fast wired connection.
  • etamin - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    The Killer e2200 NIC has been the bane of my MSI Z87 MPower Max. It can't handle a large number of connections when torrenting. Took me a while to realize this was the cause of BSODs, attempted to update drivers but the old driver refuses to uninstall, prohibiting new driver installation. Emailed Qualcomm support only to wait 3 days for a response suggesting I go to my Programs list to "uninstall it." Never again will I buy a board with a Qualcomm NIC.
  • colinstu - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    This Killer stuff needs to GO. It isn't welcomed by anyone and these motherboard makers seem to all be dazzled by Killer's salesman... or they're getting paid to include it... or something. I don't know what.
  • tim851 - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    Beats headphones, Monster cables... I know it's a free market and all, but it just aggrevates me when people get away selling snake oil...
  • Daniel Egger - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    Not just the "out-of-the-home" cable is a bottleneck here. In order to do load balancing/trunking the network switch where the streams meet up also needs to be able to somehow push more than 1 GBit/s over some connection. I highly doubt that any of the target audience have the necessary equipment and then of course the next questions are:
    1) Why in hell would a performance conscious person use WiFi at all when a cable can also be used?
    2) With 10GbE or similar equipment already available, why not directly use that rather than fudging around with 1GbE?
    3) Load Balancing over links with largely different latencies sucks and can easily *hurt* performance rather than improve it, so what's the benefit?
  • Mikemk - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    1) Well, if you happen to bump a cord...
    2) 10Gb/s controllers cost about 10 times as much, and, like you said, most home users don't support them anyway.
  • HisDivineOrder - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    Does anyone actually believe in the Killer networking option over the cheaper and considerably more reliable Intel option?

    The whole point in buying better motherboards by better brands is to avoid non-Intel networking adapters. It's like MSI is in such a rush to diversify, they aren't thinking about how they are diversifying.

    They should just copy Asus. Become the Pseudo-Asus like Asrock used to be and they'll see lots of sales.
  • Flunk - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    "Killer" products have been nothing but marketing since Bigfoot Networks was bought out by Qualcomm-Atheros. The "Killer" products are nothing but Qualcomms chips with branded drivers. I'd rather have an Intel solution, which perform better in most tests and I've never had driver problems with them. Something I can't say about "Killer"-branded networking products.
  • SantaAna12 - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    My experience with Killer nics is this: No thanks.

    I am surprised you did not address the many known issues with these???

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