- Intel Z77
- Core i7 / i5 / i3 (LGA1155)
- DDR3 3000(OC)/2800(OC)
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Take this MSI seriously 05/21/2013
ALC898 Codec for excellent quality audio, >=100 dbA S/N ratio. Layout is good. Long video cards won't block anything, as SATA and USB3.0 connectors are the right-angle type (which I prefer).
Supports both Crossfire and SLI.
With an i5-3570K, it was easy to OC to 4.2 using OC Genie. Got to 4.4 manually but did not increase voltage, booted into Windows but was not Prime95 stable. See other thoughts.
OUTSTANDING THERMALS. In a 24C-25C room, even overclocked, during and after Prime95, bitmining, and gaming, I didn't see the VRMs go over 36C nor the chipset go over 38C, even when the CPU reached 60C (using a common 120mm tower cooler on an open testbed case). At idle, they're around 28C. I took these measurements with a handheld IR thermometer.
Driver and utility software installation very easy; can get all the ones you want (and none you don't) using the Total Installer, which gives you checkboxes for everything.
RAID1 easy to set up; retained across OS loads.
CPU temp display (uses BIOS boot code display once booting is complete) is a neat feature.
Decent accessories, including four SATA cables, some pin header blocks, test leads for the voltage check points, I/O plate, two manuals, and a nice case badge.
Reasonable number of chassis fan headers on the board, but see con.
Dual BIOS chips, selectable by a switch. It won't be easy to brick this board unless you're really trying. Quality components used throughout including a solid capacitors and ferrite chokes. Good strong board, did not flex while installing the cooler.
The Control Center is a nice, convenient starting point. Has some monitors if you like to see how your system is running.
Not all functions / utilities as intuitive as they could be. It is necessary to read the manuals! A little bit of Engrish in the manuals, but I've seen far worse. In particular, I would have liked to have seen any voltage changes expressed as an offset, rather than an absolute voltage.
ClickBIOSII needs progress indicators, as many of its actions take more time than you'd expect. Instructions for Winki III are inconsistent, incomplete, and/or wrong. Only one CPU fan header; comparable boards often have two for push-pull CPU coolers.
The Killer NIC management software relies on third-party pieces (FRAPS, Flash (for Speedtest)) and gets a little wonky if they're not installed and configured.
ClickBIOSII: Seems to work, but slow to do some things, and you might think your system is hung. Some kind of progress indicator would be useful.
Winki III did not want to work. The most straightforward description from the manual did not install this. I put it on C: and it did not work, and on the system's RAID-1 and it did not work either (no surprise; might require AHCI mode?)
Among gamers, some enjoy playing WITH their PCs, and some enjoy playing ON their PCs. This board caters to both. If MSI wanted to be seriously considered by gamers who wanted to build now instead of waiting for Haswell, this was a great way to start. The dragon motif marks this as a gamer's board without being over the top (this 50-something even likes the case badge). The excellent thermal performance cannot be understated. The web is full of tales of weak VRMs on MSI boards; this board suffers from none of that.
The voltage test points exposed dead batteries in my DVM. I am not a madd overclocker, so it wasn't particularly important to me, but someone who is will like this feature.
If you want a lot more details on the numbers, HardOCP did an excellent technical review of this board recently. My results were consistent with theirs, although I prefer not to push voltage and did not. I prefer to play ON my PC much more than WITH it, and I'm not going to care about another 200MHz-300MHz.
I did a couple of complete OS loads on this system, and encountered some anomalies on the first attempt that I did not attribute to this board, but to AMD's video drivers for a HD7970. On initial setup, I would suggest clearing the BIOS, setting some stock preferences, then installing
using Intel's IGP (if your CPU includes it); THEN install any add-in video board(s). Once set up, I had no trouble with cards of either vendor; the HD7970 mined BTC 24/7 for about a week, and I played a few games on that and on a GTX650Ti. I did not record FPS, as being irrelevant in a mobo review, but did check VRM and chipset temps numerous times using an IR thermometer.
I couldn't tell one way or another if the Killer NIC made any difference, possibly due to my 200Mb/s Powerline connection. It certainly didn't make anything worse, such as by lagging my interrupts in Guild Wars.
Other thoughts on some if the utilities:
Easy Viewer: Perhaps the only true bloatware on the CD. If you use anything like Picasa, there's no need to keep this around. It's controls are not intuitive; for example <Esc> has no function, like an undo for any change.
Fast Boot: With a SSD in the system, I did not notice a difference; it looks like this might be a Windows 8-only feature.
Live Update 5: Very nice. Read the manual on it, as it isn't 100% intuitive, but it will update BIOS and drivers. The board's BIOS was up to date, but some of the MSI programs were not, and this updated them.
Super-Charger: Ok, could be useful, but disables syncing.
VideoGenie: A way to turn on some arbitrary video settings. I did notice a subtle difference, but it's neither Pro nor Con.
Bottom line: if my primary system weren't microATX, I'd be very tempted to replace its board with this one.
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