MSI’s EFI BIOS has come on leaps and bounds and the result is that of the G45 Gaming is very well laid out and easy to use. All the main settings are split between six sub-menus, including OC that contains all the relevant frequency and voltage setting you’ll need to push the board to its limits and M-Flash that handles BIOS updates. Throughout there’s a live frequency update along the top of the screen, which also lists boot device priority, CPU and motherboard temperatures and the time.
Click to enlarge - the EFI BIOS is sensibly laid out, with all the settings needed for overclocking in one place
While the board lacks a dedicated hardware OC Genie button for automatic overclocking, there’s one in the BIOS which performs the same effect. However, we’d urge you to use manual overclocking as OC Genie still lacks finesse. Frequency and voltage controls are all closely grouped in one menu and manually entered.
The pair of chunky VRM coolers meant that we were able to push our Intel Core i7-4770K to its maximum of 4.7GHz, using a Vcore of 1.256V – we didn’t need to adjust any other settings. However, as with all Haswell chips, this frequency resulted in CPU temperatures very close to the 100°C TJmax in the 22°C ambient temperature of our labs, even with our Corsair H80i at maximum speed.
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At its stock speed the G45 Gaming performs right up there with boards that are £50 or more dearer. A score of 2081 in our Media Benchmark’s image editing test is just 23 points behind the best result we've seen, with an overall score of 2463 just two per cent slower than the all-conquering Maximus VI hero. Performance in games was fine too, with a minimum frame rate of 105fps in Skyrim and 35fps just a frame or two behind the best.
Cranked up to 4.7GHz the G45 Gaming performance jumped accordingly, with an overall score of 2,876 just 19 point behind the Maximus VI Hero – an impressive result considering the £50 price gap between the two. In Skyrim the G45 Gaming produced the slowest overclocked result we’ve seen yet thanks to a minimum frame rate of 105fps and average frame rate of 148, but both results are just a few frames off the best. The same was true in Shogun 2, where a minimum frame rate of 35fps is just 1fps behind the fastest Z87 board’s we’ve tested.
SATA speeds were also excellent, with a peak sequential read speed of 543MB/sec and peak sequential write speed of 521MB/sec from our OCZ Vector 256GB test SSD. These are both amongst the best SATA speeds we’ve seen from the Z87 chipset, so you’ll know your SSD is running to its full potential.
Finally, power consumption was also good. At stock an idle system draw of 74W is only bettered by the frugal Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H, while at load and when overclocked the G45 Gaming pulled a reasonable peak of 185W.
Overall it’s a great showing from what is a very competitively priced board. All the other Z87 motherboards in our graphs are at least £30 more expensive, yet the G45 Gaming was able to go head-to-head with the best of them both at stock and when overclocked.
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The MSI Z87-G45 Gaming is an excellent Z87 motherboard, for a very keen price. At £115 it’s one of the most affordable enthusiast Z87 motherboards on the market, yet still offers great features such as 3-way CrossFire, 2-way SLI and an mSATA slot. The board layout is good, with attention to detail evident in the form of 90° angled SATA and USB 3.0 connectors and MSI has omitted most of the superfluous extras, such as unnecessary extra SATA controllers. The only features we feel it could have benefited from are the addition of on-board power and reset buttons, and an LED POST-code reader, but these drive up the price and are available on higher-priced boards such as the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H.
Despite its low price tag, the G45 Gaming performs and overclocks like a much more expensive board, giving us no trouble on the way to our CPU’s peak 4.7GHz clock speed. Even when we did push it too far, the excellent overclock recovery and intuitive EFI BIOS made it easy to set things right.
Overall it’s an excellent package, at a price point that few can match considering the features on offer. We still prefer the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H for its extra on-board buttons, but if you’re not interested in such extras, then the MSI Z87-G45 Gaming comes highly recommended.