bit-tech.net

MSI Gaming 7 Review

MSI Gaming 7 Review

Manufacturer: MSI
UK price (as reviewed): £134.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): £189.99 (ex TAX)

Don't forget about MSI's Z97 launch offer of a free Corsair H75 cooler and LED fans. See more info here.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Flying the flag for the most expensive board on test, MSI's Gaming 7 does at least look like it's worth its £140 asking price. Compared to the likes of the ASRock and Gigabyte boards on test, the Gaming 7's PCB is comparatively crammed with gear.

There are substantial heatsinks covering the VRMs and southbridge, isolated audio circuitry with MSI's Audio Boost feature plus an M.2 port - it's possibly worth noting that if you do use the M.2 port, two of the SATA 6Gbps ports will be out of action as they share PCI-E bandwidth, but this is the same with all boards we've seen so far.

SATA Express isn't offered as standard, but MSI has an optional M.2 to SATA Express adaptor so there is at least some way compatibility here. There's plenty more on offer to shout about. There are three 16x PCI-E slots, which offer 2-way setups x8 speed per slot, with 3-way CrossFireX contending with a x8 x4 x4 configuration.

MSI has decided to do away with PCI slots entirely and includes four 1x PCI-E slots instead. even if you occupy all the 16x slots, there still one 1x PCI-E slot above the main graphics slot, should you wish to slot in a sound card or other expansion device.

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review
Click to enlarge

Sporting a standard-size ATX PCB with a width of 244mm, there's plenty of room around the CPU socket and MSI has gone to town on layout in general too. All of the eight SATA 6Gbps ports (two of these are provided via an ASM1074 controller, which is probably best avoided with modern SSDs) are mounted parallel to the PCB, as is the USB 3 header so there are no excuses for not building a tidy system here.

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review
Click to enlarge

All the usual connectors are right at the edge of the PCB too and there's a little clearance between the 8-pin EPS 12V connector and upper VRM heatsink too. There's a total of five fan headers - all of which are 4-pin compatible and there's the full-works in terms of overclocking features too.

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review
Click to enlarge

There's an on-board power button, reset button as well as MSI's OC Genie automatic overclocking feature plus a CMOS clear button on the rear I/O panel. In addition, MSI has thrown in an LED post code readout and voltage measuring points, as well as a dedicated USB port for USB audio devices that MSI claims offers stable 5V power and better signal transmission.

EFI and overclocking

With a maximum vcore of 2.1V - the highest on test, plus all the overclocking gadgetry we had high hopes for the Gaming 7. The EFI is excellent and certainly up to MSI standards with a better-looking and better-featured experience compared to the Gigabyte and ASRock boards on test. There's a particularly elaborate fan control section that allows you to fine-tune the fan response curves for each of the five 4-pin fan headers.

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review
Click to enlarge

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review
Click to enlarge

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review
Click to enlarge

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review
Click to enlarge

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review
Click to enlarge

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI MSI Gaming 7 Review
Click to enlarge

With 4.8GHz being a relatively easy target with our particular Core i7-4770K, we went straight for this goal and found it stable at our usual vcore of 1.27V. This gives it a one-up against the cheaper Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI, which could only manage 4.7GHz but both other boards on test also managed 4.8GHz.

Specifications
  • Chipset Intel Z97
  • CPU support LGA1150 compatible
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 32GB
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1150
  • Networking Killer E2205 Gigabit
  • Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps via Intel Z97 (two sacrificed for SATA Express or M.2) 1 x M.2, 10 x USB 3.0 (4 via Intel Z87 - two via header, 4 via ASM1074, 2 via ASM 1042), 6 x USB 2.0 ( 4 x via header), 1 x Killer E2205 LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out, 2 x HDMI, DisplayPort
  • Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
  • Extras USB audio power, gaming device port, isolated audio PCB, voltage check points

Head over to the final page to see the performance analysis and conclusion.