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::>Motherboards > 2014 > 06 > MSI Z97M GAMING

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11-06-2014


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MSI Z97M GAMING motherboard review and resting

In May Intel has introduced a new series of chipsets allowing motherboard manufacturers to update their product lineups.

Today we are going to test MSI updated game series MSI Z97 GAMING.

The first models of MSI GAMING appeared based on chipset Intel Z77 Express so a series of MSI Z97 GAMING can now be considered as a third generation. As we know at the time of the announcement it included 10 models that are based on the flagship chipset (Intel Z97). It is noteworthy that 9 from 10 presented boards use ATX form-factor, and only one MSI Z97M GAMING is created in microATX.

The product offers a variety of features and benefits. But let's start to consider its detailed technical specification.

MSI Z97M GAMING

The specs:

Producer

MSI

Model

Z97M GAMING (rev 1.02)

Chipset

Intel Z97

CPU socket

Socket LGA1150

Supported CPUs

Intel Core i7 / Core i5 / Core i3 / Pentium / Celeron 4th and 5th generation: Intel Haswell, Intel Haswell Refresh, Intel Devil`s Canyon, Intel Broadwell

Memory frequency

3300* / 3200* / 3100* / 3000* / 2800* / 2666* / 2600* / 2400* / 2200* / 2133* / 2000* / 1866* / 1600 / 1333 / 1066 MHz

(*OS)

Memory support

4 x DDR3 DIMM-slot with memory support up to 32 GB

Expansion slots

2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16

 

x16

x8+х8

2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1

Disk subsystem

Intel Z97 chipset supports:

1 x M.2 (NGFF)

6 x SATA 6 GB/s

RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10

ASMedia ASM1061 controller supports:

2 х eSATA 6 GB/s

LAN

1 x Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 (10/100/1000 Мb/s)

Sound subsystem

Кодек Realtek ALC1150

7.1-chanell sound

S/PDIF Out

Power connectors

1x24-pin ATX main power connector

1x8-pin ATX12V power connector

Fans

2 x CPU fan connector (4-pin)

2 х system fans slots (4-pin)

Cooling

Aluminum radiator on the chipset

Aluminum radiator on power subsystem elements connected by heat pipe

External I/O

1 x HDMI

1 x DisplayPort

1 x LAN (RJ45)

6 x USB 3.0

2 x USB 2.0

2 x eSATA

1 x Optical S/PDIF out

6 x audio jacks

1 х PS/2 (for mouse and keyboard connection)

1 х CMOS button

Internal I/O

1 x USB 3.0 each with support of two USB 3.0 (19-pin)

1 x USB 2.0 USB 2.0 each with support of two USB 2.0

6 x SATA 6 GB/s

1 х TPM socket

1 x connector of audio output to front panel

1 x set of front panel connectors

1 x CMOS jumper

1 х power button

1 х reboot button

1 х automatic overclocking OC Genie

1 х diagnostic LED-indicator

1 x Direct audio socket

1 x Audio Power switch

BIOS

64 Mb Flash ROM UEFI AMI BIOS

ACPI 5.0, PnP 1.0a, SM BIOS 2.7, DMI 2.0

Packaging

User’s manual

Warranty description booklet

Driver and utility disc

4 x SATA cables

1 х bridge NVIDIA SLI

1 x set of MSI M-Connector

1 x door hanger

1 x MSI GAMING sticker

1 х faceplate of interface panel

1 x power cable Direct audio

Form factor,

Dimensions

microATX

244 х 244 mm

Producer website

MSI
Updated versions of BIOS and drives are available on support page

Packaging and content

MSI Z97M GAMING

Packaging and design new items made in the familiar style of us, familiar to other decisions series MSI GAMING. They look very nice thanks to the combination of black and red colors, as well as through the use of a logo in the form of a stylized dragon.

On the front side of the box you can pay attention to the board name of and the manufacturer, as well as the presence of a network controller Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 and logo of Audio Boost Technology 2.

MSI Z97M GAMING

On the reverse side there is a description of the key features and supported technologies:

  • Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 is a network controller that has the ability to automatically detect game traffic and raise its priority in relation to low-level system traffic, providing you with the lowest delay during transmission of the game data. It also provides 35% more bandwidth than competing solutions.
  • USB Audio Power - USB ports on the interface panel maintain a stable supply voltage of 5 V, which will be useful for connecting external audio amplifier.
  • Sound Blaster Cinema 2 – due to this technology the quality of sound in games and when playing multimedia content are significantly improved.
  • Multi-GPU - motherboard has support of AMD CrossFireX technology and NVIDIA SLI for combining computing power of several graphics cards.
  • Audio Boost 2 - sound in addition to the flagship codec Realtek ALC1150 includes special audio capacitors of Nichicon Company, two amplifiers with the support of studio headphones with impedance up to 600 Ohms, as well as gold-plated audio outputs on the interface panel and case for protection against electromagnetic interference. Also note a nice bonus in the form of shielding strips with LED-backlit separating the part of PCB with audio subsystem from the other components.

Additionally we note the technologies which did not fit the description on the packaging:

  • OC Genie 4 - automatic overclocking function which is activated by pressing a button on the circuit board or the supplied software.
  • EMI I/O Shielding - interface panel plug is made of high quality aluminum and is equipped with special shock-absorbing layer and the steel cover for greater reliability.
  • Military Class 4 – there are only high quality components such as solid capacitors Dark CAP with increased to 10 years lifetime, SFC chokes with ferrite core, as well as capacitors Hi-c CAP with a tantalum core which are characterized by high energy efficiency and compact sizes, so they do not interfere with the installation of overall cooling systems.
  • GUARD-PRO - the use of high quality components, multilayer printed circuit board and a series of protective chip leads to increased protection against humidity, high temperatures, electrostatic discharge and electromagnetic interference. Besides technology MSI ECO POWER together with proprietary software ECO Center allows physically disable unused circuits to reduce energy consumption.
  • Gaming Device Port - USB 2.0 ports and PS/2 increase to three times the volume of the gold coating, therefore have greater reliability and durability. They are also optimized for manipulators with high sampling frequency (from 500 to 1000 Hz), thereby reducing the response time of 8 to 1 millisecond.

MSI Z97M GAMING

MSI Z97M GAMING

Supplied set of motherboard MSI Z97M GAMING, in addition to the standard documentation and a disk with drivers and utilities includes four SATA cables, bridge NVIDIA SLI, power cable Direct audio, set M-Connector (significantly simplifies the procedure of connecting the front panel of PC), interface panel plug, the sticker on the system unit with the logo of the series MSI GAMING, as well as cardboard hanger with logo and inscriptions: "I’m sorry busy gaming" and " I'm Not Here".

Design and features of the board

MSI Z97M GAMING

The product is made on traditional PCB of series MSI GAMING black microATX (244 x 244 mm). As you can see, from the time of the second-generation gaming product the shape and design of radiators were changed. Earlier radiators on the elements of power subsystem were stylized to dragon ridge, in the third generation the designers were inspired by the shape of the claws of legendary creatures.

As for on-board layout elements, it can be called excellent because all the ports and connectors are located on the optimal positions and at a sufficient distance from each other. Also note that for more convenience DIMM-slots are equipped with latches on one side.

MSI Z97M GAMING

The reverse side of the device contains traditional support plate of processor socket. Also note that all three radiators are securely fastened with screws.

MSI Z97M GAMING

At the bottom of the board there are the following connectors: front panel audio leading-in socket, TPM port, two slots for system fans connection as well as two leading-in sockets for connection of USB 2.0 interfaces. Total number of USB 2.0 sockets is six: four are internal and two on the interface panel. Closer to right side there are two leading-in sockets of front panel as well as CMOS jumper.

A special attention is given to a socket for connection of supplied cable Direct audio, which is used for direct power supply to the audio subsystem. Also here is a power mode switch between standard and Direct audio power.

MSI Z97M GAMING

MSI Z97M GAMING

The possibility of organizing a disk subsystem is presented by socket M.2 (NGFF) with six ports SATA 6 GB/s. As we can see the manufacturers have provided the ability to connect three compact solid drives: M.2 2242, M.2 2260 and M.2 2280. The operation of all interfaces is implemented by chipset. There is a support of SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.

Due to the absence of free chipset lines, connector M.2 (NGFF) shares bandwidth with two ports SATA 6 GB/s. Therefore, in the case of connection M.2-drive these interfaces will not be available.

MSI Z97M GAMING

The right side of the motherboard MSI Z97M GAMING in addition to power, reset and automatic overclocking system buttons attracts attention by indicator of POST-codes and four DIMM-slots for memory modules standard DDR3 equipped with a latch on one side only. RAM can operate in dual channel mode. To implement it the modules must be installed either in the first and third or second and fourth slots. Modules operate at frequencies from 1066 to 1600 MHz in the nominal mode and up to 3300 MHz is overclocked mode. Maximum memory capacity may be up to 32 GB which is enough for almost any tasks.

Leading-in socket with ports USB 3.0 is placed on the right side of the PCB. The total number of USB 3.0 ports is eight: two internal and six on the interface panel. Two additional USB 3.0 sockets on the interface panel operate due to controller ASMedia ASM1042.

MSI Z97M GAMING

MSI Z97M GAMING

Cooling system of the product includes three aluminum radiators: one for heat removal from chipset Intel Z97 while the others cover elements of power subsystem. 

In the process of testing the following temperature indices were fixed:

  • radiator for chipset cooling – 37.1°C;
  • radiator for cooling of processor elements power – 38.2°C.

The obtained results can be considered as high.

MSI Z97M GAMING

MSI Z97M GAMING

Processor power supply is performed via 8-phase scheme for computational cores and additional joints. Converter is based on a digital PWM controller uP1649Q. The circuitry is collected by high-quality components which in accordance to corporate design Military Class 4 are certified according military standard MIL-STD-810G. They include: solid capacitors Dark CAP, chokes SFC and capacitors Hi-c CAP. Basic 24-pin and additional 8-pin connectors are use for power feeding.     

MSI Z97M GAMING

Opportunities to extend the functionality of the motherboard MSI Z97M GAMING are represented by the following slots:

  • PCI Express 3.0 x16;
  • PCI Express 2.0 x1;
  • PCI Express 3.0 x16;
  • PCI Express 2.0 x1.

As we can see to install graphics cards the user has two slots PCI Express x16 which are connected to the processor and share 16 lines of standard PCI Express 3.0. Therefore, when you install two graphics cards (including support of technologies AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI) you'll get a working circuit x8+x8. Also note that you can easily connect two graphics cards with dual-slot cooling system or one three slot (you can use one slot PCI Express x1).

MSI Z97M GAMING

If you decide to take advantage of the integrated on the CPU graphics core then you have two video outputs: HDMI and DisplayPort, switching is carried out by chip PTN3360DBS.

MSI Z97M GAMING

Multi I/O capabilities are based on NUVOTON NCT6792D chip which controls the operation of system fans, PS/2 port and provides the monitoring. 

MSI Z97M GAMING

To support network connection there is gigabit LAN-controller Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 which has several software and hardware advantages for the prioritization of gaming and multimedia traffics.

MSI Z97M GAMING

Two ports eSATA 6 GB/s located on the interface panel are operated due to ASMedia ASM1061.

MSI Z97M GAMING

Correct operation of two additional USB 3.0 ports is provided by the chip ASMedia ASM1042.

MSI Z97M GAMING

Sound subsystem of MSI Z97M GAMING has a rather interesting design called Audio Boost 2. It is based on the flagship 7.1-channel HDA-codec Realtek ALC1150 which supports audio formats 2/4/5.1/7.1. It works in tandem with two amplifiers which can support the work of headphones with an impedance of 600 Ohms. Also here are high quality audio Nichicon capacitors, direct supply audio path technology (MSI Direct Audio Power), gold-plated audio connectors and shielding technology to protect against electromagnetic interference. Soft fine-tuning of the sound quality performs Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 2.

MSI Z97M GAMING

Interface panel of MSI Z97M GAMING model contains the following ports:

  • 1 x HDMI;
  • 1 x DisplayPort;
  • 1 x LAN (RJ45);
  • 6 x USB 3.0;
  • 2 x USB 2.0;
  • 2 x eSATA 6 GB/s;
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF out;
  • 6 x audio jacks;
  • 1 x CMOS button;
  • 1 x PS/2 (mouse and keyboard).

Such layout is optimal not only for compact solutions but also for full-scale models, as it hasn’t any significant disadvantages. The advantages are: a large number of USB 3.0 ports, easy connection of multi-channel speakers (six gold-plated connectors), the presence of two interfaces eSATA 6 GB/s and support of ports Gaming Device Port for gaming mouse. Its only feature is the absence of the popular video output DVI.

MSI Z97M GAMING

MSI Z97M GAMING

Motherboard MSI Z97M GAMING has four connectors for fans connection: two are used for Power of CPU cooling system fans, and the other two are used to connect the system propellers. All connectors in accordance with modern requirements are 4-pin that allows you to control speed of connected fan by PWM method.

UEFI BIOS

MSI Z97M GAMING

The model MSI Z97M GAMING uses a proprietary preloader ClickBIOS 4 based on the interface UEFI. It features by an attractive graphical interface and convenient process of making changes to the settings.

MSI Z97M GAMING

Options required for fine tuning of the system, are grouped in the section «OC».

MSI Z97M GAMING

If necessary this section provides an access to the voltage control on the various components.

MSI Z97M GAMING

As you can see there is a support to save the custom BIOS settings in six different profiles, as well as an option to download the desired profile with USB-drive.

MSI Z97M GAMING

Frequency of memory can be changed in the range from 800 to 3200 MHz.

MSI Z97M GAMING

If necessary you can get the access to memory delay adjustments.

Adjustments required to overclock and optimize the system:

Menu name

Range

Pitch

CPU Base Clock

90,0 – 300,0

0,04

CPU Base Clock Strap

1,0 – 2,5

0,25

CPU Ratio

8 – MAX

1

Ring Ratio

8 – MAX

1

DRAM Frequency

800 – 3200

 

Timing Configuration

tCL, tRCD, tRP, tRAS, tRFC, tREFI, tWR, tWTR, tRRD, tRTP, tFAW, tWCL, tCKE

 

VR 12VIN OCP Expander

1 – 63

1

CPU Vdroop Offset Control

+12,5% - +100%

12,5%

CPU Over Voltage Protection

400 – 700

100

CPU Under Voltage Protection

400 – 700

100

CPU Over Current Protection

110% – 200%

10%

CPU Switching Frequency

260 – 740

70

Digital Compensation

x0,9 – x1,2

0,1

CPU VRM Over Temperature Protection

Enabled / Disabled

 

CPU VRM Over Temperature Shutdown

Enabled / Disabled

VCCIN Voltage

1,200 – 3,040

0,001

CPU Core Voltage

0,800 – 2,100

0,001

CPU Ring Voltage

0,800 – 2,100

0,001

CPU SA Voltage

0,800 – 1,850

0,001

CPU IO Analog Voltage

0,800 – 2,000

0,001

CPU IO Digital Voltage

0,800 – 2,000

0,001

DRAM Voltage

0,240 – 2,770

0,075

PCH 1.05 Voltage

0,700 – 2,320

0,050

PCH 1.5 Voltage

0,800 – 2,700

0,050

Long Duration Power Limit

1 – 4096

1

Long Duration Maintained

1 – 128

1

Short Duration Power Limit

1 – 4096

1

CPU Current Limit

30 - 1024

1

MSI Z97M GAMING

Section “Hardware Monitor” opens the access for monitoring the temperature of the processor and chipset, as well as speed of installed fan. Additionally, you can manually set the required fan blades rotation speed. Additionally you can monitor the voltage on the core processor, chipset, memory modules and power lines +12 V, +5 V and +3.3 V. Also you can make screenshots.


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