Provided by: MSI
No compensation was received for review of this product.
Price: $159 (MSRP)
Class: Mainstream Gaming
At a price point of $159, the MSI Z87-G45 Gaming Motherboard is in the Mainstream Gaming category of Intel Z87 motherboard systems.
Benchmarks – Benchmark results for the MSI Z87-G45 Gaming board were in line with expectations. The speed of the SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 speeds from the Z87 chipset were within normal ranges. Where the Z87-G45 Gaming board shines, though, is with the integrated Killer E2205 NIC card performance with a very consistent and smooth performance, as tested with Jperf.
Board Layout - The Z87-G45 is a standard ATX motherboard measuring 12 inches in length and 9.6 inches in width. The topmost PCI-E 3.0 slot is positioned at the second ATX slot, with two PCI-E x1 slots between it and the second PCI-E 3.0 slot. This allows not only for clearance for large heatsinks but also for airflow between multiple graphics cards. Some of the SATA ports are in line with the first PCI-E slot and can be hard to get to if a long video card is used. The USB 3.0 port is also angled for this reason.
Pre-bundled Accessories – The Z87-G45 Gaming board has the typical accessories which include two locking SATA 6G cables and an I/O shield. Both of these cables are angled on one end and straight on the other. Resources include a quick start guide, drivers/utilities disc, and a detailed manual in English. MSI also packages some extras with the motherboard, such as a case badge and do not disturb sign.
Wireless – The MSI Z87-G45 Gaming board does not provide on-board wireless.
LAN – A Killer E2205 LAN chipset is built into the MSI Z87-G45 Gaming board for less latency. This LAN chipset is designed for quality of service and it handles prioritization by using advanced stream detection technology. The quality of service checks will prioritize gaming traffic over other types of network traffic, such as a lower priority file download, to ensure lag free gameplay. Benchmarks for the LAN speeds showed some of the fastest wired speeds seen from integrated NIC cards. The software for the Killer NIC also works well to prioritize traffic and for monitoring bandwidth.
USB 3.0 – Six USB 3.0 ports are provided in total, four of them are built into the rear I/O panel and another two from the internal USB 3.0 header. All of the USB 3.0 ports are provided through the Z87 chipset and the observed performance was typical of USB 3.0 devices.
SATA 6G – SATA ports 1 through 6 are the SATA 6G ports and are controlled natively through the Z87 chipset.
Peripherals – MSI provides connections for a TPM, or trusted platform module header, for those that need the security feature, as well as a COM port header for legacy devices. Fan connections are provided by three 4-pin PWM system fan connections and two 4-pin PWM CPU Fan connections.
Performance Tuning – Performance tuning was done using the UEFI bios featuring MSI’s new Click Bios 4 interface. Navigation of the BIOS was excellent and the menus were organized well so that you could find the necessary settings. The board easily allowed for a stable overclock of 4.4 GHz on the Haswell i7-4770k processor using 1.26 volts. To maintain a stable overclock, the RAM was set to 1333MHz. Setting the RAM on XMP is unstable, even with added Vcore and Vdimm adjustments, so the OC benchmark was conducted with the RAM settings at JEDEC default of 1333MHz. Overclocking settings are located under the OC tab in the BIOS and options are available for voltage controls, memory timings, CPU ratios, and clock speeds. OC Genie 4 also allows you to set “push button” overclock settings so that when the OC Genie is activated, the system is tuned, but when it is off, the system runs at stock speeds. Support is also provided so that the system can revert to stock settings if the overclock fails so you don’t end up with a system that won’t POST.
Mainstream gamers are one of the largest markets for motherboard manufacturers and MSI has built their gaming series boards specifically to provide a high end experience at a mainstream price. The design is not only aesthetically pleasing with a black and red theme and matching heatsinks, the heatsink that covers the Z87 chipset also features a rendition of the MSI dragon. High quality components are used in the production of the motherboards with dark cap capacitors and super ferrite core chokes, gaining MSI’s military class 4 rating. The military class components have a higher tolerance for heat and voltage, allowing for higher overclocks while providing a solid lifespan. Other features of the board include resistance to humidity, EMI, ESD, and higher temperatures.
With the GD45 Gaming series, MSI has provided a lot of high end features to provide the best gaming experience. First, it is a standard ATX board so fitting it into most desktop cases will not be a problem. Second, they include the Killer E2205 NIC, Cinema Audio, Gaming Device Ports, and DDR3 3000 support. The whole idea of all these is to provide the best gameplay experience, which includes lag free play, immersive sound, and responsive peripherals. DDR3 3000 may be a bit of overkill for the target market of this board, since an 8GB kit can cost over $500 dollars and that is if you can even find it, however, it is nice to have the option if it becomes more available at a lower price. The Sound Blaster Cinema audio is well protected with plenty of EMI shielding and the sound quality is excellent.
Performance of the Killer E2205 NIC, in particular, was impressive on this board and testing with LAN Speed Test and JPerf showed higher transfer speeds than most embedded NIC cards. The extra processing power of the Killer NIC allowed the system to have a stable network connection and reduced lag while gaming. It was particularly effective when used with the Qualcomm software to prioritize network streams. Downloading a file was successfully reduced in priority over the gaming stream, providing for a better user experience. What is really nice is that this allows someone to multi-task without having to worry about interference.
Graphics support is provided though the DVI, HDMI, and VGA connections. The resolutions that are supported include 1920 x 1200 for the DVI and HDMI connection, and a D-Sub (VGA) connection supporting resolutions to 2048 x 1536. Discrete graphics cards can also be used in one of the three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots available and they are spaced to make multi-GPU system run efficiently. The first PCI-E x16 slot is actually the second slot on the motherboard to provide spacing for large CPU heatsinks as well. The board supports both AMD Crossfire and NVIDIA SLI setups, so no matter what your preference for graphics cards is, a multi-GPU setup will work in this motherboard.
To performance tune the Z87-G45 gaming board, MSI's Click BIOS 4 was used. There are voltage checkpoints along the edge of the board, for those that want to check voltage right on the board. The upgraded UEFI BIOS was organized very well and gave important information to the user in the top frame. Overclocking setups were all located under an OC tab on the left and changes could be made to voltage, CPU clocks, and CPU ratios. There is also the ability to use the OC Genie 4 system and this can be used out of the box at factory settings, or you can customize the OC Genie settings in the BIOS. Overclocking profiles can be saved to the board, as well as to a USB thumb drive, to retain that information during an upgrade. For the memory profile, the standard 1333 MHz had to be used to gain a stable 4.4GHz at 1.26 volts with the Haswell i7-4770K processor. I would recommend setting up the OC Genie settings to your desired overclock. This way, you can switch between overclocked and stock speeds easily, since most people do not need their system overclocked all the time.
Overall, the MSI Z87-G45 Gaming board is packed with the features that a mainstream users would desire. This board would be of particular interest to those mainstream users who are avid gamers, since so many of the features are targeted at that audience. The Killer NIC, Sound Blaster Cinema Audio, DDR 3000 support, easy to navigate UEFI BIOS, and stability, make this board very desirable for the gamers. The fact that overclocking can be achieved on the board is also very attractive to many mainstream users who like to dabble in the sport. The MSI Z87-G45 Gaming board earns the HiTechLegion.com Gold award for its full set of features, usability, and build quality.