MSI Z87-G45 Gaming Motherboard Review

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Let’s face it, dragons have been a part of society for as long as earth has been around, regardless of whether we are talking about reptiles, like the Komodo dragon, or the giant fire breathing type we find in fantasy environments. Fantasy or reality, I certainly would not want to run into one in a dark alley. I have heard stories of Komodo dragons eating small children and the fantasy version of dragons are typically massive and will turn you into bits. Of course, there are plenty of stories where the dragon is an intelligent being that befriends humans and will defend them to no end.

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

 

Wouldn’t it be simply awesome to have a dragon companion to fight for you and defend you? Somehow, I don’t think you would get into too many brawls with a dragon for a friend. It is always best to pick your fights wisely. I definitely would not pick a fight with someone who had an alliance with a fire wielding dragon. MSI has given you that ally and has infused the strength of the dragon into their gaming series motherboards. Not only do they have good looks but the features will strike fear into your competition.

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

 

The MSI Z87-G45 Gaming motherboard is a standard ATX form factor board targeted at the mainstream gamer. The MSI Z87-G45 Gaming board has support for the 4th Generation Intel Core Processors (Haswell) utilizing the LGA1150 CPU socket. With this motherboard, MSI continues to use their military class components, though they have been upgraded to a military class 4 rating. These components include dark cap capacitors and super ferrite core chokes. Other protections include EMI, ESD, High Temperature, and Humidity protection for the PCB. Every aspect of the board is designed for ease of use and improving the gaming experience. These features include DDR3 3000 support, Killer E2205 NIC Card, and Sound blaster Audio enhancements. MSI’s Click BIOS 4 UEFI BIOS has also been improved with a new user interface and features OC Genie 4 overclocking.

 

 


Unboxing and Product Overview:

 

UEFI Overview:

 

Feature Overview:

Feature Overview

 

MSI Command Center Overview:

 

MSI OC Genie IV:

 

 


Specifications:

CPU
  • Supports 4th Gen Intel® Core™ / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1150 socket
CPU Socket
  •  LGA1150
Chipset
  • Intel® Z87 Chipset
Memory
  • Support four DDR3 DIMMs 1066/1333/1600/1866*/2133*/2400*/2667*/3000*(*OC) DRAM (32GB Max)
Onboard Graphics
Integrated Graphics Processor:
  • 1 x D-Sub port, supporting resolution of 1920x1200
  • 1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200
  •  * The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
  • 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096x2160 @ 24Hx
Audio
  • Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC1150
LAN
  • Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots
  • 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots with 4th Gen Intel® Core™ processors
  • 4 x PCIe x1 slots
Multi-Graphics Technology
  • Support for 3-way AMD CrossFire technology
  • Support for 2-way NVIDIA SLI technology
Storage Interface
Chipset:
  • 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3 1~2) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  • 1 x mSATA
  • SATA1~6 support Intel® Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (AHCI/ RAID 0/ 1/ 5/ 10) by Intel® Z87
USB Chipset:
  • Up to 6 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
  •  * In Windows XP, the Intel USB 3.0 ports can support up to USB 2.0 transfer speed.
  • Up to 8 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 6 ports available through the internal USB headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
  • ATX 24-Pin power connector
  • 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  • CPU x 1 / System x 4 FAN connectors
  • 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
  • 6 x Serial ATAIII connectors
  • 3 x USB 2.0 connectors
  • 1 x USB 3.0 connector
  • 1 x Serial port connector
  • 1 x TPM Module connector
  • 1 x Front Panel Audio connector
  • 1 x Front Panel connector
  • 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
  • 7x V-check point spots
Back Panel Connectors
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse port
  • 1 x Clear CMOS button
  • 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF-out port
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF-out port
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 4 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 6 x OFC audio jack
  • 1 x HDMI® port
  • 1 x DVI port with
  • 1 x VGA
Special Features
  • OC Certified
  • Audio Boost
  • Killer Ethernet
  • Military Class 4
  • OC Gene 4
  • Click BIOS 4
  • NVIDIA SLI
  • AMD CrossFire
  • Lucid Virtu MVP 2.0
  • Sound Blaster Cinema
  • Total Fan Control
  • Gaming Device Port
  • SuperRAID
  • Command Center
Software
  • Drivers
  • MSI Command Center
  • MSI SuperCharger
  • MSI Super RAID
  • MSI Live Update 5
  • MSI Fast Boot
  • Lucid Virtu MVP 2.0
  • 7-zip
  • Intel Turbo Boost Monitor
  • Intel Extreme Tuning Utility
  • Sound Blaster Cinema
  • Killer Network Manager
  • Norton Internet Security Solution
  • Trend MicroSafe Sync
Form Factor
30.5cm(L) x 24.4cm(W) ATX Form Factor

 

* The entire materials provided herein are for reference only. MSI reserves the right to modify or revise the content at anytime without prior notice.
 * Advertised performance is based on maximum theoretical interface values from respective Chipset vendors or organization who defined the interface specification. Actual performance may vary by system configuration.
 * All trademarks and logos are the properties of their respective holders.
 * Due to standard PC architecture, a certain amount of memory is reserved for system usage and therefore the actual memory size is less than the stated amount.

 

 


Benchmarking

To test all systems, processors, and motherboards, Hi Tech Legion has compiled a list of popular programs to test performance; these benchmarks are taken from programs that are available to the public. We have compiled these to create the Hi Tech Legion Benchmark Suite, which includes system, graphics, processor, rendering, compression, and word processing. All scores will be graphed for each specific test under its category: video benchmarks (gaming will be rated in FPS: Frames per second), system scores will be graded by numbers which are given as results by their respective programs, higher will be better unless otherwise specified. If file compression is chosen, then all times will be in seconds. All temperatures will be measured in Celsius. LAN Speed test v3 will be conducted with another Gigabit ethernet (Intel 82579V) capable system running the LAN Speed Test server plugged in to the Gigabit router with 6ft. long Cat5e cables.

Systems

Test System

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-4770K
  • Motherboard: MSI Z87-G45 Gaming
  • CPU Heatsink: Corsair H100
  • Heatsink Paste: Noctua NT-H1
  • Memory: 2x4GB Corsair Vengeance Pro 1866MHz DDR3
  • Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 (320.18), Intel HD Graphics 4000 (Quick Sync only)
  • Storage: OCZ Agility 45 256GB (OS), OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB (Test Drive), Vantec NexStar (USB 3.0 Enclosure)
  • Power Supply: Corsair HX850W
  • Router: Cisco E3200 Wireless router
  • Operating System: Windows 8 Pro 64-bit

 

 

Benchmarks

System Benchmarks

  • PCMark 7
  • Cinebench (R11.5)
  • AIDA 64 (Cache and Memory)
  • Sandra (Cryptography and Memory Transaction)
  • WinRAR

Connectivity Benchmarks

  • LAN SpeedTest v3
  • Crystal DiskMark
  • JPerf 2.0.2
  • USB 3.0
  • SATA III 6.0 Gb/s

Multimedia Benchmarks

  • X264 5.0.1
  • Cyberlink Media Espresso

Gaming

  • 3DMark
  • Borderlands 2
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Discreet Video Card Gaming

  • 3DMark
  • Unigine Heaven 4.0
  • Metro Last Light
  • Crysis 3

 

Performance Tuning:

Performance Tuning was done through the UEFI with the following settings:

Z87-G45 Gaming Overclocked

 

  • Vcore voltage mode: Override
  • Vcore voltage: 1.265V
  • DigitALL settings: AUTO
  • DRAM: JEDEC Default
  • Hyper-Threading and Turbo: Enabled
  • EIST,C1E, C3, C6 and C7: Enabled
  • All other settings: AUTO

 

 


PCMark 7

Designed for Windows 7, PCMark 7 benchmarks your system with a variety of tests including video, photo editing, gaming, and communications. For results, a total PCMark score will be given (default setting) and individual scores for the tasks that are tested. To learn more about PCMark 7 visit Futuremark's website.

PCMark 7 Benchmark Score 

 

AIDA64

AIDA 64 is a diagnostic and benchmarking tool. AIDA 64 will be used for its Cache and Memory benchmark. System memory, L1 cache, L2 cache, and L3 cache will be benchmarked for latency, read, write, and copy. Final Wire is the producer of this software.

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

Sisoft Sandra

One of our favorites, Sandra from SiSoftware is a system benchmark that individually tests all components of your system. For our benchmarking purpose, we will use the processor section with Cryptography testing (bandwidth, AVX and AES), as well as run a memory transaction test. All scores will be listed as given by benchmark, higher will be better unless otherwise stated.

SiSoft Sandra

Cinebench R11.5

Created by Maxon, Cinebench R11.5 tests rendering of your CPU and GPU and scores their performance individually. We will be using the CPU rendering portion of the program and benchmark single CPU and multiple CPU performance.

Cinebench R11.5 Benchmark

 

WinRAR

WinRAR is a popular file compression and decompression tool it is a multi-threaded application that reads most compressed file formats. HiTech Legion uses WinRAR to measure Speed (MB/s) using the WinRAR benchmark and hardware test found in its Tools section. We also use our own 5GB uncompressed file folder and compress it to a RAR file (normal setting) measuring the amount of time required to compress the file.

 WinRAR Benchmark Windows 8

 

 


LAN Speed Test 3.0

LAN Speed Test is designed to be a rock solid tool to measure your file transfer and network speeds (wired & wireless) easily and accurately.  It does this by building a file in memory, then transfers it both ways (without effects of Windows file caching) while keeping track of the time, and then does the calculations for you.  Simple concept and easy to use. Both the LAN Speed Test v2 and LAN Speed Server software used in this review are the full retail versions. This software was developed by Totusoft and a free version is also available for download.

Lan Speed Test Benchmark

 

JPerf 2.0.2

JPerf 2.0.2 is a simple JAVA based tool that is designed to test the network bandwidth of a system. It does this using client/server setup and by transmitting packets over 100 second period between the systems. JPerf then automatically measures the bandwidth based on how much data can be transferred within the 100 seconds. HiTech Legion uses JPerf for two reasons, to measure bandwidth and to see bandwidth jitter. When measuring bandwidth a sustained transfer rate is more important than the final result. JPerf also graphs bandwidth jitter, what we are looking for is a smooth straight line which will denote sustained transfer rates.

JPerf Benchmark

 

Crystal DiskMark 3.0 x64

Crystal Mark is a disk benchmark software that features:

  • Sequential reads/writes
  • Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
  • Text copy
  • Change dialog design
  • internationalization (i18n)
  • Download Crystal Mark

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64

File Transfer Tests

The 1 and 5 GB files are placed on the desktop then sent to the SSD. This allows the SSD to both read the file before transfer then write it to the SSD. Times are calculated in Seconds for the 1 GB file and Minutes and Seconds for the 5 GB file.

File Transfer Test Timed Transfer Benchmarks

File Transfer Test Timed Transfer Benchmarks

File Transfer Test Timed Transfer Benchmarks

 

 


X.264 HD Benchmark 5.0

X264 by VideoLAN is a free application which contains a software library for encoding video streams into the H.264 and MPEG-4 AVC formats. HiTech Legion uses X264 to measure conversion times of predetermined files. X264 is also a multi-threaded application. X.264 is measured in Frames Per Second.

x264 HD Benchmark 5.0

 

With Intel Quick Sync Technology and Lucid Virtu, the user can take advantage of Multimedia Multitasking. When set to D-Mode, Lucid Virtu enables the user to game with the benefits of their discrete video card while utilizing the parallel processing capabilities of the on-die GPU of the "Haswell" Processor to transcode video. When set to I-Mode, the user still has full control over Intel Quick Sync Technology but will also consume less power to run their system.

"With Virtu software, next-generation PCs with 2nd, 3rd and 4th Generation Intel® Core™ processor platforms will dynamically balance the advanced power-efficient, built-in media features of Intel Core processor graphics with the high-end, DirectX 11 3D, anti-aliasing and performance features of discrete GPUs, while significantly reducing the power drain of traditional entertainment desktops. Ultimately, the consumer is assured optimal simultaneous performance in 3D gaming and video functions like transcoding and HD playback without the need to swap video cable connections between GPUs."

"Express video conversion software MediaEspresso is the hassle-free solution for converting all your favorite videos for playback on iPhone, PSP, Xbox, YouTube and more. Simply choose the preferred media player or medium, and let MediaShow Espresso do the rest."

Lucid Virtu LogoespressoLucid Virtu MVP

Cyberlink Media Espresso

  • Settings:
  • Input File: MPG, 1080p, 11:47
  • Output File: Apple Generic, Smart Fit, TrueTheater Enhancements Off

 

Cyberlink Media Espresso 

 

 


Prior to the first actual on-die GPU, integrated graphics was delegated a position of a system's motherboard. Being placed on the motherboard doomed any type of gaming performance, due to bottlenecks caused by onboard controllers, the motherboard's architecture or the lack of bandwidth produced. Intel's first CPU with on-die graphics was codenamed "Clarkdale" and was launched in March of 2010 (Core i5 661). Although many of the bottlenecks were bypassed, performance was still nowhere near the caliber of a budget discrete video card. A year later, Intel launched their second generation of CPU with on-die graphics, which was codenamed "Sandy Bridge". We saw many advances and were even introduced to a technology called Quick Sync, which uses the power of the CPU and GPU combined to accelerate video transcoding (encode and decode). Unfortunately, it still lacked a few qualities a discrete video card had to offer and one of those was DirectX 11. With the launch of "Haswell", Intel has overcome many obstacles and those who seek the performance of a budget level discrete video card will no longer have to spend the extra money. They can now purchase the entire package in the form of a 22nm processor and game at 1080p (Low Settings).

Gaming Suite Benchmark

 

Settings:

  • 3DMark: Extreme Preset (1920 x 1080)
  • Unigine 4.0: Highest/4x AA
  • Metro Last Light: Ultra Preset, Tessellation
  • Crysis 3: Very High

Gaming Suite

 

Gaming Suite

 

 


Provided by: MSI
No compensation was received for review of this product.

Price Point

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.

Performance

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.

 

Reviewer's Opinion

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.

 

Likes:

  • Black and Red Theme
  • PCI-E 3.0 x16 Spacing
  • Crossfire and SLI ready
  • Sound Blaster Cinema Audio
  • Click BIOS IV
  • OC Genie IV
  • Dual BIOS protection
  • Dark capacitors and SFC Chokes
  • PCI-E Gen 3.0
  • Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN
  • 3000MHZ (OC) DDR3 support
  • 10 Potential USB 2.0 Ports
  • Aesthetically Pleasing Heatsinks

 

Dislikes:

  • No Wireless Features
  • No E-SATA

 

HiTech Legion Gold Award

 

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