MSI B150M Mortar Reviewccokeman -
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MSI B150M Mortar Introduction:
By now, everyone should be familiar with the work MSI has done with its Gaming series motherboards. It's nothing short of an amazing progression from where they were to where they are now. Each successive generation has been improved upon with tried and true technology. Some of the newest members of the MSI Gaming family are the newest boards in the Arsenal Gaming series. This group of military themed motherboards include boards with both Z170 and B150 chipsets, which come in at fairly thrifty price points. Prices range from $119 for the Z170 Mortar to $84 for the B150M Bazooka, and a really thrifty $79 for the B150M Mortar I am looking at today.
MSI's Arsenal Gaming series boards are cost effective motherboards that feature military themed imagery to go with the Military Class hardware packed onto each of the boards. The B150M Mortar is an M-ATX form factor motherboard built for the gamer that wants to put together a rig without blowing the budget on parts. Let's take a look at what MSI has to offer with this Arsenal Gaming Series motherboard, the B150M Mortar! Incomiiiinnnngggg!
MSI B150M Mortar Closer Look:
There is no mistaking the imagery on the front of the packaging. As part of MSI's Arsenal Gaming Series of motherboards, you realize that the mortar on the front of the box is how the B150M Mortar is identified. To complete the imagery, the handles against the green background look like those you might find on an ammo crate. The back side of the box illustrates the feature set of the B150M Mortar to effect; you know what you are getting from square one when you look at this board on the shelf. Inside the box is in a static resistant bag with the accessory bundle underneath the board. Accessories include a comprehensive manual, driver and utility disk, warranty card, quick installation guide, I/O Shield, and a pair of SATA 6Gbps data cables; one that has a 90 degree end for tight spaces.
MSI's B150M Mortar is a M-ATX form factor motherboard built around the Intel B150 PCH for use with Intel 6th Generation Core series processors. MSI is using a black-on-black theme for this board, which looks good. From the front, the layout is what we commonly see with the LGA 1151 socket just above the mid-point of the board, surrounded by the VRM circuit and heat sinks to keep it cool. The back side of the board shows that the cooling solutions are held in place with screws. Some of the features get billing in white. We see that the B150M Mortar is equipped with Guard Pro and Military Class 4 technology, uses MSI's Gaming LAN control, and the sound solution gets Audio Boost technology. Steel Series support is noted, as it's the preferred peripheral provider for MAI's Gaming Series motherboards.
I/O connectivity starts with a combination PS/2 mouse/keyboard port over a pair of USB 2.0 ports controlled by the B150 chipset. A trio of graphics outputs are up next with a single VGA port, a DVI-D port, and an HDMI 1.4 port supporting resolutions up to 4K at 24Hz. Four B150-controlled USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports are available on the I/O area, while two more are available via on-board headers. A single Realtek RTL8111H-controlled Gigabit LAN port supporting MSI's Gaming LAN software is used. A clear CMOS button is easily accessible on the I/O panel, leading up to the analog 7.1HD sound jacks. Expansion slots include two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots that will run at x16/x4, two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots, and a single M.2 Wi-Fi module slot. Looking closely at the top PCIe 16x slot, you can see it is encased in a steel shell. This is called MSI STEEL ARMOR and keeps the slot intact when using larger, heavier video cards. This solution adds additional solder points and bracing through the PCB to ensure the slot does not self destruct under the weight of large heavy video cards. Toward the bottom of the card are the Nichicon audio capacitors that MSI is using as part of the company's Audio Boost solution. Just outside the edge of the capacitors is the dividing line for the audio solution, which MSI uses to isolate the audio hardware from the main PCB.
Along the bottom edge of the PCB, connectivity starts with the front panel audio connection used with MSI's Audio Boost hardware, a Thunderbolt header, PWM fan header, Serial port header, TPM Header, USB 2.0 and USB 3.1 headers, and finally the two front panel connection headers. Right between the two 16x PCIe slots is the M.2 Wi-Fi module slot.
Up the right side, SATA connectivity starts with a total of six SATA 6Gb/s ports and one SATAe port, which support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10. A 24-pin ATX power plug supplies the power to the board. Just above the power connection are the Debug LEDs used to troubleshoot POST problems, followed up by a 4-pin fan header. Up to 64GB of DDR4 2133 MHz memory is supported in a dual-channel configuration. 2133MHz is the maximum speed that can be utilized on this board even if you are running faster modules and select the XMP profile. If you are running slower speed bin memory, you will have the option of bumping up the speed as long as you do not exceed 2133Mhz.
Across the top of the PCB, there really is not a whole lot going on except for the CPU fan header and 8-pin EATX power plug along the top edge of the 9.6 x 9.6 inch square PCB. The heat sinks are smaller than I am used to, but this board is also not overclocking-enabled where you need a more robust design. The cooling solution works quite well as it is, so there is really no need to go big.
MSI's B150M Mortar is built for use with Intel 6th Generation Core series processors. It is equipped with an LGA 1151 socket to accommodate Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 SKUs. As a non-overclocking board, you will not need to spend extra on a K-SKU processor to get the most from the B150M Mortar. MSI's Military Class IV VRM components are used to run longer, cooler, and more efficiently. MSI's Guard Pro technology is used to improve the durability of the design. A smaller cooling solution is used on the B150 PCH and CPU VRM circuits. It does work as intended and keeps the VRM thermals in check.
Seeing the hardware is one thing, but putting it through its paces is another. Let's see what the B150M Mortar can do after digging through the included software and MSI's Click BIOS 5 implementation.