MSI Z87-G45 Gaming ReviewBluePanda -
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MSI Z87-G45 Gaming Closer Look:
MSI's Z87-G45 Gaming motherboard is based around the Z87 chipset for use with the new Haswell LGA socket 1150 (4th Generation Core Chip) -- in this case we'll show off the i7 4770K. The board is a black and red theme (though up in macro closeness you can tell the PCB is actually more a brown tinge). There is plenty of room and slots for just about anything you can dream up. Again the dragon carries out from the packaging to the board itself with a nice red and black anodized aluminum heat sink on the board. This chipset supports DRAM up to 3000MHz, Killer Ethernet, PCIe Gen3, Mutli-GPU support, Sound Blaster Cinema settings, Lucid Virtu MVP 2.0, and even Fast Boot Options. The front of the board is silk screened with labeling across the board to tell you what is what. The motherboard to front I/O panel pins are easily read, and even a little advertising for the Military Grade components, Killer 2200 networking, and AMD CrossFireX. I really appreciated the numbering on the PCIe slots, SATA ports, System Fans, and general PCI slot numbering, SATA numbering, and DIMM slots. The back of the board shows off the ever impressive traces on the board and the nice solid back plate to the socket itself. It's really an okay looking thing (even though obviously I'm a blue fan).
The lower left corner of the board has a total of seven PCIe slots. There are four PCIe 2.0 x1 slots and three PCIe 3.0 slots that can run at x16, x8/x8, or x8/x4/x4, so think about this when you are considering CrossFire or Tri-Fire setups. You can easily read the audio header, fan headers, and front panel I/O pins for the front of your case. It's a well labeled board as I mentioned before. Your BIOS button battery is located just between the two lower PCIe 3.0 slots incase you need a little reset after a bad OC or bad settings in general. Every now and then it seems like you have to find this little guy. This board doesn't have the OC Genie button like the G65, but it does have the options in the BIOS for it. The little Audio Boost logo mounted to the board with a couple screws sadly lights up in bright PINK! It's far from being red in color despite what it looks like not lit up. It's a little decorative cover that hides the little Realtek chip beneath it (ALC 1150) that supplies the Audio Boost feature. The chip provides a built-in headphone amplifier to allow you to get the best sound quality out of your gaming PC, with high quality capacitors, EMI shielding, and studio level impedance of 600 ohms.
The sockett sits in an interesting X pattern on the board; it's almost like X marks the spot. The typical plastic cover sits on top of the bracket now rather than down inside floating above the pins itself -- so if you decide to put it back to send to a friend or send in for an RMA, don't try to cram it beneath like you are used to; you'll have some bent pins. The heat sinks along the VRMs for the CPU are decked out in the same red and black theme bringing the whole board together. It's just nice seeing the cooling there for any OCing -- without them you'll learn the smell of burning PCB very quickly. Up here there are the four DIMM slots that serve up dual channel goodness ready for whatever kit you have of DDR3 up to 3000MHz. It's pretty empty up here -- leaving plenty of room for those certain CPU coolers that fit oddly.
Pulling back a little to show a little more of the board up near the socket, you can see just how much space there is. There's room for an mSATA on the board (which seems to be becoming a bit more popular with the SRT option from Intel). The board has an 8-pin power requirement, as expected from higher end boards, rather than the old school 4-pin supply. The I/O panel on the back of the board has quite the options. You have the specialized dual purpose PS/2 and USB ports that are triple gold-plated for durability and guarenteed functionality during LAN events. The next tower over supports digital coaxial and optical outputs. Connections from the socket are provided through VGA, DVI (digital only), and HDMI so you can trouble shoot even when you're down a GPU or Virtu features. There are four USB 3.0 slots, your Killer Ethernet port, and your typical six port audio connections for that pink Audio Boost. While we're down on this level of the board let's take a quick look at the opposite corner where you'll find six 6Gb/s SATA connections and a nice 90 degree USB 3.0 hub for the front I/O panel (so much easier on cable management).
Back to the board. My favorite 24-pin connection up near the DIMM slots is as pretty as ever. I always wonder when I will hear that sound click confirming connection on my poor worn out PSU plug - too many reviews for the click, but it definitely fits in there nice and sound. There's a neat touch pad of solder here for checking voltages on the fly with any volt meter. It really allows you to check in on what is going on down at the physical level rather than simply depending on software such as CPU-Z. A closer look at the mSATA port shows the simplicity of adding an mSATA card to the board. The little screw is a dual screw, functioning as both a stand off and a screw to hold the card tightly in place against its leads. Although I don't have an mSATA card myself, I'm becoming a fan of builds with them just for the purposes of SRT. It's a great option to see here on the board and in perfect placement. A little closer look at the screen printing on the board and you can simply appreciate having some labeling to the madness. It's great for new or old builders just trying to get things working. The MSI Military Class IV logo, though I'm not so impressed by such componenets, is a neat addition to the board.
Overall this board is pretty nice looking. It has some great features, great qualities, and definitely a well competitor to its bigger sister, the GD65. The dragon on the board, though not of any special function, does draw me to the board; it's good marketing. I like neat things along with function, but sometimes it's simple things that come with that functionality, such as a sweet dragon cutout. Overall this board is, if nothing else, badass in appearance.