MSI Z87-G45 Gaming Review

BluePanda - 2012-10-26 11:06:28 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: August 7, 2013
Price: $154.99

MSI Z87-G45 Introduction:

Almost two months ago, ccokeman showed us MSI's Z87-GD65 motherboard with full features built around the Z87 PCH and LGA socket 1150 Core series processors. Today I'll be showing you just a step down from that MSI board -- the MSI Z87-G45. For just a little less than the GD65, the G45 can be owned by you for just $154.99. It's still a bit up there in price if you are looking for an "affordable" board -- but it is one of the lower priced boards on the market that is still of relatively high caliber. The MSI Z87-G45 was designed for gaming and with the imposing look of the MSI Dragon on the box and board, it really sells a strong look. High frag and low lag with the Killer E2200 Game Networking, clear sound with Audio Boot, superb graphics with VGA Boost, and blazing fast boot times with Super RAID are all supposed gaming weapons of the Z87-G45; but is it all talk? Or, can this dragon really breathe fire?

This board does indeed look as neat as the MSI Z87-GD65, and without laying them directly next to each other you'd almost swear they were the same board. The colors and general layout are the same as well as the clever dragon cutout on the lower heatsink. There are some obvious loss of features from the higher end board (such as the heat pipe on the VRMs and some OC buttons) but I would expect such for the reduced cost to me. Let's get this board to the test bed and see how well it performs; not everything is about how it looks (though this is pretty stellar despite my distaste for red and black themes). 


MSI Z87-G45 Closer Look:

Taking a look at the retail packaging, it's quite the attention whore of a box; however, if you aren't too careful you'll easily mistake this for the Z87-GD65 or vice versa. It has the same bold black and red coloring with the tribal-style dragon emblem drawn up on the front. In all actuality the box is a near replica of what we've seen on the GD65; it's EXACTLY the same front and back with the phrasing Z87-GD65 replaced everywhere with Z87-G45. It's not too surprising really, as both  boards are targeted at the same group; only real difference is the cost and some onboard hardware changes. But back to the box, in case you missed it in the other review, there is a the large gold seal on the front showing off the MSI three-year warranty. You actually have plenty of time for something to go wrong and still be covered by MSI's services. The box also sports the Killer E2200 NIC it has built in and the major support to Intel for the core and chipset. 

The back of the box goes on to rattle off some more key features, again promoting the Killer 2200 Ethernet, which is said to do away with lag by eliminating latency and ping spikes while you play. There is also the Audio Boost, which you'll see is also advertised on the board itself, to "reward your ears". It is built with EMI Shielding, high-quality parts, and is all there to ensure you get the most optimal audio reproduction in games, movies, and music. Among other things is the multiple-GPU capabilities, Sound Blaster Cinema software, Class IV Military Standard components to "keep you cool in the heat of a battle", and the ever infamous OC Genie 4. AND, if you are super serious about your gaming, the board features special PS/2 and USB ports with triple gold plating for high-frequency gaming devices -- nothing can stop you! (Heed my sarcasm.)









The box is neatly packed inside with the MSI Z87-G45 board sitting on its own little platform inside the box, thus all you see when you open the box is its wonderful glory. Beneath it is two separated sections providing support to the board as well as neat little containment for all the extra gizmos that come along with it. You get your standard documentation with a user guide, warranty information and a CD with drivers and utilities to install (so no need for the Internet to start). Then you'll see your red and black backplate, a couple SATA cables, and an awesome door hanger to keep out any nuisance during your gaming hours. 




It's a neat looking board and shares quite a lot with its grander sister -- let's just hope it can bring to the table an equivalent amount of awesome!

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.


MSI Z87-G45 Closer Look:

Every motherboard manufacturer has its own set of software tools that best work with its hardware; you saw quite a few of the options MSI has with the Z87-GD65. To no surprise the Z87-G45 has most of the same packages as well as a couple of its own tools to show off. 

Qualcomm Atheros Killer Network Manager is used to manage your network connection. Here you can tailor the bandwith to your desire and  promote better usage for game play. On the overview menu you can see your system info listed in real time. The PC Monitor tab allows you to graphically see usage on the board in real time - CPU usage is shown here for example. The applications tab allows you to control the bandwith for specific applications accessing your network, allowing you to give priority to your current game. You can also configure your network here and change advanced settings as long as you know what you are up to. 


















The use of the Realtek ALC 1150 codec brings with it the Realtek HD Audio manager control panel that proves to be fully functional. An added enhancement is the inclusion of the Sound Blaster Cinema Suite. This enables the use of several preset options including Movie, Game, Music, and a Custom profile. Configurable within the profiles are Surround, Crystalizer, Bass Boost, Smart Volume, and Dialog Plus. I do laugh at the fact that the start up page says "SBX PRO STUDIO" at the top, but if you take a quick glance the font honestly reads: "SEX PRO STUDIO".


MSI Command Center is used for near full BIOS control within Windows. You can control the Core Frequencies, CPU Voltage, Clock Ratio, DRAM Voltage, GPU OC, and grab the OC Genie from here. It's honeslty a graphic toy that allows you to do somethings you might normally do within the BIOS, which can be seriously dangerous. Use your smarts!




Live Update 5 is used for checking MSI's servers for updates to the installed utilities, BIOS, and drivers. This process can run automatically or manually - your choice. 




MSI Z87-G45 Closer Look:

MSI has a rather impressive UEFI BIOS for being UEFI. I won't rant about how much I dislike UEFI (as I feel I've said enough) but at least this one works. The mouse isn't as responsive as you would expect it to be, but navigating with just the keyboard is possible. Ccokeman had some issues with his mouse, but despite the many I have laying around here I ddin't have the same issues ;must have been an odd mouse there, ccokeman. The Click BIOS 4's main page is a glorious red and black theme with the glorious themed dragon for the Gaming G Series. Your BIOS time reads at the top in modernized pretend seven (sometimes six) segment displays. Your boot priority order can be arranged graphically just below that by clicking and dragging the icons to your needs. I will say, this is one thing you MUST use your mouse for. However, you can change this order in the settings tab with your keyboard (in case your mouse doesn't work or you are lazy like me). The settings tab, whether you navigate there with the mouse or keyboard, brings up some more menu options. You can access your system stats, boot options, advanced settings, security options (password protection), and the save & exit menu, which many of you know as F10.  You have your most general settings in these menus. 
















The OC page is the page we all really care about. Here's where you can set your base clock, PCIE PLL, CPU Ratio, Turbo Boost options, Ring Ratio's, DRAM settings, and everything else you can so ever need. You can of course scroll down to see more (not that I show you)  but you can select XMP profiles for your RAM, SA Voltages for your board, and so forth. The point is, you can OC with this board, and for real! The M-Flash tab/button, what have you, opens up BIOS boot functions, a safe place to save your current BIOS before you hose it flashing to a newer one, and of course the menu to update your BIOS/re-flash your BIOS with the "Update BIOS" selection. If you have the new one downloaded already and on a flash drive you're ready to go. 



The Hardware monitor is a little more than you would normally expect to see in a BIOS. Besides the general infomation you can see under system stats, you can come here to see and set your temperature profiles for system fans. Using the five onboard fan headers you can set each one to run on a preset schedule where if the temperatutre is at X, the fan is set to run Y speed and have a max of Z RPM overall. It's neat on the conceptual level, but I ended up not really using it. I don't mind my rig being a little loud, but it is nice to see that you can work your system into a very quiet ideal machine. The final page I thought was most interesting and that is your "Board Explorer". It shows everything you have plugged into a slot as well as anything plugged into the back I/O panel. If nothing else you can at least see if your board thinks something is there, so if something is truely dead, you'll know quite quickly (well at least in some cases). It tells you a little about some of the items, for example the GPU being NVIDIA, but nothing too in depth for troubleshooting (that would be way too much work - seriously, no saracasm).  Overall it's not too shabby of a BIOS for being a UEFI.


MSI Z87-G45 Specifications:

CPU (Max Support)
FSB / Hyper Transport Bus
Intel® Z87 Express Chipset
DDR3 Memory
DDR31066/1333/1600*/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000*(*OC) Mhz
Memory Channel
DIMM Slots
Max Memory (GB)
Gen3 (16,0,0), (8,8,0), (8,4,4)
USB 3.0 ports (Rear)
USB 2.0 ports (Rear)
Audio ports (Rear)
6+Coaxial / Optical SPDIF
VGA Max Share Memory (MB)
Form Factor




MSI Z87-G45 Features:


All information courtesy of MSI @

MSI Z87-G45 Testing:

Testing MSI's Z87-G45 Gaming motherboard will involve running it through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which includes both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications, to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual gameplay, in which we can see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest drivers for each board and the NVIDIA 320.49 driver for the new GTX 770. In the past we had locked the clock speed on the processor to eliminate any easily controlled variables due to processor speed. However there is a difference in how each manufacturer handles the CPU default and boost speeds creating opportunity for one board to deliver a higher level of performance. This variable is a point of difference between boards. The majority of users will run the stock settings making this point a valid concern so we are changing up the test methods to capture this difference.

Testing Setup: Socket 1150


Comparison Motherboard:



Overclocked settings:


Jumping into the BIOS was still a little strange to me. I'm still not a big fan of these UEFI BIOS setups, which seem less straight forward to me. The graphics were pretty, but settings were a little hard to find at first. Knowing that the highest stable OC I could push my 4770K to on the AUSU-Plus board was 4.6GHz, I was a little hopeful to get more with all the available settings in the BIOS; there seems to be a lot of control for both frequency and voltage settings. Unfortunately it didn't seem to matter which way I pushed her as 4.6GHz was the limit again. Besides the throttling at higher frequencies and the rediculous heat pouring out, the inevitable BSODs just wouldn't stay away. I was happy with the ultimate OC of 4.6GHz with only 1.3V. (Oh how I would love to pop the lid and push so much more!)

With the final tweaks out of the way it really was a simple OC, just time consuming finalizing the lowest voltage and maximum core clock. I set the vcore to override mode and upped the voltage there. Like I said before, 1.3V ended up being the sweet spot. The SA Voltage needed a little boost to allow the 4.6GHz OC to run stable; with it set on auto, it just couldn't quite keep the energy going. DRAM wasn't picky in this board, as leaving the standard memory profile on the XMP settings with everythng on auto was perfect, there was no need to up voltages for this set or do anything really special. The frequency was set hard at the 46 multiplier and booted quite nicely. After some good stability runs on Intel Burn Test v2, Prime95, and some rigorous gaming (for common use), the chip sailed smoothly without any issues. It was quite impressive considering anything more and it was a near guaranteed BSOD and failed IBT. 



Maximum Core Clock Speed:

Each CPU has been tested for stability at the listed overclocked speeds. These clock speeds will represent the level of performance shown by the overclocked scores in the testing. Just try to remember when looking at the chart below of maximum overclocks; the ASUS-Plus and G45 are results from my chip The other resulting numbers at 4.7GHz are from ccokeman's slightly more friendly ES chip. 




  1. PCMark 7
  2. SiSoft Sandra 2013
  3. Cinebench 11.5
  4. X.264 5.1
  5. AIDA 64 3.00
  6. Crystal Disk Mark
  7. ATTO
  8. iPerf
  9. Rightmark Audio Analyzer
  1. 3DMark
  2. Metro: Last Light
  3. DiRT 3

MSI Z87-G45 Testing:

PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs from laptops to desktops.






















SiSoft Sandra 2013 is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

Overall Score



When you look at the stock speed scores, the MSI Z87-G45 comes in the middle of the field, which isn't a shabby performance based on its price position. When overclocked it regularly beats out the ASUS Z87-Plus, but trails the rest (again, mostly due to my slower 4770K).

MSI Z87-G45 Testing:

Cinebench 11.5 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program, CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.














X.264 Benchmark: This benchmark is used to measure the time it takes to encode a 1080p video file into the x264 format. The default benchmark is used with an average of all four tests on each pass taken as the result.



AIDA64 Extreme Edition 3.0 is a software utility designed to be used for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the Cache and Memory benchmark tool to measure memory performance.




Again the G45 Gaming falls into the middle end of the field. Each board performs very similarly overall in both stock and overclocked tests.

MSI Z87-G45 Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds of drives by using 4K blocks, 512K blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 1000MB option.

















ATTO 2.47: will be used to measure USB 3.0 performance using an SSD attached to an external USB 3.0 drive dock.



SATA performance is pretty similar across the board with the exception of the two ASUS boards in the USB 3.0 testing (due to their "turbo" modes).

MSI Z87-G45 Testing:

LAN performance will be tested via a utility to gauge the performance of the onboard network solutions. The motherboard being tested will be connected via a Gigabit switch to another system with an integrated Gigabit network solution on board.

iPerf: is a small lightweight utility run from the command prompt and can be used to measure both TCP and UDP performance on a network. iPerf is cross platform software and open source. The test is configured to run for 20 seconds with a window size of 256 KB and four simultaneous streams that should be able to saturate the TCP link on a good NIC.














Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.25 is used to test the sound solution on board each motherboard. Nothing beats a good set of ears and headphones but this is a graphic representation of the capabilities of the installed hardware. Sampling mode is 24-bit 44kHz.

Intel  DZ87KLT-75
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming
MSI Z87-G45 Gaming
Frequency Response dB
+0.52,+ 0.30
-0.01, -0.07
Noise Level dBA
Dynamic Range dBA
Total Harmonic distortion %
Intermodulation distortion +noise
Stereo Crosstalk,db
Intermodulation distortion + noise (Swept Freq) %
Frequency Response (Swept Sine), db
+0.0, -0.0

The LAN tests don't show any board standing out; clearly the Killer Networking feature can't improve much on sustained throughput.  The Realtek chip used for sound, however, delivered some of the best results tested so far!

MSI Z87-G45 Testing:

3DMark: The just released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base the ability to make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs to notebooks and Extreme Gaming PCs.













DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.




Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro: Last Light is the followup to the extremely popular game Metro 2033. Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, this game uses the 4A game engine. In this game set a year after the missile strike on the Dark Ones you continue on as Artyom as he digs deeper into the bowels of the Metro.







Honestly these results put everything at a pretty even playing field. No board really stands out and only the slightly reduced clock speeds in the overclocked tests contribute to the noise. Solid performance from all!

MSI Z87-G45 Conclusion:

In the end the MSI Z87-G45 was a pretty nice board. Riding in line behind the MSI Z87-GD65, it has a lot of waterfall expectations for itself. I felt that it held up to those expectations rather well, and for the $30 savings from the GD65 to the G45, it's hard to not argue for it. Out of the box it has a three-year warranty, so there isn't any humming and hawing at the idea that something might go wrong. If it is three years and a day when it does finally go, I'll just be impressed that an upgrade hadn't made its way through yet. The price is right in the ballpark for a quality OCing motherboard that has enough power and cooling to get things done right. It's not overly glorified with a ton of tacky gold capacitors, but rather just a nice authentic red and black gaming-esque show piece.  

The BIOS to me was ultimately frustrating, but that isn't a factor I can really call a con. I'm a fan of the more classic blue with white text BIOS that requires nothing but a keyboard to navigate. Fortunately the UEFI BIOS does let you navigate just like that; you do not have to use a mouse, though the BIOS is clearly drawn to be used in that manner. The dragon from the box, the board, and the BIOS all line up for a clear cut theme; something I was quite fond of. In general the BIOS was easy enough to figure out and get things setup the right way. There were so many settings available that it was a little more tricky to OC, but it did give me the ability to get a solid stable 4.6GHz with the tweaking of just a couple settings, whereas had they not been there (or forced auto) wouldn't have been successful. It's quite the board for any true enthusist looking to work out all the little details and get just that little bit more from their OC. 

The included features of Audio Boost and all the added software packages both on disk and available on MSI's website were a nice touch. Some of the products were a little finicky getting to work, the Sound Blaster Cinema suite didn't want to install properly the first or second time and still had a few bugs on the third install. It's no surprise as Creative hasn't seemed to make any headway over the years in its often buggy software builds. This problem didn't really kill it for me.

The hardware in this case matters a little more and was more than suitable for a board of this caliber. The MSI Command Center package was rather impressive, though I prefer (and recommend) not overclocking anywhere but in the BIOS. The idea of changing these settings while running your OS is just beyond me; it's like asking to corrupt files. I guess the real main advantage to all this is the ability to down clock a bit or down to stock on-the-fly without a restart. It could really aid in finailzing that OC, but still has that scary feeling like when drives first had the ability to be "hot-swappable" - really, I can unplug this running drive? AND plug in a new one? It's just interesting how technology pushes the envelope on the things we all knew as "no-nos". 

In the end the MSI Z87-G45 comes with quite a lot to offer. The price sits just below the GD65 and loses only a few features, some cared more for than others. The overall board appears about the same minus the heat pipes on the VRMs and a couple OC Genie buttons, so you can't deny the looks of this board unless you hate dragons or don't want red in your case. The voltage check points on the board, Audio Boost technology, Killer Network features, and an awesome three-year warenty is well worth putting up the little extra cash from what you might normally get.