MSI Z97 Gaming 7 Reviewccokeman -
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MSI Z97 Gaming 7 Introduction:
MSI has been making great strides in changing perceptions long held about its products. In the past few years, the team at MSI has delivered consistently better products in the overclocking and gaming segments, taking on ASUS in its own backyard. Having tested more than a few of the company's Z77, Z87, and now Z97-based motherboards, the trend has been to improve long term stability and reliability while significantly adding more in terms of functionality for the end user.
MSI's Z97 Gaming 7 is a board that refines what we saw with the Z87-GD65 last year and takes it to a new level with not only the hardware implementations, but with the software packages to back it all up. With the Gaming 7, we see new audio hardware, a new set of protection features, improved storage features with an M.2 port, and much improved software packages including MSI's Command Center utility and the addition of RAMDisk software. MSI's Military Class IV build philosophy is used to ensure you get higher performance and increased longevity with an all important reduction in operating thermals, along with better power efficiency. Priced at $189, the Gaming 7 is feature packed at that price point and comes with a 3-year warranty to boot. Let's dig into the Gaming 7 and see just what it has to offer the gamer and enthusiast.
MSI Z97 Gaming 7 Closer Look:
The packaging on MSI's Gaming 7 motherboard has been similar over the past few years, highlighted by the Dragon Army tribal dragon on the left hand side of the front panel. Highlighted features on the front panel include Audio Boost 2, the use of a Killer Networks E2200 gigiabit NIC, and that this board uses a Z97 PCH for Intel Core series socket 1150 processors, including the Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3. The packaging has a striking look that sets it apart from the competition. The back side gives a tour through some of the features on the board, including Audio Boost 2, Killer NIC, USB Audio Power that delivers a consistent 5v to the specialized USB ports, support for multiple GPUs, and the inclusion of several gaming specific applications.
Inside the package, the black theme continues. The Gaming 7 motherboard sits up front wrapped in an anti-static bag for ESD protection, while the bottom of the box is filled with a pretty substantial accessory bundle. In it you get your standard items as well as some specific parts for the Gaming 7 board to fully use its feature set.
Like I said, the bundle for this board is pretty substantial. Documentation includes the manual, quick install guide, application guide, overclocking guide, SATA drive labels, a driver disk, and a "Do Not Disturb" door hanger that I first saw years ago included with a video card. Since then, it's one of the mainstays in gaming centric board packages. The hardware side of the bundle includes six SATA 6Gbps cables (two of which have 90 degree ends), a new I/O shield, SLI bridge connection, a pair of M connections, a set of V-check point probe extensions for use when checking voltages, a massive case badge, and one oddity: a 4-pin Molex to 3-pin Audio Power connector is used to provide additional power to the audio components on board for better sound performance from the Audio Boost 2 solution.
As a package, MSI's Gaming 7 motherboard looks like it's an impressive addition to the Gaming series family. That being said, it's time to dig a bit deeper into what it has to offer.