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MSI Z97 Gaming 7 Review

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MSI Z97 Gaming 7 Conclusion:

MSI's Z97 Gaming 7 is a full-featured motherboard targeted at the computer gamer, as the name suggests, and is built with the features that matter most to the target market. As a high performance motherboard, it is fully capable of maxing out your installed hardware, especially when you take the time to tune it specifically for your combination of parts. As far as overclocking was concerned, my best performing Core i7 4770K is a Prime-stable 4.66GHz chip no mater what. Every once in a blue moon, it chooses to run at 4.7GHz, but for the most part 4.6GHz is where it's at. The Gaming 7 was easily able to get my chip to that level without much in the way of trouble. Setting up my memory was as simple as applying the XMP profile. Sure the sub timings can be tweaked and tuned to get a bit better performance from the memory, but for the most part you will not see it in benchmarks.

Manually tuning the BIOS is only one of the ways that this board allows for performance tuning. MSI's OC Genie 4 works at the push of a button to deliver a mild overclock of 4.0GHz. Using the tuning wizard in MSI's Command Center software gives the same result. That being said, MSI has improved its software tweaking and tuning tool to the point where it works really well. There is even a small application called the Gaming App, which allows the end user the option of choosing between three specific clock speed profiles based on how you want to run the board. Overclocking? Yes. Tuning? Yes. Monitoring? Why yes, thanks for asking. When tweaking and tuning the Z97 Gaming 7, you can view the applied voltages in the Command Center application easy enough and get a good idea where they shake out. If that's not good enough, MSI includes V-Check Points 2 to employ one or more multimeters to read the actual voltages applied rather than wondering just how spot-on the voltages are via software readings. If you are not on a bench, MSI makes it easier to attach to the V-Checkpoints with a set of extensions.

Raw performance is not the only attraction here with the Z97 Gaming 7. Using identical clock speeds across any series of motherboards is going to result in a comparison that shows each board performing within a specific envelope; exactly what we saw here when looking at the performance of the Z97 Gaming 7. That being said, the feature set is where you make your mark. To deliver performance and long-term reliability, MSI employs its Military Class IV build strategy using Super Ferrite chokes, black capacitors, and Hi-C caps, which results in a power circuit that runs cooler and more efficient. In addition, MSI has employed its Guard Pro protection scheme by making sure that the components are up to MIL standards, that the board has improved humidity resistance, an improved PCB design, and that the Z97 Gaming 7 has every port isolated from the impact of an ESD.

The list of gaming specific features is long and distinguished, but for this series, the Audio Boost 2 sound solution gets a revamp with an isolated PCB holding the dual headphone amplifiers ALC1150 codec and Nichicon Audio capacitors. Direct Audio Power is a feature that feeds power directly to the audio circuits to provide a more stable power supply to the Audio Boost 2 solution for an overall improvement in sound quality. USB Audio Power is another feature that now provides a steady 5V to specific ports on the I/O panel to ensure any USB sound solution has the power to provide clear, crisp sound. MSI's new Click BIOS 4 gets some additions that add functionality and work as they are intended. Each new and existing feature makes the Z97 Gaming 7 a worthy contender for your hard earned cash and is an exciting alternative to other offerings in the market. Priced at $189, you really cannot go wrong with MSI's Z97 Gaming 7. It can do it all.

 

Pros:

  • Looks 
  • Strong feature set
  • Overclocking
  • Improved software 
  • Improved BIOS
  • Audio Boost 2 Sound
  • M.2 ready
  • Fan tuning

 

Cons:

  • None


 

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