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MSI Z97 Gaming 7 Review

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MSI Z97 Gaming 7 Testing:

Testing the MSI Z97 Gaming 7 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, so 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 NVIDIA drivers for the NVIDIA 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:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

At times, overclocking the Core i7 4770K is akin to pulling your teeth out due to the thermal limits that get reached pretty quickly when applying voltage to the core and IVR. Couple that with the strength of the memory controller as CPU clock speed increases, you play a balancing act to get the highest level of performance. By using the OC Genie 4 feature, the Z97 Gaming 7 clocked a solid 4GHz result just by pushing a button. This is not as aggressive as other boards, but with the variability in Haswell silicon, it's a good starting point. At 4.0GHz, you are only a 100MHz above the boost speed of 3.9GHz on a Core i7 4770K. It's safe and it works.

Tuning manually opens up another set of worms, but the Z97 Gaming 7 is able to tune up the performance as long as your chip and cooling can manage the load. 4.7GHz was not going to happen in any way shape or form since I am sure my CPU has settled into a life of a 4.66GHz chip. This is just what the board would give me. Instead of the traditional 46x101.15 route, I chose to see how well it handled the 125MHz gear ratio to get to the 4.66GHz plateau. At 1.320v set in the BIOS on the vcore and the ring voltage set to 1.29v, I was able to run the ring ratio at 36 with the bclk set to 126.14 and be fully stable. VCCSA needed a tweak as well to 1.15v, but other than setting the XMP profile for the memory, no other tweaks were made.

 

 

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.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  • Scientific & Data:
  1. PCMark 7
  2. SiSoft Sandra 2014
  3. Cinebench 11.5
  4. X.264 5.1
  5. AIDA 64 3.00
  6. CrystalDiskMark
  7. ATTO 2.47
  8. iPerf
  9. RightMark Audio Analyzer
  • Gaming:
  1. 3DMark
  2. DiRT 3
  3. Metro: Last Light



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