The past couple of years has seen MSI really step up their game when it comes to products such as graphics cards and motherboards. The Z77 G45 Gaming was the first motherboard from MSI we saw that was entirely targeted at gamers with features like advanced audio capabilities, and 'Killer' networking. The rest of the Z77 range from MSI we outstanding boards in terms of aesthetics, price and performance, but weren't really specialised in terms of gaming features such as the aforementioned audio and networking capabilities. The Z87 range saw a complete change in this. The colour schemes all changed to a red and black theme, and the Dragon branding became a standard thing to see on all the boards, along with the gaming features.
Now we've got the new generation Z97 range with updated looks, and far more features to suit both gamers and enthusiasts.
It's no surprise that on a motherboard with 'Gaming' in the title, the majority of the features will be aimed at gamers. The motherboard itself follows the same black and red theme we saw on the previous generation. It comes with a matte black PCB with a brushed aluminium southbridge heatsink. There are subtle red highlights across the board on the three heatsinks and the audio tracers and shielding. We do like this minimalistic look with the red, and as much as we loved the old dragon heatsinks, the brushed aluminium with the gaming series logo does look a touch more professional.
The Gaming 5 does promise to support up to 3300MHz RAM, which although it's unlikely that you'll be using anything quite so high, it's good to know it'll have you covered regardless of the RAM you want to use. Of course memory speeds will also be CPU dependent, but if the advances in the memory controllers of the processors from what we've seen in recent generations is anything to go by, we're sure the Haswell refresh will be able to support a vast array of speeds.
Like the previous Z87 motherboards, the Z97 series also comes with Killer networking which optimised the game you're playing in terms of bandwidth in order to minimise lag. Along with this, we see MSI's advanced audio solution. This is built around Realtek's ALC1150 audio solution, but with added high quality audio capacitors, and also an operational amplifier. This means the motherboard is able to drive headphones up to 600Ohm's impedance without noticeable degradation in sound quality. The Gaming 5's audio also comes with gold plated audio jacks to help you get the most out of your audio solution.
As we've seen in a few of the other Z97 boards, the MSI Gaming 5 comes with SATA Express, and M.2 capabilities which both offer up to 10GB/s transfer rates, over the standard 6GB/s we're used to on SATA3. Although few devices are capable of using this yet, it's good to see MSI have you covered for the future.
The MSI Gaming 5 retails at around £115, which we think is great value for money for a board with as many top quality features as this.
Thanks to MSI for providing the Gaming 5. You can discuss your thoughts on the OC3D Forums.