MSI Z77A-G45 Gaming Review
So often a motherboard is a set of compromises, and usually those are a balance of looks and performance. The more you have of one the less you usually have of the other.
The MSI Z77A G45 Gaming straddles the line beautifully between looks, performance and price.
Let's start with the looks. An all-black PCB, with black plastic and just a few hints of red in the heatsinks is always more popular than a blue PCB. Especially as, with so little red on the 'board, you could combine it with almost any colour-scheme you like without it dominating proceedings. The heatsinks deserve special praise, looking vastly more expensive than the £120 price tag would have you believe. As you can tell from our image at the top of the page, the Dragon branding logo is a particular highlight.
Performance is slightly mixed, but with certain caveats.
Yes it's by no means the best overclocking motherboard we've tested. 4.7GHz isn't to be sniffed at, although an average overclock on our particular processor is 4.8GHz and anything above that worthy of particular praise. So it's by no means poor, but we do have to mention that it's not a beastly overclocker. Equally we have to say that the stock performance isn't the best we've seen if you look through the graphs, but in use it wasn't noticeable. However it's worth pointing out. Perhaps even more so because, unlike the GD65 Gaming, the G45 doesn't come with the excellent MSI OC Genie button, so to overclock you'll have to refer to our overclocking guide rather than just press and forget, but we have proven how ever that these buttons are never that good in reality and the personal touch is MUCH better in the long run.
On the positive side the graphical performance is excellent. Whether it's the OpenGL result in CineBench R11.5, or the excellent results we saw in both Unigine and 3D Mark, the MSI G45 Gaming lives up to its billing as designed for gamers. Equally the SoundBlaster Cinema sound is good, but it's still a Realtek ALC892 beneath the hood. The merits of the Killer Networking solution have been long debated, and whilst there isn't any particular advantage in ping or speed in standard situations, if your PC unexpectedly starts updating something or you forgot to kill a torrent, then the traffic shaping keeps your gaming smooth.
The only real competition for the G45 comes from MSI themselves, with both the Z77A Gaming GD65 and Z77 MPower providing even more extraordinary value for money at only £30 more for better overclocking and richer features. But for £120 you're getting a great looking motherboard with decent overclocking and performance that is better than the relative clockspeed would indicate. If you want a motherboard that does all the good things right, and looks the part, then you could do a lot worse than the MSI Z77A G45 Gaming, and we're happy to award it our OC3D Gamers Choice award.