MSI Z97 Gaming 6 Review
Published: 19th May 2015 | Source: MSI | Price: |
If you read all of our reviews - and have a good memory - then you might wonder if we've accidentally inserted the Gaming 5 pictures into our Gaming 6 review. The boards are so similar that if MSI had named this the Gaming 5b we wouldn't be shocked. The Gaming 6 is a sea of black PCB, black slots and very standard heatsinks. We appreciate that MSI have long since given up on fancy dragon heatsinks, but we still miss them. When you have something that differentiates you from the competition for no appreciable downside, it seems churlish to abandon it so readily.
Performance is very similar to every other Z97 motherboard we've looked at. The consistency of the Intel chipsets has become bulletproof in recent years which has huge benefits to the consumer and is a double-edged sword for the manufacturer. With nearly ever 'board having similar levels of performance we, the consumer, can choose whichever suits our budget, or colour choice, or feature set. For the manufacturers the difficulty in differentiating your product from the rest therefore rely heavily on the subtle changes between each model, the commitment to a certain ethos, or even just getting it on the market for an irresistible price point.
Looks and performance aren't really why you'd be in the market for the Gaming 6 though. It's all about the included USB 3.1 C-type on the back. The very latest USB supports some incredible speeds as we've seen in earlier storage reviews, and the decision to pair such tremendous bandwidth with the "no wrong way to insert it" C connector is a stroke of genius from MSI. To manage to bring that cutting edge technology onto a motherboard which barely tips the scales at £130 is what will really shift the Gaming 6 from the shelves. We do think there should have been a pair of A connectors below the C though even if they had to all share the bandwidth, that C connector at the bottom is just a waste of real estate in what would normally have been a packed I/O panel. 4 USB connectors is just too much of a shock when looking at the competition especially when there is nothing on the market right now to be able to use that type C. Its certainly a brave choice but its poorly executed and leaves us thinking its more of a compromise than an actual bonus item.
Whether you are interested in the Gaming 6 is wholly reliant upon whether you wish to have that USB 3.1 support. Without it there is nothing to recommend the Gaming 6 over, for example, the much cheaper Gaming 5. However, if you do want a Z97 motherboard it would be remiss to not go for one that contains the latest SATA Express/USB 3.1 hardware, coupled to the affordable pricing and consistent performance the MSI Z97A Gaming 6 wins our OC3D Innovation Award.