MSI Z87 Motherboard Roundup: Rockin Haswell

Article Index

Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Benchmark scores across the entire gamut of Z87 motherboards we tested were tightly clustered for the most part. That's to say that the MSI Z87I, Z87-G45 Gaming, and Z87 MPOWER Max all performed solidly and as expected. The MSI trio did post the best scores in SunSpider and proved to be relatively power efficient, so that's something to note, but the gaming scores were on the weaker side (which could just mean MSI more modestly tunes their PLLs rather than goose them for benchmarks in reviews). We also found that Z87 motherboards from competitors ASUS and Gigabyte were somewhat better at overclocking, at least in our setup and with the minimal parameters and cooling solutions we used.

Aside from the above, our only complaint about these motherboards is that there are some PCB layout issues that can make get in the way of putting together a system, as in the case of the MPOWER Max and its lack of labeling as well as the Z87I's wonky layout that seriously hamstrings what you're able to put onto the board. On the Z87I, we couldn't use our CPU fans because they didn't fit when the GPU was installed, the motherboard only has two fan headers anyway, the power/reset headers are difficult to get into (and aren’t labelled), and the WiFi antennae wires are completely in the way. Yes, it’s a mini-ITX board with no room to work, but we’ve seen plenty of these tiny motherboards that manage to get most of these things right.

Moving on to the good qualities, MSI’s UEFI is one of the most mature-feeling and fluid we’ve seen yet. The look is so clean and the mouse and keyboard input is so smooth that you can easily forget that you’re not using Windows software. Speaking of the software, MSI did a fine job of keeping things simple. There’s not so much software that you feel overwhelmed, and just as Gigabyte recently did with its bundled software, MSI put the vast majority of its tools and utilities into one place, the MSI Command Center.

Compared to ASUS and Gigabyte, what MSI is doing is the motherboard space isn’t all that flashy, but that’s okay--flashy isn’t necessarily the best thing, and these three boards are for the most part very solid offerings. Of the trio, the Z87-G45 Gaming is the one we like the most, offering all the best of MSI’s take on the Z87 platform with none of the drawbacks we’ve heretofore mentioned.

One area in which MSI definitely takes the lead among the competition is on price. Of the nine Z87 motherboards we’ve recently reviewed, only three cost less than two hundred bucks. One is the Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H, which costs as little as $189.99 but can run you up to $232. We found the Z87I for between $129 and $170; the Z87-G45 Gaming between $145 and $186; and the Z87 MPOWER Max for between $240 and $281.

All things considered, the Z87I and Z87 MPOWER Max are budget products; they’re solid motherboards by any means, and if you want to save a buck on your next build, these are fine options. However, MSI's Z87-G45 Gaming is a terrific deal. Overclocking performance wasn’t the greatest, but its benchmark scores were excellent, the feature set is strong, and that price tag is mighty tasty.
 MSI Z87-G45 Gaming


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