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MSI 970 Gaming AM3+ Motherboard Review

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AM3+ Motherboard BIOS

MSI’s latest version of their UEFI BIOS is getting pretty good, and they continue to color-theme their  ClickBIOS 4 interface to match the board. The MSI 970 Gaming is red and black, so of course that’s what you’ll see in the BIOS.

MSI’s layout has three main sections: there’s a summary bar at the top 1/4 of the screen, showing time, date, BIOS revision, CPU and memory information, and a list of bootable devices whose priority you can set by clicking and dragging. At the far left is the virtual OC Genie button (this being a lower-priced motherboard, there’s no physical OC Genie button).

At the sides of the screen are six main sections– SETTINGS, OC, M-FLASH, OC PROFILE, HARDWARE MONITOR, and BOARD EXPLORER. Clicking on any of these fills the center area– whose initial display is the MSI dragon– with settings and information relevant to the selection.

My one complaint here is the display of the bootable devices in the top section of the screen. The test system had two hard disks and an optical drive, and yet no fewer than 13 devices are shown. Some of them apparently represent potential devices rather than real devices– for example, a USB hard drive is listed, even though there isn’t one connected to the test system– and this is confusing when you’re trying to figure out which icons represent devices you actually have.

mai_970_gaming_bios_home

The SETTINGS screen is where you can enable and disable onboard devices, set the SATA mode, control the PCI and ACPI settings, the power management and USB configuration, and even something labeled “Windows 8 Configuration”. The latter has a selection labeled “Windows 8 Feature”, but since I’m not running Windows 8 (who is, really?), I don’t know what it does.

mai_970_gaming_bios_settings_ip

The OC (overclocking) section gives you quite a lot of control. As I mentioned in my review of the AMD 8320E processor, I got the best performance by disabling turbo mode and simply raising the base multiplier and CPU voltage. But as you can see there’s a lot more you can do.

mai_970_gaming_bios_oc

The OC PROFILE section lets you save and load various overclocking profiles, as you’d expect with a motherboard aimed at enthusiasts. The board can store up to eight different profiles, and you can also save profiles to a USB key.

msi_970_gaming_bios_oc_profile

The BOARD EXPLORER section is an interesting feature that replicates the functionality I’ve previously only seen on some of Intel’s motherboards: a graphic display of the motherboard, with functional sections highlighted. Hovering over a section displays information about the hardware in that section, as shown with RAM below. You can even hover over individual SATA ports, which is cool.

msi_970_gaming_bios_board_explorer

In the next section I’ve present an overview of the bundled Windows-level software included with this motherboard.


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