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MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING Motherboard Review

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MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING Motherboard Final Thoughts

It was a bold move for MSI to release a new line of motherboards so close to the end of the Z77 chipsets lifecycle. Many enthusiasts may pass on buying these motherboards purely because they plan on being an early adopter of the next generation Z78 chipset coming just around the corner. From a business perspective though, it is a different story altogether. It makes more sense to release a new line of motherboards with a proven and stable chipset, and avoid bad reviews based on factors that may be out of their control. MSI have also moved away from their traditional yellow or blue color schemes with this new line-up, and have opted for a red/black ‘gaming’ theme.

The MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard has some interesting features that differentiate it from the vast swathes of motherboards available with the same Intel Z77 chipset. Firstly there is the Killer E2200 NIC that detects and accelerates gaming traffic and streaming media. I have previously tested a Killer 2100 NIC integrated into a VisionTek HD5770 Video Card and the test results told us that the Killer NIC accelerates network traffic that uses the UDP protocol. Next we have integrated Realtek ALC892 8 channel audio with Creative Sound Blaster Cinema support. Unless you have an extremely good pair of ears on your head you won’t necessarily be able to differentiate between two similar Realtek integrated audio chipsets. Thanks to the ever shrinking world of modern computing, an integrated audio IC today would have needed an expansion slot 10 years ago. Four DIMM slots on the Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard support` up to 32GB memory. With the right CPU and RAM the MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard will support memory speeds up to 3000MHz (OC). There are 32 PCIe Gen’ 3.0 lanes available via two slots so even the fastest SLI/CrossFire setup won’t saturate the bandwidth.

MSI_Z77A-G45_Gaming_Motherboard_Box.jpg

There is a balance to strike however; the Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard’s 6-phase CPU power won’t deliver any record breaking overclocks. The six available SATA ports mean your storage options are limited without additional hardware, so you won’t exactly be building a home server with this motherboard. I would have liked more USB 3.0 ports at the rear I/O but there is a USB 3.0 header on board should your PC case support this feature. The aesthetic qualities of this motherboard are quickly lost in a closed PC case, especially when using a large air-cooled CPU cooler. If you want to make the most of the visual aspects of the Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard you will want a high-end water cooling setup.

MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING Conclusion

In this section I am going to write a brief five point summary on the following categories; Performance, Appearance, Construction, Functionality and Value. These views are my own and help me to give the MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING Motherboard a rating out of 10, a high score here does not necessarily mean that it is better than a similar motherboard which has been reviewed by another writer here at Benchmark Reviews, that may have got a lower score. It is however a good indicator of whether the motherboard is good or not. I would strongly urge you to read the entire review, if you have not already, so that you can make an educated decision for yourself.

The performance of the Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard is exactly what you would expect from a big name like MSI. Gaming features such as the Killer E2200 NIC and Realtek ALC892 8-Channel audio with Creative Sound Blaster Cinema support, ensure this motherboard give you a high quality experience. There isn’t much that separates motherboards with the same chipset so features like this help to differentiate. You won’t get any record breaking overclocks thanks to the 6 phase CPU power circuitry, and 6 SATA ports restrict the amount of potential storage options.

The classic red/black ‘gaming’ color scheme has finally been adopted by MSI, and they have also used their dragon logo (featured on their gaming laptops/notebooks) to brand the design. Over the years I have seen many badly executed color schemes, and I have seen red/black done to death. If there are any new color schemes that work well but have yet to be discovered, I will be very surprised. Until then I think I will forgive MSI for choosing the route they have. If you plan on using a non window case or a large air cooled CPU cooler, the aesthetics are all for nothing anyway as they won’t really be seen, you will want water cooling and a windowed case to really make the most of the visual aspects of this motherboard.

Construction of the MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard is excellent, it uses high quality components but reserves the best of the best components for the higher end Z77A-GD65 GAMING motherboard. The PCB is not too over populated in any one area and the PCIe slots are perfectly spaced for SLI/CrossFire multi-GPU setups using large coolers. MSI have a good reputation for their hardware and this new motherboard does not let them down.

Functionality wise the MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard makes up in some areas where it lacks in others. It’s main strengths are the Killer E2200 NIC and Realtek ALC892 8-Channel integrated audio with Sound Blaster Cinema. There are four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports readily available, and a further six USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports available via on-board headers. The Control Center windows desktop utility and the Command Center Android/iOS app really open up the ways you can interact with this motherboard.

Value is perceived differently based on the type of motherboard you are looking for and the features available. The asking price of $139.99 (Amazon | Newegg) is slightly above average for this level but MSI have given the Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard (P/N 911-7752-19S) some features you don’t see every day. The original MSI Z77A-G45 motherboard still retails for $125, so I think the extra $15 for the GAMING edition is well worth it.

If you are looking for overclocking or lots of storage you will do better to cross this motherboard off your shortlist. If (as the name suggests) you are a gaming enthusiast, and you are looking for a feature rich motherboard that won’t break the bank, then the MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard is a worthy contender. After a giving a lot of thought to the individual ratings, I have decided to give the MSI Z77A-G45 GAMING motherboard the Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.

Pros:Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award

+ 2 x 16 lane PCIe Gen 3.0 slots
+ Fairly priced
+ Integrated Realtek ALC892 8-Channel Audio
+ Integrated Killer E2200 NIC
+ Bold design
+ Well laid out PCIe slots
+ SLI / CrossFire multi GPU support
+ Great power saving in ECO mode
+ Excellent software (Command Center and Control Center)

Cons:

- Top SATA ports may hinder VGA install in top PCIe slot
– Only 6 SATA ports
– Limited overclocking power
– UEFI Could use some improvements

Ratings:

  • Performance: 8.75
  • Appearance: 8.50
  • Construction: 9.50
  • Functionality: 9.00
  • Value: 8.75

Final Score: 8.90 out of 10.

Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.

COMMENT QUESTION: Who makes your favorite motherboard?

 

NewEgg.com


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