MSI Z97 Gaming 5 Review

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It’s hard to pull off the same trick twice. But what works, works. With that said, the working formula of the Gaming series has proven to be a bit traditional when it comes to the delivery of their 9-series motherboards. We had the opportunity to test out the new component complete with the regalia. Do take note that due to the absence of a 4th-gen refresh processor, we decided not to undergo benchmarking just to be fair. With that, we’re going to concentrate more on the bells and whistles in this review.

Looks

If you’ve tried or seen MSI’s 8-chipset Gaming series motherboard, expect no significant changes on this one. The board sports the red and dominant black color. The heatsinks around the CPU have been revamped and now look like a pair of sliced batteries rather than the “dragonsinks” from the previous generation (don’t ask us how we got this notion).

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Probably the main addition to this board is the M.2 support. The socket is located just below the CPU and beside a PCIE 2.0 x 4 slot. For memory slots, the board is home to four DIMM slots with each having 2 clips for security on the upper right.  The heatsink for the PCH has also been updated to have a cleaner look.

On the lower right side, the Z97 Gaming 5 has 6 x SATA 6 Gb/s ports and a socket for USB 3.0. On the opposite side of the board, the onboard Realtek ALC1150, configured to work with MSI’s Audio Boost 2 feature.

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There’s nothing much to tell about the general layout of the board aside from the minor tweaks. What turned us off was the absence of on-board buttons, namely the basic ones such as power and reset, prompting us to jump the board. But overall, we can say that the overall workspace is cleaner and less cluttered compared to its predecessor. Though, traditional gamer in this country would not be needing any of those buttons.

Features

One of the foremost features of this board is the support of the Killer Lan NIC, namely the E2200. The chip is built and readied for gaming purposes and it fits with the board’s target market. What it does is to basically increase the priority flags of gaming packets to ensure a faster and lag-free experience. Though we still need to have more data for comparison, the slow internet of the country may not be appropriate enough to maximize this feature.

Next, we have the on-board audio which is utilized under MSI’s Audio Boost 2. The PCB is isolated from the rest of the board, ensuring the minimization of cross interference. It also has a Direct Audio Power, which means that users can use a dedicated power line to ensure stable delivery.

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We found the audio of the board satisfying as we went through a number of games. For an on-board audio, it sure packs quite a punch. Expect it to deliver in games, but less so with movies and lossless audio.

Miscellaneous Stuff

The package comes with the plethora of standard MSI thingies. We have a motherboard (of course!), a case badge, two manuals, a door hanger, a couple of cable labels, 2 SATA cables, backside I/O panel, and an SLI connector.

Not much can be said on the included accessories, but we did have a hard time looking at the back I/O panel as the red text is barely readable on a black background.

Conclusion

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Even with a 4th-gen processor, we can say that the board performs well, given its price tag. The previous gaming 5 motherboards were priced roughly around $150 – $200, so expect the same with this one. For features, we can say that it has improved and the overall quality of the brand is more directed to strenuous gaming. The M.2 support is a feature to look forward to especially in the next coming months, but is, as of the moment, still untapped. But for really big changes, expect no such thing.

Specifications

Z97 Gaming 5 Specifications

CPU Supports 4th and 5th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors, and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® Processors for Socket LGA1150
Chipset Intel® Z97 Express Chipset
Main Memory Support four DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000*/3100*/3200*/3300*(*OC) MHz DRAM, 32GB Max
– Dual channel memory architecture
– Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
– Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory
Slots 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, (support x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4 modes)
4 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
On-Board SATA Intel Z97 Express Chipset
– 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1~6)
– 1x M.2 port*
– M.2 port supports M.2 SATA 6Gb/s module
– M.2 port supports M.2 PCIe module up to 10Gb/s speed**
– M.2 port supports 4.2cm/ 6cm/ 8cm length module
– Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10***
– Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology and Intel® Smart Connect Technology****
* The SATA5 and SATA6 ports will be unavailable when installing a module in the M.2 port.
** M.2 PCIe interface only supports UEFI option ROM, NOT support legacy option ROM.
*** M.2 PCIe interface does not support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.
**** Supports Intel Core processors on Windows 7 and Windows 8/ 8.1
USB Intel Z97 Express Chipset
– 6 x USB 3.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB 3.0 connectors)
– 8 x USB 2.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB 2.0 connectors*)
Audio Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
LAN 1x Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN controller*
* The Killer Network Manager is only available for Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 currently. The supported drivers for other operating systems would be available on the website if provided by vendor.
Multi-GPU • Supports 3-Way AMD CrossFire™ Technology*
• Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
* Supports Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.
Internal I/O Internal I/O:
– 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 1 x M.2 port
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
– 1 x USB 3.0 connector (supports additional 2 USB 3.0 ports)
– 2 x 4-pin CPU fan connectors
– 3 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x TPM module connector
– 1 x Serial port connector
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 1 x Direct audio power connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x Audio power switch
-1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED
Back I/O – 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 4 x USB 2.0 ports
– 4 x USB 3.0 ports
– 1 x VGA connector
– 1 x DVI-D connector
– 6 x OFC audio jacks
– 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096X2304@24Hz/ 2560X1600@60Hz/ 3840X2160@60Hz/1920X1200@60Hz
BIOS • The motherboard BIOS provides “Plug & Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
• The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.
Dimensions • 12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm) ATX Form Factor

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