Who turned the speed down?
With the Z77A-G43, MSI offers a whole lot of motherboard at a rather attractive price. It’s a full-sized ATX board powered by Intel’s premium Z77 chipset, so just how has MSI managed to keep the price so competitive?
For a motherboard of this price we were very surprised to see passive heatsinks on the power phases, despite there being no mention in the specs about exactly how many phases are delivered to the CPU. These are all built using solid capacitors and super ferrite chokes, which MSI claims contributes to this board’s Military Class III rating.
Despite this claim, the PCB didn’t feel quite as sturdy as Gigabyte’s offerings. There’s a healthy range of slots, with dual PCIe full-length slots ready for SLI/CrossFire, two PCIe x1 and three legacy PCI slots. MSI has stuck with the standard Z77 SATA configuration of dual SATA 6Gbps and quad SATA 3Gbps ports, but has only added one extra USB 3.0 port, delivering a total of three. However, MSI has thrown in a ‘gaming device port’, which uses gold plating to supposedly improve mouse responsiveness. We didn’t notice any difference in the real world.
At this price the Realtek ALC892 audio chip offers better audio comparable to the VIA solution found on Gigabyte boards, and it’s THX certified. Audio is delivered courtesy of six 3.5mm stereo mini jacks or the HDMI out, a rarity at this price point. Realtek has also delivered the Ethernet controller in the form of an 8111E chip -- it’s decent, but not quite Intel good.
While the feature set is admirable, the same can’t be said of the default performance. Posting speeds 10% slower than the best, we think it’ll require a little bit of tweaking to bring out this board’s full potential. That’s fine for enthusiasts, but mainstream users who don’t want to tinker might find the performance drop a bit of a turn-off.
APC Benchmark Results:
|3DMark 11 (Performance mode)
|x264 HD Benchmark - Pass 1 (avg fps)
|x264 HD Benchmark - Pass 2 (avg fps)
|Aida read test (MB/s)
|Super Pi 8M test (sec)
|Shogun 2 (avg fps)
Special features :
- Supports four DDR3 DIMMs up to 2,800MHz
- HDMI, DVI-D and VGA
- 8-channel audio with jack sensing
Pros : Solid audio solution; wide range of PCI/PCIe slots.
Cons : Lacklustre performance at default settings; only three USB 3.0 ports.
Verdict : 7 out of 10.
Available from MSI, RRP $139