MSI Z97 GAMING 3 - motherboard - ATX - LGA1150 Socket - Z97

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MSI Z97 GAMING 3 - motherboard - ATX - LGA1150 Socket - Z97

MSI GAMING motherboards are designed to provide gamers with best-in-class features and technology. Backed by the imposing looks of MSI's Dragon, each ...

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Review of "MSI Z97 GAMING 3 - motherboard - ATX - LGA1150 Socket - Z97"

published 08/10/2015 | mustang36
Member since : 08/10/2015
Reviews : 6
Members who trust : 0
About me :
Msc in Physics however my field of interest has no limit therefore restlessly i like to read about new contents, check out stuffs and travel within my capability. Love to help people with information i experience first hand.
Good
Pro Belong MSI Gaming series, Good overclocking platform, well built.
Cons Stability issue and Audio output quite not as good as the manufacturer Claims.
helpful
Speed
Ease of Installation
Stability
Manufacturer Support
Instruction manual

"The MSI Z97 Gaming3 motherboard losses the edge on price."

MSI Z97 GAMING 3 - motherboard - ATX - LGA1150 Socket - Z97

MSI Z97 GAMING 3 - motherboard - ATX - LGA1150 Socket - Z97

The Z series at its peak


Sine the lunch of first core i series processor, the lynfield processors like core i7 870 core i5 760 , the series has been the market dominant and intel was ready to offer the best motherboard chipset in their arsenal to squeeze out the most from the cpu. The Z series motherboards are the successors of those highly tweakable P series motherboard and the Z97 has taken it to a whole new level. With built in Sata III , USB3 and extreme overclocking features the Z97 equipped motherboards are the primary choice of hardcore gamers , and enthusiast. As a tech lover i myself not an exception and despite my faith in ASUS ( have a p55 paired with 1st gen i7 that still perform rock solid ) i could not resists the extra features offered by MSI and end up buying the MSI Z97 gaming 3 .

Unboxing & first impression

The junior brother of famous MSI Z97 Gaming series, the Z97 Gaming3 looks quite good on papers however the story is somewhat different in real life. Inside the package you will find back panel I/O shield, driver CD, user manual and a 5 volt molex adapter for direct audio input which will be explained later on this review. The mother board was very securely and neatly packed and MSI's favor for the black can be seen everywhere ( the packing, CD, I/O shield ) which does have a good impression.
The motherboard is gorgeous with the typical MSI black and red theme with dragon logo heat-sink on Z97 chipset and dragon tail style heat sink in MOSFETS. It is a full ATX board so you will need a mid tower or full tower casing to house the unit. The finishing of the board is gorgeous and all black PCB design actually makes the unit look quite expensive which in reality it is.

Features

Typical of most of Z97 chipset motherboard , this unit support fourth and fifth generation intel core i series processors those support 1150 socket and DDR3 SD RAM modules with front side bus as much as 3300mhz with overclocking.The maximum memory can be installed on the four slots of the motherboard 32 GB in total. ( 8GB x 4 slots ). The board sports all solid capacitors and good quality mosfets to ensure stability and reliability . The built quality of the board gives a notion that the durability will be as expected from tier 1 Motherboard manufacturer.Other noticeable features of the boards are , M2. Sata slot with 10gbps bandwidth , 6 Sata III ports, raid function, dual audio amplifier ( mainly to enhance sound when headphone is connected ) , Qualcomm Killer Netwrok port ,.Isolated Audio PCB, direct Audio power , auto overclocking and GUI BIOS setup.
Ports

Rear Panel :
The rear input/ouput ports consist of two gold plated USB ports marked in red that MSI claims reduce latency for input devices such as, game pad, keyboard and mouse , 4 USB3 ports, 1 HDMI port ,1 VGA,1 DVI port, and 1 display port so basically all kinds of display outputs are there.Also 1 PS2 port and 6 audio ports along with a optical digital port makes the rear panel quite a rich one.

Front panel :
Since the front ports availability depends on what casing the board is housed , there are options for two USB3 and two USB2 ports , front HD audio ports, S/PDIF port and option for IEEE 1394 port.

Supported storage device interface :
The board has six Serital ATA III ports along with a M2. SSD slots however once an M2.SSD unit is installed, two of the six SATA 6GBPS port will be disabled. The M2.SSD slot can be adjusted by moving position of screw. The board doesn't have option for IDE interface , so if you have an IDE hard drive or Optical drive , you are out of luck to connect it with the motherboard.

Is MSI exclusives features are exclusive enough


Other typical MSI features are, Killer LAN port, OC genie , and bundle of softwares for updating bios , overclocking the cpu, ram and monitoring the voltage and temperatures. Since the Z97 chipset supports overclocking of only the K series processors , the Non K series processors will see almost no benefits in term of overclocking which is also not an exception for MSI Z97 gaming 3 motherboard. Hence it is safely advised to pair a intel Fourth o Fifth Gen K series processor with Z97 chipset motherboard. The killer lan port powered by qualcomm chip at least once or twice showed issue with the current driver and in reality has very little to offer for a shutter or lag free games. Simply what MSI claims as a huge advantages for gamers over other gamers who doesn't have killer lan is actually a marketing policy as im yet to see and likely will never see any improvements in latency or faster ping in network while playing multiplayer FPS. The audio boost 2 , which is quite lucrative to hear , actually has no benefit over other boards. Although MSI provided a dip switch in the unit for direct audio power selection which supposed to make the audio output signal more powerful ( requires to connect the direct audio power cable that is found on the original packaging ,to connect to the 4 pin direct audio power port on the far rear left on the motherboard ) it has no impact on overall audio quality and the benefits is almost zero if you plug a 5:1 or 7: 1 (most likely) speaker set. Only a 3.5mm Headphone will see little benefit but just only when connected to the designated (marked in red ) audio jack of the rear section of the motherboard. Sadly front panel audio jacks have no benefit of the direct audio power despite there are two headphone amplifiers are present in the board . The creative sound blaster cinema two which marketed as Audio Boost 2, is a software pack which just changes the audio profiles like cinema mode or gaming mode etc. Don't be fooled by thinking the motherboard has creative powered dedicated audio hardware. Actually the motherboard , just like other basic motherboard is powered by a realtek audio IC , so if audio is your priority then you are better off with a dedicated sound card like asus xonar series.

Overclocking


The board is a good overclock-er however the OC genie button is not present in the board hence it must be done by either the MSI commander apps or from BIOS. Also debugging seven segment LCD not present unlike MSI Z97 Gaming 5 , Gaming 7 and Gaming 9 motherboard making it somewhat troublesome to identify any issues if PC fails to boot , especially after a failed overclocking attempt. I will not recommend the OC Genie feature to overclock the cpu because the motherboard tends to put the v-core, ram voltages on higher sides unnecessarily and stability is a subject of debate with this motherboard unlike other Z97 motherboard especially from ASUS and Asrock. Hence i recommend to go for manual over clocking of K series processors (must be within safe limit of processor's and ram's threshold) with adequate cooling and good power supply. The stability is not quite like ASUS or Gigabyte boards of the same price range. Many cases, i turned on the PC only to see random reboots and then a warning , an OC attempt has failed and setting now restored to factory default while in reality i did not attempt to overclock anything. Generally after messing up with all settings and tweaking, the board recovers and adjust the settings to stock settings however it requires time and several time the system will reboot sometimes goes into a loop. But after some trial and error it is not unlikely to get the system stably run however it is just a bit more time consuming then the ASUS board i tried with. An intel Core i5 4670k can easily be overclocked to 4.7 GHz with adequate cooler. ( 100 mhz X 47 multiplier ) .

Multi GPU settings

The board does not support SLI ( Nvidia multi gpu ) however does support AMD crossfire which limits the Nvidia GPU users from enjoying multi gpu setup wheres most other vendor in their Z97 series provide support for both Crossfire and SLI. And the crossfire setup is possible only in two ways .(X8 *2 ).

Stability


I have encountered stability issue a few times when system just freezes and requires a hard reset. I found this issue often occurs due to the killer lan driver hence i updated the driver however still the issue occurs , neither i or MSI support team could pin point the exact reason that causes the system to hang or enter in a boot loop. Therefore i would not say this board offers rock solid stability and clearly not for those who wants a plug an play system without any hassle and not families with debugging errors and flashing Bios. The latest drivers and bios somewhat improved the stability.

Support and verdict

MSI dose offer frequent bios and driver updates however the board could use a backup bios chip for safety. If you are a MSI fan i suggest that you go for either Gaming 7 or gaming 9 boards. Otherwise i would recommend to look for ASUS , ASrock or Gigabyte motherboards if your budget is around £100-110.

Community evaluation

This review was read 889 times and was rated at
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Comments on this review

  • torr published 12/10/2015
    Well laid out review - but rather hard to follow.
  • ANNExTHExFLAN published 10/10/2015
    Helpful review.
  • bettyboo47 published 09/10/2015
    much improved with a bit of formatting
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Product Information : MSI Z97 GAMING 3 - motherboard - ATX - LGA1150 Socket - Z97

Manufacturer's product description

MSI GAMING motherboards are designed to provide gamers with best-in-class features and technology. Backed by the imposing looks of MSI's Dragon, each motherboard is an engineering masterpiece tailored to gaming perfection.

Product Details

Product Description: MSI Z97 GAMING 3 - motherboard - ATX - LGA1150 Socket - Z97

Product Type: Motherboard - ATX

Chipset Type: Intel Z97 Express

Processor Socket: 1 x LGA1150 Socket

Compatible Processors: Pentium, Celeron, Core i5, Core i3, Core i7

Max RAM Size: 32 GB

RAM Supported: 4 DIMM slots - DDR3 , non-ECC , unbuffered

Storage Ports: 6 x SATA-600 (RAID), 1 x SATA-600

USB / FireWire Ports: 4 x USB 3.0 + 2 x USB 2.0 + ( 2 x USB 3.0 + 4 x USB 2.0 via headers )

Max Allocated RAM Size: 1760 MB

Audio: HD Audio (8-channel)

LAN: Gigabit Ethernet

General

MPN: Z97 GAMING 3

Product Type: Motherboard - ATX

Chipset Type: Intel Z97 Express

Processor Socket: LGA1150 Socket

Max Processors Qty: 1

Compatible Processors: Pentium, Celeron, Core i5, Core i3, Core i7

Supported RAM

Max Size: 32 GB

Technology: DDR3

Bus Clock: 1600 MHz, 1333 MHz, 1066 MHz, 2800 MHz (O.C.), 2666 MHz (O.C.), 2600 MHz (O.C.), 2400 MHz (O.C.), 2200 MHz (O.C.), 2133 MHz (O.C.), 2000 MHz (O.C.), 1866 MHz (O.C.), 3000 MHz (O.C.), 3100 MHz (O.C.), 3200 MHz (O.C.), 3300 MHz (O.C.)

Supported RAM Integrity Check: Non-ECC

Registered or Buffered: Unbuffered

Features: Dual channel memory architecture, Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP)

Graphics

Max Allocated RAM Size: 1760 MB

Audio

Type: HD Audio (8-channel)

Audio Codec: Realtek ALC1150

Compliant Standards: High Definition Audio, Sound Blaster Cinema 2

LAN

Network Controller: Killer Gaming E2205

Network Interfaces: Gigabit Ethernet

Expansion / Connectivity

Expansion Slot(s): 1 x CPU ¦ 4 x DIMM 240-pin ¦ 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 ¦ 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 ( x4 mode ) ¦ 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 ( auto turn-off if PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot are occupied ) ¦ 3 x PCI

Storage Interfaces: SATA-600 - connector(s): 6 x 7pin Serial ATA, 1 x M.2 - RAID 0 / RAID 1 / RAID 10 / RAID 5

RAID Features: Intel Smart Response Technology

Interfaces: 1 x LAN (Gigabit Ethernet) ¦ 2 x USB 2.0 ¦ 1 x HDMI ¦ 1 x PS/2 keyboard / mouse ¦ 4 x USB 3.0 ¦ 1 x VGA ¦ 1 x audio line-out - mini-jack ¦ 1 x audio line-in - mini-jack ¦ 1 x audio line-out (side surround) - mini-jack ¦ 1 x audio line-out (rear) - mini-jack ¦ 1 x audio line-out (center/subwoofer) - mini-jack ¦ 1 x microphone - mini-jack ¦ 1 x DVI-D ¦ 1 x DisplayPort ¦ 1 x TOSLINK

Internal Interfaces: 4 x USB 2.0 - header ¦ 2 x USB 3.0 - header ¦ 1 x audio - header ¦ 1 x serial - header ¦ 1 x parallel - header

Power Connectors: 24-pin main power connector, 8-pin ATX12V connector

Features

BIOS Features: DMI support, MSI ClickBIOS 4

Hardware Features: Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) support, Hi-c CAP, Super Charger, Intel Smart Response Technology, Super Ferrite Choke (SFC), AMD CrossFireX technology support, Intel Rapid Start Technology, Intel Smart Connect Technology, MSI Military Class IV, OC Genie 4, Gold Plated Audio Hardware, Clear CMOS Button, MSI Gaming Device Port, MSI Audio Boost 2, MSI Guard-Pro, dual headphone amplifiers

Miscellaneous

Included Accessories: I/O back plate, "Do-Not-Disturb" door hanger, case badge, cable labels

Software Included: MSI Command Center, Killer Network Manager, RAMdisk, MSI Live Update 6, MSI Gaming App

Compliant Standards: Plug and Play

Width: 30.5 cm

Depth: 24.4 cm

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