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MSI Z97 Gaming 7 Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of MSI

MSI's Z97 Gaming 7 motherboard offers a bevy of updated features and aesthetics to usher in the Intel Z97 chipset-based product line. The intial update you'll notice are the design of the CPU VRM and chipset heat sinks. The VRM heat sinks have a unique banded design, reminiscent of a dragon's claws. This was done purposefully to cement the Gaming series moniker to the board in the user's mind. The chipset heat sink contains a glowing MSI corporate logo with the Dragon Gaming series shield logo centered above it. The black and red board color scheme is done tastefully with the red coloration used to accent and highlight the heat sinks. With an MRSP of $189, the Z97 Gaming 7 board is competitively priced to take the market by storm.

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Courtesy of MSI

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Courtesy of MSI

MSI designed the Z97 Gaming 7 board with a 12-phase digital power delivery system combining Hi-C and Dark capacitors with super ferrite chokes for optimal power delivery with enhanced power efficiency characteristics. The board includes the following integrated components: eight SATA 3 ports; one M.2 10 Gb/s ports; a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2205 NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots; four PCI-Express x1 slots; a 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, and OC-Genie buttons; Slow Mode boot, Multi-BIOS, and Audio Power switches; left and right channel audio gain control switches; Realtek audio solution with isolated audio PCB and Nichicon audio capacitors; dedicated per-channel headphone OP-AMPs; integrated V-Check voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of MSI

Continue reading our review of the MSI Z97 Gaming 7 motherboard!

Technical Specifications (taken from the MSI website)

CPU

• Supports 4th and 5th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors, and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® Processors for Socket LGA1150
Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.

Chipset

• Intel® Z97 Express Chipset

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****

• ASMedia ASM1061 Chipset
- 2 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA7~8)

* 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
- 4 x USB 3.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB 3.0 connectors)
- 6 x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB 2.0 connectors*)

• ASMedia ASM1074 Chipset
- 4 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel

• ASMedia ASM1042 chipset
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
* Internal JUSB1 connector supports MSI Super Charger.

Audio

• Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
- 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
- Supports S/PDIF output

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 Connectors

- 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
- 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
- 8 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
- 9 x V-Check connectors
- 1 x Power button
- 1 x Reset button
- 1 x OC Genie button
- 1 x Multi-BIOS switch
- 1 x Audio power switch
- 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED

Back Panel I/O Ports

- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
- 1 x Clear CMOS button
- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
- 2 x USB 2.0 ports
- 8 x USB 3.0 ports
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
- 6 x OFC audio jacks
- 2 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096X2304@24Hz / 2560X1600@60Hz / 3840X2160@60Hz / 1920X1200@60Hz
- 1 x DisplayPort, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096X2304@24Hz / 2560X1600@60Hz / 3840X2160@60Hz / 1920X1200@60Hz

This platform supports dual-display and triple-display function

  HDMI + DisplayPort HDMI + DisplayPort HDMI +
HDMI + DisplayPort
Extend mode
(Extend the desktop to the second and third monitor)
Clone mode
(Monitors have the same screen)

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

Mounting

• 9 mounting holes.
May 19, 2014 | 05:00 PM - Posted by btdog

Nice write up, Morry. I may have missed it, but I have a question:

Can you enter and view the UEFI settings if you just plug an HDMI monitor into the motherboard? In the past, I've never gotten it to work so I don't know if that's possible now.

Thanks!

May 19, 2014 | 05:37 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

I did not try with this motherboard, but have had varying success with other boards.

The trick I've found for HDMI output of the UEFI BIOS is that the HDMI cable must be the only cable plugged into the card.  If any other cables are plugged in, I've never had success getting an HDMI signal.  You could also try from the onboard graphics HDMI port, but you would have to remove the secondary video card for it to work...

May 20, 2014 | 04:47 AM - Posted by stryk187

Thanks for dedicating more than half of an entire section to aftermarket CPU cooler fitting (with good pictures to boot!). I don't often see that in motherboard reviews. +5 cool points for Morry!

May 24, 2014 | 11:03 AM - Posted by Rick (not verified)

Interesting that you oced with the 166 strap. Any reason for using that strap over the 100 strap?

May 24, 2014 | 09:51 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

you get a slight performance bump using bc overclocking combined with ratio overclocking over pure ratio overclocking.  And t also proves that the board is stable at the higher strap speed...

June 13, 2014 | 12:53 PM - Posted by elgrandeburro

Hi Morry. I see this MSI board has an optical/spdif out for audio. However a number of other MSI Z97 boards do not provide this header.

Do you know, in cases like the above, how do I get optical out?

Do I get it by getting a splitter cable for the HDMI port that I can tap the optical audio from, or am I simply out of luck?

Thanks much.

July 11, 2014 | 09:34 AM - Posted by Andrew (not verified)

Hi Morry,

I have just purchased this motherboard and built my machine with all the parts.

Unfortunately I've encountered a problem which I have narrowed down to the RAM slots.

With both 8GB RAM in slots 1 and 2 the machine will power itself on and off repeatedly, providing the LED Status code C0.

Once I remove the RAM from slot 2 and try again it will work perfectly. Similarly, if I switch the RAM sticks it will also work. The problem is only when both are applied.

I got the RAM as a packaged deal(Kingston 2x8GB 2400Hz) with the motherboard so I am sure it had been tested beforehand.

I am just wondering if you had encountered this error and can suggest a cause/solution or if not, please advise, could placing the RAM in slots 3 and 4 (leaving 1 and 2 blank) cause any damage or should it work?

Thanks and kind regards,
Andrew

July 15, 2014 | 11:48 AM - Posted by Kevin (not verified)

Looking at the manual if you are using 2 sticks of ram they need to be in slots 2 and 4. Have you tried that? Mine works just fine with slots 2 and 4 filled.

October 18, 2014 | 06:34 PM - Posted by gabriel o connor (not verified)

hi,what memory do i need to purchase for this MSI Z97 GAMING 7 ? I HAVE SOME G.SKILL RIPJAWS x ,F3 WILL THIS MEMORY WORK WITH THIS MOTHERBOARD and it is ddr 3 1600 cl 10-10-10-301.50v,and the memory i have is pc3-12800 8gx2 intel XMP AND AGAIN WILL IT WORK ON THIS BOARD i do hope to hear back from you soon,yours GABRIEL O CONNOR.PS this is my 1 build.

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