MSI Z270 Gaming M7 Review
Published: 23rd February 2017 | Source: MSI | Price: |
With the Gaming M7 MSI are really returned to form.
The two Gaming Carbon models we've reviewed from this generation were both solid efforts with the ITX model in particular taking a lot of plaudits. There is no doubt though that the Gaming M7 can be mentioned in the same breath as any 'best looking Z270' conversation.
There is, as always, little to choose between a lot of the motherboards that run on Intel's latest chipset because of the consistency of the chipset and CPU combinations. The only real areas that obviously make a difference are the looks and the ability to run fast memory speeds. Looks are of course subjective, but we think that anyone who looks at the MSI M7 will come away impressed. The use of a neutral colour palette for the majority of the hardware allows the lighting to really shine, and the Gaming M7 is decorated with lots of areas that give a soothing glow. From the two heatsinks through the PCI Express slots, the M7 is a very attractive motherboard when running. But it isn't only when powered on that we love the looks. When just sitting there it is aesthetically pleasing. The heatsinks are well designed with nice angles to grab the attention, and the use of the metal slot reinforcement isn't only about giving longevity and stability to your DIMM and PCI Express slots, but also adds a classy air to proceedings.
Of course looks are nice but not the main reason that you grab a new motherboard. It's all about performance, and the MSI Gaming M7 has plenty of that under the hood too. Any time you can break the 5 GHz barrier you have got to be pleased about things, and the M7 hit 5.1 GHz without too much difficulty. The memory performance was equally good in our early experiments, hitting 4000 MHz stable quite easily, but then there was a new BIOS released and we couldn't push past 3866 MHz. We're pretty sure this is to do with some inaccurate voltage calculations embedded in the BIOS as selecting 3866MHz ended up pushing the System Agent to 1.46v and the VCCIO to 1.4v, both figures that are way higher than necessary and ones that we certainly wouldn't be comfortable running for any longer than a "suicide screenshot", weirdly selecting 4000MHz meant LOWER volts. After some fiddling we managed to get 3866MHZ memory stable with 1.25v on both the VCCIO and the SA so it shows you just how stupidly high the stock volts are and this is axactly we we always say to you "auto does NOT mean stock" Despite this issue - which is easily solved in a BIOS patch or some manually fettling for the few that buy mega speed kits - the M7 still put out some very impressive numbers in every one of our benchmarks. It was consistent whether we were testing pure CPU performance or the system as a whole. Indeed it sits at the top of our PC Mark 8 graph.
Although there are still some issues with the BIOS version we were sent there is hope that they can be smoothed out quickly and so it doesn't really affect our overall thoughts on the MSI Gaming M7 too much as long as you keep in mind for any memory kit above 3200MHz you will need to manually tune your VCCIO and SA voiltages down as low as possible because left on 'auto' they can get to a point they are unsafe. The only other thing we dont like and we could even say we hate is the fact we could not set the fan speed level below 50% on any of the SYS fan headers. Considering thats every header on the board bar the single CPU and single water pump header that does leave you kind of limited. PWM hub on order with the motherboard? We certainly would!
It's a fantastic looking board though, the best they've produced in a long while, and the performance backs these excellent looks up. Add to this a raft of M.2 slots for those of you who demand the fastest storage and you end up with a motherboard that should win our OC3D Enthusiast Award....... And it will when they fix the VCCIO/SA voltage issues, the Load Line Calibration and the 50% lowest fan speed issue on the SYS fans. With the faults listed its hard for it to recommend to anyone with anything other than a very high level of understanding and even then it would come with a big warning label.