MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review


Price / Where to Buy

USD: MSI Z270 GAMING M7 at Amazon
PH: Php16,000 

It’s that time once again where we see the new waves of motherboard come in droves to usher in the new era of processors and its going to be a heated a year for AMD and Intel as they both set the stage for their new products. Ultimately, AMD is set to release a new product altogether but for Intel, they will be focusing on refining and optimizing their process this time around with the introduction of the new 14nm processor. While the processors have been known for a good while now, the desktop offerings have just been announced today and coinciding with that launch is the Intel 200-series chipset that will support the full-range of new 7th-generation Kaby (rhymes with baby) Lake processors.

For today’s review we have the current flagship model for the MSI GAMING series of Z270 motherboards with the MSI Z270 GAMING M7 featuring a new look and theme. MSI has been on a revamp lately since 2015 and have effectively mixed and matched a few features and rolled-out a number of sub-series for their motherboards including the TITANIUM, PRO CARBON and their other mainstream lineups. With the new GAMING products with Intel 200-series chipset, MSI went with a monotone approach with a primarily black theme but its not just about looks we’re looking for and we’re looking to see what MSI has got in-store this release.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

Read on and find out more the MSI Z270 GAMING M7 motherboard!

Intel 7th-Generation Processors

Kaby Lake CPU Die Shot
Kaby Lake CPU Die Shot

Intel’s Kaby Lake processors were already announced last year and introduced us to Intel’s new 14nm+ manufacturing technology which is said to improve on efficiency and performance on the existing 14nm process. The earlier Kaby Lake processors which came out were intended for low-powered applications which saw notebooks and other mobile platforms inheriting the new processors first. Today we get to see the products aimed for desktop consumers with the launch of Intel’s 200-series chipset and the new Kaby Lake desktop processors don’t distance themselves from their initial launch counterparts as they are still built on the same 14nm+ process. Intel’s touted improved fine profile and transistor channel strain are capable of providing a more stable platform to deliver more performance via the higher clock rates that the Kaby Lake processors tout than their previous Skylake counterpart.

One of the more important addition to Kaby Lake is support for Intel Optane technology which is essentially technology which allows systems that support it to utilize high-density memory that offers superior improvements over NAND. The 3D Xpoint deseign also utilizes 10 times DRAM capacity in the same surface area which is made possible by slicing submicroscopic layers of materials into columns containing memory cells. The layers are then inter-connected in a cross-point weave via perpendicular wires. Intel Optane offers superior low latency (measured in nanoseconds) and also is capable of retrieving data in a power outage.

Another heavily advertised feature is the updated integrated graphics processors (IGP) which offers faster native encode/decode of 4K content (4K HEVC 10-bit).

Below are a list of known Intel Kaby Lake processors to be launched with the most noteworthy being the flagship i7-7700K featuring 4 cores / 8 threads with a 4.2Ghz base frequency and has a maximum boost of 4.5Ghz. The processors has 8MB of L3 cache with a rated TDP of 91W. The estimated SRP for the i7-7700K is $349 retail. Next up is the Core i5-7600K which is a quad-core processor featuring a 3.6Ghz core frequency and a turbo frequency of 4.2Ghz. It also has 6MB of L3 cache and is rated for 91W TDP. The Core i5-7600K is expected to retail for $239.

The most unique of the known SKUs is the Core i3-7350K. Yes, you read that right, there will be a unlocked Core i3 processor in the desktop Kaby Lake stack. This particular processor is a dual-core part with Hyperthreading support. It runs with a 4.0Ghz core clock and has a turbo frequency of 4.2Ghz. It features 4MB L3 cache and is rated for 60W TDP. Its expected to launch after the initial wave of Kaby Lake desktop parts. The SRP is expected to be $177 retail. This processor has an unlocked multiplier which should really entice performance seekers and overclockers looking to get more from a less costly part.

SKU Cores/Threads Core Clock Boost Clock L3 Cache TDP Socket Price
Core i7-7700K 4/8 4.2 GHz 4.5 GHz 8 MB 91W LGA1151 $349
Core i7-7700 4/8 3.6 GHz 4.2 GHz 8 MB 65W LGA1151 $309
Core i5-7600K 4/4 3.8 GHz 4.2 GHz 6 MB 91W LGA1151 $239
Core i5-7600 4/4 3.5 GHz 4.1 GHz 6 MB 65W LGA1151 $219
Core i5-7500 4/4 3.4 GHz 3.8 GHz 6 MB 65W LGA1151 $189
Core i5-7400 4/4 3.0 GHz 3.5 GHz 6 MB 65W LGA1151 $189
Core i3-7350K 2/4 4.2 GHz N/A 4 MB 60W LGA 1151 $177
Core i3-7320 2/4 3.9 GHz 4.1 GHz 4 MB TBD LGA 1151 $166
Core i3-7300 2/4 4.0 GHz TBD 4 MB 51W LGA1151 $153
Core i3-7100 2/2 3.9 GHz TBD 3 MB 35W LGA 1151 $122
Pentium G4620 2/4 3.7 GHz N/A 3 MB 51W LGA1151 $98
Pentium G4600 2/4 3.6 GHz N/A 3 MB 51W LGA 1151 $87
Pentium G4560 2/2 3.5 GHz N/A 2 MB 35W LGA 1151 $68
Pentium G3950 2/2 3.0 GHz N/A 2 MB 35W LGA1151 $56
Pentium G3930 2/2 2.9 GHz N/A 2 MB 35W LGA1151 $45

Intel 200-Series Chipset

Credit: BenchLife

Complimenting the complete line-up of the Intel Kaby Lake processor family is the launch of Intel’s new 200-Series chipset family. The Intel Z270 is identical to the previous Z170 chipset in terms of PCIe configuration meaning they allow 1×16, 2×8, or 1×8+2×4 configurations with the H270 and H170 offering a single x16 config. Support for dual-channel memory is still present with up to 4 DIMMs available. As always, the high-end Z270 chipset will support multiplier overclocking on unlocked processors.

Noteworthy changes include support for Intel Optane as discussed above as well as increased high-speed I/O lanes, which sees the Z170 and H270 having 30 HSIO lanes compared to the 26 on the Z170 and 22 on the H170. USB ports have remained the same with 14 total with the Z270 having 10 USB3.0 and 8 for the H270. A total of 24 PCI-e lanes will be available to the Z270 and the H270 will have 20 PCI-e lanes which sees an increase to the 20 of the Z170 and 16 on the H170.

Unboxing

Product Gallery

MSI packages the Z270 GAMING M7 in a bright red box with full colored print. A glamor shot of the product is on the front with the product name on the box printed in bold.  At the back we have some details and specifications about our motherboard along with icons for the features of the board.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

In the package we have your standard loadout of documentation, I/O shield, SATA cables, front panel connectors, an installation disc and some stickers.

Here we see the new design for the motherboards. The PCH shield looks similar to the ones on previous boards but its worth nothing the design on the I/O shroud and VRM heatsink are relatively uncommon for MSI which have a habit of using layered material to get a certain effect. The shroud are single piece on their respective areas and also join the theme of being purely dark grey. At the back there’s branding logo for their partners including Steelseries… because apparently they’re an authority on motherboard features.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

The actual heatsinks sit below the plastic shroud and cool VRM. MSI is sticking with their chokes of choice since last generation and they seem to hold up well under load as you’ll see later in the review.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

MSI now also introduces metal braces in their DIMM slots but instead of grafted on retention brackets, they serve more as a visual addition to the board with no structural integrity benefits.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

A debug LED is on the top right corner with OC jumper pins just below the extra fan header in this area.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

MSI includes the new USB3.1 front panel header along with a USB3.0 header on the right end. A BIOS flashback button is also here that allows flashing the BIOS without any component installed, not even a CPU.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

In the lower-right we have some more headers along with the onboard power and reset button as well as the quick OC button.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

The MSI Z270 GAMING M7 has three full-length x16 PCI-E slots and three x1 slots, in between x16 slots are M.2 slots, three of them. One of which has the M.2 shield which acts as a heatsink for the M.2 device when a GPU is installed.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review
MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

And here we have the new shroud for the audio area of the motherboard which acts as highlight shrouds for the PCI-E slots also.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

The shroud has gunmetal treatment and is sharply molded. The plastic itself is flimsy and thin and the finish itself is arguably one that won’t appeal to a lot of people.

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

LED Lighting – MSI Mystic Light

The MSI Z270 GAMING M7 features RGB lighting support on various areas of the motherboard but unlike its PRO CARBON series brothers, the light effects aren’t as flamboyant or animated. There are a couple of animation options but all in all, they’re basic and serve more as highlights to the core theme rather than an actual attraction. MSI was the first brand to include RGB lighting on any motherboard it seems but the DNA hasn’t been inherited by the entire family it seems.

BIOS Walkthrough

MSI’s CLICK BIOS makes a return in this motherboard series with the same familiar layout they’ve had for a good number of generations now. MSI’s UEFI BIOS is a responsive unified screen that has all the options laid out in the center. There are plenty of options for setting up your system especially the key features specifically the OC settings. The UI does look cluttered because of the boot icons at the top and the OC boost while intuitive doesn’t have much info along with it unless you read the manual.  Overall, its a smooth and functional UI.

Software Package

MSI is a bit more specialized in terms of software bundles in its motherboards. With this motherboard, other than the special service inclusions like Xsplit and WTFast, the majority of MSI’s inclusions are concentrated in centralized utilities like its Command Center and Gaming App.

Performance Testing

Test Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7-7700K
Motherboard: MSI Z270 GAMING M7
RAM: G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3200 16GB (8GBx)
Storage: Intel SSD 750 400GB
Power Supply:
Seasonic Platinum 1000W
Graphics Card: ASUS ROG Strix GTX 1080 OC
Display: ASUS ROG PG27A UHD Monitor

For a full-hardware workout, visit http://www.futuremark.com for our benchmarks of choice.

Performance Testing – Synthetic

Power & Temperature

We check to see how motherboard makers tune their default BIOS settings and see how it impacts temperatures and power consumption. The system is left to idle for 30 minutes before readings are taken and load data is taken 30 minutes while AIDA64 stress test is running. Power readings are taken for the entire system from the socket. Power draw for the entire system is captured for this test via an outlet wattmeter and temperatures via the brand software and confirmed with AIDA64 and Intel Extreme Tuning.

Like the GIGABYTE Z270X GAMING 9, the MSI Z270 GAMING M7 tends to put a higher voltage than we’d like on our chip with the stock voltages for the i7-3770K getting around 1.35v which equates to more heat and power draw. Our chip does well in 1.2v which most of the boards we have show in their BIOS screen but eventually skip for some reason. Dropping the voltage manually had a significant effect in temperature. The image above is just for reference, all tests were conducted for at least 1 hour.

Conclusion

MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard Review

MSI’s vast number of motherboard product lineup has become somewhat of a decision-nightmare for consumers hoping to choose one of their motherboards but with the various specialization that overlap with each other, it ultimately boiled down to a decision on which looks best or which costs less and let the user adjust to the feature set. To be fair, MSI’s products all offer a good platform for whatever system a user may be building but their presentation seem to be a such a heated topic in the MSI board room to have a recolor of each board for each series. To sum it all up, take away a feature or two and all MSI motherboards share the same foundation.

In the case of the MSI Z270 GAMING M7, it currently sits in the middle of the stack as the TITANIUM series now dabbles with the GAMING branding itself. Focusing on the board at hand, the MSI Z270 GAMING M7 has MSI’s tried and tested format for its gaming motherboards with KillerLAN ethernet,  amplified audio and dedicated software to compliment the gaming orientation of the product. An intuitive BIOS supports the good overclocking capabilities of the motherboard and there’s plenty of option to get a decent performance boost even for those who don’t have a clue about overclocking with the quick OC settings.

Feature-wise, the board is as formulaic as they get even with the repackaged look. Truth be told its an effective recipe and there’s plenty to like about it including the M.2 heatsink and a total of three M.2 slot as well as a U.2 connector giving it plenty of connectivity option for storage. Aside from that, the board does sit in a grey area in the looks department.

Barring looks and RGB features, the MSI Z270 GAMING M7 is a good platform for a high-performance, gaming system and all the features compliment modern standards. It competes mostly with the mainstream products from its rivals but its direct competitor comes in the form of its own brothers from MSI’s own product line which is why MSI should reconsider its bloated product line which obviously affected the quality of their current individual offering seeing the lack in innovation in their gaming sub-series but again that doesn’t take away the fact that the MSI Z270 GAMING M7 motherboard is a good product. If you’re looking for decent motherboard for your new build with great storage and multi-GPU support along with a decent loadout of I/O, this motherboard is good option.

MSI backs the Z270 GAMING M7 with a 3-year warranty. We give it our B2G Recommend Award!

More Stories
Z490 AORUS XTREME LGA1200 Motherboard Unboxing & First Impressions