Articles: Mainboards

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Micro-Star Corporation currently outputs an extensive range of products under the MSI brand, from small things like USB splitters to large and expensive servers. But it began as a manufacturer of mainboards and this product category remains prominent in what MSI has to offer. In our latest reviews of MSI mainboards we were not very enthusiastic about them for a number of reasons. Notwithstanding the general appearance of overclocker-friendliness, they only let you increase their voltage by fixing it at a certain level. Since power-saving technologies are supposed to lower the CPU's clock rate and voltage at low loads, that peculiarity made energy-efficient overclocking impossible. The second reason for our gripes was the fact that the BIOS parameters of MSI mainboards were interrelated in some complex and inexplicable ways. When we changed one option, we had to make sure this hadn’t affected some others. Otherwise, we might end up with quite different system settings from what we wanted.

It takes a lengthy and meticulous examination with various peripherals and applications to check out each of a mainboard’s features and capabilities. Our tests are brief so we can only learn about the behavior of the tested mainboard at its default settings and in overclocked mode. We also benchmark its performance and measure its power consumption. Yet even though we use but a limited selection of hardware components and software applications, we have had a lot of problems testing MSI mainboards. We had problems updating their firmware and saving BIOS settings in profiles. We couldn’t use their BIOS restore feature properly although the very fact that the BIOS had to be restored was a problem already. The last pair of MSI mainboards proved to be slower, even though not by much, than similar products from other brands. The only thing we could give MSI credit for was that its mainboards were generally more economical than their competitors.

So we used to be quite critical about MSI mainboards based on different chipsets and intended for different CPUs, but the company has done some good work prior to the release of Intel's 8 series chipsets. MSI has taken over a year to develop the new product series which is said to be dramatically different from the previous one from such aspects as power system, PCB layout and design, etc. Instead of the familiar MSI Control Center the mainboards now come with the new exclusive utility MSI Command Center but it has a similar scope of capabilities. The sloppily made and much criticized MSI Click BIOS II is replaced with MSI Click BIOS 4, skipping the version number 3 for some reason. With so many changes to check out, we were looking forward to testing MSI's new product series and learning if they had got rid of their past problems without acquiring new ones.

We are currently in the first stage of our series of reviews of Z87-based mainboards. We started out by testing the ASUS Z87-K, then proceeded to the Gigabyte GA-Z87X-D3H and finally checked out the Z87 Extreme4 from ASRock. We are yet to review flagship and special models targeted at gamers and enthusiasts while the tested mainboards are all midrange or even entry-level products. The Z87-G43 model we’ve picked up from MSI’s product range is in the same category. We’ll use it to evaluate the changes MSI has introduced in its mainboards recently.

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