Articles: Mainboards

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Design and Features

Show us the logo of a new mainboard series, and we'll tell you the name of the marketing department's head. We're joking, of course, yet the parallel approaches of the mainboard makers do make us suspect that their marketing people are constantly moving from one company to another or study at the same establishments, or just watch closely what their competitors are doing. Just consider: the ASUS Z87-K features a set of engineering solutions known under the name of 5X Protection. The Gigabyte GA-Z87X-D3H has Ultra Durable 5 Plus technologies. The ASRock Z87 Extreme4 supports many of ASRock's A-Style capabilities. It is no wonder then that MSI’s LGA1150 mainboards sport Military Class 4 (which means high-quality components) and Military Class Essentials (tolerance to high humidity, EMI, electrostatic discharges and high temperatures).

Mainboards from all the major mainboard makers have black PCBs these days. As opposed to the downright gloomy models from ASRock and Gigabyte, the Z87-G43 has such embellishments as blue slots and decorative inserts on its heatsinks.

The mainboard’s voltage regulator doesn’t incorporate a lot of power phases, yet is sufficient for powering any modern 4th generation Intel Core processor. Rather large heatsinks are secured with screws on its hottest components. The Z87-G43 being an entry-level model, it cannot share the CPU-integrated PCIe lanes between two graphics slots and doesn’t support Nvidia SLI technology. A discrete graphics card is supposed to be plugged into the top PCIe 3.0 x16 slot whereas the second PCIe x16 slot (at x4 speed) is based on the chipset's PCIe 2.0 lanes. You can use the two to build an AMD CrossFireX configuration. Besides them, the mainboard offers two PCIe 2.0 x1 and as many as three PCI slots for expansion cards.

The Intel Z87 chipset is responsible for the mainboard’s six SATA 6 Gbit/s ports. Two of the SATA connectors are vertical, so you can choose the more convenient way of plugging the cables in. The Z87-G43 has no additional controllers for more SATA, eSATA, USB or FireWire ports. Out of the chipset’s six USB 3.0 ports, only four are implemented: two as back-panel connectors and two as a single onboard header.

Here is the full list of the mainboard's back-panel connectors:

  • Universal PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • Six USB 2.0 ports, another four are laid out as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI for displays;
  • One local network port (network adapter is built on Gigabit Realtek RTL8111E network controller);
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented in the Intel Z87 chipset, another internal pin-connector allow two more USB 3.0 ports;
  • One local network port (network adapter is built on Gigabit Intel WGI217VB network controller);
  • Six analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC892 codec.

MSI mainboards now feature PCBs made of tightly woven fabric while the number of PCB layers can be counted by the number of squares in the bottom left corner. The Z87-G43 has a 4-layer PCB. Things are not so clear in the bottom right corner, though. The leftmost connector in the photo is labeled, so we can easily identify one of the two onboard USB 2.0 headers but what do the other three connectors do?

Some of them must be meant to connect to the computer case's buttons and indicators. There are usually labels on the PCB to indicate which connectors serve that purpose, but we don't see them here. MSI mainboards often come with M-Connectors that have labeled pins and simplify the connecting of the front-panel buttons and indicators but the Z87-G43, being an entry-level product, lacks them. It is only in the user manual that you can find how to use the rightmost JFP1 and JFP2 connectors. The purpose of the JSPI1 connector still remains unclear as it is missing in the flowchart pictured in the user manual.

We can figure out a few more peculiarities in the Z87-G43 design from its flowchart. For example, like on mainboards from some other makers, there are two CPU fan connectors. The Z87-G43 offers five fan connectors in total, and all of them are of the 4-pin variety. The COM port is not obligatory for modern mainboards but the Z87-G43 complements it with the even rarer LPT. It lacks any extras we've come to expect such as onboard buttons, POST indicators or voltage check points, yet we don't count this in as a downside. The Z87-G43 is an entry-level mainboard and the extra capabilities would only make it too expensive for its market positioning.

We’ve summed up the basic specs of the MSI Z87-G43 mainboard in the following table. Clicking on it will open a comparative table with specs of all previously tested mainboards, namely ASUS Z87-K, ASRock Z87 Extreme4 and Gigabyte GA-Z87X-D3H.

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