MSI Z87-G45 GAMING LGA 1150 Mainboard Review: Let’s Game!

This model uses a full set of Intel Z87 features. Besides, it provides additional set of MSI brand technologies. Theoretically it looks good, but lets take a look on practical work. How will it operate during nominal mode and overclocking?

The current decline in PC sales can be easily explained by the increasing share of mobile gadgets including notebooks, tablets and smartphones. From an average user’s standpoint, they are not just an acceptable but preferable alternative to a desktop PC. You don’t have to buy a bulky computer case and find a place for it to stand, now that you can just take your notebook or tablet with you to your chair or sofa. Price isn’t a crucial factor anymore. Notebooks used to be more expensive than desktop PCs because they offered the benefits of mobility and portability but now they are comparable or even cheaper. Of course, the smaller dimensions and the higher energy efficiency requirements result in mobile gadgets being inferior to desktop PCs in sheer performance, but that doesn’t matter much for an average user. People don’t need high computing performance or large databases at home whereas mobile gadgets are quite enough for web surfing and document editing.

We guess all of us would have already switched to mobile devices en masse if there were no specific user categories, particularly gamers. The widespread use of tablets and smartphones has provoked a boom in casual gaming, yet you just can’t do without a desktop if you are into serious games, especially hi-tech ones like modern 3D shooters. You need a high-resolution monitor, a fast graphics card and a top-end CPU for that. A high-quality audio system is desired as well if you want more immersion. With a notebook, you are limited in your choice of games and have to always compromise between speed and quality. With a good gaming desktop PC, you can freely choose any game and enjoy it fully.

For all their special features, gaming PCs are usually based on perfectly ordinary mainboards. There are gaming mainboards, yet they are very special products with unique features and enhanced accessories selling at very high prices. MSI tried to change this about a year ago by launching its own series which, unlike gaming products from ASUS and Gigabyte, included midrange or even entry-level models. There are just a few features that make MSI’s GAMING mainboards different from their regular counterparts. They use Qualcomm’s Atheros Killer network adapters with traffic prioritization support and have MSI’s Audio Boost technology for increased sound quality. Moreover, they have a special exterior design with an aggressive and eye-catching black-and-red color scheme.

We already tested MSI’s Z87-GD65 GAMING mainboard in our series of reviews of LGA1150 mainboards and were disappointed to find some power-saving technologies not working on it. This problem must have been caused by firmware flaws, yet it spoiled our impression. That was the top-of-the-line model, although it corresponds to midrange products from other brands. So today we are going to discuss the less advanced MSI Z87-G45 GAMING.

Packaging and Accessories

MSI’s gaming mainboards can be easily spotted in a store window thanks to their characteristic black-and-red coloring and dragon-shaped emblem. As usual, we can see the product’s model name and logos on the front of the box. On the back, there are specifications and descriptions of key features.

1 z87 gp45 gaming package

The mainboard comes with functional accessories and a couple of extras typical of the gaming series. We mean the large sticker and the door hanger, which don’t affect the product’s cost much but help emphasize its gaming orientation. So here are the accessories you get together with the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING:

  • Two SATA 6 Gbit/s cables with metallic locks (each cable has one L-shaped connector)
  • Flexible bridge to connect two graphics cards in SLI mode
  • I/O Shield
  • User manual
  • Booklet with installation instructions
  • Dual-sided door hanger
  • Sticker with a gaming series emblem for your computer case
  • DVD with software and drivers
2 z87 gp45 accesories

Design and Features

While we like the packaging and accessories of the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING, its own appearance is hardly pleasing, as is the case with all gaming products from MSI, actually. There are only a few red elements enlivening this gloomy black mainboard. In fact, even regular MSI products look better with their colorful memory slots, expansion slots and onboard USB 3.0 headers.

3 z87 gp45 mainboard

Besides a few special features typical of MSI’s gaming series, the Z87-G45 GAMING can be commended for fully using all the capabilities of the Intel Z87 chipset it is based on. It supports LGA1150 processors, powering them via an 8-phase digital power system with premium Military Class 4 components. Its four DDR3 slots can take in up to 32 gigabytes of system memory, clocking it at up to 3000 MHz. A single discrete graphics card installed on this mainboard will use its PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot at the latter’s full speed. Two graphics cards would use their slots at x8 speed each, and with three cards the speed formula for the PCIe x16 slots is x8/x8/x4. The Z87-G45 GAMING allows building both AMD CrossFireX and Nvidia SLI configurations. Besides the graphics slots, it offers four PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots for expansion cards. Storage devices can be connected to the mainboard’s six SATA 6 Gbit/s ports and one mSATA connector (using the latter disables one of the SATA 6 Gbit/s ports, though).

4 z87 gp45 chipset

The following components can be found on the mainboard’s back panel:

  • PS/2 port for keyboard or mouse
  • Two USB 2.0 ports (and six more can be output via the three onboard headers)
  • Clear CMOS button
  • D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI video outputs
  • Gigabit Ethernet port (based on a Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 controller)
  • Four USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors, based on the Intel Z87 chipset; two more USB 3.0 ports can be output via the onboard header)
  • Coaxial and optical S/PDIF connectors and six analog audio connectors (based on an 8-channel Realtek ALC1150 codec)
5 z87 gp45 back panel

Besides the Gigabit Ethernet controller Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205 which provides network traffic management capabilities, MSI’s gaming products feature MSI Audio Boost technology which encompasses an advanced 8-channel audio codec Realtek ALC1150 (SNR = 115 dB), an integrated amplifier TI OPA1652, premium capacitors and gold-plated back-panel connectors.

We can count up five 4-pin fan connectors in the mainboard’s schematic. Two of them are meant for a CPU cooler, but they can’t regulate 3-pin fans. The three system fan connectors support 3-pin regulation. One more special feature of this mainboard is that you can manually measure its voltage via the V-Check Spots which are not indicated in the schematic but can be seen in the photos. They are next to the mainboard’s power connector.

6 z87 gp45 schematic mainboard

You can see the specifications of the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING in the summary table below:

7 msi z87 g45 gaming specs

BIOS Features

All modern mainboard BIOSes share basic code from AMI, so their functionality is often comparable. Sometimes they even have identical names for setup options. We’ve dealt with MSI’s BIOS in our earlier reviews. We checked out the new MSI Click BIOS 4 in our MSI Z87-G43 review, browsing through individual pages in its subsections. Later on, we found out that MSI’s Z87 MPOWER and Z87-GD65 GAMING had almost the same BIOS options, just represented in a differently designed interface. The MPOWER series uses a lot of yellow in its BIOS. MSI’s gaming models prefer red whereas regular products of the Classic series have a predominantly blue BIOS interface.

So the new MSI Click BIOS 4 has been revised since the older MSI Click BIOS II by removing or putting infrequently used sections out of sight. Instead, there’s more focus on the more important sections but, unfortunately, the start screen is still far from functional and inferior in this respect to what you have with mainboards from other brands.

8 z87 gp45 click bios 4

The dropdown menu in the top right corner lets you choose an interface language. The OC Genie button on the left is for automatic system overclocking. You can also specify the order of boot devices by moving their icons with your mouse. The icons of currently active devices are highlighted. That’s actually all you can do in the BIOS start screen. You have to move down into one of the main BIOS sections to do more. The current trend in BIOS design is to let the user customize the BIOS interface by grouping frequently used setup options. So it would be much better if the central part of the start BIOS screen showed user-defined options instead of the logotype. The start screen might at least offer the option of setting date and time without looking for these options deep in the BIOS sections.

The very first Settings section contains a number of subsections.

9 z87 gp45 system status

The System Status subsection is in fact the start screen you used to see when you entered the classic BIOS interface. It reports some basic system information and lets you set up date and time. There are several pages in the Advanced subsection. Here you can set up chipset-specific technologies like Intel Rapid Start and Intel Smart Connect. You can enable Windows 8 boot mode or speed up the startup procedure on the Windows 8 Configuration page. The Boot subsection is where you define the boot device order and some other boot-related settings. The old Security section is now available as a single page in the Settings subsection. Besides enabling passwords like on other mainboards, you can use a regular USB drive as your access key. It is a special feature of MSI products. The Save & Exit subsection might be removed altogether as it is almost fully duplicated with the hotkeys. However, when you hit F1 or click Hot Key with your mouse, you won’t see the Discard Changes option which is only available in the Save& Exit subsection. Instead, you will see options for viewing CPU and memory information (which might be replaced with the more advanced capabilities of the OC section) and for managing profiles via a USB drive.

10 z87 gp45 general help

The OC section contains a lot of options for fine-tuning and overclocking. A number of informational parameters report the current system status.

11 z87 gp45 cpu base clock

The new MSI Click BIOS 4 brings back the help system that disappeared in the earlier versions. When you select any of the BIOS parameters, you will get context-sensitive information about its purpose and value range in the panel on the right. Some of the numerous settings of the OC section are located on individual pages. For example, there is a special page for memory timings (which can be the same or different for each of the memory channels). A unique feature of MSI’s BIOS, the new DRAM Training Configuration subsection helps you reach higher memory clock rates. The DigitALL Power page contains settings pertaining to the digital CPU power system. We used to regret that we couldn’t enable the CPU Phase Control option which controlled the dynamic management of active phases in the CPU power system as it only offered two values: Auto and Disabled. We had to set it at Auto and hope that the technology would work but now this option can also be set at Normal or Optimized.

12 z87 gp45 cpu phase control

The CPU Specifications and Memory-Z subsections are purely informational. The former provides some basic info about the installed CPU. You can go further and learn about technologies supported by it. In the same way, the Memory-Z subsection shows you information about your memory modules (taken from their SPD). It is these settings that the mainboard applies by default. The real capabilities of the memory modules are defined in their XMP profile and you can take a look at them, too. In the CPU Features subsection you control CPU frequency multipliers, power targets and various CPU-related technologies. This very important subsection goes last in our description, but you can access it easily since the subsections of the OC section are closed in a loop. You don’t have to scroll down to the bottommost parameters by pressing the Arrow Down key a lot of times. Just press the Arrow Up key once and you get right there.

13 z87 gp45 active processor cores

The OC section used to include a page called M-Flash, but now it is one of the main sections in its own right. Here you can boot up using a BIOS image from a USB drive. You can also save the current firmware or update it. There are certain restrictions. BIOS images are saved in the drive’s root folder only. They must also be placed there for updating. There is no file manager of any kind. NTFS is not supported, so the drive must be formatted as FAT or FAT32. MSI’s firmware update procedure has become somewhat more sophisticated recently. There used to be only one option suggesting that you choose a firmware file to update to. Now there is a second option that lets you update both BIOS and Intel Management Engine simultaneously.

14 z87 gp45 select one file to update bios

The next section, OC Profile, used to be an individual page of the OC section, too. Now it is independent and can store up to six full profiles with BIOS settings. Settings can be saved to and loaded from external drives. The profiles are easy to deal with. For each profile, its creation date and time and the BIOS version it refers to are saved automatically. Profiles can be given descriptive names and, when necessary, deleted.

15 z87 gp45 overclocking profile

The BIOS interface didn’t make it immediately clear which profiles were already in use, but now occupied profile slots are indicated with profile names which can be conveniently long and detailed.

16 z87 gp45 overclocking profiles

One of the most anticipated new features of MSI’s Click BIOS 4 is called OC Profile Preview. However, it cannot be used to compare any BIOS profiles. It only helps compare the current settings with a BIOS profile stored on a USB drive. That’s a downside as you have to load one profile into the BIOS and another to an external drive in order to compare them. The second downside is that the comparison is based on only six criteria: base clock rate, CPU frequency multiplier, CPU voltage, memory frequency, memory voltage, and frequency multiplier of the integrated graphics core. You won’t see any difference between the two profiles unless it affects these parameters. Moreover, OC Profile Preview doesn’t do any comparison at all, actually. It doesn’t use data written in the profile but compares the monitoring data recorded when the profile was saved to the external drive.

The Hardware Monitor section used to be hidden deep in the Settings section but now it is quite prominent. It has been redesigned, so instead of conventional text parameters we can see a chart that shows the correlation between the speed of the first CPU fan and CPU temperature. Yellow and green lines appear on the right and start crawling leftwards. Since the CPU temperature is shown to the right of the diagram in yellow and the speed of the CPU fan is shown in green, we can surmise that the diagram represents the two parameters visually. The Fan Control panel below the diagram allows you to set up how the selected fan’s speed must vary depending on temperature. You can set the minimum and maximum temperatures and the corresponding speed of the fan by moving the sliders. Your changes are instantly reflected in the diagram. If you uncheck the Target Temperature checkbox, the dynamic fan regulation is disabled, so you can fix the speed at a certain constant level. The info panel at the bottom of the screen shows you the values of key system voltages.

17 z87 gp45 hardware monitor

Unfortunately, neither of the two CPU fan connectors can regulate 3-pin fans as the system fan connectors do. The BIOS interface doesn’t have gaudy colors, but the traces of the previous BIOS screen left around the edges of the new window distract the eye. It would be better if the Hardware Monitor window opened in full-screen mode, completely covering the previous screen. It would also be useful if the user had an option to switch from the trendy graphical to conventional text-based interface.

Next goes the new Board Explorer section, which is analogous to the System Browser section of ASRock’s BIOS. It shows a rather accurate picture of the mainboard, so you can learn about its components by moving your mouse pointer over it. As in the Hardware Monitor section, the previous screen can be seen around the section window.

18 z87 gp45 board explorer

Our overall impression about the new MSI Click BIOS 4 is positive. The start screen doesn’t have the ECO section that used to duplicate CPU power saving options and doesn’t show current voltages. The Browser section was removed as it was rather useless and required installing the Winki 3 OS. Some programs were removed from the Utilities section, too. Instead, we have the more helpful M-Flash section for firmware updates and OC Profile for saving and loading BIOS profiles. The infrequently used Security section is transformed into a single page in the Settings section, just where it belongs. Context-sensitive help information about BIOS options is available. There is a new subsection DRAM Training Configuration and MSI’s mainboards now offer the same CPU voltage tweaking options as mainboards from other brands. We mean they can adjust voltage in offset mode by adding/subtracting a certain value to/from the default one. The new Board Explorer section is hardly a valuable addition, but it does no harm, either.

Unfortunately, there are a few downsides that must be mentioned. The Hardware Monitor section was brought to the start screen from the depths of the BIOS interface, which is good. But the section itself is too sophisticated and unintuitive, so you have to spend some time figuring out what to do with its options. The start screen has meager functionality. There are no interface customization options. The OC Profile Preview feature for comparing BIOS profiles proves to be useless. And only MSI mainboards can’t regulate 3-pin CPU fans while all other manufacturers implement this functionality in their products.

Testbed and Methods

We performed all our tests on a testbed built out of the following components:

  • Mainboard: MSI Z87-G45 GAMING, MS-7821 ver. 1.2 (LGA1150, Intel Z87, BIOS V1.7)
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K CPU (3.6-3.8 GHz, 4 cores, Haswell, 22nm, 84 W, LGA1150)
  • DDR3 SDRAM: 4x8GB G.SKILL TridentX F3-2133C9Q-32GTX (2133 MHz, 9-11-11-31-2N, 1.6 volts)
  • Graphics card: Gigabyte GV-R797OC-3GD (AMD Radeon HD 7970, Tahiti, 28 nm, 1000/5500 MHz, 3072 MB of GDDR5 memory with 384-bit bus)
  • Disk subsystem: Crucial m4 SSD (CT256M4SSD2, 256 GB, SATA 6 Gbit/s)
  • CPU cooler: Scythe Mugen 3 Revision B (SCMG-3100)
  • Thermal interface: ARCTIC MX-2
  • PSU: Enhance EPS-1280GA 800 W
  • Computer case: Antec Skeleton

We used Microsoft Windows 8.1 Enterprise 64-bit (Microsoft Windows version 6.3 build 9600), Intel Chipset Device Software version, and the AMD Catalyst 13.9 graphics card driver.

Operational Specifics

It was simple and easy to assemble our configuration with the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING. We had no problems updating firmware and using this mainboard. The picture it shows you while starting up resembles the design of its product box. Some of the active hotkeys are mentioned at the bottom of the screen, although the Tab key, which removes the startup picture, is not listed among them for some reason.

19 msi gaming motherboard

The active hotkeys will still be mentioned even when the startup picture is turned off with Tab or with the related BIOS option. At the top of the screen the information is output about the mainboard’s model name and BIOS version, memory frequency and amount, and connected USB devices and drives. The installed CPU is identified correctly but its frequency is not always reported accurately. It is based on the Adjust CPU Ratio option in the BIOS’s OC section but the actual CPU clock rate is going to be higher thanks to the Intel Turbo Boost technology. Moreover, the frequency multipliers of the CPU cores can be adjusted in the CPU Features subsection, and this is not counted in, either.

20 z87 gp45 adjust cpu ratio

As opposed to many other LGA1150 products, the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING enables standard settings by default. However, if you manually change all the power-saving options of the CPU Features section in the mainboard’s BIOS from Auto to Enabled, the power draw will be significantly reduced. In other words, the Z87-G45 GAMING doesn’t use all of the available power-saving techniques by default. This is typical of all LGA1150 mainboards we’ve tested so far. And the C1E Support option is even explicitly turned off by default on MSI mainboards.

Using the Enhanced Turbo option in the BIOS’s OC section, you can increase multithreaded performance a little by setting the CPU frequency multiplier at the maximum which is normally used by Intel Turbo Boost for single-threaded loads only. Well, every automatic overclocking feature is imperfect, just like the OC Genie button. You don’t even have to test it in practice. Just click the button and enter the OC section to see what changes are going to be applied.

21 z87 gp45 overclocking cpu base clock

The CPU clock rate is going to be raised up to 4 GHz. This rather low value must be meant to ensure maximum stability with any CPU sample. The dynamic regulation of CPU clock rate is disabled, so the CPU is always clocked at 4 GHz, even at low loads. Intel’s power-saving technologies are turned off, meaning that the CPU will always work at high voltage, too. That’s why this overclocking looks inefficient to us, even though it uses the XMP profile to increase memory clock rate. By the way, when you click the OC Genie button again to undo the overclocking, not all of BIOS parameters will return to their initial values. The Discard Changes option comes in handy then, but you have to use it in the Save & Exit subsection since it is missing among the hotkeys.

It would be much better to choose optimal overclocking settings manually instead of relying on automatic overclocking features. We recommend overclocking without any voltage modifications. If the CPU voltage is left at Auto, the mainboard won’t increase it. In its turn, the integrated voltage regulator of your LGA1150 processor won’t step voltage up too much at high loads, either.

Energy efficient overclocking is only possible if you don’t increase voltage. It will ensure higher performance and, despite the increased power consumption, you can expect long-term savings due to the reduced amount of energy spent for each computation. Energy efficient overclocking is going to be environment-friendly as we showed in our Power Consumption of Overclocked CPUs review. However, when we test mainboards, we want to check them out under different conditions and loads, so we choose what overclocking method ensures the highest results. Higher clock rates and voltages mean harsher test conditions and it is under such conditions that we can better see any flaws or problems in mainboard design.

We used to increase voltage in the offset mode and the LGA1150 CPUs also support a similar adaptive mode, but such methods do not work well with Haswell-based CPUs. The fact is as soon as the default voltage is changed even by a tiny value, the Haswell’s integrated regulator will spot it and increase the voltage further at high loads, which means high heat dissipation, high temperature and, eventually, overheat. To avoid this, the Haswell must be overclocked at a constant voltage. The downside is that the CPU’s power-saving technologies cease to work: the CPU frequency multiplier drops at low loads but the voltage doesn’t drop anymore and always remains at the constant and high level. This is the only way to deal with the integrated voltage regulator, though. Moreover, it doesn’t affect the computer’s power draw in idle mode. That’s why we overclock our CPU to 4.5 GHz in our mainboard reviews, fixing the voltage at 1.150 volts and using the XMP settings for our memory modules.

22 gigabyte radeon hd 7970

When we overclock by fixing CPU voltage at a certain level, some of the power-saving technologies get disabled. The CPU’s frequency multiplier is lowered at low loads but its voltage always remains high. Anyway, we stick to this overclocking for the duration of our tests, especially as it doesn’t affect the computer’s idle power draw much.

23 intel core 95 4670K

By the way, earlier we published an article called Haswell and LGA 1150 Platform: Right Operation and Overclocking where we explained the basic rules for optimizing LGA1150 platform parameters and for overclocking Haswell-based CPUs on mainboards from different brands. There you will find our illustrated recommendations on enabling Intel’s power-saving technologies and increasing CPU power targets as well as on how to overclock Haswell-based CPUs with and without voltage adjustment.

The article remains correct about MSI mainboards except that the Enhanced Intel SpeedStep technology doesn’t get disabled anymore when you change your CPU frequency multiplier with the Adjust CPU Ratio parameter. Instead, there’s a new thing you should know about. If you follow our earlier recommendations and change the CPU frequency multiplier in the CPU Features section, it may get lowered at high loads. To avoid this, you should manually increase the CPU power targets in the CPU Features or use the Adjust CPU Ratio option. This depends on your mainboard model and BIOS version, though. In our case, we could change the frequency multiplier using any BIOS options without any side effects.


We usually benchmark mainboards in two test modes: at the default settings and with the CPU and memory overclocked. The first mode is interesting because it shows how well the mainboards work with their default settings. It is a known fact that most users do not fine-tune their systems, they simply choose the optimal BIOS settings and do nothing else. However, most of the LGA1150 mainboards we’ve tested so far call for some tuning in order to put them under the same conditions. We had to publish a long list of our adjustments in their settings, so the default test mode nearly lost its meaning. Instead of benchmarking the mainboards at their default settings, we would show the nearly identical results of our correction.

Nominal Mode

In the new series of reviews of LGA1150 mainboards we want to make our default test mode more informative. So we don’t change or correct anything. What settings a mainboard prefers to use by default are used in our default test mode, even if they diverge from standard settings. The only exception is Gigabyte’s GA-Z87-HD3, which was additionally tested with the integrated graphics turned off (indicated as “GFX off” in the diagrams). It must be noted that in this case it is bad when a mainboard is slower than others, but it is also bad when it is much faster, meaning that it just doesn’t use standard settings by default. It is desirable to get average results since we know that similar mainboards are going to deliver similar performance under the same conditions. We even thought about giving up showing the best results in the diagrams, but eventually decided to sort the results out in the order of descending performance. The results of the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING are colored differently.

We run the CPU test of the 3D rendering suite Cinebench 15 five times and calculate the average result.

24 cinebench cpu test

We have been using Fritz Chess Benchmark for a long time already and it proves very illustrative. It generates repeatable results and its performance scales perfectly depending on the number of computing threads.

25 fritz chess benchmark

x264 FHD Benchmark v1.0.1 (64-bit) helps us test video transcoding performance. The original version of the benchmark with the version r2106 coder could make use of AVX instructions but we use version r2334 to enable the new AVX2 instruction set available on Haswell-based CPUs. The results are the average of five runs of the benchmark.

26 x264 benchmark

We benchmark performance in Adobe Photoshop CC using our custom test that is based on the Retouch Artists Photoshop Speed Test and consists of typical processing of four 24-megapixel images captured with a digital camera.

27 adobe photoshop cc

The mainboards’ performance in cryptographic tasks is measured with the built-in benchmark of the popular TrueCrypt utility that uses triple AES-Twofish-Serpent encryption with a 500MB buffer. Besides optimizations for multi-core CPUs, it supports the AES instructions.

28 truecrypt performance

Metro: Last Light is a very beautiful video game but its frame rate depends heavily on the graphics card. So we had to use the Medium Quality settings to maintain playability at a screen resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. The diagram shows the averaged results of five runs of the integrated benchmark.

29 metro last night mq

F1 2013 is less demanding on the graphics subsystem than the previous game. At 1920×1080 pixels we chose the highest settings by enabling Ultra High Quality and all image-enhancing options. The diagram shows the averaged results of five runs of the integrated benchmark.

30 f1 uhq

The two ROG series mainboards from ASUS are noticeably faster than their opponents in most of our tests, which is a sure sign of nonstandard settings. These mainboards just automatically step the CPU clock rate up by 200 MHz at multithreaded loads. It must be noted that we can get the same advantage on other mainboards by tweaking their Intel Turbo Boost settings. Gigabyte’s mainboards can even offer more benefits in certain scenarios with their K OC option. It is easy to enable this if you want to, but it is not easy to disable such acceleration on the ROG series mainboards, so we are inclined to view it as a downside. As for the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING, it delivers normal performance, being comparable to other same-class mainboards.

Overclocked Mode

Now let’s see what performance can be expected from our configurations with their CPU and memory overclocked. We reached the same overclocking results with all these mainboards: a CPU clock rate of 4.5 GHz (with the voltage fixed at 1.150 volts) and a memory clock rate of 2133 MHz (with timings of 9-11-11-31-2N according to the XMP profile). It must be noted that the Gigabyte GA-Z87-HD3 was rather unstable and the Gigabyte GA-Z87M-HD3 refused to function at all at such settings.

31 overclocked cinebench cpu test
32 overclocked fritz chess benchmark
33 overclocked x264 benchmark
34 overclocked adobe photoshop cc
35 overclocked truecrypt
36 overclocked metro last night mq
37 overclocked f1 uhq

As expected and contrary to the default settings, the mainboards are comparable in performance when their CPU and memory are overclocked. The Gigabyte GA-Z87MX-D3H is the only exception as it fails in both gaming tests, probably due to some BIOS bug. The MSI Z87-G45 GAMING seems to be slower than the other mainboards except in games. However, this is just a visual impression. The actual difference is less than 1%, so everything is okay with the MSI product.

Power Consumption

We perform our power consumption measurements with an Extech Power Analyzer 380803. This device is connected before the PSU and measures the power draw of the entire system (without the monitor), including the power loss that occurs on the PSU itself. In the idle mode we start the computer up and wait until it stops accessing the system drive. As in the performance tests, the results of the Gigabyte GA-Z87-HD3 with integrated graphics turned off are indicated as “GFX off”. The mainboards are sorted in the order of ascending power consumption. The results of the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING are colored differently for the sake of readability.

38 idle default power consumption

Default BIOS settings are not optimal whatever mainboard you take. That said, there are two models that stand out in terms of energy efficiency. Both are made by MSI and one of them is the Z87-G45 GAMING.

For all their downsides, Haswell-based CPUs should be given credit for requiring less power in idle mode in comparison with their LGA1155 counterparts. Unfortunately, we can’t see that when the mainboards work at their default settings, so we have an additional test mode called Eco. It means the same default settings but we manually switch all options referring to Intel’s power-saving technologies from Auto to Enabled in the mainboards’ BIOSes. The results are better now and most of the configurations need much less power. The MSI Z87-G45 GAMING is still the most economical of all.

39 idle eco power consumption

We want to remind you that we install an AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics card into our test configurations. If we instead used the CPU-integrated graphics core, the overall power draw would be lower than 30 watts. Haswell-based CPUs are indeed very economical when idle, so it is a shame that the mainboards do not ensure this advantage by default. You have to correct some BIOS options for that.

For power consumption tests under high load we run the LinX 0.6.4 utility, which is a graphics shell for Intel’s Linpack test and supports AVX instructions. It is heavier on the CPU than ordinary applications, yet it is just an application nonetheless. It is quite possible that there are some other programs that can be just as heavy. That’s why we stick to using LinX for the purpose of checking the computer out for stability and for measuring its power consumption.

40 100 load linx avx power consumption

The diagram suggests that none of ASUS LGA1150 mainboards can ensure standard system settings by default. ASUS’s regular and TUF mainboards drop their CPU clock rate at high loads, lowering performance. And the ROG series increase their CPU clock rate, which affects their power consumption. That’s not what we expect from the leading mainboard manufacturer. Compared to the mainboards with normal settings, the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING doesn’t look energy-efficient, though.

The numbers are high, but they are close to the highest power consumption possible at all. To measure the power draw of our configurations in typical applications, we used the Fritz benchmark. It doesn’t really matter which exactly application you use for that purpose. Any ordinary program that can run on all four CPU cores will produce the same or comparable results. So it turns out that we shouldn’t worry about the high power draw under the AVX-using LinX. The typical power consumption is about 100 watts whereas the most economical mainboards need even less. The only difference is the ASUS ROG series which consume more power due to their nonstandard operating mode.

41 100 load fritz power consumption

Setting a higher CPU clock rate, the ROG series consume more power but deliver higher performance than other mainboards. Perhaps the performance boost is worth the energy loss? Well, the results of our tests don’t confirm that. The numbers vary depending on load, yet a 200MHz increase in CPU frequency results in a 5% speed boost on average. The power consumption grows by 13-14% at that. Thus, we don’t think that this automatic overclocking implemented in ROG series mainboards is efficient. If you want to overclock, you will probably be able to increase the CPU frequency more and set its voltage lower, making your overclocked system more energy efficient than with the automatic overclocking.

By the way, you have to count in the graphics card’s power draw at high loads to calculate the overall system consumption. We use high CPU loads in our power consumption tests, but if we load the AMD Radeon HD 7970 by running some heavy game, the total power draw will be close to 250 watts at default settings and even higher at overclocking.

Now let’s see how much power the mainboards need in idle mode when overclocked.

42 idle overcloked power consumption

We don’t have a special Eco mode here because we always use as many power-saving technologies as possible while overclocking. That’s why the standings are the same as in the Eco mode without overclocking. There are four economical models, the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING being among them. Four more are average in terms of power consumption, including the Gigabyte GA-Z87-HD3 with disabled integrated graphics. With regular settings, the Gigabyte mainboards need more power than others. The Gigabyte GA-Z87X-OC was in fact the first LGA1150 product we saw that consumed more power in the overclocked mode than at the default settings. The small Gigabyte GA-Z87M-HD3 is even less economical. Now the Gigabyte GA-Z87-HD3 sets a new record in terms of energy wasting.

When the overclocked configurations have some work to do, their power consumption is expectedly much higher than at the default settings due to the increased clock rates and voltages. The ASUS and MSI mainboards are comparable in that case whereas the Gigabyte products remain the least economical among them.

43 overclocked 100 load linx avx

As we know from our Gigabyte GA-Z87MX-D3H review, there is a bug related to power-saving technologies in Gigabyte’s BIOS. That’s why the company’s mainboards perform so poorly in our power consumption tests.

44 overclocked 100 load linx avx

It is only at low loads that the overclocked MSI Z87-G45 GAMING is exceptionally economical. At higher loads it is just average in terms of power draw.


We are overall pleased with the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING. It has a number of advantages and doesn’t seem to be much worse than the more advanced Z87-GD65 GAMING model. It just has fewer power phases but its 8-phase power system with premium Military Class 4 components is quite sufficient. It doesn’t have a heat pipe between the two auxiliary heatsinks but the latter don’t get very hot at work. It has no additional SATA controller, but its six SATA 6 Gbit/s ports should be enough for the majority of users. It has no onboard Power, Reset, GO2BIOS and OC Genie buttons, but they are not very necessary whereas the required Clear CMOS button is present. It offers V-Check Spots instead of V-Check Connector for measuring voltages. The two mainboards have the same expansion slots working at the same speed. Their back-panel connectors are identical, too. We can name only two things the junior model is indeed inferior in. It has no POST indicator and it only has one BIOS chip. These features are not crucial, yet important.

The MSI Z87-G45 GAMING makes full use of the capabilities of the Intel Z87 chipset. It is fast and economical. We could easily overclock our CPU and memory with it. Of course, the mainboard is not perfect, having typical downsides of MSI’s products we’ve mentioned in this and earlier reviews, but overall it is an above-average LGA1150 product which certainly deserves your consideration.

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XbitLabs Team

We are a team of enthusiasts thriving to provide you with helpful advice on buying tech.

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