MSI is offering a lot of different options for those looking for a Z97 chipset-based motherboard. First they have the classis, gaming and overclocking series; now they have added the Eco series and some Krait edition motherboards. Hence, the gaming series is perhaps the more popular option for builders and gamers today with it having a black and red theme board and with it built for specifically for gaming. Today, we will be looking at one of the gaming series boards, the MSI Z97 Gaming 5 motherboard.
MSI’s Take on the Z97 Gaming 5
MSI® GAMING motherboards are designed to provide gamers with best-in-class features and technology. Backed by the imposing looks of MSI’s Dragon, each motherboard is an engineering masterpiece tailored to gaming perfection.
THE BEST GAMING WEAPONS AT HAND
- Amazing sound with Audio Boost 2, powered by Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 2
- USB Audio Power
- The highest frag and the lowest lag with Killer™ E2200 Game Networking
- Push your SSD to the limit with M.2 & SATA Express
- Show off your gaming skills to the world with XSplit Gamecaster
- SteamOS ready out of the box
- Military Class 4 components
- Super stable with Guard-Pro
- Specialized production lines just for GAMING motherboards
- OC Genie 4
- Gaming Device Port
- Boost your FPS with the MSI GAMING APP
- Click BIOS 4 (click here to visit our dedicated BIOS page)
- Optimized for multiple graphics cards (SLI & CrossFire certified)
- Take control with Command Center & Live Update 6
For more details about the motherboard’s highlights and overview, go HERE at MSI’s website.
- Supports 4th and 5th Gen Intel® Core™ / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1150 socket
- Supports DDR3-3300(OC) Memory
- M.2 + USB 3.0 + SATA 6Gb/s
- Audio Boost 2: Reward Your Ears with True Quality
- Killer Ethernet: Kill Your Lag
- USB Audio Power: Serve Stable 5V Power & Better Signal Transmission over USB
- XSplit Gamecaster: Show off Your Skills and Achievements
- Guard-Pro: Improved Protection and Power Efficiency
- OC Genie 4: Overclock in 1 Second
- Gaming App: Boost Your Frame Rate
- Click BIOS 4: Easily Fine-tune Your System
- Multi-GPU: NVIDIA SLI & AMD CrossFire Support
- Sound Blaster Cinema 2: Realistic Surround Sound Experience
- Gaming Device Port: Optimized with Triple Gold-plating for High Polling Rate Gaming Devices
• Supports 4th and 5th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors, and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® Processors for Socket LGA1150
• Intel® Z97 Express Chipset
• Support four DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/ 3000*/3100*/3200*/3300*(*OC) MHz DRAM, 32GB Max
– Dual channel memory architecture
– Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
– Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory
• 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, (support x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4 modes)
• 4 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
• Intel Z97 Express Chipset
– 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1~6)
– 1x M.2 port*
– M.2 port supports M.2 SATA 6Gb/s module
– M.2 port supports M.2 PCIe module up to 10Gb/s speed**
– M.2 port supports 4.2cm/ 6cm/ 8cm length module
– Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10***
– Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology and Intel® Smart Connect Technology****
* The SATA5 and SATA6 ports will be unavailable when installing a module in the M.2 port.
** M.2 PCIe interface only supports UEFI option ROM, NOT support legacy option ROM.
*** M.2 PCIe interface does not support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.
**** Supports Intel Core processors on Windows 7 and Windows 8/ 8.1
• Intel Z97 Express Chipset
– 6 x USB 3.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB 3.0 connectors)
– 8 x USB 2.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB 2.0 connectors*)
• Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
• 1x Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN controller*
* The Killer Network Manager is only available for Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 currently. The supported drivers for other operating systems would be available on the website if provided by vendor.
• Supports 3-Way AMD CrossFire™ Technology*
• Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
* Supports Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.
Internal I/O Connectors
– 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 1 x M.2 port
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
– 1 x USB 3.0 connector (supports additional 2 USB 3.0 ports)
– 2 x 4-pin CPU fan connectors
– 3 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x TPM module connector
– 1 x Serial port connector
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 1 x Direct audio power connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x Audio power switch
– 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED
Back Panel I/O Ports
– 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 4 x USB 2.0 ports
– 4 x USB 3.0 ports
– 1 x VGA connector
– 1 x DVI-D connector
– 6 x OFC audio jacks
– 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×2160@24Hz, 2560×1600@60Hz
The MSI Z97 Gaming 5 comes in the black and red packaging, just like the gaming series’ color theme. The features of the motherboard can be found written outside the box.
The motherboard is wrapped in plastic and beneath it are the accessories, manual and others.
Aside from the essential items like SATA cables, I/O shield and manual, the gaming series boards include a MSI gaming badge and door sign.
Here’s the MSI Z97 Gaming 5 motherboard.
Let’s first take a good look at the aesthetics of the board. Here you have the chipset heatsink with a brushed aluminum finish featuring the MSI dragoon logo.
You can only find the MSI dragoon design on the VRM heatsinks which also has a black and red theme.
On the left side of the PCIe slots, you can find the Audio Boost 2 ensemble.
Below the Audio Boost 2 ensemble is the direct audio power connector where the molex cable goes into.
There is a switch on the board where you can choose between on-board power source or the direct audio power source.
In the middle of the board, below the processor socket and just above the first PCIe slot is the M.2 slot for M.2 SSDs. Note that using this slot will disable the SATA 5 and 6 ports leaving four SATA III ports available.
Here are the SATA III ports on the side of the motherboard and beside it is the USB 3.0 header next to a fan header and the 24-pin header.
There are 3 PCIe slots that support 3-way CrossFire or 2-way SLI. As you can see it also has four DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of memory and at maximum frequencies of 3,300 Mhz, overclocked.
At the bottom of the motherboard, you can find a debug LED display beside the front panel I/O headers which comes with a quick release header you can find included with the accessories.
Here’s a look at the back I/O ports. The Z97 Gaming 5 doesn’t have a BIOS reset button at the back I/O unlike other enthusiast level motherboards from other brands.
Lastly, the back of the board also got the same black coating at the front giving it a nice look.
Move on to the next page to explore the board’s BIOS.
I have already reviewed two MSI Z97 motherboards before this and all of the boards have the same BIOS. If you were able to check out our review on the MSI Z97I Gaming AC mini-ITX motherboard and the MSI Z97S SLI PLUS, you can skip this page.
The BIOS page of the MSI Z97 Gaming 5 looks the same just like any other Z97 MSI gaming motherboard. Let us discuss each section shortly below.
The settings tab is perhaps the most important segment in the BIOS since everything is configured here aside from the overclocking settings. There are five subsections under the setting tab; the system status, advanced, boot, security and save & exit tabs.
- System status – general overview of the system like hardware and storage installed and its current status
- Advanced – for configuring features of the motherboard
- Boot – for configuring storage devices, boot priority and related functions
- Security – for setting up password for accessing BIOS page
- Save and Exit – for saving or discarding changes and exiting the BIOS page
Overclocking (OC) Settings
This is just one long page which contains all the overclocking settings and information. We will come back to this later and configure our overclocked settings.
You can use this tab to manually update the BIOS. You will need to manually download the updated BIOS version, save it in a bootable USB flash disk and use this tab to install the new BIOS version.
You can save your overclocking settings and they will appear in this page. You can quickly activate your saved overclocked settings using this tab.
The hardware monitor tab is basically MSI’s fan controller along with sensors for you to read the statuses of the processor, GPU, RAM, and system as a whole.
Here you can check the hardware installed in the motherboard and its status. You can see every socket and port has been highlighted with red. You can hover your mouse cursor to each section and see which port are in use and what hardware is connected to it.
Move on to the next page for the utilities included with the Z97 Gaming 5 motherboard.
Drivers and Utilities
All of the previous MSI Z97 motherboards I reviewed are bundled with the same utilities with the addition of the Gaming App for the Gaming motherboard series. We will just give you a recap on how these utilities work below.
The utilities that come along with the Z97S SLI PLUS are the same with the Z97I Gaming AC except for the absence of the gaming utility, the Gaming App and also the Sound Blaster app since this doesn’t have the Audio Boost technology unlike the Gaming Series motherboards.
Installing the drivers and utilities from the two CD installers is very easy. The installer’s setup page will give you the option to choose what you want installed or not installed.
MSI Command Center
The Command Center is an all-in-one overclocking tool you can use inside a running Windows OS. You can manually overclock the processor and RAMs using this tool. You can also setup a RAMDisk wherein you can allot memory from your RAMs and make it into a storage space. Then there’s the OC Genie application which is the automatic overclocking tool of MSI. See images below for the MSI Command Center’s user interface.
Live Update 6
It is important to have drivers updated regularly to fix bugs and improve your system’s performance. It would be annoying to do that manually so MSI have an app for that which is the Live Update 6.
The software has four tabs which are Live Update, History, Setting and System Information. You can set a schedule for the app to automatically check for updates under the Settings tab, check the version of installed drivers in the System Information tab and the History tab for the history of downloaded and installed drivers of course.
To use Live Update 6, do an automatic scan and it give you a list of all the drivers installed and the latest version available for download. There are checkboxes so you can select which drivers you want to download and install. Note that it might reboot your system a couple of times.
This utility is also available for the Z97I Gaming AC but I wasn’t able to write about it so I am doing it now. This is basically a power saving feature. Very easy to use, just select which components you want to apply power saving and the system will automatically configure itself. I’d assume it has the same function as the power option function in windows. Just a fancier way of doing it I guess.
Intel Extreme Tuning Utility
This is actually another “tuning” or overclocking tool but this time coming from Intel. Just like the MSI Command Center, you can also save your overclocked settings into profiles and load them in a jiffy. This time around I played with it more and gave it a shot in tweaking the system.
You should be able to see everything in the dashboard under the system information tab.
Under the Manual Tuning tab, you can configure your overclock. It has three sub-categories which are the Core for the processor, Memory, and Other for voltage configurations such as voltage offsets.
Intel Extreme Tuning Utility also have its own stress testing application. However, I have to warn you that this seems to be more intensive compared to Prime95 since this made my processor run hotter compared to running Prime95 based on my experience.
The benchmarking tool gives your system a corresponding score which you can compare with other systems as submitted by other users online. I did ran the benchmarking application and check the system’s score
Clicking the ‘Compare Online’ button will direct you to the HWBOT page where other XTU scores are submitted for you to compare.
Lastly, you can create profiles of your different overclocked configurations where you can save and load easily.
Now let’s move on to testing our system built and tests.
Testing and Benchmarking
- Motherboard: MSI Z97 Gaming
- Processor: Intel Core i5-4670k (Overclocked to 4.0/4.5 Ghz)
- Graphics Card: Gigabyte GTX 770 OC
- Memory: Kingston HyperX Beast 16GB 2400Mhz
- Boot Drive: Kingston M.2 120GB SSD
- Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA P2 1200W
- Chassis: QDIY PC-D60 Custom Acrylic Test Bench
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate
- Cooling: Custom Watercooling
- PC Mark 7
- PC Mark Vantage
- Super Pi
- MaxxMEM 2
- PC Mark 8 PRO
- ATTO Disk Benchmark
- Anvil Storage
Game and Graphics Benchmarks
- Unigine Heaven 3.0
- Unigine Valley 1.0
- Fire Strike
- Aliens Vs Predator
- Battlefield 3
I will be overclocking the system at the BIOS.
To overclock the processor, go to the OC tab and look for the CPU Ratio to raise the multiplier. To achieve 4.5Ghz, we need to use a CPU Ratio of 45. If you are an advanced tweaker, you can also play around with the CPU BLCK settings to raise the frequencies higher.
To configure the memory, you can either manually overclock the memories or use the preset XMP profiles.
Here are the settings we will be testing our system with:
Move on to the next page for the benchmarks and test results.
Tests and Benchmarks
PC Mark 7
PCMark 7 is a complete PC benchmarking solution for Windows 7 and Windows 8. It includes 7 tests combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed for the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete Windows PC performance testing for home and business use.
- 4.0 Ghz – http://www.3dmark.com/pcm7/904094
- 4.5 Ghz – http://www.3dmark.com/pcm7/907806
PC Mark Vantage
PCMark Vantage Basic Edition includes everything you need to get a PCMark score for your system. Upgrade to the Advanced Edition to unlock the full set of test suites, custom settings and other features.
- 4.0 Ghz – http://www.3dmark.com/pcmv/575923
- 4.5 Ghz – http://www.3dmark.com/pcmv/576550
Super PI 1.90
Super PI is a single threaded benchmark that calculates pi to a specific number of digits. It uses the Gauss-Legendre algorithm and is a Windows port of a program used by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 to compute pi to 232 digits.
“CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Life of Pi or Prometheus and many more.
CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.”
FinalWire Ltd. today announced the immediate availability of AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.50 software, a streamlined diagnostic and benchmarking tool for home users; and the immediate availability of AIDA64 Business Edition 1.50 software, an essential network management solution for small and medium scale enterprises. The new AIDA64 update implements AVX-optimized benchmarks for the upcoming Intel Sandy Bridge processors, adds a brand new video encoding benchmark, and supports the latest AMD and nVIDIA graphics processors.
MaxxMEM 2 Is the little brother of MaxxPI², it contains the same memory benchmark routine as MaxxPI² does. So your reached results will be comparable to Memory / Latency benchmarks done by MaxxPI².
PC Mark 8 PRO
Use the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to test the performance of SSDs, HDDs and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games. You can test the system drive or any other recognized storage device, including local external drives. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.
ATTO Disk Benchmark
As the industry’s leading provider of high-performance storage & network connectivity products, ATTO has created a widely-accepted Disk Benchmark freeware utility to help measure storage system performance. As one of the top tools utilized in the industry, Disk Benchmark identifies performance in hard drives, solid state drives, RAID arrays as well as connections to storage. Top drive manufacturers, like Hitachi, build and test every drive using the ATTO Disk Benchmark.
On to the next page for the game and graphics benchmarks.
Game and Graphics Benchmarks
Unigine Heaven 3.0
Heaven Benchmark with its current version 4.0 is a GPU-intensive benchmark that hammers graphics cards to the limits. This powerful tool can be effectively used to determine the stability of a GPU under extremely stressful conditions, as well as check the cooling system’s potential under maximum heat output. It provides completely unbiased results and generates true in-game rendering workloads across all platforms, such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
Unigine Valley 1.0
Valley Benchmark is a new GPU stress-testing tool from the developers of the very popular and highly acclaimed Heaven Benchmark. The forest-covered valley surrounded by vast mountains amazes with its scale from a bird’s-eye view and is extremely detailed down to every leaf and flower petal. This non-synthetic benchmark powered by the state-of-the art UNIGINE Engine showcases a comprehensive set of cutting-edge graphics technologies with a dynamic environment and fully interactive modes available to the end user.
3DMark includes everything you need to benchmark your hardware in one app. Whether you’re gaming on a smartphone, tablet, notebook, laptop, desktop, or a high performance gaming PC, 3DMark includes a benchmark designed specifically for your type of device. And it’s not just for Windows. You can compare your scores with Android and iOS devices too. It’s the best 3DMark we’ve ever created.
Aliens Vs Predator
Rebellion has released a stand-alone benchmark of its latest Aliens vs. Predator title. Like the original game, the benchmark supports DirectX 11, Tessellation, Ambient Occlusion, Advanced Shadow Sampling and Anti-Aliasing. Here are some more details about the original game: “Bringing the legendary war between two of science-fiction’s most popular characters to FPS fans, AvP delivers three outstanding single player campaigns and provides untold hours of unique 3-way multiplayer gaming.
Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. It is a direct sequel to 2005’s Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. As for this game benchmark, I played the first segment of Operation Swordbreaker using Ultra High settings and used MSI afterburner to log the FPS statistics during the course of game.
Let’s wrap up this review on the next page.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Before I was able to review this motherboard, I review the MSI Z97S SLI PLUS which is $75 more expensive that this board. At $147.99 in Amazon and Newegg, this might look like an entry-level motherboard for its price but it surely performs and looks more than that. Looking at the aesthetics of the board first, it is barely different from the Z97 Gaming 7 which is a tier higher than this board. The black PCB, dragon logo and black and red theme sure is very appealing. Plus the LED lighting on the Audio Boost module looks very cool in the dark.
As far as performance is concerned, it is pretty much up to par with the other MSI Z97 boards I reviewed with very little difference from the others. For overclocking potential, this board can certainly go higher than the 4.5Ghz overclock I did but I’ll leave that for extreme overclockers. Marketed as a ‘gaming’ motherboard, it can surely suffice what a typical gamer needs. The MSI Z97 Gaming 5 can also support multi-GPU configurations of a dual SLI or a triple CrossFireX. The board also has a M.2 slot for M.2 SSDs. However, using the M.2 slot will disable SATA 5 and 6 slots leaving you with 4 SATA III slots available. Four SATA III ports is still plenty but still I wish it only disables one, not two.
Moving on to other features, the Audio Boost 2 sure is does give you better gaming experience. It still doesn’t beat a stand-alone DAC/Amp or a sound card but it sure it better than the typical realtek sound chips in regular motherboards. Audio Boost 2 has good bass amplifacation and its nice when playing FPS games with all the shooting and explosions. For its price and performance, I will have to give the MSI Z97 Gaming 5 our Editor’s Choice award.
- Good price-performance ratio
- Great aesthetics
- Multi-GPU support
- Using M.2 slot disables 2 SATA III ports
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