- Z270 GAMING M7 Features and Specs
- Packaging & Accessories
- First Look
- Test Setup and Overclocking
- Conclusion – TL:DR
We carry on our benchmarks of Kabylake, with a review of the MSI Z270 GAMING M7 Motherboard. In terms of features, the list is immense, and it literally has everything gamers need with even more for good measure!
Pricing on the day of review is around £260 but is likely to fluctuate. Right now, it is the board I’d suggest for a serious gamer running a multi-GPU setup, or those with mass storage needs. Let me show you why…
Z270 GAMING M7 Features and Specs
- Supports 7th / 6th Gen Intel® Core™ / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1151 socket
- Supports DDR4-4133+(OC) Memory
- DDR4 Boost with Steel Armor: Give your DDR4 memory a performance boost
- VR Ready and VR Boost: Best virtual reality game experience without latency, reduces motion sickness
- Mystic Light RGB and Mystic Light Sync: 7 colors / 5 effects controlled in one click with GAMING APP or a mobile device
- Triple Turbo M.2, Steel Armor, M.2 Shield. Intel Optane Memory Ready, Turbo U.2, Lightning USB 3.1 Gen2
- Audio Boost 4 PRO with Nahimic 2: 2x dedicated audio processors for the most immersive gaming experience
- GAMING LAN with LAN Protect, powered by Killer™: The best online gaming experience with lowest latency and bandwidth management
- BIOS Flashback+: Easy BIOS recovery without the need of a CPU, memory and VGA card
- Military Class 5, Guard-Pro: Latest evolution in high quality components for best protection and efficiency
- MULTI-GPU: With Steel Armor PCI-E slots. Supports NVIDIA SLI™ & AMD Crossfire™
- In-Game Weapons: Game Boost, GAMING Hotkey, X-Boost, Xsplit Gamecaster
- EZ Debug LED: Easiest way to troubleshoot
- Click BIOS 5: Award-winning BIOS with high resolution scalable font, favorites and search function
- GAMING CERTIFIED: 24-hour on- and offline game and motherboard testing by eSports players
Z170 VS Z270 M7
Packaging & Accessories
The MSI branding hasn’t really changed since Z170, its the same super clean crimson red box. Information is clearly listed on the backside, and easy to digest.
In the box, the bundle is on the thin side. With the following included
- 4x SATA cables
- RGB header cables
- Case badge + Cable stickers
- SLI bridge
- Driver + Manuals
- Generic information
- Thank you note
For the price, I’d like to have seen more.
We start our tour with a complete top down view, to absorb what’s on offer. As I said in past reviews, I thought Z170 was the turning point from plain and simple boards, to something much more appealing to the consumer. The Z170 range as a whole, from MSI, was beautifully executed and well designed.
The new Z270 products are really enticing. MSI have really polished and tuned their designs. Focusing on the Gaming M7, its stunning piece of craftsmanship, Your eyes are spoiled with clean and enticing design elements all around the board. Colors are a mix of grays and black, with no bold reds spoiling the design. The oversized heatsink + shrouding around the MOSFETs + I/O area are fantastic. And it gets better when you boot the system up, as theirs a lighting solution implemented underneath and on other parts of the board.
Tweak away as you see fit with the MSI app, and find what works best for you. MSI have also added a 5050 RGB header if you need more lighting.
We find small but key silver accents around the PCI-E slots and 4x DDR banks. These little changes really make big difference, and this is without a doubt my favorite looking Z270 board on the market.
The heatsink over the Intel Z270 chipset, is stacked and unique addition. More lighting under this one too, to give the product some eye candy.
The clue is in the name, and the motherboard is ready for some serious gaming. MSI added something different around the slots to separate this from the rest
• Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
• Supports 3-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology
3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0, x8/x4/x4 modes)
• 3 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
• Dual Realtek® ALC1220 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
Remember when SATA Express was set to be the next big thing? No… Many won’t, as it was dead before it hit the ground and it’s sat idle since on lots of Z170 products.
MSI offer 6x SATA III 6gbps ports in total. We also have the less common U.2 connector for those who demand the most from their kit.
Supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 for SATA storage devices
• Supports RAID mode for M.2 PCIe storage devices*
[M.2 / U.2]
M.2 took some time to filter into the market, and pricing to adjust accordingly. Now it’s become a mainstream product and the desire to use more was apparent. Intel noted this and now offer the ability to run 2x products on a single board this is further enhanced with Intel optane tech.
MSI are offering something unique here with 3, yes 3 M.2 slots. They’ve also bundled a metal heatsink to help with thermal throttling. While I’m pleased with the addition, in disappointed to find only one in the box.
M2_1 slot supports up to PCIe 3.0×4 and SATA 6Gb/s standards, 2242/ 2260 /2280/ 22110 storage devices
– M2_2 slot supports up to PCIe 3.0×4 standard, 2242/ 2260 /2280 storage devices
– M2_3 slot supports up to PCIe 3.0×4 and SATA 6Gb/s ** standards, 2242/ 2260 /2280 storage devices
A total of 6 headers for system or CPU fans
1.+ 2 Above VRM heatsink
3. Above 24 pin POWER
4 . Above PCIe Slots
5 + 6. Base of board
[Other ports/ Features]
Along the motherboard base, you’ll find plenty of headers and the actual placement of everything is neat and well thought out.
1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 1 x U.2 port
– 3 x M.2 slots
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C connector
– 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports)
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
– 1 x 4-pin CPU fan connector
– 1 x 4-pin water pump fan connector
– 4 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 2 x Front panel connectors
– 1 x RGB LED connector
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x Low Temperature Booting Jumper
– 1 x 2-pin Slow mode jumper
– 1 x 2-pin OC retry jumper
– 1 x 2-pin OC Force enter BIOS jumper
– 1 x 2-pin Discharge jumper
– 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED
Finishing up our tour of the board, looking at the I/O which consists of:
- 1 x PS/2 mouse & keyboard combo port
- – 3 x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
- – 1 x Clear CMOS button
- – 1 x DisplayPort
- – 1 x HDMI™ port
- – 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
- – 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports
- – 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A port
- – 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
- – 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
- – 5 x OFC audio jacks
Test Setup and Overclocking
Proudly Powered by our Dimastech Mini V1.0 Test Bench
[TECHICIZE TEST SYSTEM]
|Intel® 7700K (Kabylake)|
|Memory:||16GB Kingston Kingston Predator 16GB DDR4 PC4-24000C15 3200MHz Quad Channel Kit|
|Video Card:||AMD/ XFX 390|
|PSU:||Bitfenix Fury 750G|
|Hard Drives:||SSD – Kingston HyperX 3k240GB |
M.2 -Kingston M.2 HyperX 240GB
|OS:||Windows 10 X64|
We covered the i7 7770K and other Kabylake products in a much more detailed review, here we’ll be looking at more than the new CPUs from Intel.
Overclocking is no different to past generations and with a little effort, we set the clock to 5000 MHz. We then bumped up to 5100Mhz and ran stable.
we played around with the OC genie functions and while more realistic and conservative with voltage, than it used to be, we still recommend manual overclocking when possible.
Credit the UEFI team, its a super clean and easy place to work. I’m sure with more time we could achieve more, especially when coupled with DDR4 over 4Ghz.
Our test method uses a large variety of software to determine the results and product award. For your viewing, these are broken down into the following categories
- General System
- CPU & Memory
- Storage & USB
- Audio &Networking
-[PC Mark 8]
PCMark 8 from Futuremark. PCMark 8 is designed to test the performance of all types of PC, from tablets to desktops. With five separate benchmark tests plus battery life testing, PCMark 8 helps you find the devices that offer the perfect combination of efficiency and performance. It’s the complete PC benchmark for home and business.
The first test we run is PCMark 8, as we’re also able to gauge an all-around score. This test is heavily affected by all internal components rather than focusing on just one.
A pattern we’ve seen before on Z170. When we test the system as a whole, the results between each model are small. That said it’s still the best we’ve reviewed, as we delve deeper you’ll see why
-[Performance Test 8]
Passmark PerformanceTest is an award winning PC hardware benchmark utility that allows everybody to quickly assess the performance of their computer and compare it to a number of standard ‘baseline’ computer systems. Find out if your PC is performing at its best, compare the performance of your machine to similar machines and make objective independent measurements on which to base your purchasing decision.
Top of the charts for the M7, great results from the CPU specific tasks.
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.
Despite benching with the exact same kit of RAM, results on Z270 are better. Solid results in both applications.
Armed with a Nvidia GTX 1080, how does the new Kaby processors affect FPS?
The GAMING M7, does what the name suggests and delivered the best FPS scored we’ve seen to date
Each new generation of chipset brings improvements, refinements and in turn more speed. Granted it is not much but it’s still an increase
M.2 for sure has been tweaked deliver, much better than what we saw on Z170 from MSI
We don’t have any USB 3.1 (Gen2 ) devices at the time of testing, so will be focusing on 3.0/3.1 only. Be sure to understand the actual difference between USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1 & Gen 2. As it’s something that not all brands have explained clearly.To measure speeds we use AS-SSD, with an SSD inside a USB 3.0 Caddy from Startech
The Kingston SSD has a theoretical limit of 499MB/s Write, when hooked up internally to an SATA 6GB/s port. Overheads and such we accept that some degradation occurs when used over USB 3.0/3.1
Finally, USB performance has also been refined.
Using the in built network test for Performance test 8. The method is to install the software on two machines, that are on the same network. One acts as a client and the other as a server, a designated amount of data is sent across and then the min, Avg, and max transfer speeds are outputted.
Slightly disappointing to see the Killer™ E2500 Gigabit LAN controller, while it is a good solution it does not rival Intel controllers. In a real world scenario its shortcomings are unlikely to effect you.
We use RightMark Audio Analyzer, connecting “Line out” to “Line in” with a 3.5mm cable.
|Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB|| |
|Noise level, dB (A)|| |
|Dynamic range, dB (A)|| |
|THD, %|| |
|THD + Noise, dB (A)|| |
|IMD + Noise, %|| |
|Stereo crosstalk, dB|| |
|IMD at 10 kHz, %|| |
|General performance|| |
The Audio quality for a gaming board, is very impressive
Conclusion – TL:DR
We’ve already covered out thoughts on Kaby, if you want to give them a glance feel free . Today we’re talking about the board only, and there’s a lot to talk about. Let us start with the Visual aspect, MSI has really knuckled down over the last few years and have slowly moved away from generic red and black products. Nothing was wrong with their D.N.A but it was time for a shake-up. What they’ve done with the Power, gaming, arsenal, and other ranges is excellent. The choice for the consumer is so much better than it was earlier just relying on models numbers alone. The entire range of Z270 from MSI is stellar.
Focusing on the M7 it is my favorite Z270 board on the market in terms of looks. The new design is enticing, and really stands out. RGB as I always say is love/hate, credit to MSI here for their implementation of mystic light. The effects you can achieve are most impressive. Not fan? Then just turn if off
Performance? I feel we’ve barely scratched the surface today. To make the most of what’s on offer, you really need to install multiple graphics cards, M.2 drives and couple them up with high frequency RAM. We have a limit of hardware, but based on what we installed I’m happy with the numbers it was able to achieve. A solid all round products, with no weak or concern areas to mention. Overclocking like on the Krait, was a breeze. Literally no effort needed, and you can even let MSI do the work for you with the onboard button and OCgenie. We could not pass our CPU limit of 5100Mhz today, but it held it stable and needed less voltage than other boards have (so far) Despite being a gaming product its 100% ready for some serious overclocking too
Pricing, again may divide opinion but look at the bigger picture I feel it’s worth the asking price. A stunning looking board, huge feature set including tripe M.2 support, Steel Armor, lighting, that said for the asking price I really would have preferred to see more M.2 covers and Wi-Fi. While I’m not a fan of Wifi in general… it can be a useful tool to have on hand, and if the competition is offering at this point, then MSI should be to
Need a feature rich, future proof and epic look Z270 motherboard? The Gaming M7 is it!
Thanks to MSI for sending out the sample for this review.