MSI Z270 KRAIT GAMING Motherboard Review
- Z270 KRAIT GAMING 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 KRAIT GAMING Motherboard. KRAIT made its appearance back on Intel Z97, and has spread across chipsets, and even made its debut on the AMD platform. The KRAIT series has been through a lot of cosmetic changes, but as always has a black and white DNA. That’s carried over on Z270, but has evolved with a new look once again.
Regarding features, it ticks many boxes with dual M.2 with optane support, SLI + Crossfire ready, USB 3.1 (gen2) A + C, DDR4-3866+(OC), Audio Boost 4, mystic lighting, VR-ready and much more
Pricing on the day of review is £151.99 , but is likely to fluctuate. Right now, it’s one of the better-priced boards, for its feature set.
Z270 KRAIT GAMING Features and Specs
- Supports 7th / 6th Gen Intel® Core™ / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1151 socket
- Supports DDR4-3866+(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
- Lightning Fast Game experience: Twin Turbo M.2 with Steel Armor. Intel Optane Memory Ready, Lightning USB 3.1 Gen2
- Audio Boost 4 with Nahimic 2: Reward your ears with studio grade sound quality for the most immersive gaming experience
- GAMING LAN with LAN Protect, powered by Intel® : The best online gaming experience with lowest latency and bandwidth management
- 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™
- Mystic Light Sync: Synchronize other RGB solutions with your gaming rig and control all LEDs in one click
- 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
Packaging & Accessories
Krait is very different to the other products from MSI, and has its own unique packaging too. The box features a scale-like design with a claw mark; this is also a big part of the central design on the board. 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
- Sticker Kit
- SLI bridge
- Driver + Manuals
- Generic information
- Thank you note
As said earlier, the pricing is better than the competition, but they offer 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 straightforward 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 models. Focusing on the KRAIT, it’s very much a love or hate product. The black and white appeal to me massively, but I’m not just keen on that claw strike mark in the center. Dare I say..it’s almost childish. That aside the new shrouding around the I/O is great , and everything else has been done right. The heatsink isn’t overly aggressive, and apart from the claw, the new board is much more sophisticated and clean.
The print on the PCB, matches the heatsinks extremely well, not that many will see it, but I’m pleased to see the white element on the reverse side too.
The heatsinks over the Intel Z270, is a clean and minimal black addition.
I do approve of the direction MSI has taken with the Z270, it will surely please many
Perhaps not immediately apparent, due to the colors but MSI have implemented on the slots, but the board does boast their Steel Armor. This is a nice feature to see, especially with the current size and weight, of the more expensive graphics cards on the market. Its a tried + tested feature and not a gimmick.
• Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
• Supports 3-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology
• 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16/x0/x4, x8/x8/x4 modes)
• 3 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
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 have gone for an all SATA approach, avoiding SATA Express. Offering 6x SATA III 6gbps ports in total. Sadly we see the same trait seen on other KRAIT products from the past, with a mix of vertical and horizontal ports. While trivial it does make routing cable more difficult
• Supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 for SATA storage devices
• Supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 for M.2 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. Which you can read about
- 1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)*1
- 1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/ storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)*1
Unlike some Z270 products, you can install 2280 products in both slots on the Z270 KRAIT.
A total of 6 headers for system or CPU fans
1. Near DDR4 Banks
2+ 3. Above 24 pin POWER
4 . Above PCIe Slots
5 + 6. Base & bottom right 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
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 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 TPM module connector
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 1 x Serial port connector
– 1 x Parallel port connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
Finishing up our tour of the board, looking at the I/O which consists of:
- – 1 x PS/2 mouse & keyboard combo port
- – 2 x USB 2.0 ports
- – 1 x DVI-D port
- – 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A port
- – 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
- – 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports
- – 1 x HDMI™ port
- – 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
- – 6 x audio jacks
Test Setup and Overclocking
Proudly Powered by our Dimastech Mini V1.0 Test Bench
|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.
We tested using the i7 7700K, which has a mild boost in clock speed over the skylake 6700k and features the new Intel 630 iGPU
Overclocking is no different to past generations and with a little effort we set the clock to 5000 MHz, and ran 100% stable. We couldn’t hold the same 5100Mhz, seen on the more expensive board, but 5Ghz is still epic.
Despite all the bad rep geared towards Intel for the rather toasty skylake gen, it would seem they’ve done zero to improve it. Which frankly is shocking…
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.
I must point out, that the MSI Krait, is the cheapest of all the Z270 products we’ve tested to date.
-[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.
Hardly any notable difference between the KRAIT and more expensive model from ASUS
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. The KRAIT delivered great scores
Armed with a Nvidia GTX 1080, how do the new Kaby processors affect FPS?
As expected, a few frames gained across our test titles, some games showing more gains than others.
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 SMI
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, which 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.
I’m delighted to see MSI has moved away from Killer LAN, while theirs nothing strictly wrong. The Intel solution is just better all around
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
So the lid has been lifted on Kaby, and in short, it’s just the same old improvement that we’ve come to expect from Intel. You can zone into one portion of the numbers and feel a bit meh about the gains. Looking at the bigger picture Z270 does bring a lot of new features, and it’s just the most logical choice. Z270 is fresh, tweaked, refined, looks better, and will be supported longer.
In terms of what MSI has done with Z270 across their entire lineup is epic. They have tons of models to suit the masses, and the KRAIT will surely please many but…personally its not what I’d hoped for. To be clear I’m talking visuals only, the claw to me is too silly, and spoilt what could have been an elegant product. I understand this is a gaming board, and the Dragon/Snake is MSI’s thing. Perhaps I’m just being picky but I can’t help feeling it would have been better with out it.
Moving onwards everything else on the visual front has been executed well. The new I/O shield and heatsink design is brilliant. Looking at the performance numbers, if you missed them earlier. This is the cheapest board I’ve had in (so far) and it delivered solid performance in every test. I can’t fault KRAIT in any one section. Better still the performance of the M.2, USB and SATA is so much better than what some of the Z170 models from MSI delivered.
The UEFI is another lift and replace, it’s essentially the same one that debuted back on Z87, now with some minor tweaks. That’s fine with me, because it ranks as one of my favorites to work with. Having everything arranged into tabs, is so much more convenient, than a long list of settings. I could navigate and configure the board in minutes, granted we don’t play in their often, but I appreciated the layout. While a gaming board at heart, the KRAIT offers everything you need to overclock. This sample held 5 GHz with no issue, but couldn’t handle the 5.1 GHz limit of our CPU, which we achieved on a much more expensive board. As for why, it’s still early days and the BIOS will mature in time.
While I have my own personal issue with the design, I can’t ignore the facts. The KRAIT looks amazing, performs it’s too and is very well priced.
Thanks to MSI for sending out the sample for this review.