MSI Z77A-G45 review
LGA1155, ATX, Intel Z77 chipset, supports: 2nd/3rd Generation Intel Core i3/i5/i7
Although it costs just £72, the MSI Z77A-G43 is a remarkably capable Z77 motherboard - supporting the latest Intel Core processors - with three PCI-E x16 slots. One runs at x4 and is for expansion cards, but both the others run at x16, even when both are populated. This makes it ideal for dual-card SLI or CrossFireX. There are also four PCI-E x1 slots, although the one immediately under the top PCI-E x16 slot will be blocked by the coolers of most graphics cards.
There are four SATA2 and two SATA3 ports, but no eSATA ports. The back panel das two USB3 and four USB ports, as well as six 3.5mm audio ports and both optical and co-axial S/PDIF digital outputs. There’s also a PS/2 mouse or keyboard port and VGA, DVI and HDMI outputs for integrated graphics. At mid-board there’s a USB3 header and three USB headers.
There are the usual four memory slots we'd expect to find on a modern motherboard, allowing for up to 32GB of DDR3 RAM to be installed. That's going to be plenty, even if you're planning to build a really high-end system.
The UEFI interface is a little cluttered and confusing to use, with some options in unexpected places, but everything you need to tweak your system's performance in here, although we were surprised that it doesn't provide the option of saving multiple UEFI configurations for easy access in the future.
The UEFI includes MSI’s OC Genie II, which will automatically apply a modest overclock to your processor. Some MSI motherboards have a physical button to activate their OC Genie automatic overclock settings. This one doesn’t, but for some reason the OC Genie is still set by default to button activation. Before you can use it, you have to select a menu option which makes it available from within the UEFI instead.
With OC Genie enabled the processor was overclocked to 4.2GHz, our benchmarks produced an overall score of 116 (up from 100 when using the processor's default speed settings) using Intel's stock cooler. If you're going to overclock, though, we recommend using a more heavy-duty cooler to keep your processor's temperature down and increase its lifespan. If you get any settings wrong, there's a tiny clear CMOS button on the back of the motherboard.
Thanks to its effective automatic overclocking and ability to run two PCI-E x16 ports at their full bandwidth when you’re combining graphics cards in a CrossFireX or SLI configuration, this motherboard has loads of potential at a fantastic price, making it a Best Buy.