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MSI Z97M Gaming Motherboard Review

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Recently,  Intel released their refresh of the Haswell line of CPUs and along with that came the Z97 chipset. The Z97, in a nutshell, adds and updates a few things from the Z87. The major addition to the Z97 is the ability to support M.2 SSDs. Other than an update to the Intel Rapid Storage technology the Z97 and Z87 chipsets are pretty much the same. MSI has released a slew of Z97 motherboards over the last few months and the MSI Z97M Gaming is their latest and greatest in the mATX form factor. With the ability to house two GPUs and support for M.2 SSDs the MSI Z97M Gaming is sure to turn a few heads.



Official Intel Z97 Chipset Diagram


Key Feature Differentiation Z87 Z97
Processor Support LGA1150 LGA1150
Firmware Sku Support 1.5M 1.5M
Graphics Support 1×16 or 2×8 or 1×8 + 2×4 1×16 or 2×8 or 1×8 + 2×4
Independent Displays 3 3
Mem/DIMMs per Channel 2/2 2/2
CPU Overclocking YES YES
Intel Rapid Storage Technology YES (v12) YES (v13)
Dynamic Storage Accelerator YES YES
Intel Device Protection with Boot Guard NO YES
Intel Smart Response Technology YES YES
Small Business Advantage NO NO
USB total (Maximum USB3.0) 14(6) 14(6)
IO Port Flexibility YES YES
Total SATA (Max # of 6Gb/s) 6(6) 6(6)
Maximum PCI Express* 2.0 (5GT/s) 8 8
PCI Express M.2 Support NO 1×2



• Supports 4th and 5th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors, and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® Processors for Socket LGA1150
Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.

Chipset • Intel® Z97 Express Chipset

Main Memory

• 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

Slots• 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, supports x16, x8/ x8 modes
• 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
On-Board SATA
• Intel Z97 Express Chipset
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1~6)
– 1 x 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****
• ASMedia ASM1061 Chipset
– 2 x eSATA 6Gb/s ports (back panel)
* 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 connectors)
– 6 x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
• ASMedia ASM1042 chipset
– 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
• Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
– Supports S/PDIF output
• 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 2-Way AMD CrossFire™ Technology*
• Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
* Supports Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.

Internal I/O Connectors
– 1x 24-pin ATX main power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 6x 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
– 2 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 1 x Direct audio power connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x TPM connector
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x Power button
– 1 x Reset button
– 1 x OC Genie button
– 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 Clear CMOS button
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 2 x USB 2.0 ports
– 6 x USB 3.0 ports
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
– 2 x eSATA ports
– 6 x OFC audio jacks
– 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×2160@24Hz, 2560×1600@60Hz
– 1 x DisplayPort, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096X2304@24Hz/ 2560X1600@60Hz/ 3840X2160@60Hz/1920X1200@60HzThis platform supports dual-display function and triple-display function

Extend mode
(Extend the desktop to the second
and third monitor)
Clone mode
(Monitors have the same screen)
• The motherboard BIOS provides “Plug & Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
• The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.
• 9.6 in. x 9.6 in. (24.4 cm x 24.4 cm) Micro-ATX Form Factor
• 8 mounting holes.


  • 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: Surve 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

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Tom Brokaw

Tom is a network and computer hardware enthusiast. He has been reviewing hardware products around for various sites around the net since 1999. He has modded a few cases back in the day.

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