Saturday, August 22, 2015

MSI Z97 Gaming 6 Motherboard Review



Great entry-level gaming motherboard

MSI GAMING, albeit a new line in MSI’s arsenal of products, has had a tangible effect on the marketplace. And you can tell. With so many manufacturers creating their own "gaming" series in response to MSI’s fiery dragon, it has quite the reputation to live up to. So, is MSI’s Z97 Gaming 6 motherboard worthy of wearing the prestigious red garb displayed by so many of its brothers?

Well, for starters, it's worth noting that this board wears a cheaper price tag than some of the mobos in this supertest, even for this socket. As such, it's understandable that it's not overflowing with quite so many flair touches as some of its competitors.

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This means smaller heatsinks, less glamorous cooling solutions, and generally not a lot of color beyond that. Despite that, however, it still features a fully black PCB, black and red Northbridge heatsinks and a rather nice illuminated line that separates the audio solution from the rest of the PCB, just in case we didn’t know that it wasn’t separated already. But, we have to admit, we like its implementation.

Let’s face it, however, this is only half of the story. What about the guts? Well, the Gaming 6 comes with an internal M.2 slot for 10Gb/s drive speed, one SATA Express port, and an additional six SATA 6Gb/s ports. This means your storage troubles are entirely covered, regardless of what you decide to do.

There’s also access to two sets of internal USB 3 headers, one of which is (excellently, we might add) right-angled to allow for easier cable routing and management of that tricky front I/O cable we’ve all come to hate. And, of course, there’s the plethora of fan connectors and additional USB 2 ports. Handy if you’re plugging in an all-in-one water cooler, such as the Corsair Hydro series or NZXT’s Kraken.

For PCIe support, MSI has kindly provided three PCIe Gen3 slots for use in 16x0x0, 8x8x0 or 8x4x4, so ideally, you don’t want to be pushing more than two-way Crossfire or SLI.

BASIC, BUT SOLID

Rear I/O is a little slim on the ground here, but for the price point, that’s to be expected. There’s access to two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a single Gigabit Ethernet, VGA (God forbid you’re still using a VGA monitor), DVI-I, HDMI, Optical Audio out, 5.1 audio, a PS/2 port for backward compatible/lag free gaming, and one single USB 3.1 Type C port. It’s important to note here that there’s only one USB 3.1 port on this motherboard and it’s the Type C standard, so it won’t work with more traditional USB devices.

The Z97 Gaming 6 is certainly a solid performer when it comes to overclocking, as well as general all-round performance. Although it does take some time to get your head around the UEFI BIOS, we did then manage to overclock the old girl up to a very respectable 4.8GHz, in line with the rest of our motherboard benchmarks, while still managing to maintain our memory frequencies at 2,133MHz.

All in all, this motherboard is a fantastic entry-level board to the world of PC gaming. It doesn’t come absolutely ram-packed with features and as large a software set as some of the other products in this supertest, but it’s got more than enough for the average gamer.

So, if gaming is your M.O., and you love a bit of the old black and red color scheme, this mobo is definitely a solid choice. If you have a bit of extra cash in your pocket though, we’d suggest getting the Z97A Gaming 7 or 9 instead, as you’ll be much better off in the long run with regards to USB support and general expandability.


Verdict

(+)BLOOD RED Great value; performs well; looks great; USB 3.1 Type C; right-angled USB 3.1.

(-)OFF PINK Lacks features; cooling support is limited; difficult install.


Specifications

CPU Support: Intel X99 / 1150
Form Factor: ATX
USB 3.1 Support: 1x USB 3.1 Type C
M.2 Support: 1x M.2

By MaximumPC

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