When Micro Star International, MSI, started out in the computer business long ago in 1986, the mainstream computing industry for the masses was practically non-existent. You either had to be made of money or in one of the few jobs which allowed you to work on them to be able to use one. So a stark contrast to what we see today. MSI was one of the first companies to bring computers to the masses, not just at home but into differing industries such as education and communication, which has revolutionised the was we live our lives today.
In today’s market, MSI are one of the big players, dealing with a vast range of equipment from motherboards to graphics cards, and very recently have added to their standard ranges with Lightning and Gaming variants of popular motherboards and graphics cards. With innovation being a clear goal of MSI, this is reinforced with what we have seen with the Lightning and Gaming focused hardware, which are pushing boundaries whether it be with stability, longevity or overclocking. MSI are clearly making a statement of intent and are going toe to toe with the likes of GIGABYTE and ASUS.
Today, we have the latest offering from MSI’s offering into the ITX realm, the Z87I. Produced on Intel’s latest chipset for the LGA1150 platform, since the inception of Z87, i have been very excited about the ITX offerings and have been waiting for the mainstream solutions to start crossing my desk. On a tiny PCB, even when compared to the M-ATX format, it can be difficult to have a feature filled product that still packs in all the punch and goodies that consumers expect from the larger format boards.
After reviewing MSI’s Z87 gaming heavyweight, the MSI Z87 GD65 Gaming, moving to something smaller instantly lead me to think how much of that big product can be retained in a scaled down package. The MSI Z87I comes in at approximately £112, and obviously, there are some notable differences when you compare it to the larger boards in MSI’s range.
Nonetheless, the MSI Z87I is geared up for Ethernet network connectivity, with not one but two Realtek NICs, which is nice to see in such a small board. We do have WiFi onboard in the form of the 802.11n 2.4 GHz Centrino N-2230 solution, this is the same solution that we see on the larger motherboards in MSI’s range such as the XPower – not the 5 GHz dual band option I would prefer in all WiFi enabled motherboards. This amount of extra network controllers is due to the Flex IO configuration. As the motherboard has four SATA 6 Gbps and six USB 3.0 from the chipset, this gives the other 8 Flex IO lanes all the PCIe 2.0 for these controllers. Video outputs come in the form of a HDMI, DisplayPort and combination DVI-I, and the board also sports the Realtek ALC892 audio codec.
Almost all mainstream MSI Z87 motherboards utilise an OC Genie button giving a one press overclock. This functionality on the Z87I however is relegated to BIOS and software with the Z87I, giving only one option to 4.0 GHz. This isn’t as big a let down as you might think, the lack of an OC Genie button is obvious, there just isn’t the real estate on the PCB to allow for it, so it’s good that MSI still decided to implement it on the BIOS. The BIOS is better than the Z77 counterpart, offering a better visual representation of fan speeds and a hardware monitor to detect when hardware is not recognized in the motherboard. With the motherboard I reached a 4.7 GHz overclock through manually inputting the settings.
The MSI Z87I offers a nice motherboard for users needing multi-LAN functionality, and Live Update 5 will keep it up to date. The decision to go with the N-2230 solution is the main thing that is a little off with me as i would have thought MSI would have gone with a 5 GHz dual band option.