MSI 970 Gaming In The Box

Gaming motherboards should be at the heart of user experience – gamers want to play games and have a fun while they do it, and MSI recognized this back in 2013 and went all in with their Gaming ecosystem. This applies to gifts, goodies, styling, logos, and potentially motherboard in-box bundles. The only question is what would the average MSI motherboard user want? In the past we have seen posters and door hangers, which might be suited to the under-25s, but many users are over 25 and want something more subtle.

In the MSI 970 Gaming we get the following:

Driver DVD
Manuals
Rear IO Shield
Cable adhesives
Door Hanger
Two SATA Cables
Flexi SLI Bridge
Adhesive MSI Gaming badge for the case (not pictured)

While we get the door hanger, the poster is gone and the adhesive shield becomes a plus point in the general user designing a gaming system. In the same way that buying a CPU comes with a small sticker, and sometimes buying memory does as well, this allows the user to adorn their rig with an indication of the components inside.

Many thanks to...

We must thank the following companies for kindly providing hardware for our test bed:

Thank you to OCZ for providing us with PSUs and SSDs.
Thank you to G.Skill for providing us with memory.
Thank you to Corsair for providing us with an AX1200i PSU.
Thank you to MSI for providing us with the NVIDIA GTX 770 Lightning GPUs.
Thank you to Rosewill for providing us with PSUs and RK-9100 keyboards.
Thank you to ASRock for providing us with some IO testing kit.
Thank you to Cooler Master for providing us with Nepton 140XL CLCs.

Test Setup

For our testing, in order to provide a direct comparison with the other AMD 900 series motherboards we have tested (a big five board roundup and the 990FX Extreme9), we dusted off our old FX-8150 CPU for the bulk of our testing. As the motherboard was supplied with the FX-8320E, which we reviewed in our AMD testing motherboard, we have also included overclocking results for this in a comparison to the CPU review as well.

Test Setup
Processor AMD FX-8150
4 Modules, 8 Threads, 3.6 GHz / 4.2 GHz Turbo
Motherboards MSI 970 Gaming
Cooling Cooler Master Nepton 140XL
Power Supply OCZ 1250W Gold ZX Series
Corsair AX1200i Platinum PSU
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ 4x4 GB DDR3-1866 9-11-9 Kit
Memory Settings DDR3-1866 8-9-9
Video Cards MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB (1150/1202 Boost)
Video Drivers NVIDIA Drivers 337
Hard Drive OCZ Vertex 3
Optical Drive LG GH22NS50
Case Open Test Bed
Operating System Windows 7 64-bit SP1
USB 2/3 Testing OCZ Vertex 3 240GB with SATA->USB Adaptor

MSI 970 Gaming Overclocking

Experience with MSI 970 Gaming

As mentioned in the BIOS section of the review, MSI has somewhat crippled the overclocking options on the motherboard by not implementing any form of load line calibration or literal CPU voltage values. All the user has to go by is the CPU voltage offset and pump this up to overcome any voltage drop across the CPU. This causes our results with the FX-8320E to be 100 MHz less than in our CPU review motherboard due to overheating on the basis of raised voltages.

On the automatic overclocking front, OC Genie passed with the FX-8150 but when the FX-8320E was used, the voltage was not sufficient to boot into the OS.

Methodology

Our standard overclocking methodology is as follows. We select the automatic overclock options and test for stability with PovRay and OCCT to simulate high-end workloads. These stability tests aim to catch any immediate causes for memory or CPU errors.

For manual overclocks, based on the information gathered from previous testing, starts off at a nominal voltage and CPU multiplier, and the multiplier is increased until the stability tests are failed. The CPU voltage is increased gradually until the stability tests are passed, and the process repeated until the motherboard reduces the multiplier automatically (due to safety protocol) or the CPU temperature reaches a stupidly high level (100ºC+). Our test bed is not in a case, which should push overclocks higher with fresher (cooler) air.

Overclock Results

BIOS and Software System Performance
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  • Samus - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    Not a bad price for such a complete board, even if the chipset is 4 years old. Reply
  • R3MF - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    the new asrock 970 fatality board looks better to be frank.

    no silly atheros 'killer' network cocket with dubious linux support
    20Gb/sec m.2 slot
    support for 220W CPU's
    Reply
  • Ranari - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    I'm going to chalk this up as me being a terrible reader, but I was confused reading this review. Does this motherboard support 220W CPUs or not? Or is it limited to just 125W range? Reply
  • silverblue - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    Ian pointed this out to AMD; I doubt it does. It does support up to and including the 8370 though if their compatability list is to be believed.

    I'm not sure who'd want to throw a 220W CPU into any board let alone a 970, though.
    Reply
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Sunday, February 15, 2015 - link

    I ran a dedicated 10guage Romex line, 30 amper, to my 4.23 Vishy w/ my OC 290X and all was good my killawatt was reading 890wattts but then it tore down my 3000joule clamping voltage surge protector. :-(
    Luckily I had the fire extinguisher handy just in case.
    Reply
  • Killrose - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    I beleive MSI is getting 2 x 8 PCI-e for SLI / Crossfire out of the 970 chipset on this motherboard although it is not supported by AMD, is this true? Reply
  • frenzy55 - Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - link

    Yes this is true, this mobo supports SLI and Crossfire. Reply
  • failquail - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    Could be a nice cheap replacement for my current motherboard that is experiencing a slow and painful death.

    (Asus Crosshair IV formula, AMD 890FX

    Current status:
    8/12 of the USB2 ports non-functional
    USB3 ports dead
    RAID controller dead
    Jmicron ESATA/SATA extra controller dead

    The rest of the board is still going, but i'm unsure how long for...)

    Regarding the killer NIC: does this simply function as a standard LAN port if you don't install their software?
    Reply
  • tekphnx - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    Voltage by offset only, and no LLC, on a 'gaming' motherboard, is very disappointing. For $100, this board's other shortcomings could be forgiven, but as it stands, one would do better to stick to a standard 970 board at around $85. As for 990FX, unless someone already owns a 6000 or 8000 series CPU, investing $130+ for a 990FX board on the rather dated AM3+ platform at this point is a pretty foolish move vs. what Intel has to offer. Reply
  • MrFrogSD - Monday, January 26, 2015 - link

    As someone who prefers smaller (read mATX) systems, it's been a real disappointment that no one has come out with any decent AM3+ mATX motherboards in the last several years. For those of us with limited space, we're pretty much forced to use FM2 or Intel at lower performance or higher cost. Reply

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