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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  • Stuka87 - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    I am actually in the market to replace my old Phenom II system (965BE @4GHz with an HD7950). And as nice as the price is for newer AMD stuff, even at the same price the performance is just not there for gaming. Too many games are poorly coded and only use two threads, so even with my current CPU two cores sit there doing nothing. With an 8320e, 6 cores sit there doing nothing. And the IPC improvements from Phenom II to current FX chips is marginal at best.

    Its just disappointing that gamers basically HAVE to go Intel to run any current games decently.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    It all depends on what you're trying to run. A very large number of games are going to be GPU limited, so much so that it really has no meaning what CPU you're running unless you're at medium to high quality settings in order to boost frame rates. We could also trot out Mantle and DX12, which should make the CPU matter even less -- but only on games that use those APIs, which is not the vast majority of games out right now or even coming this year.

    So yeah, if you're buying a new motherboard and CPU, it's hard to find a reason to buy an FX chip right now. If you already own one, you don't necessarily need to upgrade, but that's a different matter.
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    Mantle is a huge boost. BF4 is near unplayable for me in multiplayer with DirectX, but runs "ok" in mantle (average 45fps, CPU limited with all four cores pegged). In that game an 8 core FX would help a lot. But then you go to a Blizzard game like Heroes of the Storm, and I am stuck with 2 cores pegged. A low end i3 outperforms my system (and FX systems) in these cases by quite a large margin. Reply
  • eanazag - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    Blizzard games always seem to be CPU heavy. It enables them to run the software decent on almost any kind of hardware. They build for Macs and many use the Intel IGP. Reply
  • Alexvrb - Thursday, January 22, 2015 - link

    This is true and in some ways Blizzard's engines are very well optimized. They don't lean too hard on the graphics (at least at fairly moderate settings) and they look good even if you don't have a fast enough system to crank on all the eyecandy. They run well on systems with few cores, too. Both of these things tend to make them fairly laptop-friendly as well. But they're not very well threaded and the downside is that if you've got a system with relatively low per-thread performance and 4+ cores you're often going to have an unnecessarily poor experience as it simple can not take advantage of your setup. Reply
  • piteq - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    I will jump in here with a question. Considering myself a WoW player and AMD supporter (that's a weird combo for sure ;-) ), I look for some options to upgrade my Phenom II X4 965 (3,5 GHz, it's not OC-ing well) and Radeon 6790 /w 1GB GDDR5 (which is noisy…). I realize, the improvement won't be huge, but I think about: Vishera 8320E, some mobo (Asus M5A99X EVO R2.0? Or maybe there are better ones for the price) and some much more silent GPU (R7 265 / R9 270? Or maybe there's something not much more expensive and better?). Do you think I will notice some justifable difference? :) Reply
  • HappyHubris - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    From a X4 965 you really have no viable upgrade path.

    According to Anandtech's benchmark, upgrading from a X4 965 to FX 8320E would give you
    Reply
  • HappyHubris - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    From a X4 965 you really have no viable upgrade path.

    According to Anandtech's benchmark, upgrading from a X4 965 to FX 8320E would give you less than 10% improvement in average FPS:

    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/product/102?vs=698

    It looks like a Haswell i3 would be quite an upgrade, based on the SB i3 performance vs. AMD parts:

    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/CPU/62
    Reply
  • piteq - Monday, January 26, 2015 - link

    Thank you! Eh, seems AMD marketing should never, ever show WoW results to anyone ;) Ineed, if not i3, then i5 seems to much more sensible path, especially it's not THAT more expensive thank 8320E. Well, it's just a weird, very bad for AMD case, still… Reply
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Sunday, February 15, 2015 - link

    Buy a GTX970, you're done. Reply

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