MSI Z87I motherboard review

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The Intel Z77 PCH

PCH - The Platform Controller Hub Chipsets

Okay first a generic / reference overview of the new Series 8 Chipset from Intel. Paired with Haswell processors come a handful of new motherboard chipsets, five are intended for desktop processors, namely the B85, H87, Q85, Q87 and Z87. For end consumers like you and me the H87 chipset will be less performance targeted and comes with better support for HTPC monitor connectivity. The Z87 chipset is targeted at performance and enthusiast end users allowing much more tweaking and providing performance features. Below, you can see a block table with the differences in Series 7 and now the series 8 chipset and thus motherboard features.


In-between say a Z77 and Z87 chipset only a few things have changed. Six native USB 3.0 support are to be found on the Z87 chipset as well as PCIe Gen 3 graphics slots and up-to six native SATA ports. Z87 will get six SATA 6 Gbps ports which is the one big difference with Z77.


Overall though the new Z87 series chipsets will come with the same amount of controllers as P67/Z77. That means you get six SATA3 ports native from the PCH chip. With PCIe Gen 3, SLI and Crossfire with supported cards should run quite well on them.

PCIe lanes

With PCIe Gen 3.0 Haswell processors and platforms can feature 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes to be used for graphics and/or other add-in PCI cards. All desktop chipsets have a single PCIe x16 device, the two Z8x chipsets add the option to use two devices at x8. The inclusion of PCI Express Gen 3 is great, but what does that boil down to? Well, simply put, PCI Express Gen 3 provides a 2X faster transfer rate than the previous generation, this delivers capabilities for next generation extreme gaming solutions. PCI Express Gen 3 has twice the available bandwidth, 32GB/s, improved efficiency and compatibility and as such it will offer better performance for current and next gen PCI Express cards. Going from PCIe Gen 2 to Gen 3 doubles the bandwidth available to the add-on cards installed, from 500MB/s per lane to 1GB/s per lane. So a Gen 3 PCI Express x16 slot is capable of offering 16GB/s (or 128Gbit/s) of bandwidth in each direction. That results in 32GB/sec bi-directional bandwidth. Obviously the hardware you use needs to be compatible.


USB 3.0

It should be abundantly clear by now but USB 3.0 is supported at chipset level by Intel, which should save motherboard vendors money when building Intel chipset based boards and hopefully making them overall less complicated to design. In addition to that, we will hopefully see better USB 3.0 performance. The chipset will host 6 USB 3.0 ports. Next to that 14 USB 2.0 ports are supported from the PCH.

LGA 1150 - A new Socket

With Sandy Bridge we moved to socket LGA 1155 and for Ivy Bridge we kept that socket. Haswell however will have a new socket, LGA 1150. The bad news is that you'll be required to purchase a new motherboard. The good news is that the cooler pins are similar to 1155/1156 so you can re-use your cooler. So, you do not need to purchase a new CPU cooler.


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