M7 is an Intel 200-series motherboard and as such carries support for the latest Intel 7th Generation of Core Processors codenamed Kaby Lake. The socket on our motherboard is therefore LGA 1151 – for those with a Skylake processor, the Intel Core i7-6700K is also compatible.
Along with a strong presence of Military Class 5 components, the M7 employs a 8+2+1 phase power design.
Covering the VRM system we have two dedicated heatsinks which use the consistent gunmetal design seen throughout the board. These heatsinks are not connected in any way but operate independently.
Along the top-edge MSI has given M7 an 8+4-pin CPU power socket which should help with sustaining bigger overclocks. Further along there are also two fan headers – one which is specifically for closed loop pumps and the other for the CPU fan – fan headers on M7 can use DC or PWM mode.
Casting an eye over the memory region, there are four slots for dual channel DDR4 and there is support for up to 64GB and 4133MHz kits. There aren’t many boards which support such high frequency DDR4, so this comes as a speciality.
Just like other board partners, MSI has engineered M7 to use steel reinforced memory slots which is intended to provide some longevity. Furthermore, MSI also includes DDR4 Boost with GAMING M7 which isolates the signal between the CPU and memory slots for clean delivery and uninterrupted performance – similar to audio solutions.
We also have some additional features in the memory area which should come in handy:
• LEZ Debug panel – for diagnostics on POST
• Diagnostic LEDs – quick diagnosis of malfunction of CPU, DRAM, VGA and Boot
• MemOK! – ensures enhanced compatibility for troublesome memory
• Voltage check-points – for use with a multimeter
Immediately next to the 24-pin ATX there is a single USB 3.0 header which is angled and a USB 3.1 header with flash BIOS button. Again, there aren’t many boards which will support USB 3.1 front headers at this stage so this comes as a welcome inclusion and futureproofs the configuration.
Moving along, we arrive at the storage which consists of a number of different standards. We have:
• 6x SATA 3 (6GB/s) ports
• 1x U.2 port
• 3x M.2 (PCIe 3.0 x4 with Intel Optane Memory support)
By including three M.2 slots, MSI diversify from other brands and make it possible to construct a system which is entirely made up of NVMe storage. All three slots are found in the PCI express region and one even features MSI’s M.2 Shield which is designed to protect the M.2 and claims to reduce temperatures.
Something to be aware of is that the U.2, third M.2 and SATA 5-6 all share the same bandwidth.
Behind all the storage ports we have a substantial heatsink sitting on top of the Intel Z270 chip. This heatsink has a lovely gunmetal finish and contains customisable LEDs (Via Mystic Light) for those interested in brightening the system up.
Running along the bottom of the board there is another USB 3.0 header, some onboard power/reset buttons and the OC switch/dial for incremental on-the-fly overclocking.
Moving over the PCI Express department, we have the following available:
• 3x PCI Express 3.0 X16
• 3x PCI Express 3.0 X1
The modes for each of the PCI Express X16s are: x16, x8, x8. So, if you are intending to use just one graphics card the top slot is the best one to go with. All three of the PCI Express used for graphics card usage are steel reinforced to give better durability – which is useful since some of the high-end graphics cards nowadays are quite large and heavy.
MSI has included a plastic fascia for each PCI slot which also utilise RGB LEDs – the lighting can be modified and syncs with the rest of the LEDs on the board.
M7 arrives with MSI’s fourth rendition of their audio solution – Audio Boost 4 PRO. At the heart of Audio Boost are twin Realtek ALC1220 codecs, we also get separated left and right channels and de-pop protection. All of the components are isolated along an LED border to prevent interference.
Last of all, we come to the Rear IO section which hosts quite a large selection of ports. Included here we have:
- 1 x PS/2 mouse & keyboard combo port
- 3 x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
- 1 x Clear CMOS button
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI™ port
- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A port
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
- 5 x OFC audio jacks
It’s great to see USB 3.1 Gen2 support on the back panel but once the keyboard and mouse are connected up, there are very few USB ports available. We’d have liked to see more USB at the back of the board – this is really the only limiting factor.