Conclusion and Rating
In the component world there are a number of areas in our PC which don’t offer a lot of change between models. Often it is a tweak here, or a tweak there that seperates two CPUs for example… or some clock speed changes on reference design graphics cards. Motherboards on the other hand have massive scope for change and this allows manufacturers to build a wide range of products which cater for different prices and needs.
For Gigabyte the Z87-D3HP sits in the sub £100 price range and looks to offer an entry level board in the Z87 segment. What does that mean for us as consumers? Well overall they have done well to maintain a decent level of quality, for example sticking with the same PWM parts we saw on their higher end boards recently and using a quality Intel GB LAN controller. We also get a decent amount of USB and SATA 3.0 ports along with a BIOS which is shared across their range… as are the software tools.
While nice touches like individual fuses per USB ports are also present, as is a 2nd CPU fan header some of the nicer features don’t make it to this board such as loads of extra system fan headers, voltage read points, status LEDs as well as on-board buttons but none of these are essential for a low cost system. In fact really the only item of note which will need to be considered by the budget conscious user is that this model of board isn’t ideal for multi-GPU use. It doesn’t support SLI and in Crossfire the 2nd slot is limited to 4x speed. For those who won’t buy a second card this is a non-issue but worth keeping in mind.
Are there any significant areas of design we would change on the Gigabyte board? We would change the direction of the SATA and USB 3.0 internal ports so that they were pointing out to the side… especially the SATA as they can clash with a GPU in the 2nd slot. Sys Fan 2 is a little oddly placed so would make wiring it messy and a clear CMOS switch would have been appreciated.
Looking next at the MSI board we have a product which is a step up from the Gigabyte in price and so while it too sticks to some decent build quality (solid capacitors, ferrite core chokes etc) and it too has dual CPU fan headers there are areas where the additional price adds extra features. These include a mSATA slot, SLI support (with 2×8 PCIe config), voltage read points, Killer NIC and headphone amplifier with Creative audio software. Interestingly though it doesn’t have as many USB 3.0 ports, or internal connectors as the lower cost Gigabyte board.
What about changes for the MSI? Overall, not a lot. We don’t really feel the voltage read points are needed on a board of this spec so cost could have been saved there. Having the 8pin connector closer to the edge of the PCB would be beneficial to wiring also but we do have to praise the inclusion of CMOS button and the location and direction of the USB 3.0 internal header.
In use we preferred Gigabyte’s BIOS and software suite, in board features the nod goes to MSI in this comparison which is no surprise given the additional cost but for performance there was little to choose between the two. In tests other than PCIe/SLI/CrossFire the two boards offered very similar performance and allowed our i7-4770k and 7990 to run really well.
Options are always nice and for those on a budget looking to build a 4th Gen Core CPU Intel system and use a single graphics card the Z87-D3HP offers a simple, good quality option. Want a bit more flexibility with some additional cost? Then the MSI could be the way to go… and of course those with money to build a high end board should definitely take note of the G1.Sniper 5 and Z87 XPower models.
|GIGABYTE Z87-D3HP Motherboard|
|Where to buy…|
|SCAN.co.uk – £107.10|
|MSI Z87-G45 Gaming Motherboard|
|Where to buy…|
|Overclockers.co.uk – £119.99|