MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming Software

MSI’s software package for Z87 is a mixture of old and new.  The stalwart of the package, Live Update 5, is still present in all its glory.  So far in terms of auto-update packages, MSI’s was the first to reach an echelon worthy of an update package that informs the user and applies the updates.  Other manufacturers are now getting into the groove, but MSI have that initial advantage.

In terms of the new, Command Center gets a fresh update.  Click BIOS was not present on my install CD, suggesting it may no longer be part of the package.  The new Command Center is a visual uplift from the old version, giving the user more control and a better experience in order to adjust the system – this includes a better visual of the fan controls as well.

However we start at the installation disk and not much has changed here.  The interface has two main options at the top (Driver, Utility) which expand into several options below and a ‘Total Installer’ button.  This button opens up a menu whereby the user can select/deselect options (such as Norton Antivirus) to install.  I am beginning to get to a position where the Driver CD on loading should be showing information about the current setup as detected, such as CPU/motherboard numbers.  This way we can verify the hardware we are dealing with without loading additional programs or opening up the case.  Perhaps this is something easily implementable to think about for the future.

One of the first things that the user might notice on the initial installation is the MSI theme that gets applied when everything is installed.  I am of the opinion that this is a good positive move for motherboard companies, as long as the pictures are tasteful and fit.  I know a good number of users will customize an OS setup regardless, but it does provide a sense of ownership for those that leave it in the background.

MSI EasyViewer

First in MSI’s lineup is EasyViewer, a replacement of Windows Photo Viewer with a few extra commands for resizing and slideshows.  Personally I use FastStone Image Viewer for my image previews (and one of our benchmark tests) as it does almost the same thing with a lot more options.

MSI Live Update 5

The big plus in the MSI package is from Live Update 5 (LU5).  With LU5 the system will connect to the internet, detect the current platform, get a list of available software on the MSI servers, and then compare this to the software it can detect on the system.  If there is a discrepancy in the version, it offers a download.  Alongside the software available, the system also checks BIOS versions against the latest available on the servers.  The only issue for me is that the program does not tell you the size of the download until you are actually downloading it, which could be an issue for limited bandwidth users if they end up downloading 200 MB of audio drivers rather than 5 MB of other software.

MSI / Intel Extreme Tuning Utility

Motherboard manufacturers have an option to include the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, which in essence is a basic overclocking tool for all Intel based platforms.  With the tool a user can adjust all the overclock settings as well as find out plenty of information about the system as well as stress test any overclock.  This software is actually rather slick and easy to use, so a fair few motherboard manufacturers should consider using XTU as a base for an overclocking tool.

Qualcomm Atheros Killer Network Manager

As MSI are using a Killer NIC on the motherboard, the software to go with the NIC provided by Qualcomm Atheros is on the install disk.  The Killer network port, with the right drivers and software, is designed to bypass the Windows network stack and fast track programs with higher priority for data transfer.  This allows gamers to prioritize VoIP and game traffic over background tasks.

With the software being integrated into a hardware component, the emphasis is on lower CPU usage.  Many motherboard manufacturers now offer their $150+ products with a version of cFosSpeed which attempts to perform a similar function to QAK but purely in software, which could increase CPU usage.  There is a clear price premium for using the Killer NIC in this regard.

MSI Super RAID

Not to be confused with Super RAID on MSI’s gaming laptop range (which involves mSATA SSDs in RAID), MSI have included a tool to help users get to grip with some of the Intel tools such as Smart Response and Smart Connect.  As long as the options are enabled in the BIOS, this software allows users to quickly set up each feature.

With the cost of SSDs tumbling over the past 24 months, I wonder how many users are still using Smart Response with an SSD+HDD combination.

MSI Video Genie

The Video Genie software is a software tool designed by MSI to adjust the monitor settings on the fly for various on-screen visuals.  Thus in a dark scene on a film it will attempt to provide more focus by making the screen contrast higher, or as shown below will attempt to adjust the screen for a more ‘lively’ feel.  This type of feature is arguably a software replacement for some of the more hardware based solutions.

MSI Fast Boot

With motherboards now allowing for hardware enhancements to improve POST time to Windows 8, it can be difficult for users to get into the BIOS if the system bypasses the ‘Press F2 to enter BIOS’.  For overclockers the solution is easy with ‘Go2BIOS’ buttons now being implemented on MSI motherboards.  However if the system is in a case, there has to be a software solution, and MSI provide Fast Boot for this, with a Go2BIOS option.

Sound Blaster Cinema

As part of the drive to better audio solutions on motherboards, along with MSI’s Audio Boost, we have access to Sound Blaster Cinema software.  This is a relatively simple interface designed to apply automatic EQ settings for 5.1 surround setups for films.  Unfortunately it upset our audio testing a fair bit and had to be disabled for the benchmark.

MSI Command Center

The last piece of the MSI software stack is our upgraded version of Command Center.  Previous iterations were fairly complex with lots of information in a large interface (a bit like XTU) but visually did not disrupt the user experience.  The new version of CC is of a similar ilk, however the settings are divided up to be easier to handle.  For example, here is the first screen giving simple overclock and fan control options:

MSI have tried to split up the various sections of CPU/DRAM/GPU into menus, however users can navigate left and right – this puts CC in the firing line for an upgraded smartphone app in the future.  With CC users can adjust fan controls, overclocks and voltages.  Rather alarmingly Control Center allows users to apply 2.1 volts to their CPU immediately:

This is a large oversight.  It would have been better for MSI to have an easy/advanced mode, where the advanced mode would allow voltages only extreme overclockers on sub-zero cooling would use.

A new element to CC is the addition of RAMDisk software, similar to ASRock’s XFast RAM:

If a user has a large pool of memory to use, any amount could be used to open up a RAM Disk and use it as a cache for some of the more readily used programs, such as web browsers, temp files or even page files.

Also available through CC is OC Genie, monitoring tools and an alert tool in case various values fall outside safe limits.

MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming BIOS MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming In The Box, Overclocking
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  • ShieTar - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Is there a special reason not to test the POST times and DPC latency of the Gigabyte Board? Its power consumption is quiet impressive, and whatever design measures have been used to achieve it do not seem to negatively affect the overall performance. So it would be interesting to complete the picture with the two measurements which are missing. Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    DPC Latency on the Gigabyte during testing was jumping around a fair bit, hitting 800+, though that is more likely due to the early BIOS revision. I need to run the POST test (as the results are strangely missing from my database) as well as the DPC test on a newer BIOS. Since I started testing almost every manufacturer has released newer BIOSes (as is always the way coming up to a launch) and I really have to lay the hammer down as testing a whole new BIOS takes a good 30 hours or so start to finish, so when I'm locked in that's it. That in a way does give an unfair advantage to the board I test last, but there's not a lot else I can do. I am still getting emails of BIOS updates for these boards as of yesterday.

    Ian
    Reply
  • tribbles - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Am I wrong in thinking that Gigabyte hasn't been doing well in the DPC Latency Test since Z77? If so, that's kind of surprising, since Gigabyte seems to be a "go-to" brand for digital audio workstation builders. Reply
  • IanCutress - Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - link

    I retested the UD3H on the F5 (public) BIOS, and it scored 164. The two next boards I have in for review got 160 and 157, which points fingers to the DPC on Haswell being 150+ regardless of motherboard. This might be a fundamental issue. Reply
  • Timur Born - Saturday, July 27, 2013 - link

    Run Prime95 (or turn off CPU power features) while measuring DPC latencies to see how much CPU power saving features affect DPCs. Reply
  • Rick83 - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Maybe a bad choice to use two different ways of graphing the Rightmark results.
    Being consistent with regard to cutting off the irrelevant bit of the graph makes it a much easier read.
    Now it appears at first glance as though the Gigabyte board is much better in THD+N, simply because the differences were so minuscule in the dynamic range bit.

    On another note: Shouldn't it be more interesting to use a standardized input instead of the input of the board? In the current protocol a good output could be handicapped by a bad input, and conversely. For most users the output is much more important than the input, so it might be better to test it independently? I would recommend using a USB soundcard as an easy means of doing this test on the same machine, without changing the setup protocol too much.

    And finally - I seem to remember Rightmark results for earlier reviews - it would be interesting to have those (or maybe a reference soundcard?) as comparison in the same graph. After all, for DPC you maintain a large cross-platform table as well.

    Nice thorough initial review, those nitpicks withstanding.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Unfortunately I can't adjust the engine to represent from 0 for negative values, I don't have access to the low level options. I forwarded it on as an issue.

    I'd love to use a standardized input with RMAA. I guess it would be good to get a sound card with an input that supercedes the output of the motherboard and put it through that way, and hopefully there won't be a driver conflict along the line. I'll see what I can do to get in the hardware for that, although many soundcards are designed more for output and the input dynamic range/distortion might be the limiting factor as is the case on motherboards. Something like the Xonar Essence STX has a 118 dBA input with -113 dBA THD+N which might be a good starting point.

    Our RMAA testing for Z87 has changed a little from Z77 to make it more of an efficiency test rather than an out-the-box test as audio is such a varied playing field. RMAA is very sensitive to certain windows settings and volumes for example such that with the right combination it was very easy to show A>B or B>A depending on how the OS felt it should be set up. The new testing regimen for RMAA should iron out those issues but the results are not exactly comparable to Z77 for that reason. There are so many wrong ways to set up RMAA it can be difficult (and a learning experience) to get it right.

    Ian
    Reply
  • popej - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Nice to see you are planning steps in right direction. Using reference card for measurements is a proper solution. Be aware, that separate card add complications to the test, for example you will have to take care about ground loops and signal level matching. Professional card with balanced input could help a lot. Reply
  • Timur Born - Saturday, July 27, 2013 - link

    Balanced inputs would only help when the outputs to be tested offered balanced outputs, but you won't find these on mainboard solutions. Still a professional solution might be preferable, because don't just concentrate on listing theoretical spec numbers of the converter chips, but also make sure to get the most out of it in practical implementation.

    The English ASUS site lists little (and partly wrong) information about the Xonar Essence STX for example, there is much better information on the German site, though. Still they list frequency response at -3 (three!) dB points, while usually you would choose -0.5 dB or -1 dB points to give a real picture.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    While the Intel block diagram for the DZ87KLT-75K does appear to show 20 lanes of PCIe 3.0 coming from the CPU, the 8 PCIe 2.0 lanes from the PCH are used for the GbE controllers (2 x1), Thunderbolt controller (1 x4), the PCIe mini card / mSATA slot (1 x1), and a "PCIe Hub" (1 x1). We can presume this is really a conventional PCIe switch, and the Marvell 88SE9172, the 3 x1 slots, and the PCIe to PCI bridge are all connected to that.

    What's the deal with FDI now that there are display connections coming directly from the CPU? The block diagrams still show FDI and the Thunderbolt controller being fed DisplayPort from the PCH. Are the CPU display outputs DP 1.2 and the PCH connections still DP 1.1a?
    Reply

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