MSI Z270 Krait Gaming LGA 1151 Motherboard Review

While it is generally the flagship motherboards that grab the most attention, it's the midrange offerings that see the most sales. MSI's Z270 Krait Gaming motherboard is one of those bread and butter type offerings. It has everything the gamer needs without the unnecessary and expensive fluff.

Introduction

MSI is one of the world's most popular DIY motherboard brands. Enthusiasts all over the world choose MSI for innovation, reliability, and even style. MSI has a long history of motherboard design and production dating back to the 1980s. Today, MSI has a vast product portfolio which cover a diverse range of computing hardware and markets. This is in spite of MSI's focus on gaming above all other areas of enthusiast or professional computing. MSI offers motherboards, video cards, gaming peripherals, laptops, and even full desktops. Despite this, MSI remains known predominantly for its motherboard offerings. even though it has gained great ground in the enthusiast laptop segment.

MSI's gaming offerings come in three basic segments: Enthusiast Gaming, Performance Gaming, and Arsenal Gaming. These segments aren't as self-explanatory as they probably should but, but things become clearer when you start researching the prices of any given model online. The Enthusiast Gaming parts are the top of the stack. Performance Gaming brings up the middle and Arsenal Gaming is the lower echelon of the lineup. Generally, enthusiasts with larger budgets for system upgrades or builds are likely to opt for the more feature rich Enthusiast lineup while the slightly more budget conscious may take a middle of the road approach getting a lot of the same features for less, while retaining most of the performance. Arsenal Gaming products are largely for those on a more limited budget. The products in this lineup do still offer several of the core features that any enthusiast expects, but some cost cutting is required to hit their target price point. These are often still quite capable, but you do have to accept some compromises at this price point.

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The MSI's Z270 Krait Gaming is part of MSI's Performance Gaming line and can be found online for $145 at Amazon today. MSI's Krait Dragon motherboards in particular have a unique flare that's unlike everything else in its lineup. The black and white color scheme isn't so unusual these days, but the pattern on the PCB is unique. The Z270 Krait Gaming is based on Intel's Z270 Express chipset and is designed for use with Intel's 6th and 7th generation LGA 1151 compatible CPUs. Like any Z270 motherboard, the Z270 Krait Gaming supports DDR4 memory, SATA 6Gb/s, GbE LAN, PCI-Express 3.0, USB 3.0/3.1, Optane, M.2, and more. Above and beyond the basic Z270 Express chipset features, the Z270 Krait Gaming supports Nahamic 2, AudioBoost 4, SLI, Crossfire, and MSI's Military Class 5 components and features.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The package has some interesting box art, but is otherwise industry standard. Our sample arrived intact, with no damage or missing items. Inside the box, you'll find the following items: 1x MSI Z270 Krait Gaming motherboard, user guide, driver disc, SATA cables, I/O shield, and an SLI bridge.

Board Layout

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The layout of the motherboard is excellent with only a couple of minor issues. The only issues that come to mind are the location of the CMOS battery or the vertical SATA ports. The PCB has six fan headers onboard. These can be controlled through DC and PWM modes. The Z270 Krait Gaming uses all solid-electrolytic capacitors called "dark caps." These have lower equivalent series resistance or ESR than some competing options and can have a service life of around 10 years in some applications. MSI uses both Titanium and Dark chokes as well. These should allow for as much as 30% improved power efficiency and lower temperatures respectively.

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The CPU socket area is relatively clear of obstructions, although the DIMM slots are closer than I'd like these to be as dictated by the Intel specification. This is only an issue when using larger air coolers in conjunction with taller memory modules. If using AIO units or lower profile RAM then it shouldn't be an issue. A total of 10 phases can be counted around the CPU socket, which are in an 8+2 phase configuration. Our MOSFET coolers aren’t screwed down tightly (these use spring pins), allowing movement of the heat sinks which is common on lower priced motherboards. Despite this, the heat sinks worked relatively well giving us temperatures of 94F (right) and 109F (top). This is not a bad result all things considered. I’ve seen nicer heat sinks with far worse load temperatures than these.

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The MSI Z270 Krait Gaming motherboard has four 288-pin DDR4 DIMM slots supporting memory speeds up to DDR4 3800MHz through overclocking. These slots use dual locking tabs for memory retention. Fortunately, these slots are far enough from the first PCIe slot that this design choice won't be an issue. These slots are color coded to denote proper dual-channel memory mode operation.

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The chipset is located to the left of the memory slots and directly in front of the expansion slot area. The chipset is cooled by a simple, flat heat sink. The finish work isn't terribly impressive, but it is not amateur hour either.In front of the heat sink you'll find six SATA ports. Four of these are the standard right angle type most of the medium range and higher motherboards have been using for several years now. Strangely, MSI chose to use two vertical ports here as well. This doesn't, and never has made any sense to me. No one who cares about computer aesthetics would want to use 6 SATA cables and have 2 of them go a totally different direction than the rest. It just doesn't provide for a good look when it comes to cable routing if you use all of these. Even worse is that these typically don't work well with larger GPUs as the cables end up in the path of the GPU. While that didn't happen here, it still looks bad.

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The expansion slot area is well thought out and almost perfectly executed. I don't care for the location of the CMOS battery, and now that I think about it, the secondary M.2 slot could be in a better place. That said, the slots themselves are placed optimally as far as I'm concerned. The primary M.2 slot is above the primary GPU slot. There is ample room between GPUs, which is ideal for SLI/Crossfire users. The PCIe x16 slots support a configuration of x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4. There are also three PCIe x1 slots which are all gen 3.0 compliant. MSI's Z270 Krait Gaming also features it's "Steel ARmor" with hydro-dipped paint. The armor is only on the slots intended for use with graphics cards. The paint job is nice as it keeps slots that use the armor, or don't use it from looking radically different on the same PCB.

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The I/O panel is relatively basic on the Z270 Krait Gaming. There is a dedicated PS/2 gaming port for either a keyboard or mouse. 1x DVI-D port, 1x HDMI port, 1x RJ-45 port, 2x USB 2.0 ports, 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (Type-A, 1x Type-C port.), 6x mini-stereo jacks for analog output. The analog outputs are color coded by plastic rings. These do not have the premium gold plating we see on higher end motherboards.