MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC AMD Ryzen Motherboard Review

MSI’s X470 Gaming M7 AC has a lot going for it with Precision Boost 2. It’s gaming and overclocking focus makes for a compelling option in a competitive sea of motherboard options for AMD’s new Ryzen processors. It has performance and looks as well, and a bit of subtle RGB if that is a checkbox you require.

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Motherboard Overclocking Software

MSI has continued to package its Command Center software with its motherboards. The software allows for PC health monitoring and tuning within the Windows operating system environment. I’ve been a long-standing critic of this software for a variety of reasons. Primarily, because the software doesn’t seem to follow any sort of organizational logic that I can understand. The software’s design aesthetic is very pleasing, but it’s nothing short of schizophrenic functionality standpoint. Elements of the application seem as though they were developed by entirely different groups with no cohesive planning.

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This software has been virtually unchanged for a few years now. It may very well be the oldest of all the software packages out there. While AI Suite III could be older overall, it is certainly had more changes over the years than Command Center has had. Regarding the schizophrenic nature of the application design, several of the more advanced settings are hidden. Logical thing to do, would be to have a category for CPU settings, and then put an advanced menu and it if you wanted any separation. It’s not what MSI does. Instead, it to menus for many categories. There’s two different places you adjust RAM settings. The advanced menu for this, isn’t readily visible and nowhere near the DRAM tab at the top of the application window. The application is also fixed window size can’t be adjusted. It does have a mini mode which is next to useless as an option instead of using the full-sized application window.

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The application wastes a lot of space by making everything really large in this set-window-size and thus forcing the menus to be deeper than they need to be. When the application doesn’t follow a logical workflow or general layout, it creates a steep learning curve for using the application. While voltages and memory settings are not where you would expect them to be the CPU menu for the application is quite good. The only issue I have with it is the multiplier and base clock frequency adjustment settings which have the plus and minus buttons for manipulating the values set far apart. For whatever reason the previous value current value and the next value are displayed in a way that takes up a lot of room. Buttons to reset the defaults look like little paintbrushes which don’t make a whole lot of sense. These are tiny! I can’t really tell which brings up information about a given setting. These information markers are used somewhat infrequently and not necessarily where you want them.

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I will give the application a few positive notes though. The CPU menu is generally intuitive, and once you find it the voltage menu is quite excellent. Has a slight learning curve but not a steep one. Fan control is a bit of a mess. However, this is one area that’s been improved over the years. There is more functionality here than there used to be. You have the traditional fan speed and temperature graph with plot points that can be manipulated for certain duty cycles. For some reason there’s also a stereo knob looking menu for adjusting fan control as well. There is no real rhyme or reason why the difference exists other than to display that schizophrenic design philosophy I’ve mentioned so many times. Auto tuning for fan speeds was added couple of versions back so the missing functionality all its competition had for some time is now available in Command Center.

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MSI has a real-time onboard temperature sensor control menu which shows a map of the motherboard with temperature readouts and almost a predator style thermal display for each of those zones. Not only is it aesthetically appealing but it’s actually useful. You can ascertain information at a quick glance and see more PC health information on the right. This too is a recent addition to the Command Center software suite. Although, I’m not entirely sure when this showed up. The navigation bar at the top of the application window isn’t all that useful. Aside from the CPU menu virtually everything up there is useless. Everything of value is generally hidden by the advance setting or information tabs at the bottom of the application window. When you click on these buttons that were previously hidden appear and you can further manipulate the software to do what you needed to do.

One other final knock against the software comes from the fact that there isn’t a real automatic overclocking feature to speak up. All the software does is tell you to use the game boost knob on the PCB. It does give you a basic map of what each of the buttons does regarding the actual settings you should see. However, there is no stability testing component, no algorithm for determining what overclock’s are safe and which ones aren’t. Even on its maximum setting, a Ryzen 7 1800X would only see a very modest 3.9GHz overclock. In this area, MSI lags the other manufacturers significantly. And the "turn it up to 11" knob is gimmicky at best and not truly aimed at the enthusiast crowd. The knob is for n00bs, so they think they are "overclocking" and not getting trouble on this board.

I really think the application was designed around a certain aesthetic first with function added as a secondary objective. This can be evidenced by the inconsistent design as well as the haphazard add-ons to the software over the years which increase the functionality. I also believe that there is legacy code from an earlier software package MSI used prior to command Center. The exact same bug exhibited by its predecessor is present and Command Center regarding memory information menus. Accessing these menus can sometimes cause the application to crash. I haven’t seen this specifically with rising based systems, however I have seen it with Command Center within the last year or so.

Fortunately, Command Center isn’t the only game in town. AMD processor owners can opt to use AMD’s excellent Ryzen Master software. MSI includes Intel’s XTU or Extreme Tuning Utility with all its Intel processor compatible motherboards. These software packages are far better than Command Center, therefore I don’t think Command Centers flaws or inadequacies should be a deal breaker. To be honest I rarely allow my feelings about software to influence hardware purchase decisions unless that software prevents me from using the hardware to its fullest, we are talking about drivers were talking about an optional software package that you would only use occasionally at best, and again, you have other options which I’ve already mentioned as an alternative. Wouldn’t say this is a total nonissue, but it’s something I would regard as a minor component in the decision-making process when cross comparing motherboards from different manufacturers.

Mystic Lighting

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Mystic light software recently got a revamp which you can see in the screenshot provided. It’s a single application window with no submenus or anything beyond what you see here. Strangely, for the most part it’s very easy to use. You don’t lack too much (if any) functionality compared to seemingly more complex RGB LED lighting utilities. That’s a good thing. However, my beef with this particular software package comes down to one simple problem. It doesn’t work. That is to say, whatever you configure either gets ignored by the motherboard or stops working randomly for no reason. To be honest we don’t have motherboards on the test bench for more than a week or two. So, issues like that which could take a long time to manifest fly under the radar when testing hardware in this fashion. It’s an unfortunate fact of the review process.

That said, I have found ASUS’ Aura software does the same thing on my own personal machine. The software works, but every now and then I have to reset the RGB controls because it seems to forget my settings. This could be an environmental issue or not but it’s something that took months to happen. With MSI’s Mystic Light software, it can happen in an hour or couple of days. I don’t know why does this. I’ve updated the latest versions available on the manufacturer’s website which is a mixed bag and of itself. I sometimes seem to resolve the problem and other times it creates new problems doing that. Speaking of the X470 Gaming M7 AC specifically, I found that the motherboard defaults to an animated LED effect, I generally turn this off and made the color static, and it would go back to being animated for seemingly no reason. It did this several times over the course of my testing.

Regarding this specific motherboard only, I didn’t experience the application being totally unresponsive to input commands as I have in the past. That is at least a step in the right direction where RGB light control is concerned. Over the years, I’ve come to know people at various motherboard manufacturers and I can say that MSI has been pretty good about addressing criticism and taking it to heart. Eventually I expect a lot of these issues to be resolved. Unfortunately, MSI is not always quick to do that. Some other brands are a little bit faster when it comes to taking this sort of criticism and making a change. Oddly, companies that are larger than MSI at least in regard to motherboard revenue tend to actually make these changes in response to criticism faster than it does.

The only reason I bring this up is because while I think Command Center is entirely optional, replaceable, and ultimately forgettable, the Mystic light software isn’t. You are stuck with it for RGB LED light control at this time. In this one instance, I think MSI is in far worse shape than GIGABYTE or ASUS are. You can generally get it to do what you want but it’s something you may have to mess with a lot. So, if you’re somebody who’s embraced the RGB LED craze it is something that you might have to consider as a drawback going with an MSI motherboard at this time. That said, one thing MSI does that I haven’t seen on competing motherboards is the ability to control the RGB LED lighting from a smartphone. While I won’t get into all of the specifics, MSI now offers a mobile version of the Mystic Light software, so that you can control everything from a smartphone or tablet.