Sunday, August 31, 2014

MicroReview - MSI B75MA-E31 Motherboard

Disclaimer / warning: This review contains opinions. Also, if you're looking for a technical specification or unbiased information on how this piece of hardware actually fulfills it's duty, you won't likely find it here. But, if you are a system builder and would like a second opinion or hints on what to keep in mind when working with this specific component, look no further. :)

MSI B75MA-E31, it's the one with solid capacitors. A micro-ATX motherboard, with an LGA1155 socket for your Intel CPUs. This is what it looks like fully clothed:

(1) - Friendly GUI should really be named "awesome GUI". Essentially, it has an old-school Phoenix BIOS - looking tabbed GUI interface, with tons of options to configure and mouse support. Fun!

The box contains just the motherboard, a disc with chipset drivers on it, a back-panel for an ATX case, an installation guide and two SATA cables, which also makes the box surprisingly small, even for a micro-ATX board.
When unpacked, this is what the board looks like:
... and with some additional views:

A few things to note here:
  • There's just one SATA III connector. This is stated in the tech specs as well, but if you're planning on building a fast software RAID array on top of this board (and you like to do it eyes closed), you might be out of luck.
  • There's a good-old PCI socket available, which means you can hook some older hardware on the board as well.
  • The auxiliary CPU power input and the main power supply socket are quite far away from each other. There's likely a good technical reason for that in terms of electrical engineering, but just make sure that the power cables from the PSU can bend that way.
  • The pin set for front-panel connectors might not exactly match what's described in the "quick installation guide". Although the main pins, such as HDD LED, power switch, reset switch and power LED work fine, pins for SLED and PLED did not seem to be where shown in the guide.

When installing the motherboard, take note of the screw hole layout on this board. The bottom ones are not aligned into a rectangle, but rather with a wider distance between the front holes (H and R, in terms of the microATX standard). Or don't, and end up like I did:

The rear panel looks simple and clear, probably just a bit hard to see in low light, because of embossed markings.

Just try to make sure that all of the thin metal edges around the sockets have been bent properly before installing the board. Otherwise, you'll end up with this:

All in all, MSI B75MA-E31 is a lovely little motherboard to work with, as long as you're satisfied with a basic set of features and a small price tag.

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