Those of you attached to the Intel brand know that there are four chipsets to choose from for LGA 1155 – H61, B75, H77 and Z77. H61 services the low-end markets and typically features boards that are cheaper than R600. H77 covers markets starting from R850 to R1200 and typically doesn’t tread too much on the toes of its bigger brother, Z77, which goes all out with features and overclocking capabilities. B75 is a business-orientated chipset and has some features only found on boards costing a lot more and only found in OEM computers. Boards using the chipset feature between the R700 and R900 price range, a very tightly-contested spot in the market.
However, its price and otherwise comprehensive feature set means its a better buy for those stuck in the middle of H77 and H61. And because its been so popular of late, MSI decided to hop into the bandwagon and release their own middle of the mid-range board: the B75MA-G43.
Firstly, lets get the competitors out the way. MSI has to slot in between Asrock’s B75M and Gigabyte’s B75M-D3H. Asrock’s B75M has the upper hand with featuring a remarkable seven SATA slots on a board costing less than R800 – only FM2-based boards equal that so from the start, the Asrock board is the better pick if you want to build a low-cost server with lots of drive space to spare. Gigabyte’s board was the better pick in the past thanks to its USB charging features, low cost and rotated SATA ports. It now retails for R900, though, somewhat blowing away any advantage the board had from the beginning.
ASUS also makes the P8B75-M LE, featuring four rotated SATA ports but also chops off the front-panel USB 3.0 ports, which is a bit of a shame and it also only features one SATA3 port – both Asrock and Gigabyte have three and 1 respectively. Intel also makes B75 boards but they’re terrible – seriously, they’re just green and remarkably ugly, like they’ve been hacked together by a Greenpeace worker who doesn’t like technology but somehow wants to get some sort of statement across. Asrock, by all accounts then, is the one to beat.
MSI’s contender features Crossfire support, a five-phase VRM and four DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of RAM at speeds of DDR3-2200. Two of the SATA ports have been rotated and they are SATA 6GB/s compliant with the black-coloured ones stuck at SATA 3GB/s speeds. It has front-panel USB 3.0 support but only for one port – its not a train smash, though, considering most chassis manufacturers are putting just one USB 3.0 port on the front panel to save costs anyway and Asrock’s board doesn’t have any USB 3.0 front-panel support (something I’m only picking up on now, sorry guys!). It one-ups the other B75 competitors by featuring 8-channel audio and rounds off the package with a second PCI-Express 2.0 slot with four lanes wired to the PCH.
It looks like a carbon copy of Gigabyte’s layout, which isn’t bad to start off with. The B75MA-G43′s layout may put off some but its priced at just $60 – so when all is said and done, it may just be cheaper when it lands here than Asrock’s board… not that they have to worry, though. There’s also only two fan ports so those of you putting this into, say, a Cooler Master Elite 371, will either have to snag a cheap fan controller or let your fans run at 100% speed while connected to the PSU; that’s not a bad thing at all, just that people who hear better than me might get annoyed with the noise.
All in all, MSI’s newcomer looks like a good attempt at breaking the budget barrier. Its in the middle of the middle-class boards and won’t be remiss even when paired up with a Core i7-3770. Unfortunately, though, with Asrock being the new budget king, its going to be a hard game convincing buyers back to the MSI brand again.