Motherboards PC Hardware

REVIEW | MSI X470 Gaming Plus

MSI has announced five different motherboards for their X470 line up designed for different kinds of gamers and PC enthusiasts. The MSI X470 Gaming Plus is the most affordable motherboard in the line-up and they sent this to us to check out.

What’s in the box?

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The front of the box has the typical MSI Gaming Plus branding but notably, it already indicates that the motherboard itself is “AMD RYZEN DESKTOP 2000 READY” so that means that the 2nd Generation of Ryzen processors will work out of the box without having to flash a new BIOS.

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At the back of the box, you can see the specifications of the motherboard as well as some of the highlighted features.

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The contents of the box are as follows:

  • MSI X470 Gaming Plus motherboard
  • 2x sata cables
  • I/O Shield
  • the usual paperwork and manual
  • label stickers
  • driver CD
  • MSI case badge
  • Screws for the M.2 slots

Aesthetics

The  MSI X470 Gaming plus is a black and red themed ATX form-factor motherboard. It features a black PCB, red print aesthetics on the PCB itself as well as  on the VRM and chipset heatsinks. It also features an RGB lighting zone on the right side on the back of the motherboard that can be customized with MSI Mystic Light Sync RGB software.

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We think that the MSI X470 Gaming Plus itself looks pretty basic unlike the other slightly more expensive X470 motherboards in the line up. One notable difference is that  it doesn’t have an armor cover on top of the IO ports unlike the much similar MSI X470 Gaming Pro.

Main motherboard specifications and features

msi x470 gaming plus

Official Product Page

Connectivity

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I/O connectivity

For the back panel connections, we have the following:

  • PS/2 Combo Port
  • four USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
  • two USB 3.1 Gen2 ports
  • two USB 2.1 ports
  • HD Audio Connectors (7.1 surround)
  • Optical S/PDIF OUT
  • DVI-D Port
  • HDMI Port
  • Gigabit LAN Port

Internal connectivity

  • To deliver power to the CPU, the motherboard has one 8-pin ATX 12v and and additional 4-pin ATX 12v power connector. We found that using only the 8-pin ATX 12v is more than enough to power our 2nd Generation Ryzen processors to achieve their maximum overclock at around 4.1GHz-4.2GHz with our 650w power supply.The additional 4-pin ATX 12v is sort of unnecessary because an 8-core Ryzen Processor will pull out around 200-250w which won’t even max out the 8-pin ATX 12v connector.The CPU core current had an average of 15.886A delivery and the CPU package power consumption was around 39.17W with 4.1GHz overclock.
  • Standard 24-pin ATX power connector.
  • six SATA 6GB/s connectors.
  • two USB 2.0 connectors that supports up to 4 additional USB 2.0 ports.
  • two USB 3.1 Gen1 connectors that also supports up to 4 additional USB 3.1 ports.IMG_2576
  • one 4-pin CPU fan connector
  • one 4-pin PUMP fan connector that supports up to 2A

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  • four 4-pin system fan connectors. Some people might find this lacking especially PC enthusiasts nowadays use up to more than six case fans in their systems.

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  • It also has two 5050 RGB LED strip 12v connectors for people who are going to look for RGB connectivity. The RGB lights can be controlled with MSI’s Mystic light software.
  • Then finally, we have the Clear CMOS jumper and Clear CMOS button.

Those are some of the relevant internal connections that are commonly used nowadays but there are others as well that we didn’t list down.

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VRM power delivery and cooling

The motherboard looks like it has an 8-phase power delivery system on the v-core. But upon closer inspection, it’s actually a 4-phase because it is using the RT8894A Richtek VRM controller, which is a 4+2 phase voltage controller, which can’t also do doubling.

That may be something alarming for a lot of people in regard to the reliability of the VRMs but the VRM layout and MOSFETs has two pairs of highside and lowside MOSFET inductor in each phase which allows better current handling capability and  thermal dissipation.

Even though it may not be as appealing as a real 8-phase power delivery, the VRM design is pretty effective and will still be able to max out an 8-core Ryzen processor.

The SOC voltage has two phases and the memory VRM (VVDQ) has one phase.

The two chunky heat sinks spreads the heat very well with the VRM temperatures maxing out at 61°C with our Ryzen 5 2600X at 4.1GHz.

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Memory support and expansion slots

  • The motherboard has 4-DIMM slots that supports up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, with frequencies  up to 3466Mhz on A-XMP OC MODE.
  • There are also a number of PCIe slots:
    • PCIe 3.0 x16,
    • three PCIe 2.0 x1,
    • PCIe 3.0 x8,
    • and PCIe x4 slots
  • This motherboard also has two M.2  SSD slots for additional storage.
    Do take note that SATA 1 port will be unavailable when using the first M.2 slot and the sixth PCIe slot will be unavailable when using the second M.2 slot. This is mainly for the reason the PCI Express Bus are distributed between the CPU and the X470 chipset while the SATA controllers are linked to the X470 chipset itself. You can refer to the diagram below for more information.Capture1

PCIe distribution

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Taking a look at the diagram above, you can see how the PCIe lanes are distributed with a multi-GPU setup.

The MSI X470 Gaming plus has multi-GPU support up to 3-way AMD Crossfire technology when used with Ryzen desktop processors but with Ryzen APUs with Vega graphics and the A-Series and Athlon Processors, it  can only do up to 2-way AMD Crossfire.

UEFI BIOS features

EZMode

1 bios

The BIOS is very intuitive and easy to understand. The EZMode has all the basic information and functionalities such as the Bood device priority, A-XMP and GAME BOOST, M-Flash, and Hardware monitor.

The A-XMP switch lets you select two different XMP profiles that your memory modules can support. The GAME BOOST switch gives an additional 450Mhz to the base clock to the processor. Wth our our Ryzen 5 2600x, it gave a boost up to 4035Mhz and fed it a CPU core voltage up to  1.3v.

Turning on the GAME BOOST is not recommended when you are going to do manual overclocking because it could lead to system instability.

Advanced mode

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The Advanced Mode features all the things you need to tweak your CPU, Memory, and motherboard settings.

OC settings menu

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The OC settings is pretty much easy to understand and people who have no prior experience in overclocking will easily get a hold of the settings.

The OC Explore Mode has two different settings, Normal and Advanced. Normal mode is pretty much everything that you will need to overclock and is recommended for overclock rookies.

One notable setting here is the Core Performance Boost which is utilized by AMD’s SenseMI technology for auto-overclocking by increasing the CPU frequency and voltage as long as the thermal headroom allows it.

Hardware monitor

You can program different fan curves for your CPU and case fans in the Hardware Monitor page. It also displays useful information such as the voltage fed in different components in the motherboard.

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On-board audio interface and software

audio manager

The MSI X470 Gaming Plus uses the Realtek ALC892 audio with software enhancements done by the Nahimic 2 Audio Driver.  Even though the board is advertised to use Nahimic 3 on MSI’s product page, the only audio software that is available to download on the support page is Nahimic 2.

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They also used Japanese audio capacitors made by Nippon Chemi-Con, which are specifically designed for audio applications. The PCB layers for both the left and right audio channels are separated for a much cleaner stereo separation creating a better sound stage.

The Realtek ALC892 is a multi-channel high-definition audio codec that has support for 7.1 surround sound playback. It has an all analog I/O, integrated headphone amplifier, an SPDIF I/O with up to 192kHz sample rate.

We Listened to the Realtek ALC892 without any software enhancement with our Kurzweil KS40 active studio monitor speakers with our usual 320kbps music playlist. At first we found it to be dull sounding and not as clean as we would like it to be. But upon turning on the Nahimic 2 software and with a little tweak with the bass boost and treble enhancer, everything came to life giving much-needed improvement on the sound quality.

Stereo separation with the Nahimic 2 turned on was superb and we tested this with our Focal Listen headphones. Being able to distinguish both left and right audio channels gives a different perspective in video games and it makes it more immersive.

The Nahimic 2 also has a Virtual Surround feature but we didn’t bother to try it out because most emulated Virtual Surround processing sounds really fake in the ears and it’s not as effective as a true 7.1 surround sound. Most of the time, it just makes sound louder.

MSI Software Suite

MSI has several software provided with their motherboards and in all honesty, most of them are gimmicky, but here are a few that we feel somewhat useful.

MSI Command Center

command center.

The MSI Command center is an app let’s you tweak your CPU and DRAM frequency and voltages, customize your system fan speed/fan curves, and monitor your system temperature.

Though we don’t see ourselves using this often for overclocking, it definitely has some uses like the real-time on-board temperature sensors which allows you to see the temperatures in your motherboard and how fast are your fans spinning.

command center 1

MSI Mystic Light

mystic light

The MSI Mystic Light lets you control the RGB lighting on your motherboard as well as any MSI Mystic Light compatible peripherals you might have.

We were kind of disappointed that the MSI X470 Gaming Plus can only have one color at a time on it’s RGB lighting on the back of the motherboard with different animation effects but with the music effect is pretty cool. There is also a mobile app to control the Mystic Light RGB.

Conclusion

Even though this is is the most affordable and the barest in terms of packaging in all of MSI’s X470 line up, the  X470 Gaming Plus still performs as good as other X470 motherboards in the market right now.

It may not have everything other higher-end X470 motherboards have like on-board Bluetooth and WiFi. But in terms of motherboard features, everything is there. Good quality on-board audio, reliable overclocking, multi-GPU support and higher memory frequency support. It offers a lot of choices especially if the motherboard is going to be used purely for gaming.

With the MSI X470 Gaming Plus, we were able to overclock our Ryzen 5 2600X to 4.2GHz at maximum, though 4.1GHz is more stable, and we were able to push our two G.Skill Sniper 8GB memory modules to 3600Mhz. Nonetheless it’s the same overclock results that we achieved with the other X470 motherboard that we have on hand.

We therefore conclude that with the pretty much basic X470 package, this motherboard is more aimed towards PC gamers who are more inclined to getting the useful necessities of the X470 chipset such as StoreMI and higher memory speed support. Aesthetically, the X470 Gaming Plus is not that fancy but for the affordable package it comes with, it’s definitely going to be a keeper.

Pros:

  • X470 motherboard features such as AMD StoreMI and better memory support
  • Entry level price range
  • Good on-board audio
  • Lots of connectivity and expansion options: RGB, M.2 SSD, USB 3.1, multi-gpu, etc.

Cons:

  • Basic looking aesthetic
  • only has 4-phase power delivery on the v-core
  • No POST code LCD. only LED debug.

 

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