In the land of the evolving BIOS, one everlasting memory of MSI will stick with me always – the propensity for MSI to include games in the BIOS.  Back on the initial launch of graphical interface BIOSes (UEFIs) on the P67 chipset, MSI’s initial design was to offer a series of options using colors, but also to include a section involving simple games like Breakout, Pairs, and some Snake derivative.  While a baffling situation for any reviewer to be in, it did point out the obvious nature of what a graphical BIOS should be – interactive, appealing and easy to use.  As a technical exercise, the games did their job, but the games were clearly not going to stay.

Since then, MSI have taken two steps forward is aesthetics, but two steps back in accessibility and design.  What we have had since X79 is literally a ‘winning’ design – technically the third place in an internal competition at MSI to design the next BIOS (those that came first and second were apparently not suitable for implementation).  This BIOS is great for information – at the front screen we get vital information that should be in any BIOS: the motherboard and BIOS version, the CPU and CPU speed, the memory count and speed, and the CPU temperature.   We also have access to some secondary important characteristics such as boot order, time and date.

The downside in the BIOS lies in the selection of options.  Choosing a menu on the side of the BIOS merely gives a textual list of all there is to offer.  It does not embrace the spirit of interaction, and when faced with a wall of text (such as the OC menu), it is not pleasing to decipher.  To use a baseball analogy, the MSI system is neither a hit nor a strike out/pop-fly – I see it more as a 4-ball walk: enough to get to first base and potential to develop, but could do better.

The options available in the BIOS seem to come from two different sides of the development team.  In the Settings Menu we get access to several sub-menus, each relating to their corresponding target – USB Configuration, Hardware Monitor, Power Management et al.  In the OC menu however, as shown above, we are presented with the aforementioned wall of text.  Each option is on a new line, and no separation between the CPU options, the OCP options, the LLC options, the memory options, and so on.  Not only this, some of the options could be construed as confusing at first glance (such as Digital Compensation Level, which may well be VDroop, LLC, or some other term) unless you are completely au fait with MSI terminology.  The BIOS does not offer any assistance in learning what each of these commands mean, or whether an extreme overclocker needs 0% or 100% for a particular command as different manufacturers have different interpretations.  I would instigate a redesign if I got hold of this BIOS code.

Being a motherboard, controlling the fans is important.  As mentioned before, our fans are controlled through the Fintek SuperIO chip – on the MSI Z77IA-E53 this gives our CPU and SYS fan headers two different types of option.  The CPU header is a ‘Smart’ target, which allows us to specify a simple gradient between two optimal temperatures.  The SYS fan header in comparison is limited in its speed range, leaving it with a fixed RPM.

Most of the options in this BIOS are no different than options in other vendors’ BIOSes – AHCI is enabled by default, as are the WiFi and Bluetooth modules.  The mSATA/mPCIe slot defaults to automatic and should detect any device attached correctly.  There are no automatic overclocking options except ‘OC Genie II mode’, clickable at the top.  In the Utilities menu we can activate a BIOS update via a USB stick, or offer a Live Update via the internet if a suitable network configuration is supported.

MSI Z77IA-E53 Overview, Visual Inspection, Board Features MSI Z77IA-E53 In The Box, Software
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  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    Hey yeah, Ian haz a good point

    That Crappy Gigabyte H61n-USB3 doesn't have Chipset USB3

    But it does however boot just fine to a USB3 Windows to go drive at USB3 speeds

    It also boots to Linux and XP due to the Non-Locked down Bios so we wouldn't want that either would we

    and it takes a full 9 seconds to boot XP compared to the super de duper fast 7 second Windows 8

    So we should spend more money and get locked into a closed system

    After all, that is the future!

    Limitations are fun so be happy as we lock down the Internet as well

    After all, there are scarey Monsters out there

    A man has to know his limitations
    Clint Eastwood
  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    Ian haz a good point about the memory too

    That Gigabyte H61 board only takes up to 16GB of RAM

    How much do these Z77 boards take by the way?

    Was it this site or Maximum PC where the reviewers stated that in everyday use, you will notice no difference in speed between Sata 2 & 3 when you are using the latest and greatest SSD so I probably don't need the RAID capability on my H61 either

    Keep up the good work Ian
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - link

    It seems that someone just discovered sarcasm. Good for you!
  • mczak - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    H61 is not limited to one single sided DIMM per channel, double sided are just fine. It only accepts one per channel (at least it's specced that way) but since none of these mini-ITX boards have more than two memory slots this wouldn't matter at all here (max memory is still 2x8GB regardless).
    Frankly I'm not sure losing PCIe 3.0 is a big deal with mini-itx boards in any case but either way it isn't exactly true there are h61 boards supposedly supporting this (as it's got nothing to do with the chipset anyway all the pcie 3.0 signals coming directly from the cpu, though it would require bios support).
    This leaves us with losing SATA 6 Gbps - this might indeed make some minimal difference in real world, provided you use a SSD and not a HD.
    The major point imho (aside from overclocking) would be missing USB 3.0, which obviously makes a big difference when using external harddisks etc. Granted that could be done with separate usb controller but probably not a good idea since space is limited.
    H61 IIRC also will lose the possibility of using 3 display outputs simultaneously. Maybe something like H77 would make more sense for mini-ITX as it pretty much only loses overclocking (plus the ability to split the 16 x pcie 3.0 lanes into 2x8 though I guess this has nothing to do with the chipset itself really, but in any case it won't be missed on mini-itx). So if you don't want to overclock, you wouldn't miss anything at all with H77 on a mini-itx board.
  • Etern205 - Saturday, January 5, 2013 - link

    I also notice that as well, most sites will only review Z77 mITX boards instead of H61 or H77. Not all will need a Z77, Z77 is mostly for enthusiast or for those who are into the technical stuffs. For the average Joe or Jane any mITX board will do. If you tell them it's H61 or Z77, they probably won't care too much on the difference.
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - link

    You can't easily upgrade the chipset later. With a small up-front investment, you get the full feature set, and why not?
  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Sunday, January 6, 2013 - link

    Oh Boo Hoo, I can't easily upgrade to an overclocking chipset or void the warranties of my hardware components

    I am just stuck with a totally stable system

    Boo Hoo

    How can I possibly break this ?

    What has the World become ?

    Poor me
    Boo Hoo
  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Sunday, January 6, 2013 - link

    Why not?

    Because the H61 is exactly what I wanted

    and anything else is NOT !

    can you hear me now?
  • EVGA KINGPIN - Friday, November 19, 2021 - link

    I still use my Z77 FTW board , have had it running without turning it off since 2015. evga is the best ,also my EVGA GTX 980 KINGPIN is still running strong,,,thanks EVGA for quality products, JRT
  • sherlockwing - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    Where is the Gigabyte?

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