MSI X370 SLI PLUS Motherboard Review

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Today we have the MSI X370 SLI Plus on the test bench. This sample is one of the lowest-priced motherboards equipped with the AMD X370 chipset in the retail market. Just at a glance you can see that it’s a bit stripped down from its bigger brothers but still appears to have everything you might need to get your Ryzen CPU up and going, even overclocked, and at a reasonable price. The AM4 platform is still relatively new and with that comes a few growing pains. This leaves some of the memory options a bit limited and just finding the right memory for your motherboard can be a challenge since there’s still some compatibility issues on all boards at the moment. There’s another AGESA update scheduled for May, hopefully this will open things up a bit for us enthusiasts.

Specifications and Features

The MSI X370 SLI PLUS is built around the AM4 socket and X370 chipset to support the new AMD Ryzen line up of CPUs. There’s a nice ten phase power section which has no issues running the big Ryzen eight core CPUs to their full potential. The board includes support for four DIMMs up to 64 GB of DDR4 at speeds up to 3200(O.C.) MHz. It also has a Realtek 8111H Gigabit LAN controller for you networking needs. On top of that you’ll find all the elements you would expect in a modern board such as an M.2 socket and USB 3.1 type A and C to suit your high speed storage needs. Below specifications taken from MSI.com.

MSI X370 SLI PLUS Specs

CPU • Supports AMD® RYZEN series processors and 7th Gen A-series/ Athlon™ processors for Socket AM4
* This function will be supported depend on the CPU.
Refer to www.msi.com for CPU support list
Chipset AMD® X370 Chipset
Memory • 4 x DDR4 memory slots, support up to 64 GB
– Supports DDR4 1866/ 2133/ 2400/ 2667(OC)/ 2933(OC)/ 3200(OC)+ Mhz *
• Dual channel memory architecture
• Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory
• Supports ECC UDIMM memory (non-ECC mode)
* 7th Gen A-series/ Athlon ™ processors support a maximum of 2400 MHz. Please refer to www.msi.com for more information on compatible memory.
Multi-GPU Support • RYZEN series processor
– Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
– Supports 3-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology
• 7th Gen A-series/ Athlon™ processor
– Supports 2-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology
Expansion Slots • 2x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (PCIE_2, PCIE_4)
– RYZEN series processors support x16/x0, x8/x8 mode
– 7th Gen A-series/ Athlon™ processors support x8/x0 mode
• 1x PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (PCIE_6, supports x4 mode)*
– 3x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
* PCI_E6 slot will be PCIe 2.0 x1 when installing device in any PCIe x1 slot.
Storage AMD® X370 Chipset
• 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports*
• 1 x M.2 slot (Key M)
– Supports PCIe 3.0 x4 (RYZEN series processor) or PCIe 3.0 x2 (7th Gen A-series/ Athlon™ processors) and SATA 6Gb/s 2242/ 2260 /2280/ 22110 storage devices
• Supports RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10Please refer to www.msi.com for more information on compatible storage.
LAN • 1 x Realtek® 8111H Gigabit LAN controller
Audio • Realtek® ALC892 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
USB Ports ASMedia® ASM2142 Chipset
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) Type-C port on the back panel
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) Type-A port on the back panel• AMD® X370 Chipset
– 4x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) ports available through the internal USB connectors
– 6x USB 2.0 (High-speed USB) ports (2 Type-A ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)• AMD® CPU
– 4x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) Type-A ports on the back panel
Back I/O Ports – 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
– 2 x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
– 1 x DVI-D port
– 1 x HDMI™ 1.4 port
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A port
– 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
– 6 x audio jacks
Internal Ports – 1 x 24-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (support additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
– 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 connectors (support additional 4 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports)
– 1 x 4-pin CPU fan connector
– 1 x 4-pin PUMP fan connector (supports up to 2A)
– 4 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x RGB LED connector
– 1 x TPM module connector
– 1 x Serial port connector
– 1 x Parallel port connector
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
Operating System Windows® 10 64-bit
Form Factor ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.4 cm x 24.3 cm )

When it comes to the extras, there really isn’t much of that to be had on the MSI X370 SLI PLUS. This isn’t really a big deal if you’re working on a budget since the board is very functional and many of the “extras” I know and love are there for extreme users such as myself. For your everyday user these extras are just that, extra, and very seldom if ever would be used once installed into a case. One of my biggest gripes would be the lack of a single LED anywhere on the board to indicate it’s in standby. I mention this because I do all my testing on a bench and with the lack of case lighting I inadvertently pulled my ram from the motherboard while it was still powered on. Luckily no damage was caused but this would have been easily avoidable with the addition of a single LED to indicate the motherboard still had power.

As I said the MSI X370 SLI PLUS is still a very functional board with enough connectivity to keep all but the most demanding of users satisfied. It’s well equipped with plenty of SATA and USB ports with 2 on board USB3 connectors for your front panel. They also included the “Steel Armour” on the two main PCIe slots for added strength and EMI protection. Plus an RGB LED on board connector for any additional LED strips you may like to add. This gives you the ability to control them with MSI’s “Mystic Lighting” software, which allows central control over all of your compatible peripherals.

MSI X370 SLI PLUS Features

Designed for Limitless Tuning

Founded on experience and with a long history of creating the best performing motherboards packed with smart features, you can count on this motherboard to deliver the best performance under the most extreme conditions. Countless system tuning and troubleshooting tools are at your disposal to push your system to new heights and satisfy even the most demanding tweaker.

Built On Everlasting Quality

MSI PCI Express Steel Armor slots are armed with more solder points on the motherboard for a stronger hold, preventing any damage due to heavy-weight graphics cards. Steel Armor also protects PCI Express signals against electromagnetic interference to provide a pure and reliable signal for the best performance, even when turning it up a notch.

DDR4 BOOST

MSI motherboards are crammed with features to fuel your system’s memory with more speed, higher overclockability and increased stability.

Optimized traces and a fully isolated memory circuitry ensures perfect stability and performance, so you never have to worry about your system crashing.

The technical enhancements of DDR4 Boost allow for more stability at higher memory speeds compared to other brands. Enjoy the additional boost in gaming performance or when working with large video and photography files.

MSI conducts thorough memory testing with the most popular memory brands under extreme conditions to ensure your system runs stable no matter what. Our memory partners include brands like Corsair, Crucial, Kingston, G.Skill and many more to optimize memory modules, configurations and even improve overclocking.

LOOKING COOL WHILE KEEPING COOL

High quality materials and smart fan optimizations contribute to cooling all essential components, which is key to making sure your system runs stable at the best performance during long gaming sessions. MSI motherboards let you manage speeds and temperatures for all your system and CPU fans, giving you full control to set up a cool & silent system. The fan headers are conveniently placed with the most popular CPU coolers in mind. MSI fan headers automatically detect fans running in DC or PWM mode for optimal tuning of fan speeds and silence. Hysteresis also makes your fans spin up fluently to make sure your system stays silent, no matter what.

OPTIMIZED FOR WATER COOLING

Designed to support the most popular All-In-One & custom water cooling solutions on the market. A dedicated water pump PIN header supports up to 2 amp, giving you full control of the water pump speed. A clearly marked ‘keep-out-zone’ allows for easy and safe installation and a perfect fit. Total Fan Control allows you to take control of your fans and check your primary system characteristics in a simplified graphical interface. You can also set up to 4 temperature targets for CPU and motherboard, which will adjust the fan speeds automatically.

ENJOY THE LATEST VIDEO STANDARDS

Supporting the latest display connectors for new technologies (OLED, HDR) and legacy connectors for beamers, MSI motherboards are designed to make life easier for any professional user. To support professional monitors, TV’s, beamers and other displays, this MSI motherboard features DVI video output. No matter what screen type you want to connect, using a dedicated graphics card or an onboard connector, MSI motherboards have you covered. Enjoy awesome 4K UHD (2160p ultra-high definition) video playback with MSI motherboards.

Personalize Your Gaming Rig

Customize and set up your own color scheme with RGB Mystic Light sync. Select any of the colors from the palette using your smartphone or the MSI Gaming App to match your system style. Bored of the same colors? Simply change the complete look of your system in 1 second! MSI’s Mystic Light Extension pinheader provides an intuitive way to control additional RGB strips and other RGB peripherals added to a system, without needing a separate RGB controller. By simply connecting any 12V RGB LED strip to the 4-pin Mystic Light Extension RGB-strip header gamers can sync colors to any style they choose. With the convenience of Mystic Light Sync, you can control RGB LED solutions from other brands, such as CPU coolers, keyboards and mice or RGB system fans.

PROFESSIONAL SOUND QUALITY

Get the most immersive sound experience. MSI Audio Boost delivers the highest sound quality through the use of premium quality audio components. This lets you enjoy breathtaking, game-changing sound to create the most dynamic soundscapes. Built on years of experience in building motherboards dedicated to giving gamers true Hi-Fi sound. Audio Boost has developed into a high quality audio unit, offering a clear advantage over your opponents when gaming. Locate your enemies with your eyes closed using Audio Boost. Audio Boost operates like a dedicated soundcard by being physically isolated from the rest of the motherboard circuitry to ensure the purest audio signal possible. A bright border illuminated by LEDs showcases and protects the Hi-Fi audio unit.

STABLE, SECURE AND FAST NETWORKING

Optimized for professional and multimedia use, this generation comes equipped with a high quality network solution ready to serve you with 24/7 reliability when transferring big data. The Gigabit network adapter on MSI Professional motherboards offers fast, reliable and secure networking. Featuring Network Genie for easy to use bandwidth optimizing

LAN PROTECT

LAN Protect to shield your system against power surges. Featuring 15KV anti-surge protection to shield your network from lightning strikes and static electricity, the LAN Protect connector is designed to give you a reliable networking experience.

VR READY

Integrating the very best of cutting edge technologies on MSI hardware provides a smooth VR ride. Through joint efforts with major VR brands, combined with unique MSI features geared to VR, MSI brings gamers and VR professionals a vivid and realistic experience in which content truly comes alive. Want the best VR experience without any compromise? By closely working with the industry’s leading VR vendors, we offer everything you need when exploring the possibilities of VR. Both hard- and software need to be in tune for a smooth VR experience. One Click to VR makes it very fast and easy to get primed for VR. A single click sets all your key components to their highest performance and makes sure other software applications won’t impact your virtual adventure.

MAXIMIZE YOUR USB DEVICES

Transfer lots of data, music and movies over USB faster than ever. MSI offers a wide variety of options to connect and boost your USB 3.1 devices, delivering lightning-fast transfer speeds! Using multiple USB 3.1 devices has never been faster! Featuring the Lighting ASmedia 2142 USB 3.1 Gen2 controller, MSI motherboards offer never before seen USB speeds when connecting multiple USB devices at the same time. When enabled, X-Boost optimizes your devices for even better transfer speeds and can provide up to 30% increase in USB performance, saving a lot of time when transferring data. This handy tool is very easy to use and automatically detects & optimizes the USB devices connected to your system.

Packaging

The front of the box is a bit plain but stylish, should be easily visible on the shelves in the retail chain. Moving to the back, MSI has included a picture of the motherboard and rear I/O along with a list of the connectivity offered by the MSI X370 SLI PLUS. There’s enough information here to make a well informed decision on whether or not the board is suited to your build requirements. Opening the package reveals your motherboard wrapped in a heavy anti-static bag, nestled into a removable cardboard tray. Lifting this out reveals the bottom tray along with the included accessories. I understand this is a “budget” X370 motherboard but the accessories are a bit anemic. You have the usual support CD, a manual, some SATA cables, and an uninsulated back plate. I was a bit disappointed that an SLI bridge wasn’t included. One of the attractions of the X370 chipset is SLI compatibility but you’ll need to supply your own bridge if that’s the path you have chosen.

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Let’s meet the MSI X370 SLI PLUS

The first thing I noticed is the color scheme, mostly black with a few grey accents. The grey and black color scheme will go with just about any other color hardware you may currently own. No matter if your ram is blue, black, or red it won’t clash. You’ll notice the 8 pin EATX12V connector at the top of the motherboard for CPU power, more than enough for your average overclock. There’s also a couple of nicely crafted VRM heatsinks. These are separate and do not have a heat pipe, but still very functional. Taking a look at the back of the motherboard you’ll see that only the top full length PCIe slot is 16x electrical, the other two are 8x max electrical.

MSI X370 SLI PLUS Front

MSI X370 SLI PLUS Back

MSI X370 SLI PLUS Top Down

MSI X370 SLI PLUS Bottom Up

MSI X370 SLI PLUS DIMM

A Closer Look

Below, located on the left hand side of the board, you’ll see the on-board sound processing area with the Realtek ALC892 codec and high quality ChemiCon capacitors.

Moving to the center of the MSI X370 SLI PLUS, we see three full length PCIe slots – two of which have the MSI Steel Armour, metal reinforced, retention system. The spacing of the main PCIe slots will even accommodate graphics cards with the huge 2.5 and 3 slot coolers. The M.2 connection is also located here between the top PCIe 16x PCIe slot and the first 1x slot. There’s plenty of room for any size M.2 drive you choose to install. Not included is the Steel Armour M.2 heat sink included with some of the other MSI boards, but costs needed to be trimmed.

You’ll also notice two USB3 ports. One located at the bottom of the board and the other is located next to the six SATA3 ports. This gives ample connectivity for the front panel of your case. Moving up, we have four DDR4 DIMM slots and the 24-Pin EATX connector.

I’ve also included a shot of the VRM section exposed. The heatsinks made great contact with then as well. Just to note, I tried to remove the PCH heatsink as well but it seems to be held on with something more like adhesive. I didn’t want to force it and damage anything so it never came off.

MSI X370 SLI PLUS Sound and PCIe

MSI X370 SLI PLUS Socket and VRM

The rear I/O panel has plenty of USB connectivity: two USB 2.0, four USB 3.1 Gen1 “A” plus a USB 3.1 Gen2 A and C type connection. One thing you will notice is the video output, MSI has included a DVI-D port and a HDMI 1.4 port for video output from a Ryzen APU. The MSI X370 SLI PLUS supports the upcoming Ryzen-based APUs right out of the box without the need for a discrete graphics card. On the far left you’ll see the addition of the “old school” PS/2 connector. This is actually a very handy addition if you intend on using Windows 7. With the addition of this port and using an ODD you can install Windows 7 without having to integrate the needed USB drivers.

MSI X370 SLI PLUS Rear I/O

MSI X370 SLI PLUS SATA Connections

 

UEFI BIOS and MSI Software

I have included some slides here from the MSI X370 SLI PLUS UEFI BIOS. There are so many options, I won’t be listing them all but I’ll touch on some of the highlights and frequently used entries. I have to admit I’m not overly familiar with MSI motherboards in general, with the last one I owned being back in the Athlon XP days. That said, I found it very easy to navigate with all the main options easily accessible. This BIOS was a bit limited in options but it’s not the high-end extreme motherboard either. All the main voltages such as CPU V_Core , CPU NB (SOC), and DRAM are present. Overclocking on Ryzen is a bit limited to start with, but MSI has included all the options you’ll need to max out the CPU speed. As usual, at this time the RAM timing section is just plain barren. AMD has kept much of this section locked down and this only leaves five timings that the user can alter. Hopefully this opens up in the future.

Update: After installing ver. 3.3 of the MSI X370 SLI PLUS BIOS they have added a new feature called Memory Try it ! Well I tried it and on the 3200 MHz CL14 setting and it worked as it should on reboot to Windows the system was now running 3200 MHz CL14 memory. You’ll see more in the ” Pushing the Limits” section.

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Here’s MSI Command Center, Xboost, and other included MSI software. One nifty program included on the support disc is a small utility for creating your own Windows 7 install media which includes the needed drivers.

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Test Setup and Results

Test Setup
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 1700X
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-D15 SE AM4
Motherboard MSI X370 SLI PLUS
RAM G.Skill Trident Z 2×8 GB DDR4 3600 CL17-18-18-38
Graphics Card EVGA GTX 980 Ti K|NGP|N Edition
Storage Samsung 840 EVO 120 GB
Power Supply Superflower Leadex 1 kW
Operating System Windows 10 x64
Benchmarks See Below
Equipment
Digital Multi-meter

CPU Tests

  • AIDA64 Engineer CPU, FPU, and Memory Tests
  • Cinebench R11.5 and R15
  • x265 1080p Benchmark (HWBOT)
  • POVRay
  • SuperPi 1M/32M
  • WPrime 32M/1024M
  • 7Zip

All CPU tests were run at 4.0 GHz. I’m comparing results to the GIGABYTE AX370-GAMING 5 and the ASUS ROG Crosshair VI.

First up we have the SuperPi and wPrime tests comparing the MSI X370 SLI PLUS to the other x370 chipset motherboards. You’ll notice a slight advantage with the Crosshair VI Hero. I attribute this to better RAM tuning thanks to the external base clock generator.

SuperPi 1M/32M, wPrime 32M/1024M

Now the various rendering tests.

Cinebench R11.5/R15, POVRay, x265 (HWBot), 7Zip

AIDA64 CPU, FPU and Memory tests

AIDA64 Memory Tests

AIDA64 CPU Tests

AIDA64 FPU Tests

I think the results above are pretty clear. The Crosshair has a slight advantage on the MSI X370 SLI PLUS at the moment. BIOSes for the new platforms are still fairly young and I’m certain optimizations will be coming for the next few months, so we may see that gap tighten a bit.

Pushing the Limits

As for overclocking, I had zero issues running the Ryzen 7 1700x and a Ryzen 7 1700 up to 4.0 GHz. As you can see from this article, the 1700x performed flawlessly at this speed on the MSI X370 SLI PLUS. There really isn’t a lot more headroom at ambient temperatures with what AMD recommends as “safe” voltage for the Ryzen CPU. I did manage to push things a bit further with the 1700x. I set the core voltage to 1.45V and tried for 4100 MHz, that ended in a crash. When this happens the motherboard will not reboot until you have powered down via the power supply. After a reboot I dropped the speed to 4075 thanks to AMD’s 0.25 multiplier settings. As I had mentioned earlier I had tried the new feature that MSI has added to the BIOS “Memory Try It” and I now have the memory running at 3200 MHz. I booted into Windows at 4075 MHz and was able to run AIDA64 memory and cache benchmark but not Cinebench which is a lot tougher on the CPU. In the end I had to max out my cooling fans and give another bump to the core voltage to get 4050 MHz working at 1.4625V. This was enough to finish the following benchmarks but certainly not 24/7 stable. I would also like to add that I wouldn’t run this CPU at this voltage on a daily basis.

Overclocking Results

Cinebench R15 @ 4050 MHz

Cinebench R11.5 @ 4050 MHz

SuperPi 32m @ 4050 MHz

3DMark Fire Strike Extreme @ 4050 MHz

Final Thoughts

Overall, the MSI X370 SLI PLUS is a good solid motherboard. It’s very capable of most everything a higher priced board can do except BCLK adjustments – and honestly, most people won’t care. You can run the CPU to its limits and also set 3200 MHz RAM without issue. That is on Samsung “B”-die-based kits which is true across most of the AM4 platform.

MSI did away with everything on this motherboard that you really don’t need to reduce the final cost to the consumer and in the end the MSI X370 SLI PLUS is more than capable of running your Ryzen CPU to it’s full potential. The BIOS has the most important features and few extras like the “Memory Try It” which I think is great. Even if you don’t have 3200 MHz DDR4 like myself this takes all the guess work out. With a selection in the BIOS it’s all done for you and it works, which is the important part. Coming in at half the cost of the higher end motherboards with a MSRP of $129.99 it’s easy to live without all the bells and whistles that drive the cost up. Definitely a great choice for the budget minded, Overclockers approved!

 

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-Shawn Jennings (Johan45)

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