Mobos based on Intel's new Z87 chipset don't come much cheaper than this. In fact, as this issue of PCF hits the presses, Google tells us the only board that undercuts the MSI Z87-G43 is its close MicroATX cousin, the Z87M-G43.

If nothing else, that adds some pleasing symmetry to this month's Z87 groupie, with MSI also topping the price table with the £350 XPower monster - which in turn provides a handy reminder that MSI is a pukka outfit that operates across all parts of the motherboard market.

Cut-price the G43 may be, but it's still a big-brand board. It's also immediately jauntier than its closest competition: the intriguing Asrock Z87 Extreme3 and the flaky Gigabyte Z87-D3HP. That's partly because it's full ATX width, so it doesn't immediately remind you of its budget positioning by virtue of looking a bit of a wrong 'un. But it's also because MSI has made a virtue of the cheap, dark and sludgy PCB, by pairing it with a mix of black and electric blue slots and sockets.

Anyway, if we can discard the Gigabyte Z87-D3HP from the equation, on account of its shonky all-round demeanour, the task at hand is taking the fight to that Asrock Z87 Extreme3.

Immediately, we're stumbling on account of MSI's lack of support for Nvidia's SLI multi-GPU tech. We've always had mixed feelings about any multi-GPU graphics solution. No question, you're better off with one faster graphics card that a pair of slower alternatives, but it still makes sense sometimes.

Maybe you suddenly get the chance to snag a duplicate of your current card for a knock-down price. Whatever, SLI and its AMD Crossfire nemesis are examples of features you might not use but still want to have as options. MSI only gives you a shot at Crossfire.

Disconnected

Point your peepers at the rear panel and the G43 is in even more danger of going bottom over breast. There's just a pair of USB 3.0 ports. The other six are crusty old USB 2.0 items. Eugh. Again, there's no DisplayPort, which the Asrock also lacks, and no S/PDIF, which you do get from Asrock.

On the other hand, you get essentially the same UEFI BIOS screen that comes with other MSI boards and we're generally in favour of, not to mention MSI's so-called military class components including all solid caps.

And there's MSI's mixing up of the SATA ports, with four stacked vertically and the final two side-by-side. Put it all together and it feels like Asrock has the edge, until you think performance.

Benchmarks

The G43 is whisker behind on overclocking potential but trumps the Asrock for stock clocked performance, including a truly exceptional result in our Shogun: Total War 2 gaming benchmark. In fact, it's so fast in Shogun, the result almost looks anomalous. But it's quick in Cinebench and x264 HD video encoding too, so we'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Multi-thread CPU performance
Cinebench 11.5: Index score: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 8.03
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 8.34
Asus Z87-Pro: 8.05
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 8.06
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 8.05
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 8.11
MSI Z87-G43: 8.5
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 8.48
MSI Z87 XPower: 8.5

Single-thread CPU performance
Cinebench 11.5: Index score: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 1.75
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 1.75
Asus Z87-Pro: 1.76
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 1.75
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 1.72
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 1.77
MSI Z87-G43: 1.72
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 1.71
MSI Z87 XPower: 1.72

Video encode performance
X264 4.0: Frames per second: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 45.5
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 46.3
Asus Z87-Pro: 45.6
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 45.5
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 45.5
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 45.7
MSI Z87-G43: 45.7
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 46.5
MSI Z87 XPower: 47.5

Memory bandwidth @ optimised defults
SiSoft Sandra: Gigabytes per second: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 17.38
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 17.24
Asus Z87-Pro: 17.47
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 17.25
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 17.45
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 17.56
MSI Z87-G43: 17.32
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 17.2
MSI Z87 XPower: 17.39

Gaming performance
Shogun: Total War 2: Frames per second: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 38.4
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 39.4
Asus Z87-Pro: 38.1
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 34.5
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 37.1
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 37.9
MSI Z87-G43: 44.6
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 38.9
MSI Z87 XPower: 39.5

Maximum overclock performance
4770K: Gigahertz: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 4.7
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 4.7
Asus Z87-Pro: 4.7
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 4.0
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 4.7
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 4.5
MSI Z87-G43: 4.6
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 4.6
MSI Z87 XPower: 4.7

Verdict

All of which means you're making a choice between a board that's probably going to be slightly faster and one that offers more features including Nvidia SLI support, which could be critical. You pays your money. You takes your choice.