This review has been made possible thanks to MSI.
For my first end user review, I’m going to be looking at the MSI B150M MORTAR. Generally I like to keep my reviews light, but motherboards require that bit more detail to fully get all of the features across.
The B150 chipset is one of the newest chipsets on the market ready for PC users to upgrade to Skylake CPU’s without the huge price tag of Z170. Most people tend to completely buy overkill parts and could easily get away with buying a low end i5 or even i3.
What’s the key difference between the B150 and Z170? The lack of Overclocking is the key feature, but there are some other differences such as only 8 PCIe lanes vs 20, fewer USB ports and the lack of RAID. Honestly, if you have the money for RAID or require more than 12 USB ports, then you’ll likely have the requirement for high end Z170 or even X99.
MSI are one of the leading companies in the world for computer hardware and have remained true to the consumers by offering some of the best graphics cards and motherboards that you can buy with a very aggressive price point.
I’ve tried to look around for reviews online and noticed that there are NONE (3/Nov/2015), so the benchmark has been set!
The MSI B150M MORTAR is based on the aforementioned B150 chipset. Aimed at the budget orientated gamers who want to save some money on features, but still have the option of DDR4 memory and Intel’s new 14nm Skylake processors.
The MORTAR motherboard is brand new branding for the Intel 100 series release and falls under the newly categorised Arsenal Gaming. The Arsenal range is aimed more towards the integrated VGA users rather than a discrete graphics card and suggested games are the slower paced offline simulators, but we’ll see what this board can do in the testing. (Click the image for a larger version).
The Arsenal range has been split into 4 different sections: TOMAHAWK, MORTAR, BAZOOKA and GRENADE.
CPU Support — Intel 6th Generation Skylake CPU
Socket — LGA 1151
Memory — 4x DDR4 Dual Channel Slots up to 64GB @ 2133MHz
PCI — 2x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16/ x4) \\ 2x PCIe 3.0 x1 \\ 1x M.2 Wi-Fi slot
GPU Support – 2 Way AMD Crossfire
USB — 6x USB 3.1 Gen1 \\ 4x USB 2.0
For a full range of specifications, please visit the product page here: http://www.msi.com/product/motherboard/B150M-MORTAR.html#hero-specification
I bet you noticed there, only 2133MHz memory support? That’s right, there is a limitation on the B150 chipset that limits the RAM to 2133MHz. If you do happen to buy this (or any other DDR4 B150) motherboard, you can still enable XMP to get the XMP timings without the speed.
It just wouldn’t be a motherboard with a huge amount of utilities on offer. In years gone by, these were avoided as there were either cumbersome, didn’t add much additional functionality or just down right annoying. I’ll be the first to say that I never downloaded any, but lately I’ve actually downloaded at least 1 utility for each motherboard that I’ve installed.
MSI offers the following:
— Gaming App
— Super Charger
— Command Center
— MSI RAMDisk
— MSI M-Cloud
— MSI Gaming Lan Manager
— CPU-Z MSI Gaming
— Live Update 6
— Fast Boot
— Intel Extremely Tuning
— SteelSeriesEngine 3
First up, the Gaming App. The actual App itself is very small, but from the simple interface you can access Eye Rest, OSD, Mouse Master and Gaming Hotkey. The CPU Clock feature is somewhat wasted on this motherboard considering you can only choose between Gaming and Silent Mode. This would be extremely useful to install if you want to enable macro features without having a dedicated macro keyboard (i.e. Corsair K95).
Command Center is a monitoring utility on the B150 chipset. You can monitor all aspects of your CPU and RAM and even give minor tweaks to voltages and timings. Personally I think this particular utility could have been cut and even combined with Gaming App.
As with most MSI Gaming motherboards, you get the MSI branded CPU-Z. A bit nicer on the eyes compared to the stock version.
Fast Boot is extremely useful. No ends of times I’ve had keyboard issues and couldn’t enter the BIOS, so this took out the frustration and allows you to reset the computer and enter BIOS instantly without a key stroke.
Live Update is the backbone of MSI software and saves so much time. Install this first and you can then see what drivers, BIOS, programs and utilities are available to you. You can also choose to have a full installer from within this utility to save trying to find the download folder on your computer.
The box represents the army origins of the MORTAR name with an imitation army cargo box design and handles on the front cover.
Accessories are reasonable for the price of the motherboard, Quick install manual, driver disk, padded IO shield, 2x SATA 6Gb/s cables and a B150M/ Z170M manual.
The board itself is plain and simple. Predominately black with silver/ white detailing with the capacitors, DDR4 BOOST detailing, CPU socket and PCIe Shield.
A closer look at the DDR4 BOOST detail and it gives the user a visual representation of how free flowing the information is between the memory channels and the CPU.
Along the side of the memory lanes are three simple EZ Debug LED’s. CPU, DRAM and VGA give you a quick insight to if there is a problem.
The PCI section of the board is simple with 2x PCIe x16 lanes and 2x PCIe x1 lanes. Nestled between them is a M.2 WiFi/ Bluetooth module connector.
For a relatively cheap motherboard, there are 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports and 1x SATA express. This means that this board can utilise the lightning fast SSD’s from Intel.
This PCB is the same design as used on the Z170M MORTAR, so there are some features missing such as an additional USB 3.0 header next to the SATA ports.
Considering the mere ~£80 price tag, you get a lot of IO functionality, such as 4 USB 3.1 ports, HD audio including optical and 3 widely used display connections if you decide you want to use on board graphics.
When I tried to install this board into the case, I found that the EPS power connector is a minor design flaw due to the upward facing clip. If you have a case which has a fan installed in the roof section, you might find this difficult to unclip without removing the board itself.
In true MSI style, the main features are printed on the back, along with a SteelSeries logo thanks to the SteelSeries partnership.
I found it difficult to take an accurate picture of the rear facing LED’s, but within my Corsair 500R test bench/ case, the recessed motherboard tray acts as a reflective surface and bounces more light towards the window.
For my benchmarking, I’m going to use software that is readily available for everyone to be able to download and compare instead of using the stupidly expensive software options that most reviewers use. I did end up buying Aida64 to get better and more in depth Memory figures, but there is a trial version also available which gives around 60% of the information.
But first, let’s take a look at my test system:
CPU – Intel i5-6600K @ Stock w/ turbo
RAM – Crucial Ballistix Elite 2666MHz 16GB Dual Channel
Storage – Samsung 830 128GB SSD
Power Supply – Corsair HX650m
Graphics Card – ASUS STRIX GTX 960
Cooling – NZXT Kraken X60
Case – Corsair Carbide 500R
Memory and Storage
All of the charts are pretty straight forward apart from this. On this particular chart, I enabled a 4GB cache using MSI RAMDisk to show what sort of performance could be attained. As you can see, well over 6500Mb/s read and 9000Mb/s read. Obviously this wouldn’t have the option to be used as permanent storage due to the volatile nature of RAM
Quality — 9.5/10
Each component and slot is well placed and strong (no movement when inserting and removing RAM, GPU, etc…). The text on the surface is minimal but clear to read.
It could get the extra .5 if MSI provided a new manual with just the B150M specification. This is being EXTREMELY picky on my behalf, but I think some inexperienced users may get confused when reading the manual as it doesn’t clearly state between some key features, just “Z170” is printed which some readers may glance over and miss read.
Value For Money — 9/10
For just £70 ($89.99US), the motherboard is a very good option to break into the Intel 6th Generation of processors. It has a very generous amount of features including a multi debug LED which helps pinpoint where the problem is between VGA, RAM and CPU. Along with the onboard features, MSI also include a huge amount of utilities that actually work, many times I’ve installed a utility and it either didn’t work or looked like it came straight from Windows XP. The good thing about MSI being a high end manufacturer, a lot of the features can filter down to these entry level motherboards and improve the experience tenfold.
Right now, I think the board is priced very well, but I think it could include a few more SATA cables (one for each port) and a BIOS reset button on the back next to the Clear CMOS. Along with them, I think MSI could have swapped which USB 3.0 header it included to the flat version to help with cable management.
Practicality — 7/10
There are two sides of the fence here. If you are only buying a lower end processor such as an i3-6300T or i5-6400, this motherboard is perfect for your processing power and will make for a good low end gaming computer when coupled with pretty much any graphics card. However, locking DRAM speeds to 2133MHz and not allowing full turbo boost speeds (on the K series especially) hinders the performance.
The overall installation process was straightforward enough, but when I came to unplug the 8 pin CPU (EPS) power connector, there was virtually no clearance between the connector and the top of the case. If the connector was flipped 180°, this wouldn’t be an issue.
Overall — 8.5/10
A very good motherboard with strong overall performance and a dominating presence inside your case with those subtle LED’s. If you are looking to buy into the newest Intel 100 series motherboards and overclocking doesn’t interest you, this would be a great option.
Interested in purchasing this motherboard? Check out my list of favorite retailers here: