MSI H81I (MS-7851)

Release Period - 06 Jan 2015
MSI H81I (MS-7851) Review
Built over hundred systems with this MoBo so I feel more qualified to review it than the one site (linked at bottom) that did a sloppy review.

Basically the cheapest Haswell compatible ITX Mobo on the market - no rebates to deal with. It's a prety basic product but it has everything a micro itx build might need and not too much extra. Even includes a real usb 3.0 header where considerably more expensive boards do not. Memory limited to 1600Mhz DDR3 and 16x PCIe is 2.0 but more than suffient to drive either just a HTPC with it's 3 different video connection choices or even a gaming rig with a pretty hefty GPU. Poor cooling over some components make it very limited extremely sensitive for the overclocking the Pentium G3258, requiring higher voltages than usual and less astounding results. OC is highly dependant on PSU quality; power regulation is poor and highly dependant on clean DC from the PSU and even the original power source. Many components can and should be fitted with aftermarket heatsink or copper shims to connect them with the CPU cooler - helps with Pentium AE stability a lot.

Overall, this is a poor but serviceable choice for the popular bang-for-buck gaming practice, just hover your mouse at the option and type a value). Can run a Pentium AE stable at 1.175V if using a very good PSU for a substantial performance boost - but input power quality is essential - onboard regulation is very limited.

Remember, ITX is very small and it necessitates compact components and little room between subsystems. Where this comes into trouble is the very poor separation of the onboard audio from the interference produced by the components on the board. The analogue outputs work fine with some speakers while producing an audiable to downright defening "hiss" I always use a clip on EMI sheld for the front audio header wire or otherwise, the front jacks are even worse. This is THE dealbreaker for many who need it for HTPC purposes, the signal to noise ration of the onboard audio is very low. The engineering oversight is almost inexcusable because the noise can be so loud, it literally drowns out the audio. Luckily, digital outputs such as the HDMI port, the optical out and USB are perfectly fine and redeem the board's usefulness as an HTPC since most will be using one of those interfaces over the analogue ports. Just a warning - check your speaker volumes before plugging them in. There's not active noise reduction either so even when the system is booted with the Realtek driver loaded, it makes no difference. The grounding on your power sockets has never been so essential.

Drivers on the otherhand are a one click install. Toss out the CD or install just "live update" and it will automatically install all the latest drivers and even update the update program if need be. All boards I've had came with an older BIOS version that was autoamtically upgraded when everything else was installed. Like magic, click to scan, check all, uncheck the unwanted bloatware and hit "total installer". Despite the existence of a newer BIOS, every board I've used from different sources had updates so that all Haswell Refresh Chips including the Pentium G3258 worked without issue. Overclockable refresh chips even do so out of the box. Stark contrast to Asrock's, sometimes $50 more boards with the same feature set (and a complex rebate of course....)

Because it's a cheap board, it does feel cheap and one must take care with the headers and the PCB when plugging things in - high flex despite the small size and delicately soldered headers make it easy to crack the PCB or rip the whole USB3 header off accidentally. Pins bend easily. Not the best for the beginner but ITX isn't anyways.

Despite it's faults that are needed to bring you the product at 60-70 bucks (ITX tax is expensive!) It is a solid board for those that know what they're doing and don't have specifically obscure requirements. Properly set up, even with a Pentium AE at 4.2Ghz, it can be stable for months, - have a system that hasn't ever been shut off or restarted.

I use it mainly with core i3s or lower end i5s to avoid the sketchy overclocking and this board underly a powerful yet extremely small gaming rig with high wattage components. Best suited for veteran builders, this is the cheapest way into the wonderful world of ITX with the most important things covered while leaving plenty of optional DIY opportunities!

MSI H81I (MS-7851) Technical Specifications

Motherboard Details
CPU Make Intel
Chipset H81 (Lynx Point)
Form Factor Mini-ITX
CPU socket LGA 1150
Total RAM 16GB
Total USB 7 USB slots
Motherboard Graphics
GPU Interface PCIe v2.x
GPU Onboard No
SLI 1 Nvidia SLI GPUs
Crossfire 1 AMD/ATI Crossfire GPUs
Expansion Slots 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16
Motherboard Memory
Memory Type 2xDDR3
Memory Type(ECC) ECC
Memory Channel Dual
Memory Capacity 16GB DDR3
Memory Total 16GB
Memory Slots 2xDIMM
Memory Speed DDR3 800Mhz
DDR3 1066Mhz
DDR3 1333Mhz
DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard SATA
SATA 2 2 x SATA 2
SATA 3 2 x SATA 3
SATA Speed 6Gb/s
External SATA -
Internal I/O Connectors
Internal USB 2 x USB 2.0
1 x USB 3.0
Internal I/O 1 x 24 pin power connector
1 x 4 pin power connector
2 x 4 pin fan header
1 x CPU fan header
Audio connector
SPDIF Out connector
1 x Serial connector
System panel connector
TPM Chip
Back Panel Connectors
Back Panel USB 2 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0
Back Panel I/O D-Sub connector
DVI connector
Line In connector
Line Out connector
Mic Out connector
7.1 Surround Sound
Audio Input Output
PS/2 connector
Avg. User Score

MSI H81I (MS-7851) Weblinks

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