MSI B250M Mortar Motherboard Reviewed – Best Kaby Lake Board under $100?

MSI is no stranger to the motherboard scene.  They’ve made motherbaords for decades now, and have a ridiculous track record and experience.  This particular board was sought out for an HTPC.  As some of you may know, the new Intel Kaby Lake CPUs have built in 4k @ 60fps support with a 10-bit HEVC decoder.  If you want to watch Netflix in 4k at 60fps on your computer, you must have a Kaby Lake CPU (at least for now).  This includes the least expensive Intel Celeron variant.  The other piece to the puzzle is an HDMI 2.0 port, which most/all budget motherboards do not have.

So we sought out what would make the most sense for an HTPC build on a budget.  We knew it had to have Kaby Lake support, but I also didn’t want the hassle of flashing the BIOS on a 100 series chipset motherboard from last year.  So that forced us to use a new 200 series chipset which in turn has many options to choose from.  MSI offers a huge range of boards, but for under $100, this is the only Micro-ATX board, from any brand, that has the following combination in one model:

  • HDMI 1.4
  • DisplayPort 1.2
  • USB-C connector with USB 3.1 Gen 1
  • M.2 NVME support

It’s a simple set of features, but all the boards under $100 either drop the DisplayPort or USB-C connector.  I know many of you could care less for either feature, but here’s something incredibly important to consider.  HDMI 1.4 does NOT support 4k @ 60fps.  You need HDMI 2.0 for that, which is typically very expensive on a motherboard or requires the purchase of a video card like an Nvidia 1050 or higher.  DisplayPort 1.2 DOES support 4k @ 60 fps however.  This means, with a simple adapter like the Accell DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 adapter, you can get 4k at 60 frames per second without having to purchase a new video card or much more expensive motherboard.  This kept my build cost very low, simple, and capable.

This alone was enough for me to choose this board, however there’s more to it.  I take comfort in knowing I have the latest chipset from a reputable brand.  The UEFI is simply amazing and allows a large range of feature adjustment.  MSI loaded this board with high quality VRMs (4 + 2 config) which is what delivers stable power to the CPU.  Even though this is a non-overclocking model (See the Z270M Mortar for that), the high quality VRMs mean my machine will remain incredibly stable for the foreseeable future.  I’m also happy that I have a new USB-C connector on board and support for the fastest memory with NVME and Intel Optane.  So far this board has worked without a fault.  Check out the videos for much more detail on the board, UEFI, and OS Software.

Some other notable features remind you that this is a modern board.  It comes with a high quality audio DAC that’s EMI-shielded to eliminate unwanted noise.  Power leaves the board with gold plated 3.5mm jacks, Optical, or the HDMI/DisplayPort digital audio if your devices support it.  If you choose to use the 3.5mm jacks for analog output, expect rich and warm sound thanks to Chemi-Con audio capacitors.  To pretty things up a bit, the board features red LED lighting to create a soft glow under the board and around the sound card.  The board also features an RGB output should you decide to buy a standard RGB LED light strip (up to 2M in length).  The B250M Mortar also features a modern fan controller, allowing you to us DC or PWM power control with Hysterisis.  This allows you to control the fan speed of any case or CPU fan regardless if it’s a 3-pin or 4-pin.  Budget builders will love this because it allows you to have a quiet case without needing to purchase a fan controller to keep those 3-pin fans under control.

All in all I’m very happy with this board.  I don’t use all of the software features because my intent was to use it for an HTPC.  The Gaming LAN, RGB control, hot key support, and more all add up to a rich feature set that’s nice to have if you have a use for it.  I can install any Kaby Lake or Skylake CPU from Intel as long as it supports the 1151 socket.  Having all of these great features paired with a reliable brand like MSI should make this one of your top contenders for your next build.  If you need more overclocking headroom, look into the MSI Z270M Mortar instead.  That board features all the great things the B250M Mortar has, but with more support for higher end RAM and CPU configurations.

 

Specs:

Model Name B250M MORTAR
CPU support Supports 7th / 6th Gen Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 processors,
and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® processors
CPU socket LGA 1151
Chipset Intel® B250 Chipset
Graphics Interface2 x PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot
2-way CrossFire
Display Interface DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort
Memory support 4 DIMMs, Dual Channel DDR4-2400
Expansion slots 2 x PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots
SATA / M.2 / U.2 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports, 1 x M.2 slot
Intel® Optane™ Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready
SATA RAID RAID 0,1,5,10
USB 3.1 Gen1 6 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (Type A+C)
USB 2.0 6 x USB 2.0
LAN Intel® I219-V Gigabit LAN
Audio 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio

Retail Price (US): $89.99 (Amazon, NewEgg)

2 Comments on MSI B250M Mortar Motherboard Reviewed – Best Kaby Lake Board under $100?

  1. Michael Cervantes // June 6, 2017 at 4:03 pm // Reply

    Hello,

    Does it mean that the B250M does need its BIOS to be updated before using kabylake?

    Im having issues with the pair, so I’m not sure if that’s what it needs…a bios update.

  2. Joe@GadgetryTech // July 11, 2017 at 8:03 pm // Reply

    Hi Michael! It does not need an update. B250M is ready for Kaby Lake CPUs out of the box. The B150M needs an update though.

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