Upclose with MSI's New Intel 9 Series Chipset Motherboards
It is said that the PC market in general is suffering a decline. A report by research group Gartner suggests that the PC market shrunk by around 10% in 2013; and that in Q4 2013, the PC market has suffered seven quarters of consecutive decreasing sales.
Things, however, are not looking so bad for MSI. Quite the opposite, in fact. At a special event in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, MSI Senior Vice-President, Henry Lu, informed the press present that 2013 was MSI’s best year since 2008. Furthermore, in Q1 2014, MSI actually managed to double its profits year on year. This is certainly impressive news considering the general state of the affairs with regards to the PC market.
According to Lu, how MSI has achieved this is due to a couple of key strategies. First of all, it was able to quickly recognize that the PC market has changed greatly and that demand for new components was now in the entry-level and high-end. Previously, he said, the market was shaped like an upright pyramid, with all the volume shipping occurring the in low-end and entry-level products. However, thanks to greater awareness and education in consumers and a general increase in the affordability of high-end components, users are now interested in high-end offerings as much as the entry-level ones. Increasingly educated consumers are asking themselves why go for something in the mid-range when you could get something high-end and decidedly more powerful for a few bucks more?
Next, to capitalize on it, MSI also refocused itself and has set its sights squarely on the gaming and enthusiast market. This is also why you have been seeing so many gaming-related products from MSI of late, such as its gaming-class motherboards and G-series gaming notebooks. Apart from that, it is also attempting to simplify its model names so that it makes more sense to users. For example, the motherboards are now broadly divided into three categories: Classic, Gaming and Overclocking, to signify their intended target audience. Going deeper and taking the Gaming series for example, the flagship gaming motherboard is known simply as Z97 Gaming 9 AC and one step down is the Z97 Gaming 7, which in turn is followed by the Z97 Gaming 5 and so on. As you can see, this new nomenclature is easier for the layman to understand.
That said, this does not mean that MSI is cutting back on its offerings. Variety and offering options is still vital and the Gaming series alone is made up of 10 motherboards. And there are other models such as the Z97-GD65 Gaming and Z97-G45 Gaming (hence we said "attempting to simplify its model names") that offer pretty much the same core functionality but with some differences such as in the types of video output and number of SATA and USB ports.
And in focusing on the gaming market, MSI has also recognized that it needs to improve on the quality and features of its products. A good example of this is MSI’s GS70 Stealth gaming notebook, which combines an attractive design with good performance, excellent features, and perhaps most crucially, class-leading build quality - something that was missing from MSI products of old.
These strategies have allowed MSI to thrive at a time when other PC manufacturers and OEMs are taking a beating from the changing market dynamics. And today, they are following up on that by unveiling their new line-up of motherboards that are based on Intel’s new 9 Series chipset. There are 26 new motherboard models in total, so let’s take a look at some of the key models now.