It is said that form naturally follows function. In MSI’s case, this is naturally true as the company has spent many of its 30 years improving the functionality of its products to the point of near perfection, enabling a shift to smart aesthetics in its products that complement its capabilities and at the same time cater to the customer’s craving for good looking products.
A great example of this is how MSI has taken one of its entry level motherboards, the B150M, and let loose on it a dozen ideas and versions to satisfy anyone looking for an affordable foundation for an affordable build. Particularly unique and desirable is the version of the B150M that we have now: the B150M Mortar Arctic, part of MSI’s Arsenal Gaming series.
We have reached a point in hardware capability where we rarely worry about how well it performs; expecting (and getting!) exceptional quality, durability and performance. What’s left for many enthusiasts is how good it goes with the rest of his or her gear. The B150M Mortar Arctic does not disappoint, be it in form or in function.
Functionally, the Mortar is very well equipped for an entry level product. It supports LGA 1151 socket Intel processors up to 6th gen (Skylake), has 4 DIMM slots supporting a maximum of 64GB of DDR4 2133MHz RAM, 2 PCI-Express x16 slots that can support dual AMD videocards in Crossfire, a PCI-E x1 slot, and even an M.2 slot for additional storage, if the 6 SATA ports aren’t enough.
The back panel is also well thought-out, with both DVI and HDMI to cover video output needs (requires processor integrated graphics), 3 flavors of USB (2x USB2, one each of USB 3.1 gen 1 and Type C, 2x USB3). The LAN port is a Realtek unit with the capability to prioritize game packets, and 8 channel audio is present also care of Realtek.
Although it sounds like a cliché, the aesthetics of this board is not at all skin deep. Case(s) in point – the Steel Armor on the first PCI-E slot blends in well into the overall design, while offering a strengthened mounting point for videocards. Unseen are the additional solder points that goes along with this feature. The I/O shield, finished in black and white camouflage pattern, serves the purpose of hiding the back panel connectors and additional electromagnetic shielding for the rest of the board. The inclusion of Military Class 4 technology shows itself in expensive Chemi-Con Audio capacitors, dark chokes and solid caps – no cutting of corners here. And of course the “Military” nomenclature fits in perfectly with the camouflage theme – truly form inspired by function.
The only purely aesthetic touch to be found here is the underside LED system – white in this case – that illuminates the user’s PC enclosure while turned on. Combined with the white paint job of the board and a planned theme, this can result in a smashing build with amazing looks and a sense of quality that translates to a great amount of user satisfaction.
Of the many versions of the B150 series of MSI motherboards (there are 5), the Mortar Arctic boasts of the most number of power phases (12) and subjectively, the best looks, and for a budget board, it sure has a lot going for it. Users can’t go wrong with the B150M Mortar Arctic’s quality in its features and looks; this board’s got both form and function covered.