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MSI Z77A-GD65

Six Sub-£160 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed
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The board that most review sites used for their Z77 Express previews, MSI’s Z77A-GD65 sports a number of similar design attributes as its competition. MSI has its own hybrid digital voltage regulator however, which could give the board a small boost in overclocking stability.

This editor contends that as long as a chipset has USB 2.0 ports, they should probably be used for low-bandwidth peripherals. That includes USB keyboards and/or mice. And since one or two of these is always present, there should still be a pair of the outdated ports on an I/O panel. MSI has four, while one of its competitors has zero.

Priced around £150, we’d have preferred to see two fewer USB 2.0 and two more USB 3.0 ports on the back. A value bump may have also been found from the inclusion of eSATA. But MSI decided instead to use the Z77A-GD65’s sole add-in controller for internal SATA 6Gb/s ports.

Overclockers will immediately notice the power, reset, O/C Genie base clock control, and I/O panel CLR_CMOS buttons. The Z77A-GD65 also includes a two-digit diagnostics display, line voltage detection points, and a dual-ROM firmware switch.

With FireWire on its I/O panel, we were a little surprised to find an IEEE-1394 port internally. MSI may have included this as a concession to older case designs with front-panel FireWire connectors, since many people hate/fear/distrust unconnected ports. Newer cases will make use of the front-panel USB 3.0 header, which faces forward to avoid conflict with graphics cards.

The Z77A-GD65's most surprising feature, perhaps, is a pair of tiny two-lane PCIe 3.0 switches between its second x16-length slot and its clock battery. While all of today’s boards automatically switch from single-slot x16 to dual-slot x8/x8 modes for CrossFire and SLI, the Z77A-GD65 can further switch to x8/x4/x4 transfers for three-way graphics arrays. This causes quite a bit of commotion amongst some of MSI’s competitors, but keep in mind that third-gen PCIe x4 slots offers the same bandwidth as second-gen PCIe x8 slots. That should be enough for three-way CrossFire, so long as your hardware (CPU and GPUs) are PCIe 3.0-compliant.

PCIe 3.0 x4 is mathematically superior to PCIe 2.0 x4, so we can safely conclude that MSI provides the best motherboard in this story for three-way graphics arrangements. That's why we haven't recommended the PCIe 2.0-based implementations of competing platforms for anyone looking to use a trio of graphics cards. Those boards would be better for hosting other devices without impacting graphics bandwidth.

Beyond the complexity of deciding how the third 16-lane PCIe slot might be used, the only minor problems we find with the Z77A-GD65’s layout are that the eight-pin CPU power connector has an upward-facing latch, and the front-panel audio connector is located in the extreme rear corner along the motherboard’s bottom edge. The first issue affects cable removal in some cases that have bottom-mounted power supplies, while the second makes cable reach problematic for some cases with short audio cables.

We doubt that MSI could ever get an official thumbs-up from Nvidia for its x8/x4/x4 design, so the inclusion of a two-way SLI bridge is acceptable. Three-way CrossFireX is possible using the bridges included with two of the cards, and MSI’s inclusion of four SATA cables is adequate, if not generous.

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  • 1 Hide
    miguels , 1 May 2012 06:29
    I'm a bit new to this, but how can we start the pc if the motherboard doesn't have the power button?
  • 1 Hide
    digdog , 1 May 2012 09:38
    on the bottom of the motherboard there's a set of headers (small pins) that connect to the various buttons on your pc case, one of which is the power-on button.
  • -2 Hide
    mi1ez , 1 May 2012 10:57
    DigDogon the bottom of the motherboard there's a set of headers (small pins) that connect to the various buttons on your pc case, one of which is the power-on button.

    just short the 2 power button pins with a screwdriver.
  • 1 Hide
    miguels , 1 May 2012 19:53
    Quote:
    DigDog :
    on the bottom of the motherboard there's a set of headers (small pins) that connect to the various buttons on your pc case, one of which is the power-on button.


    just short the 2 power button pins with a screwdriver.


    Yeah, I know, but it says in the article that the Asus P8Z77-V Pro doesn't have a power button
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 2 May 2012 02:24
    usb3/sata3/wifi/bluetooth still very limited ...these r not cheap boards.......why????
  • 0 Hide
    TheCereaKillerPT , 6 May 2012 07:27
    miguelsYeah, I know, but it says in the article that the Asus P8Z77-V Pro doesn't have a power button


    Yes , but there a set of headers were u can connect the cables that connet to the front / top of your case so that u can just click and that it . The ones that have a power button it's if u want to change parts like gpu and u don't want to put it in a case. Hope it helped :)