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MSI Z77A-GD65

Six Sub-£160 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed
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Combining the newest features with moderate expandability, Intel’s mainstream platforms provide high value to most gaming and overclocking enthusiasts. We compare six examples with Z77 Express to find the best features, overclocking, and efficiency.

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 And since one or two of these is always present, there should still be a pair of the outdated ports on an I/O panel.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 :)