MSI Z77A-GD65 - Overview

Whenever it comes to a motherboard comparison involving ASUS, Gigabyte or ASRock against an MSI board, the MSI board always tends to show a strong result - either in terms of price, performance or features.  Therefore, when it comes to the new batch of motherboards for Ivy Bridge, it is fair to say that I expect a strong showing from MSI.  Today, we have their Z77A-GD65, which will be one behind their future released GD80 that got attention back at CES for being Thunderbolt equipped.

The Z77A-GD65 currently retails at $190, a good amount above the Gigabyte board.  With the MSI, we have an Intel NIC, a full set of audio outputs, but no PCI or mSATA.  The Z77A-GD65 is in general a good board to play with.  It would underpin any Z77 build with ease.  The design is beneficial to multi-GPU setups, offers voltage read points of overclockers, and gives a front facing USB 3.0 port for front panel USB 3.0 cases.  The auto-overclocking OC Genie is relatively simple, but using the BIOS is straightforward (either at boot time or in the OS with Click BIOS software) to get something more befitting an Ivy Bridge processor.

Due to some of the other boards providing an overclock out-of-the-box, performance on the MSI may seem to be a little down on the other boards, but by enabling OC Genie on board, which every processor should be able to do, performance numbers would be comparable to the competition.

Visual Inspection

The Z77A-GD65 is another motherboard in this roundup that comes in a black and blue livery.  This time MSI have more of an excuse than others do as they have been using it for a fair while now.  Using what is essentially a 10 + 2 phase power delivery, MSI are using somewhat beefier heatsinks than their rivals, connecting both via a heatpipe.  The socket area is right up against Intel's minimum requirements from left to right, but there is some room to maneuver big air coolers from top to bottom.  Around the socket there are at least four fan headers to use: one 4-pin CPU header between the top VRM and the memory slots, a 4-pin system fan header just the other side of the memory slots, a 4-pin to the bottom left of the socket area, and another 4-pin beside the 24-pin ATX power connector.   A fifth fan header can be found at the bottom of the board.

Along the right hand side, we have the standard MSI trio of power/reset/OC Genie buttons, followed by a series of voltage checkpoints for overclockers.  Aside from the 24-pin power connector and the system fan header, there is also a USB 3.0 header at right angles to the board, indicating its primary use is to the front of the case.  Underneath this are the eight SATA ports - two SATA 6 Gbps from the PCH, four SATA 6 Gbps also from the PCH, and another two SATA 6 Gbps from an ASMedia controller.

As the power/reset/OC Genie buttons are at the top right, the bottom of the board has more room to fit in all the headers as needed - front panel audio, TPM, front panel headers and USB 2.0 headers.  In terms of PCIe, MSI have done away with the PCIe to PCI bridge and focused purely on PCIe.  We have an x1, x16 (x8 with dual GPU), x1, x1, x8, x1, and a PCIe 2.0 x4.  In this instance, there is plenty of room for a dual GPU setup with PCIe slots to spare for any extras.

Also of note is the chipset cooler, which is very flat and large with minimal fins, perhaps suggesting that MSI is confident about their heatsink design.  Underneath this is a two digit debug display, and a BIOS switch for changing between two BIOSes.

On the rear IO panel, I think MSI have been reasonable with what they have left in and what they have left out.  From left to right, we have a combination PS/2 port, two USB 2.0 ports (black), a clear CMOS button, digital and coaxial SPDIF outputs, two more USB 2.0 ports (black), a HDMI port, gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports (blue), D-Sub, DVI-D, and audio jacks.

Board Features

MSI Z77A-GD65
Price Link
Size ATX
CPU Interface LGA-1155
Chipset Intel Z77
Power Delivery (CPU/iGPU) 8 + 1 + 2 + 1 (VRM/VTT/GPU/SA)
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-2667 MHz
Video Outputs HDMI, DVI-D, D-Sub
Onboard LAN Intel 82579V
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC898
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe x16 Gen3 (x16, x8/8)
1 x PCIe x16 Gen2 (x4)
4 x PCIe x1 Gen2
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
4 x SATA 3 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
2 x SATA 6 Gbps (ASMedia ASM1061)
USB 4 USB 3.0 ports (2 back panel, 2 from headers)
10 USB 2.0 ports (4 back panel, 6 from headers)
Onboard 4 x SATA 6Gbps
4 x SATA 3 Gbps
1 x USB 3.0 Header
3 x USB 2.0 Headers
1 x IEEE1394 Header
1 x TPM Header
1 x Front Panel Audio Header
Power/Reset Buttons
OC Genie
5 x Fan Headers
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
Fan Headers 1 x CPU Fan Header (4-pin)
4 x SYS Fan Headers (two 4-pin, two 3-pin)
IO Panel 1 x Combo PS/2 Port
1 x Clear CMOS Button
1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Port
1 x Optical S/PDIF Port
4 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Jacks
1 x HDMI
1 x DVI-D
1 x D-Sub
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

It is good to see an Intel NIC on this motherboard and plenty of headers to go around.  The only things missing where other motherboards may have better all-round functionality are a PCI slot, mSATA or on-board WiFi.

 

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H - In The Box, Overclocking MSI Z77A-GD65 - BIOS and Software
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  • vegemeister - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    Yes, it is a very important feature. The Ivy Bridge IGP can drive 3 monitors. 4 display outputs means 3 of them are digital.

    Discrete GPUs increase idle power consumption, an as of this post none of them have particularly good open source drivers. Some of us just want lots of screens, good compiz performance, and silence.
    Reply
  • philipma1957 - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I have been building a series of matx htpc/gamer machines.

    I have one with the basic

    Gigabyte GA-B75M-D3H mATX board

    and one with the

    Gigabyte Ga-h77m-d3h mATX board.

    I want to decide between

    the ASUS P8Z77- m pro mobo or

    the ASUS p8z77-m board and

    last but not least the

    Gigabyte Intel Z77 LGA 1155 AMD CrossFireX/NVIDIA SLI DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort Dual UEFI BIOS mATX Motherboard G1.SNIPER M3 .

    I am liking the two builds I did with the lowend gigabyte boards and some intel i5 t2500t cpus I want a better board but I don't have many reviews to go by.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Are most DIY'ers really opting for ATX? Should they? I'd bet most people only plug in a video card and maybe one other card such as wireless or even a tuner. Every other possible need they may have would not only be met by mATX but even ITX is pretty full featured these days.

    You'd think mATX would be what most boards are targeted at, and leaving ATX for extreme builds/bragging rights. It's just like those high end video cards, most people don't buy those, rightfully and importantly so. Those should be the premium prices, and mATX should have a lower price. The focus just feels off.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    You mentioned people want mATX board. There by itself probably means that it can command higher prices, due to higher price tolerance of the purchasers. Reply
  • Caeric - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Enjoyed the review. I still have an old AMD dual core, and I'm considering a new system in the next couple of months so these help a great deal.

    I did find one error in the article, under the ASUS board:

    "The ASUS P8Z77-V Pro retails at $225-$235, essentially $100 less than the ASRock Z77 Extreme4..."

    It should say "...essentially $100 more than the ASRock..."
    Reply
  • Movieman420 - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Curious as to this controllers' performance vs the ever present Marvell controllers. Does it use a pci-e lane or usb3 for it's bandwidth? Reply
  • FozzyofAus - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Great review.

    I'm leaning towards mATX as well for this build as I've never used more than four expansion slots and currently I'm only using 3 (one is USB3 which won't be needed in the new board).

    I'd like to have a bit more room in my current case and the option to reuse this motherboard in a smaller case in future if I upgrade my main rig to Haswell next year.

    Any chance of adding Asrock Extreme4-m to the next motherboard roundup?
    Reply
  • spronkey - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Sorry guys but this review was a bit average. Comment on the various different controllers used by the motherboard manufacturers but don't offer any kind of review on them?

    The good additions: DPC latency and boot time.

    The missing? Well everything else.

    I was especially hoping for a comment on the VIA audio on the UD3H - it's been a while since I've seen VIA codecs on mainstream boards.

    I'm also amazed that you didn't slam the ASUS board for it's price and lack of features. Realtek 892? On a board that's nearing twice the cost of the ASRock? Seriously?

    No comment on the durability of the boards either? Hrm. No separation in testing of the different controllers on each board?

    A bit lacking, sorry.
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    Perhaps you're commenting on the wrong review.
    As Ian stated multiple times throughout the review, Asus is using Intel NIC's on their boards, in this case, the Intel 82579V.

    Durability is a function of time. Please point out the other motherboard reviews that covered durability.
    Reply
  • spronkey - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    He stated ASUS were using Intel, sure. But didn't get into any details other than stating they exist about the fact that there are multiple USB3 controllers and SATA controllers on each board. No benchmarks comparing them etc.

    In fact does it even mention which controllers were tested?

    And Durability is a function of construction quality and time. It would be nice to see comments on points such as board weight and flex, quality of soldering, quality of components used on the board (according to an electrical minded person on OCN, Gigabyte uses significantly higher rated MOSFETs than other manufacturers), temperatures of chipsets and VRM circuitry. These are things I can't easily find out by reading manuals.
    Reply

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