MSI Z77A-GD65 - BIOS

MSI's graphical BIOS was the result of an internal design competition - given various intricacies and factors in the final designs, the one that came 3rd went on to be the graphical interface we see today.  Over the past few generations, I have been either critical of MSI with their P67 'BIOS games' (explained to me later as more of a technical showcase), or appreciative of their X79 revision.

The BIOS on Z77 is the same as the X79 version.  Despite making several suggestions regarding that BIOS, none seem to have come through, so if I may I would like to make them again.  Do not get me wrong, the BIOS is well designed and easy to use - it is just that it could perhaps be easier, especially for overclocking.

The front page is great - we have CPU and system temperatures, CPU model, and speed, memory speed, memory size, BIOS version, and a boot order at the top.  What is great about this is that the top bar (and side navigation tools) are persistent throughout the BIOS, never once disappearing.  This layout is great, and would be beneficial if we ever get an increase in BIOS resolution in the future so more information can be put into the center console.

One recommendation is an improvement of the PC Health screen, which should offer lists of voltages and such for different components.  Perhaps a few more temperature sensors on board and a better fan control would not go amiss in the future.

For overclocking, our gaze turns to the OC menu, which essentially lumps all the overclocking options together.  There are a couple of issues with this.

Ideally, it should be separated cleanly into CPU, memory, and others, with the CPU voltage in the CPU section and so on.  As it currently stands, everything is in one run on menu - if they reduced the font size a little and could do CPU options on the left, memory options on the right, this would be great.

You may notice the Enhanced Turbo feature in the BIOS.  This does similar things to ASUS' MultiCore Enhancement, in that the CPU is pushed to 3.9 GHz during full load, 200 MHz more than what it should be.  By default, MSI has this off (I criticized them about it on X79), so they naturally have a disadvantage in the benchmarks later on.  However, this is the right way to do it - having it enabled by default technically invalidates the warranty on the processor.

Load Line Calibration on MSI boards is hidden under VDroop Control, and other options such as Digital Compensation Level, CPU Core OCP Expander and CPU Core Engine Speed are not properly defined for users.  Overall, I really like MSI's BIOS and it has a much nicer feel to it than many of their competitors.

Software

The main gamut of MSI's software comes in three programs - Control Center, Live Update, and Click BIOS.

Control Center: At the heart of the operation is Control Center.  This piece of software allows for OS adjustments for voltages and fans as well as enabling/disabling the LEDs on the motherboard.

Live Update 5: Best compatibility and the most features usually come from the latest versions of software - so MSI include their Live Update program with their motherboards.  This probes the system for software versions (and BIOS versions) then communicates to an online server to suggest updates and new downloads.  This is good, with one flaw - when you download new drivers, it does not tell you how big they are.  So if you end up having to download 130 MB of new audio drivers on a slow connection, the user will not know until it chugs along at 5% a minute.  It is a minor update I hope to see in a later revision.

Click BIOS II:The main software that MSI likes to push is Click BIOS - an operating system based interface for all BIOS modifications.  It is designed to look and feel like the actual BIOS, with all the settings.  For the most part, this is true - it does initially look like the BIOS, though there are still issues with fonts.  With it being an OS utility, they also miss a beat in providing additional tools for settings, such as graphs to manipulate the fan headers.

MSI Z77A-GD65 - Overview, Visual Inspection and Board Features MSI Z77A-GD65 - In The Box, Overclocking
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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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