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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  • Zoomer - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    Construction quality analysis would be a good addition, imo. Perhaps the mobo roundups can be done by a team instead of just 1 person. ;) Reply
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I am always impressed by the depth of reviews by AT. I can't wait for the mITX roundup!
    P.S. any comment on availability of i7 3770t?
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    http://www.geeks3d.com/20120506/intel-hd-graphics-...

    It turns out Intel's new Windows 8 beta driver (v2729) works for Windows 7 and enables OpenGL 4.0 and OpenCL 1.1 support for Ivy Bridge. Can you try your OpenCL Compute benchmarks on them? Perhaps a OpenGL Unigine run as well to test OpenGL tessellation?
    Reply
  • althaz - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    So glad to finally get a tech site benchmarking POST times. One point of constructive criticism: I realise this would take more time, but ideally it'd be good to benchmark POST times both at default settings AND with everything possible disabled, so that we can get a true comparison between boards. Even with all features disabled, I've come across older boards where there is still 10+ seconds of difference in POST times.

    All in all, thanks for a great review!
    Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    "The ASUS P8Z77-V Pro retails at $225-$235, essentially $100 less than the ASRock Z77 Extreme4" Should be "$100 more", not "$100 less" Reply
  • adrien - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    I really wish 10GbE was on mainstream motherboards but I think you've mixed bits and Bytes here. ;-) Reply
  • Casper42 - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    10Gbase-T is a power hog and requires special cabling if memory serves me right.
    DAC by way of SFP+ is too short and too expensive.
    Fiber transceivers cost more than any of these entire motherboards.

    How do you propose they get there?

    There is a Broadcom chip that does 2.5Gbps when connected to a 10Gb switch and 1Gbps on a 1Gb switch. Maybe that's a good compromise
    Reply
  • Metaluna - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    I agree it seems unlikely that 10GbE over copper will ever reach sufficient critical mass to be economical for consumers, especially with wireless standards continually improving. Maybe Thunderbolt is the way forward for small high performance wired SANs in the home? Reply
  • Zoomer - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Thunderbolt is not the answer, due to limited range. Reply
  • theSeb - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Yep, since MBps is used correctly for the USB 2 and USB 3 charts I was surprised to see 400 megabytes per second over a gigabit ethernet link. :) Reply

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