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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  • Paapaa125 - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Article: "With a lot more controllers to initialise on board, the ASUS P8Z77-V Pro requires at default 20.47 seconds to reach the windows loading screen. By disabling controllers that aren't used, a time more like the ASRock could be achieved."

    Did you actually test this?

    And a suggestion: please test Intel DZ77BH-55K motherboard. It is the only board besides MSI to use the better ACL898 and Intel LAN chip but without other useless bulk (like secondary LAN etc). It seems to have superior BIOS to many others.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Hi Paapaa125,

    I should have an Intel Z77 board inbound to test. I have about 5 others to test as well, and some ITX. Currently reviewing boards in my spare time, so please bear with me as I get through them all! :)

    Ian
    Reply
  • Paapaa125 - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    Great to hear that! And no need to rush, I can wait :) I hope you test these things:

    Boot time. Fan control settings. Power consumption. Lan speed/CPU util. Audio quality. And check if the Turbo Boost settings actually are identical. Otherwise the benchmark results are unbiased.

    I'm actually more interested in other features than pure computational speed and benchmark scores. The differences are usually insignificant, but the differences in other areas might be big.
    Reply
  • althaz - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    Somebody further down the thread posted a message that they configured their Asus 'board to POST much quicker than above.

    I second request for Intel board reviews! I am particularly interested in the DZ77GA70K as well as the 55K mentioned by Paapaa125. I've been hearing good things about the GA70K but I'm hesitant to commit without finding out about POST times and I'd also like to see if performance is the same between the 55K and 70K.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Can you give us realistic power supply measurements? I am interested in building a fairly fast system that is pretty much always on. So the idle power needs to be as low as possible. I would use a smaller power supply that is at least 85% efficient @ 50 Watts. And no video card. With just one SSD and one optical drive. My best napkin-guess would be an idle power of 40-45 watts. Reply
  • Silenus - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    That's a fair guess for idle. The problem you will have is that ideally you will want a high efficiency supply that at idle is at least 20% loaded. For you 40-45 idle that means you would need a supply probably not more than 200 watts. It is hard to find a 80+ supply at those lower powers. You might consider a small form factor supply. This is just about fits your requirement:
    http://www.neweggbusiness.com/Product/Product.aspx...
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    That might be a good choice. I wonder if I would still be able to hit 4.3GHz with that supply. I would definitely keep it at stock volts. Reply
  • haakon_k - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    ..or try the 80+ gold alternative from seasonic, if you can find a shop that sells it, 300 or 350W - optionally modular.
    http://www.seasonic.com/product/pc_tfx.jsp
    Unfortunately without any PCIe 6 pin power connector, if you so should get tempted...
    Reply
  • Avalon - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Well that review went as expected. MSI underperformed, Asus was needlessly expensive, Gigabyte had memory issues, and Asrock OC'd with lower voltages. That;s mirrored my experiences in the past few years. Reply
  • goldie.lin - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the nice benchmarks, USB, SATA, LAN, Power Consumption, ...
    Especially, I appreciate the "DPC Latency" and "Boot Times" tests.
    It very useful and practical!!!
    Keep working, AnandTech.
    Reply

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