Fresh in the TechPowerUp motherboard testing facility is the latest Z68 offering from MSI, the Z68A-GD65 (G3). A refresh of the previously released Z68A-GD65 (B3), the new MSI "G3" motherboard comes with all the features of the last iteration, with an updated BIOS interface, and new to Intel platforms, PCI Express Generation 3, which is set to add future functionality for upcoming "Ivy bridge" 22 nm CPUs and future videocards from NVIDIA and AMD. We strap the Z68A-GD65 (G3) into our test bench, fire it up, and get an early look at what the next generation offers.
||Intel Socket 1155 2nd Gen Core Family/Unlock Processor
||CPU Power: 8+2 phase
Memory Power: 1 Phase
||Intel Z68 Express
||Intel Integrated (via installed CPU)
||4 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB, DDR3 1066 to DDR3 2133 |
||MSI UEFI BIOS with 32 Mb Flash ROM
||2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots(x16/0 or x8/x8)
3 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
2 x PCI v2.3 slots
||4 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (Intel Z68)
2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (Intel Z68)
2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (Marvell 88SE9128)
||1 x Realtek 8111E PCIe Gigabit Lan
||10 x USB 2.0 ports (4 at back panel, 6 at front panel)
4 x USB 3.0 ports (2 at back panel, 2 at front panel)
1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo connector
1 x HDMI port
1 x DVI port
1 x VGA port
2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
8 x Audio port with 6 analogue audio jacks + 2 Digital
||Realtek ALC892 HD CODEC
||ATX Form Factor( 305 mm x 245 mm )
- Military Class II Components
- THX TruStudio PRO
- PCI Express Gen 3
- Click BIOS II
- OC Genie II
- Lucid Virtu software bundle
- Super Charger
- APS(Active Phase Switching)
- Winki 3
Intel Z68 Chipset
In the middle of May Intel launched its new "mainstream-enthusiast" product line, based on the Z68 Express chipset. With the P67 and H67 chipsets launched just a few months before, the Z68 takes the best features of both, and combines them together to offer extreme flexibility and several key features. The first, and most obvious of these features is the ability to use not only discrete graphics cards, but also allows use of the Sandy Bridge integrated GPU, at the same time
. The majority of other chipsets that offered integrated graphics only allow use of one or the other, but the Z68 chipset has none of these limitations. In fact, through the use of third-party software, you can even use just one monitor, and both the Intel integrated GPU and a discrete graphics card can work together, combining the features of both solutions into one big all-in-one solution.
The second feature not seen in P67 or H67 is Intel's "Smart Response Technology", which allows the combination of both a mechanical disk drive and an ultra-fast SSD into one, offering the superfast speed of the SSD, and the storage space of a mechanical drive in one solution. Combining technologies seems what Z68 is all about, and this is no different. Once set up, it requires no user intervention, and will automatically keep commonly used files on the SSD, for quick and easy access.
The Intel Z68 Express chipset also allows overclocking of both the CPU, and the GPU, which neither previous SKT1155 offered. Intel has offered a lot with the Z68 package, such that it's questionable why the P67 and H67 chipsets are even around, and some OEMs agree, such as Gigabyte, who has dropped all P67-based products in favor for Z68 chipsets. And with that in mind, it's also important to mention that OEMs are not required to enable all features available on the Z68 platform, and certain things, like PCIe lane configurations and if the display outputs are enabled, are all up to the OEM to implement.
MSI has made some specific configuration options available in the Z68A-GD65 (G3) that we haven't seen before, such as the PCIe 3.0 functionality for the secondary graphics slot, as well as several overclocking features tailored for those looking to push the limit. Can it break the speed barriers? Let's take a look.
Clad in white and blue, the MSI Z68A-GD65(G3) showed up on the doorstep ready for action. The front of the box looks like it was run over by a heavy military vehicle, a thick blue track streaking across the middle with MSI-specific technology declarations floating above. The top has a bunch of logos from other partners for their specific technologies found in the Z68A-GD65 (G3), and the product name itself is found on the bottom, placed in such a way it really stands out from all the other action going on. The rear of the box has the product name as well, with a brief descriptions of the MSI technologies found inside.
Flipping up the top we find all the goodies right on top, including a bunch of unexpected extras. Once we removed a little bit of cardboard we find the board itself, settled nicely inside a topless box of its own, more than enough to ensure the board will arrive to its destination fully intact.
There's quite a lot of stuff in the box here, and one of the things we have hoped for with nearly every product is right here; a USB 3.0 backplate that goes in an expansion slot, for cases that do not offer a USB 3.0 header built in. There's also a bunch of pin blocks to make case cable connection easy, making it really seem as though MSI has thought about who might buy this product, and what case they might have, as nearly everything needed to make full use of the board is covered. A full listing of everything is below:
- 1x I/O Shield
- 1x User Manual
- 1x Software Guide
- 1x Quick Install Guide
- 1x Driver CD
- 4x SATA cables with locking pins
- 1x Molex-to-SATA Power Extension Cable
- 1x USB 3.0 PCI Slot Cable Kit
- 1x SLI Bridge
- 1x Front Panel Pin blocks
- 4x Voltage Measuring Cable
The Board - Layout
The MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) sports a blue/black color scheme and a familiar layout, albeit with just six slots. It's more black than blue, but that theme continues to even the board's pin connectors, a nice small touch that goes a long way. The rear of the board is nice and clean, with very few protruding pins that might interfere with aftermarket heatsinks and liquid nitrogen pots, thanks to the Z68A-GD65 (G3)'s capacitor selection. The HI-C capacitors feature a nice low profile, that even makes insulation a relatively easy task.
Those capacitor choices translate to saved space around the socket too, of course, with plenty of room available to fit aftermarket heatsinks and insulate for extreme cooling if needed. Looking inside the socket we see an array of components all nicely lined up, and not a single space empty, but we did find several places on the backside of the socket with empty solder pads.
There are four total DIMM slots, each supporting 8 GB DIMMs, bringing memory support up to a total of 32 GB. The expansion slots start with a PCIe x1 slot up top followed by a x16 slot that will switch down to a x8 link when the second slot is populated. There is a second and third PCIe x1 slot separating the dual PCIe x16 slots, and two legacy PCI slots are below, just enough slots to meet near anyone's needs.
There are total of eight SATA ports on the Z68A-GD65 (G3), with both white ports offering SATA 6 Gb/s connectivity, while the four black ports are SATA 3 Gb/s natively. The lower white SATA 6 Gb/s ports are driven by a Marvell controller, while the other set of white ports, as well as the four black ports, are driven by the Z68 PCH (Platform Controller Hub). The backplate has a combo mouse/keyboard PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, dual USB 3.0 ports, and a smattering of both audio and video ports, both in analog and digital formats. We also find a CMOS clear button, handy when overclocking and the backup BIOS fails to load.
The bottom of the board sports now-standard USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 headers, with a split front-panel connector that helps fit everything in nicely. The rear half sports ON/OFF and RESET switches, along with a serial "COM" and audio headers.
There are two other pin blocks on the MSI Z68-GD65 (G3); one TPM module block above the lower PCIe x16 slot, and "DLED" block next to 24-pin power connector, which the manual tells us is for "future expansion". There are a total of five fan headers too, with the upper two featuring PWM control, while the lower three are the standard 3-pin type.
The southbridge heatsink, located between the right edge of the PCIe x16 slots, is fairly large, but is low enough so as to not interfere with large expansion cards in any of the slots. Below the heatsink is the Z68 PCH itself, surrounded by a complex array of components.
The Board - A Closer Look
We already mentioned the ON/OFF and RESET switches, but we didn't mention that there's also another switch, up by the DIMM slots labelled "OC GENIE", which when depressed, offers an automatic overclock, as well as enabling XMP profiles in supported memory at the same time, for a quick and easy performance boost. Of course, when this button is depressed, a nice warning will pop up before entering the BIOS, advising you to not make any changes while this mode is enabled. Speaking of the BIOS, there are two BIOS chips onboard, and try as we might to get a failed boot, after three failed attempts, it always kicked off from the back-up BIOS with a notification of it doing so, and easy entry into the BIOS to change settings was always possible.
The VRM controller that MSI used here on the Z68A-GD65 (G3) is carried over from the previous Z68 MSI boards, with a strange 3-pin header nearby for unknown purposes. What we do know, however, is that the board features what MSI calls "APS", or Active Phase Switching, and the LED array you see in the second picture above indicates the APS status, with the lights increasing in number and intensity as the board's VRM is placed under load.
The Z68A-GD65 (G3)'s CPU VRM itself is composed of eight phases for the CPU proper, and two phases for the CPU's integrated GPU and its northbridge. The DIMM VRM is a single-phase design, although it does have a dual HI/LOW MOSFET design, more than enough for memory clocking on the SKT1155 platform.
The Super I/O is provided by Fintek, not one that we see commonly, and if you prefer to not rely on software for voltage measurements via the Fintek chip, MSI has equipped the Z68A-GD65 (G3) with a measuring point, and included adapter cables that when mated with a digital multi-meter, can provide quite accurate real-time voltage measurements for various critical CPU and memory voltages.
In order to provide PCIe 3.0 lane switching, MSI has soldered on true PCIe 3.0 switches, seen in the third picture, and it's these components the lead to the revision, as well as lending the "G3" status to the board's moniker.
Marvell has been tapped for the extra SATA 6 Gb/s controller, with the very popular 88SE9128-NAA2 sitting just behind the ports it controls. ASMedia provides the PCI slot signal via the ASM1083, while Realtek provides the LAN connectivity via the RTL8111E placed just above the top PCIe x1 slot.
We find dual Parade PS8101 TMDS transmitters, which together allow for dual monitor support via your chosen CPU's integrated video controller.
The USB 3.0 controllers are none other than standard NEC/Renesas D7202000AF1, a PCIe-based controller that not only boasts some awesome performance, but also promises to sip the power while doing so.
The Z68A-GD65 (G3) comes equipped with a pretty hefty cooling system, with both the VRM and PCH heatsink made of large solid chunks of aluminum. The PCH cooler is attached with the same pink gummy thermal interface material we've be finding on a lot of Intel-based products as of late, while the phase cooler uses soft thermal pads that make good contact with all of the board's VRM phases. Comprised of two separate elements that are connected via a large heatpipe, the VRM cooler proved very good, barely getting warm to the touch in our test bench, even under the most extreme loads.
||100 MHz ... 500 MHz
||100 MHz ... 500 MHz
||x6 (800 MHz), x8 (1066 MHz), x10 (1333 MHz),
x12 (1600 MHz), x14 (1866 MHz), x16 (2133 MHz)
||0.80 V ... 1.80 V
||1.108 V ... 2.464 V
||0.950 V ... 1.55 V
|System Agent Voltage:
||0.925 V ... 1.585 V
||0.775 V ... 1.724 V
||1.00 V ... 1.35 V
MSI has a brand new UEFI BIOS that they are also launching with the Z68-GD65 (G3), featuring a new layout and thematic styling that matches the board's physical theme very well. Different from other UEFI implementations than we have seen before, it combines a semi-traditional interface that is surrounded by newly adopted UEFI features, including quick boot device selection, all of which are easily navigated with a mouse, or by keyboard. The top of the screen shows the date and time as well as a brief system description with the main interface below, surrounded by six panels that lead into separate areas that each contain appropriate settings. The first section, labeled "Settings", contains board-specific settings and a few other things. The first area gives a fairly standard listing of system settings for drives as well as basic CPU info, along with access to date and time adjustments.
The "Advanced" section under the "Settings" heading contains quite a few different sections, and this is where we found ourselves becoming a bit critical of MSI's new BIOS interface, as there are several headings, but very little options under them, with sometimes only one or two settings per heading, as seen the pictures above, of the PCI and ACPI pages.
The devices page is a bit better laid out, with options not only for the onboard devices, but also for each SATA port individually. We were a bit surprised to find integrated GPU settings here as well, however, as really the options here are for enabling Virtu support and selecting the primary display device, it is more appropriate than we realized. The USB page of course, offers USB-specific settings, but there are only a few, so again we were greeted by a big page with little options.
The SmartFan settings were a bit lean on options as well, with only customization of the CPU_FAN header available, a bit of a surprise considering that there is another PWM header, as well as three other separate 3-pin headers, too. Power Management was yet another area with just a couple of options, while the "wake" options are bit more involved, but we couldn't help but feel those two pages could have been combined into one. The "Boot" section, on the other hand, contained all the options that we expected, with not a single stray setting to be found.
The "OC" section, on the other hand, is probably one of the most comprehensive areas, containing a few extra options that are becoming a bit more common today, and welcome additions at that. Start with clock options, then DRAM timings, and quickly transitioning into voltages after, there are so many options here that we had to include two screenshots to be able to cover them all, never mind that there are a few very important sections hidden from immediate view until we scrolled down to the bottom. The DRAM page contains all the timings we needed to maximize memory performance, leaving not a single setting missed that we wished MSI has included.
The "CPU Specifications" options on the "OC" page simply gives a listing of the CPU's features and clock settings, with a secondary option that lists specific CPU technologies the installed CPU supports, both only offering information, information we didn't exactly need, per se, but still proves to be an interesting addition nonetheless. The CPU features page, however, contains all the options needed to overclock fully using Intel's "Turbo" feature, as well as settings to enable or disable specific CPU features as well as CPU cores themselves.
The "Memory-Z" listing contains, on the first page, a full listing of JEDEC timings, both in standard single-numbers format, as well as in nanoseconds, while at the bottom is a heading that shows XMP-related settings, both of which are read from the SPD table. The "Overclocking Profiles" section at the bottom of the "OC" page provides a section for saving six separate BIOS profiles, allowing for more than enough custom configurations for most users, as well as a simple way to switch between them. We did test how well this worked, as we have found some other products failed to load all settings properly, but we are very happy to report that MSI's implementation here worked flawlessly.
The “ECO” heading contains power-savings specific features as well as listing real-time voltages, while the "Utilities" page contains tools to back up hard drives and update the BIOS, while the "Security" page contains a few features to secure not only BIOS access, but also updating, as well as offering settings for chassis intrusion. The Browser page leads into MSI's own WINKI3, a self-contained Linux OS that offers a few basic internet applications, a quick-booting alternative to Windows for those that desire such.
MSI has done a fantastic job with their new BIOS on the Z68A-GD65 (G3). It has all the desired functionality for any overclocker, and then some, and a bunch of other add-ons that are a definite plus, too. We do question the layout in some specific areas that might make navigation a bit more convoluted than it needs to be, but at the same time, it's not a big issue that affects any sort of daily functionality of the board, either. MSI and their BIOS engineers are definitely headed in the right direction; one that we hope other OEMs adopt too.
On the software side of things, MSI provides just as much as they do in BIOS, and that's a good thing, as there is something here for everyone. The first bit of software is a tweaking utility, "MSI Control Center", that offers the ability to adjust clocks and voltage from within the OS with a few simple clicks. We did test the software a fair bit as we ran into some strange issues with our RAM, which "Control Center" helped us identify as a low I/O voltage. We did try to fix the problem using the software in the OS, but we found that the changes offered, while effective in the OS, only work inside the OS, and a reboot will undo the changes made in software. This is a bit of a problem for us, as we know it's very possible, using Intel's Management Engine interface, for settings to be applied to the BIOS on the next boot, yet at the same time, we appreciate that this particular functionality could lead to other issues too, so we set the tool aside as a way to test from within the OS. It also has a handy panel that lists real-time CPU temperatures and individual core speeds, including for the integrated GPU, and we used this bit of "Control Center" quite a bit while doing our overclock testing.
Next up is "Live Update 5", a tool that offers an easy way to access online updates for drivers, tools, and the board's BIOS, as well as for GPU software and other such things for other products that MSI has on the market. When it's opened, it greeted us with a listing of our OS, the board model, BIOS version for the board and our installed discrete GPU, with a line at the bottom to notify us of any available updates. Unfortunately, because our board is so new, there were no updates available, so we removed some drivers and installed older versions that what we found on the driver disc, and we were quite pleased to see that "Live Update 5" picked up on this, and offered installation of the latest drivers. Good job, MSI!
The third image above is of another application, called "Easyviewer". Simply an interface to view media such as video and pictures, it's handy, and has a nice layout, but doesn't really offer anything that didn't exist already in Windows. It's nice, but not for us, directly.
Of course, not all software is going to appeal to everyone, but the next three tools did offer us a bit of useful function, although again, not offering anything that we haven't seen before. "Audio Genie", "Teaming Genie", and "Video Genie" are all tools that access settings for onboard components in an easy to use and a bit overly flashy interface. We did have some issues navigating through the Audio Genie with the offered options have buttons that blended well into the software's background, and moved in position depending on what screen was in the forefront, so while they are nice, again, we think they could use a bit of tweaking, but that is also just us being critical.
Last, but not least, for sure, is the Lucid Virtu software that we find packaged with all Z68-based products. The MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) ships with a fairly recent version of the Virtu software that works quite well, with very little performance impact when using the board's display output combined with a discrete GPU, a definite step in the right direction.
There is another piece of MSI software on the disc, called "Click BIOS II", but because we already covered the BIOS, and it takes the BIOS and makes it usable from within Windows, we're not going to go into much detail other than to say that it's there, and it works, and requires a reboot before the settings are applied. Because it requires a reboot, we don't mind just going into the BIOS during boot directly, but it will save a few seconds or so, and make copying settings from other users very easy.
||Intel i7 Gen2 2600K
3.4 GHz, 8 MB Cache
||4 GB DDR3 (2x 2 GB) Mushkin Blackline Ridgeback 996826
Intel Z68, BIOS ver 23.2B1
||Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 2 GB
||Western Digital Caviar SE 16 WD5000AAKS 500GB SATA2
Seagate Barracuda LP ST2000DL003 2TB SATA3
iomega eGo BlackBelt 500GB USB3.0
||Windows 7 64-bit, ATI Catalyst 11.7
When we first set up the board, we did not encounter any issues, and stock testing was completed without any problems noticed at all. Our memory booted in at JEDEC timings, and when we swapped out sets, the board stopped the boot process to notify us that the memory had changed, prompting us to either enter the BIOS to change settings, or to load defaults. While this is normal when changing the CPU, it's not as normal when changing memory, so this is a nice touch we appreciate.
PWM Power Consumption
Since one of our first tasks was to truly verify system stability, while doing so, we measure CPU power consumption. We isolate the power coming through the 8-pin ATX connector using an in-line meter that provides voltage and current readings, as well as total wattage passed through it. While this may not prove to isolate the CPU power draw in all instances, it does serve as a good indicator of board efficiency and effective VRM design.
For idle power consumption, the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) ended up right on top for Intel Z68 chipset products, with our meter reporting just 6W consumed. Under load, with the Z68A-GD65-G3 gave pretty good numbers too, beating the Biostar TZ68A+ by 5 W. Very impressive!
CPU Performance Results
Super Pi serves as our memory-focused benchmark, being highly single-threaded. The MSI Z68A-GD65-G3 put out decent numbers, but was a fair bit behind a few others.
wPrime is much more CPU-focused, but memory plays its role as well. In this test, the numbers were much the same as SuperPi, with the Z68A-GD65 (G3) close, but still behind.
The third test in our motherboard benchmarking suite is the built-in benchmark that is part of the WinRAR software suite. In this test, the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) put up amazing numbers, beating out every other products tested to date.
We employed AIDA64's memory bench to highlight memory bandwidth. We isolate the write performance metric as it serves as a good indicator of overall memory performance. Again the Z68A-GD65 (G3) ended up in the middle of the pack, explaining our lower-than-expected SuperPi and wPrime results.
Handbrake is used for encoding testing, and provided results much similar to the WinRAR benchmark, with the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) right on top of its platform, beating out our other Z68-based products, including the Zotac board with its additional clockspeed.
In Cinebench, the MSI Z68A-GD65(G3) followed the emerging CPU-focused pattern, right in the middle.
3D Performance Results
Once we completed our CPU test suite, we took some time to play some games with the TPU community to get an overall feel for gaming on the Z68A-GD65 (G3). After a couple of days we settled in to complete our 3D benchmarking, feeling confident that the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) was going to put on a good show. Let's take a look at what numbers the board provided.
Once we ran 3DMark11, we were very surprised, with the very best numbers yet offered by the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3), and we think the "G3" moniker might have something to do with it.
Our first real-world 3D performance test comes in the form of Civilization 5, using the included benchmark. We let the game recommend us settings, and then disabled V-SYNC and AA to eliminate bottlenecks introduced by the GPU itself. We weren't disappointed in the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3), as it managed to duplicate average numbers given by the boards we've looked at earlier. The Civilization 5 benchmark does serve to show that everything is working as it should, as any deviations from the average numbers here indicates a problem, and the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) showed no issues.
Our second real-world 3D performance test comes from Code Masters, in the form of the "F1 2010" included benchmark. We let the game recommend us settings, which included 8xAA with our newly added HD 6950 2 GB from Sapphire. Again we find the numbers a bit higher than what we expected, just slightly below the top two P67-based numbers, but third place, and best in its platform says something.
Drive and Audio Performance Results
Our drive and audio testing differs a bit from the rest of our testing, for several reasons. First of all, when it comes to drive performance comparison, differences between the P55 and P67 chipsets do leave the P55 platform with a distinct disadvantage, such that we have excluded those results from our reporting. And finally, with audio, we do not list any numbers except for those reported by the product we are testing in order to provide the most information possible, as each audio CODEC will behave quite differently, and each board does not employ the same CODEC. As such, there is no standard we can use other than the numbers themselves. You can always check our other motherboard reviews in order to make direct comparisons to audio performance.
We've tested each drive interface separately, in order to provide the most complete numbers possible. Employing HDTune Pro for all of the testing, we tested each drive outside of the OS environment, using a separate OS on a separate drive, although we do use drives with a fair amount of data on them to simulate performance in real-world situations. For audio, we've changed how we report the numbers provided, using screenshots from the textual results that RMAA provides.
HDTune Pro (SATA2)
We noticed a divergence from the rest of the numbers when testing drive performance, with our MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) right in second place, along with a lot of other products.
HDTune Pro (SATA 6 Gb/s)
SATA 6 Gb/s again showed quite decent performance, although not high in the chart, but with less than 1% of difference from the best result.
HDTune Pro (USB3.0)
USB 3.0 drive performance proved to put the Z68A-GD65 (G3) on top of the pile, much different from the NEC/Renesas products on the other boards. Again, because the controller is on the PCIe bus, we suspect the "G3" moniker is paying off yet again.
RightMark Audio Analyzer
MSI uses the same ALC892 CODEC as many other products we have seen in our reviews. These results are very good, and we didn't notice any obvious problems during our usage testing.
Overclocking with the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) proved pretty easy, but at first we met with some difficulty getting our memory stable, as well as operating the "Click BIOS" while in Windows. We contacted MSI and received a new BIOS, which fixed both problems, thankfully. MSI notified us that all production boards should be shipping with the revised BIOS, so while it was an issue for us, users can rest assured that MSI is on top of things, and it shouldn't be a problem in production boards.
Of course, with so many features geared to overclocking, we were sure to put them to the test when we ran into problems, and they definitely helped us diagnose the issues we encountered so that when we approached MSI with our problems, they were quickly solved. We also need to mention the "OC Genie" button, which offered not only an immediate overclock to 4.2 GHz on our Intel i7 2600K, it also enabled our memory's XMP profile too, and the system proved fully stable upon stability testing. However, it did boost the voltage a fair bit too high for our CPU, all the way to 1.35 V, while as you can see in the CPU-Z screenshot above, we needed much less for stability at much higher clocks. We also were able to match the voltages used on other boards near exactly, albeit a bit lower, hinting at untapped potential left for the extreme crowd.
Overclocked Performance Summary
Cinebench provided a substantial performance increase when overclocked, something that resounds true through the entire series of SandyBridge products.
Likewise, Super Pi 32m results proved the same as Cinebench, with substantial performance increases that are noticed on previous Intel platforms.
WPrime 1024M numbers further the results, showing that there is true power available when overclocking the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3).
For a bit of 3D action, we fired up Code Master's F1 2010, to be impressed with the performance boost offered, compared to the other products.
Value & Conclusion
- The MSI Z68A-GD65(G3) will be available soon with an MSRP of $199.99
- Full of overclocker-friendly features, without a high price normally associated with boards ready for extreme overclocking
- Exceptional software package, including a custom Linux-based OS for quick Internet access
- New MSI EFI BIOS with new design and layout, including support for mouse control and 3 TB+ drives
- Lucid Virtu support
- One of the best accessory packages yet; nothing missed in functionality no matter your case choice.
- PCIe Gen 3.0 support
- 5-Year warranty in North America
- BIOS options are spread out on too many pages
- Color scheme broken with white SATA ports
- OC Genie settings almost too conservative considering the board's potential.
||We spent a considerable bit of time with the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3), and during that time, it really grew on us. The new BIOS is very nice and easy to use, matches the board perfectly, and the overclocking features are pretty darn good too. Considering that boards in the same price range don't offer the same overclocking features, nor the software, we've got to give a bit of respect to MSI for delivering on basically every angle possible. It's unfortunate to see the color scheme broken with the SATA ports and a couple of fan headers, but such minor details hardly detract from the functionality of the board at all.|
Hearing that all production boards will ship with a BIOS that fixes the issues we had is pretty good too, as we've encountered a few teething issues before with other products that went unaddressed until long after release, if at all. We deducted for the failed color scheme at the SATA ports, and a bit for the BIOS's numerous pages filled with just one or two options; problems that are mostly aesthetic, and not performance-related. At the same time, the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3) also carries a 5-year warranty, something seen on very few products in the market, and one thing that really speaks about the quality offered by the MSI Z68-GD65 (G3). For a first look at MSI, we're left pretty impressed, and at the same time, disappointed that we hadn't met the Z68A-GD65 (G3) sooner.