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MSI Z68A-GD80 Intel Motherboard E-mail
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Written by David Ramsey   
Thursday, 02 June 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI Z68A-GD80 Intel Motherboard
The Intel Z68 Express Chipset
Closer Look: MSI Z68A-GD80
Closer Look Continued
Motherboard Testing Methodology
AIDA64 Extreme Edition Tests
CINEBENCH R11.5 Benchmarks
PassMark Performance Test
Media Encoding Benchmarks
SPECviewperf 11 Tests
Street Fighter IV and Blender
Z68A-GD80 Overclocking
Z68 Motherboard Final Thoughts
MSI Z68A-GD80 Conclusion

MSI Z68A-GD80 Intel Motherboard Review

Manufacturer: Micro-Star International
Product Name: Intel Z68-Express motherboard
Model Number: Z68A-GD80
Price As Tested: $239.99 at Newegg

Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article was provided by Micro-Star International.

Now that Intel's finally released the Z68 chipset, motherboard vendors are scrambling to meet the demand. With the odd restrictions of the P67 and H67 chipsets removed, the Z68 allows users to make use of Sandy Bridge integrated graphics as well as overclock their processors. Add Lucid's Virtu software for intelligent switching between the integrated GPU and a video card and Intel's Smart Response Technology for using an SSD as an intelligent cache for your main hard disk, and the features and advantages of a Z68 motherboard become very attractive. Benchmark Reviews looks at MSI's Z68A-GD80 motherboard in this review. MSI builds it with "military class" components, but does this make any real-world difference? Let's find out.

It seems only yesterday, Intel announced the original "x67" chipsets and Sandy Bridge CPUs. The new CPU architecture, combined with a 32nm process, produced processors with amazing performance per clock at low power drains. The Core i7 2600K processor outperforms even the Core i7 980X in tasks that can't make full use of the latter's 12 possible threads, and it does so at 1/3 the cost, while producing much less heat. Enthusiasts rushed to embrace this new architecture despite its limitations, but were broadsided by Intel's admission of a bug in the Cougar Point chipsets that could render some of the SATA ports inoperable over time. Intel and its channel partners were forced to recall and replace millions of motherboards, and the debacle is estimated to have cost the chip giant about a billion dollars. (If you're in the market for a P67/H67 motherboard, make sure you get the fixed "B3" version.)

How will new P67 owners feel now that their shiny new (replaced) motherboards have arguably been obsoleted? I hasten to add that Intel insists that the P67 is still very much alive and a supported product, and say that there's room in the market for both chipsets. Of course this will depend to some degree on the pricing of Z68 motherboards, and to another on the tolerance users have for cutting-edge technology that might not work quite as smoothly as it should.

MSI's entry into what will doubtless be a crowded and hotly contested Z68 motherboard market tries to distinguish itself with the "military class" componentry they've used to good advantage on previous motherboards and video cards, but that's not all:

  • Military Class II - Components certified to MIL STD 810G
  • OC GENIE II - One-touch instant overclock
  • Instant OC - Control Center II software for Windows
  • ClickBIOS - Graphical UEFI BIOS
  • Multi-BIOS - Two BIOS chips allow easy recovery
  • Super Charger - Charge iPads and other high-drain devices from USB
  • Cinematic audio - THX TruStudio Pro audio


But the real news about the Z68 is its switchable graphics. In a surprise move, Intel has licensed Lucid's "Virtu" technology to allow a Z68 motherboard to support on-the-fly switching between a Sandy Bridge processor's integrated video and a discrete graphics card, which promises to reduce power consumption by only using the separate graphics card when it's needed.



# still oddresere 2011-06-02 10:03
i don't get it why intel limit pci-e lanes. amd don't (good for them).
Yes, the crown is blue. but the halo seems red.
And it's funny this vertu DON'T manage multi GPU. THAT could be a real deal. if it'll work smooth, which still don't, even in single GPU.
As you said, let's trust the near future.
another interesting thing is the layout identical MSI-ASUS. fortunately, i agree with the choice.
Anyway, a review i've read it with pleasure.
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# oops!resere 2011-06-02 10:06
its vIrtu, not vErtu (glossy gsm :P)
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# LINUXThe Techno Alien 2011-06-04 05:59
I guess the OC software won't work under Linux, eh?
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# RE: LINUXDavid Ramsey 2011-06-04 08:24
MSU's Control Center software is Windows-only, but the OC Genie button and manual overclocking through the BIOS will work for any operating system.
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# Errors on page 3?Sam 2011-06-06 04:21
The FireWire port looks like the 6 pin 400Mb/s not the 800. Also, what is DVI-S referring to, looks like a DVI-I port to me.
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# RE: Errors on page 3?David Ramsey 2011-06-06 10:00
My bad. The 1394 port is indeed 400Mb/s, and the "DVI-S" is a typo. Both have been corrected. BTW, although MSI uses a dual-link connector, the DVI port is only single-link.
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