|MSI Z68A-GD80 Intel Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Thursday, 02 June 2011|
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MSI Z68A-GD80 Intel Motherboard Review
Manufacturer: Micro-Star International
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:
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.