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MSI Z68A-GD80 Intel Motherboard E-mail
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Written by David Ramsey   
Wednesday, 01 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
Z68A-GD80 UEFI BIOS
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 Conclusion

Although we strive to be as objective as possible, any review will reflect to some extent the perceptions and biases of the reviewer. Also, keep in mind that the computer market is very volatile, and that today's killer super product can easily become yesterday's also-ran as the market competition changes. Don't base a purchase decision solely on this review, but use it as part of your research.

MSI's aiming directly at the enthusiast market with its line of military spec motherboards and video cards. It's possible the tantalum capacitors, "DrMOS", and Super Ferrite Chokes would enable higher stable overclocks when using water or phase-change cooling, although they didn't seem to make any difference in my testing with overclocking on air. Although MSI claims an extended life span for these parts, their 3-year warranty is the same as that offered by ASUS. Still, I confess to a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that I'm unlikely to smoke anything with my overclocking experiments. Granted, smoking components is a rite of passage in this hobby, but I like to think I'm past that now.

The performance of this board was excellent. The only problem was oddly low scores at stock speeds in benchmarks that stressed the Core i7 2600K's integrated GPU. I have no explanation for this, but it was consistent. MSI makes up for this by providing automatic overclocking for the iGPU with their OC Genie button. I wasn't able to beat the overclock I achieved on the ASUS board, but since the maximum settings were identical in either case, I'm pretty sure the CPU is the limiting factor here.

Appearance is always a subjective matter. The Z68A-GD80's blue, black, and grey coloring is almost somber compared to some of the boards out there, although frankly I think MSI went a little overboard with the silk-screened logos. From "DrMOS Equipped" to "Super Pipe" to "Green Power Design" to "Easy Button", I counted 18 such callouts on the board, and I probably missed some!

MSI highlights this motherboard's enthusiast market with features like dual BIOSes and voltage measuring points. The THX TruStudio Pro sound is a plus for the younger set, although it's probably wasted on my 55-year-old ears. The extra power connector by the PCI-E slots should help with overclocking video cards.

My only real complaint re the functionality of the board is that MSI only supplies a single PWM fan header, so you'll only be able to control the speed of the CPU fan, and not the four chassis fans. I'd also like to see a POST code display, but I suppose you can't have everything.

For $239.99 at Newegg, this board is about $20 more than ASUS' P8Z68-V Pro. That probably just covers the extra cost of the mil-spec componentry, and it's something to consider if you're a hard-core overclocker.

If you've bought a P67 or H67 board, the very existence of the new Z68 motherboards might frustrate you (perhaps you can sell your existing motherboard). But the advantages are significant and it's worth considering an upgrade.

Pros:Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award

+ Can use integrated Sandy Bridge video and a discrete video card
+ Intel Smart Response technology boosts disk performance
+ Military spec components and 10-phase power enable high and stable overclocks
+ Four SATA 6G and four USB 3.0 ports
+ OC Genie overclocking guarantees extra performance even for novices
+ Voltage measuring points and extra PCI-E power connector for the hard-core overclockers

Cons:

- BIOS defaults to IDE mode for SATA ports
- Virtu software still has some rough edges
- Can't run triple SLI or CrossFireX effectively due to lack of PCI-E lanes
- Oddly slow iGPU performance
- Only one PWM fan header

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.0
  • Appearance: 8.5
  • Construction: 9.25
  • Functionality: 9.25
  • Value: 8.75

Final Score: 8.95 out of 10.

Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.

Questions? Comments? Benchmark Reviews really wants your feedback. We invite you to leave your remarks in our Discussion Forum.

NewEgg.com


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Comments 

 
# 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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