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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

Closer Look: MSI Z68A-GD80

The box for the Z68A has a weird kind of "hologram" overlay that makes it shimmer with a diamond pattern. It was hard to get the lighting right so that I could take a clear picture! The front notes the motherboard's support of NVIDIA SLI and "ATI CrossFireX" (I thought it should be "AMD", but confusingly enough, AMD themselves refer to it as "AMD CrossFireX" and "ATI CrossFireX" at different places on their web sites), as well as their overclocking genie feature and "U3/S6", MSI's abbreviation for SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and SATA 6G. Lucid Virtu and switchable graphics isn't mentioned anywhere on the box.

msi_z68a_gd80_box.jpg

MSI provides a comprehensive accessory bundle for the Z68A: there's a Quick Start Guide, a Quick Installation Guide, a motherboard manual, and a manual for the Windows utilities; an NVIDIA SLI bridge, two Molex->SATA power adapters, four locking SATA cables, a rear USB 3.0 bracket, an I/O ports back plate, wire extensions for the voltage measuring points, a driver and utilities disk, and bunch of secondary quick-connect connectors for various motherboard headers.

msi_z68a_gd80_accessories.jpg

The MSI Z68A-GD80 is a standard ATX-form factor motherboard. The PCB is a very dark brown, almost black color, while the heat sinks are dark gunmetal grey with blue trim, and the plastic components are black and blue. There are a total of five fan headers, but only the CPU fan header is a four-pin PWM header. At the left edge of the board are the power, reset, and "OC Genie" buttons.

msi_z68a_gd80_rot1.jpg

The slot layout of the Z68A-GD80is identical to that of the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard, which itself was identical to the older ASUS P8P67 EVO: three PCI-E x16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots, and two "plain" PCI slots. Are motherboard manufacturers standardizing on slot layouts? This one is pretty good and allows dual-card setups with one slot's worth of breathing room between two double-wide cards, but I'd prefer the first slot be a PCI-E x16 slot rather than an x1 slot. Just to the right of the first x1 slot you can see a PCI-E power connector. This is optional but can provide extra power if you're overclocking your graphics cards. Note the THX audio chip at the upper left: this motherboard packs a full THX TruStudio Pro sound system, which should be vastly superior to the integrated audio of most other motherboards.

msi_z68a_gd80_slots.jpg

The rear ports, from the left, are a combined PS/2 mouse and keyboard port, the optical audio connector, a "clear CMOS" button, a FireWire 400 port with two USB 2.0 and an eSATA port below it, followed by two Ethernet ports with two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports below them. The video out ports for the Sandy Bridge integrated video are DVI and HDMI rather than the VGA connector ASUS uses (although MSI uses a DVI-I dual-link connector for their DVI port, Intel's Sandy Bridge processors only support single-link, so 1920x1200 is the maximum resolution.) Last are the standard analog audio ports. There are only 6 USB ports on the I/O panel: MSI puts the remaining USB ports on headers on the motherboard.

msi_z68a_gd80_io_ports.jpg

I'll continue looking at this board in the next section.



 

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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