|MSI Z68A-GD80 Intel Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Thursday, 02 June 2011|
Page 4 of 15
Closer Look Continued
The area around the processor socket is very open, with low-profile heat sinks on the power circuitry leaving plenty of room for large CPU coolers. Fortunately Intel's Socket 1156 layout uses the same cooler mounting holes as Socket 1155, although the socket's proximity to the DIMM slots means that large coolers will frequently impinge on the first and second slots. If you're using a cooler like the Cooler Master V6 GT or the Thermalright Silver Arrow, you'll need DIMMs without tall heat sinks. The CPU socket's clamping plate is a beautiful polished dark gray; too bad it'll be hidden under a cooler. Peering out from under the heat sinks are the Super Ferrite Chokes (SFC), and the flat rectangular packages in front of them are the tantalum capacitors that MSI says are rated for operating temperatures up to 125° Celcius. At the bottom right of this image (partially obscured by the BmR logo) is the 4-pin CPU fan header. This location can be difficult to get to after installing a large CPU cooler.
In front of the DIMM sockets are the main ATX power connector and the voltage measuring points. MSI provides wire tails (shown in the accessories image previously) so you don't have to stick your probes down in the connector. The voltage points aren't labeled on the board, which means you'll have to dig out the manual to determine which is which. Voltage measuring points have been a standard feature of motherboards intended for overclocking for a while, but I'm not sure how necessary they are given modern digital power regulation. For example, during my overclocking tests on this board, I set the CPU core voltage to 1.44v in the BIOS. I measured 1.438 volts from the measuring points. The accuracy of modern digitally controlled power systems is so much better than the older analog power systems, where measured voltages might well be several tenths of a volt different from what you set in the BIOS. Still, these voltage check points could let you know of a failing component or other problem.
At the lower edge of the board, from left to right: the JAUDI front panel audio connector, the S/PDIF digital audio connector, the blue FireWire connector followed by the reset, power, and OC Genie buttons; the USB 3.0 header, three USB 2.0 headers, and the first of two front panel connectors. Two? Yes, for some reason MSI has two front panel headers. The one at the far right of this image handles the power switch, reset switch, power LED, and HDD LED; just above and to the right (not visible here) is another connector that handles the speaker, a buzzer, another power LED, and a suspend LED should your case be so equipped.
Here's a closer look at the three buttons. To use the OC Genie button, turn the computer off, press the button (it latches down), then restart the computer. Instant overclock! I'll examine the performance improvements this results in later in this review. Oddly enough, these buttons do not light up unless the computer is on.
The SATA ports are in their standard position in front of the Z68 chipset heat sink. The white ports are SATA 6Gb/s: the ports on the right are controlled by the Z68, while the single vertical port on the left is controlled by a Marvell 88SE9128. At the lower left of this image you can see the JFP2 secondary front panel connector. The green-labeled twin BIOS chips are visible just behind the vertical white SATA port.
At the upper edge of the board, just past the processor power circuitry heat sink, are ten blue LEDs that light up depending on how many phases of the power circuitry are in use. Under idle or very low demand situations, only two LEDs are lit, while under load you'll see all 10 light up. I expected these to light up in sequence as loads increased, but during the course of this review I never saw anything except two and ten. Sometimes, all 10 LEDs stayed lit when Window's Task Manager indicated 0% processor usage.
Now let's look at the UEFI graphics BIOS in the next section.