|MSI Z77A-GD65 LGA1155 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Sunday, 08 April 2012|
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MSI is proud of their "OC Genie II" overclocking feature. By pressing down the latching "OC Genie" button on the motherboard (with the power off) and then booting, an instant, safe overclock is applied to the processor and memory. Pressing this button set the core multiplier on my i5-2500K to 42, selected the XMP profile in my memory, and bumped the CPU core voltage from 1.192 volts to 1.35 volts. This resulted in an average benchmark score improvement of 17.03%.
With manual overclocking, I settled on a multiplier of 48 with a VCore of 1.45 volts (as set in the BIOS).
As you can see from the benchmark results, this helped scores significantly. I noticed at this overclock that the CPU power phase LEDs spent most of their time maxed out, so it's obvious the Z77A-GD65's power circuitry is up to the task. The system would boot into Windows with a multiplier of 49 but would crash during benchmarks, even though CPU temperatures stayed well below the 80 degrees threshold. Given this I suspect I've run into the overclocking limit of my particular 2500K, but 4.8gHZ on all cores is still a pretty good overclock.
Z77 Express Final Thoughts
The MSI Z77A-GD65 motherboard is the first Z77 Express motherboard that Benchmark Reviews has tested. As such, it's impossible to compare its features and performance to other Z77 motherboards. Making things more complex is the fact that we do not have any "Intel third generation Core processors" to test with it, and these are the CPUs it was really designed for. For whatever reason, Z77 Express motherboards are becoming available weeks before we expect the new Intel CPUs, so we've no choice but to test with Sandy Bridge silicon.
We did have some problems with the MSI board: the initial review sample was delivered with a non-functional Ethernet port, and while the replacement board functioned perfectly throughout the testing regimen, a subsequent BIOS update seems to have disabled the Ethernet port again. MSI says the problem lies with a bug in the Intel-supplied DOS-based BIOS update utility and that the problem has since been fixed. In any case, it should not be an issue for users performing BIOS updates through the built-in update utility.
If you've looked at the performance scores turned in on the various benchmarks, you'll see that the MSI board was beaten by the ASUS Z68 board in every test, albeit only slightly. This is not unexpected for a motherboard based on a new chipset, since it always takes vendors some time to optimize their BIOSes for the new silicon. As MSI releases BIOS updates I expect the performance of this board will improve until it matches Z68 performance.
Taken on its own, the Z77A-GD65 is an appealing board. Although its price and model number would seem to make it an updated version of MSI's own Z68A-GD65 board, its feature set is more than competitive even with the $40-more-expensive MSI Z68A-GD80 I reviewed a few months ago. Compared to that board:
At an MSRP of $189.99, the Z77A-GD65 is the same price as the Z68A-GD65, which also sells for about $189.99 on Newegg. It's $40 cheaper than the Z68A-GD80. Since this board uses a newer chipset with somewhat more functionality than the older one, there's little reason to buy a new Z68 system today.
The board benefits from MSI's mil-spec components, and while enthusiasts will appreciate features like the voltage test points, POST code readout, power phase LEDs, and the like, any user can benefit from the OC Genie II overclocking and native USB 3.0. I also applaud MSI's decision to eliminate PCI slots, which have really hung around longer than they should.
For gamers, Lucid Virtu MVP can boost the performance of any graphics card (although, sadly, there's still no support for SLI or CrossFireX) substantially in many games, while providing significant power savings in non-game usage.
Taken on its own, the Z77 Express chipset is somewhat disappointing: it doesn't provide any more PCI-E lanes than the Z68 Express, and like its predecessor, they're only PCI-E 2.0 instead of 3.0. The native USB 3.0 ports, slightly more versatile PCI-E lane allocation, and native support for the "Intel third generation Core processors" are really its only new features.