|MSI Z77A-GD65 LGA1155 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Sunday, 08 April 2012|
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Closer Look: MSI Z77 Motherboard
MSI provides a comprehensive accessories bundle with this motherboard, including a separate overclocking guide and voltage probe wires. Playing on their "Military Class III" theme, they also provide a "Certificate of Quality and Reliability" printed on heavy stock paper. MSI backs up their reliability claims with a three-year warranty, which while nicer than the one-year warranty of most motherboards doesn't equal the five-year warranty ASUS provides on their TUF series.
The motherboard layout is standard ATX form factor. The VRM heat sinks are connected with a heat pipe, while the Z77 chipset makes do with a simple aluminum plate. The voltage test points are placed just in front of the main ATX power connector. There are five fan connectors, three of which are four-pin PWM connectors. Like MSI's other high end motherboards, it's equipped with MIL-STD-810G certified components, which means the components are rated to handle high and low temperatures, thermal shock, sand, dust, and salt fog (corrosion resistance), and a host of other nasty environmental conditions that it's very unlikely your motherboard will ever experience. Still, the tantalum-core capacitors in the voltage regulation circuitry, super ferrite chokes, and aluminum-core capacitors elsewhere should give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Like other enthusiast-level motherboards, the Z77A-GD65 has gone to an "all PCI-E slots" setup, with three PCI-E x16 slots and four PCI-E x1 slots. I have heard some complaints about boards that lack an old-school PCI slot, but really, folks, it's well past time for you to upgrade that 5-year-old Sound Blaster card. The third PCI-E x16 slot is covered with a sticker (removed in the photo below) that says "Due to bandwidth allocation limitations, it is strongly recommended for users to install 3rd Gen Intel Core Processors to enable functionality in the third PCI Express slot". See the previous section on the Z77 Express chipset for details on this limitation. The first two PCI-E x16 slots are ideally spaced for SLI/Crossfire setups, but the positioning of the CMOS battery means you'll have to remove your primary graphics card to change it.
The CPU socket area is clear of obstructions although large CPU coolers will encroach on the nearer RAM slots. In this image you can clearly see the super ferrite chokes (handily labeled "SFC"), while the tantalum caps are the small black rectangles below the SFCs.
Let's take a closer look at this board in the next section.