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Written by David Ramsey   
Saturday, 07 April 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI Z77A-GD65 LGA1155 Motherboard
Intel Z77 Express Chipset
Closer Look: MSI Z77 Motherboard
Z77A-GD65 Detailed Features
MSI ClickBIOS II and Control Center
Motherboard Testing Methodology
AIDA64 Extreme Edition Tests
PCMark Vantage Tests
CINEBENCH R11.5 Benchmarks
CPU-Dependent 3D Gaming
Media Encoding Benchmarks
SPECviewperf 11 Tests
SPECapc Lightwave
Blender and POV-Ray
Intel Native USB 3.0
Lucid Virtu MVP
Overclocking and Final Thoughts
MSI Z77A-GD65 Conclusion

MSI ClickBIOS II and Control Center

The adoption of graphical UEFI BIOSes has been a welcome upgrade from the primitive character-based BIOSes we've lived with for decades. MSI's version is called "ClickBIOS II", and its main improvement over the version used on MSI's Z68 board is that it now supports 15 languages.

The ClickBIOS II is quite different from the original ClickBIOS that MSI included with their Z68 boards; in fact, it looks almost exactly like the more advanced version on MSI's 990FXA-GD80 motherboard. At the top we see the time, date, and BIOS version, with CPU information to the right and a nice Boot Device Priority selection bar just below it. The bottom two-thirds of the screen show six main "buttons' (three on each side), with a central area that displays information and settings relevant to the selected button.

msi_Z77a-gd65_bios_settings.jpg

I find MSI's BIOS to be a little clumsier to get around than other graphical UEFI BIOSes I've used. Some of it's the layout (although technically selecting to use XMP memory profiles could be considered "overclocking", I'd still prefer this item be in the main settings area rather than the overclocking settings). Some of it's the color choices: as shown below, many of MSI's information screens use a white-type-on-light-gray-background color scheme, which isn't exactly optimum for readability.

msi_Z77a-gd65_bios_mem_details.jpg

While the original ClickBIOS would warn you when you tried to set certain voltages too high, ClickBIOS II does not, a fault it shares with the version on the MSI 990FX motherboard. Look at this pick list for setting CPU voltage:

msi_Z77a-gd65_bios_cpu_volts.jpg

At least it doesn't read out to the millionth of a volt the way the 990FX version does! But Intel says the maximum CPU core voltage for the i5-2500K I used in this review is 1.5 volts. I can set over 2.0 volts in this BIOS, with no indication that the likely result would be an instantly fried processor. Some other vendors color-code voltages based on the CPU you're using, so you know that a voltage in yellow is potentially dangerous and a voltage in red is very bad.

Still, there are some nice features. The ones I like best are related to MSI's "OC Genie II" feature. In previous MSI motherboards, OC Genie merely applied a single automatic overclock. It was fast and guaranteed to work, but experienced users could always get more with manual overclocking. Now, you can save up to six overclocking profiles in CMOS as well as save and load them from a USB key.

msi_Z77a-gd65_bios_oc_profiles.jpg

But that's not all: there's a separate profile that takes effect when you press the "OC Genie II" button. Called "My OC Genie", this feature allows you to tweak any of the settings shown below, and they'll take effect the next time you boot if the OC Genie button is down.

msi_Z77a-gd65_bios_oc_genie.jpg

Only one thing would make this more convenient: being able to designate one of the existing overclocking profiles as the OC Genie profile. As it is, the OC Genie profile is the one that you can't save to or read from a USB key. Also, there doesn't seem to be any way short of clearing CMOS to easily reset your system to its default values.

MSI also provides a Windows version of ClickBIOS II which replicates most of the UEFI interface in Windows. However, any changes you make in the Windows version require rebooting your system to apply, so it's not obvious why you'd ever want to use it in preference to the "native" version. A more interesting utility is Control Center:

msi_z77a-gd65_control_center.jpg

Control Center provides all the adjustments you'd normally do in the BIOS, but lets you change them live, from within Windows. You have very detailed control, as shown in this "Advanced" panel from the CPU clock setting section:

msi_z77a-gd65_control_center2.jpg

A nice feature is the real-time temperature readout, which lets you judge just how close to the edge you're pushing things. And unlike either the native or Windows version of ClickBIOS II, Control Center clearly flags potentially dangerous settings, as shown in this CPU voltage selection pick list.

msi_z77a-gd65_control_center3.jpg

For this reason alone I'd suggest doing your overclocking from within Control Center. It's also more convenient and you don't have to reboot the system between changes. Once you find settings you like, you can boot into the native UEFI BIOS to save them or export them to a USB key.

Now we move onto the testing...



 

Comments 

 
# Mistaken Video Portshookems 2012-04-09 12:16
The third video port is an HDMI not Display Port. Otherwise great review.
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# RE: Mistaken Video PortDavid Ramsey 2012-04-09 13:12
Oh, good catch! I've edited the specifications to reflect this.
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# priceTHUMPer 2012-04-11 12:29
Price is now 169 on newegg.
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# RE: MSI Z77A-GD65 LGA1155 Motherboardwrong 2012-04-21 09:11
The board has PCI-E 3.0 not 2.0
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# RE: RE: MSI Z77A-GD65 LGA1155 MotherboardDavid Ramsey 2012-04-21 10:00
No, it doesn't. The Z77 express chipset provides eight PCI E2 .0 lanes. In the very near future it may be possible to install a processor that provides PCIE 3.0 lanes, but not as of the time of this review.
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# great & complete reviewdawgamerhybrid 2012-04-25 04:08
Thx for the great review, ive been "building" my ultimate hybrid system since before the z68 got released and i still didnt pull the trigger :). Would i merrit from waiting for another brand's (asus, gigabyte,...) z77 release to compare with the msi... or should i just pull that trigger allready, questions questions... The fact that it doesnt yet have native pci 3.0 kinda dissapoints me. Also i'm quite shure that after a few bios updates the z77 gd65 will perform above par in comparison to the z68a gd65 which allready had a ton of modifications.
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# RE: great & complete reviewDavid Ramsey 2012-04-25 07:23
No Z77 motherboard will ever have "native" PCI-E 3.0. The PCI-E 3.0 lines are provided by the Ivy Bridge CPU.
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# extra cashcolman 2012-09-25 09:11
is this mobo worth the extra cash u pay over the MSI Z77A-G45
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# HELP!!!Martin Rønning 2012-10-21 13:44
I have a problem!
I try OC but when Windows starts up, my computer just stops in the loading Screen for windows....
Same if i use OC-genie
And sometimes it appear a2 in right bottom corner on the screen (rest is black)
My computer specs:
I7-3770K Intel prosessor
MSI z77a-gd65 motherboard
H100 cpu cooling (corsair)
12GB ram Dominator GT / ram fan (corsair)
MSI hd r6800 series HAWK
And i got a H2Go case from MountainMods.com
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# RE: HELP!!!David Ramsey 2012-10-21 13:49
My only guess would be that your overclocked settings in OC Genie are too high. Try loading the defaults in the BIOS before using OC Genie, and then checking the "My OC Genie" page to make sure the settings are reasonable.
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# HELP!!!Martin Rønning 2012-10-21 23:09
Il test it when Im home.
Im crossing my fingers :P
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# PCIx16?Drnkbeer 2012-11-26 08:33
Now MSI is being sneaky and not informing people that they decide to put a second GFX in the 2nd PCI-E 3.0 port it would be reduced to 8x as would the original 16x. Which to me seems ridiculous. Was tempted to get a Mobo that would SLI but if the main card gets reduced what the hell is the point? Does anyone know of any motherboards that can run two video cards at 16x PCI-E 2.0, with 1155 and can accept 1600 DDR3 RAM?
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# RE: PCIx16?David Ramsey 2012-11-26 10:20
Several comments:

1. This is true of ANY Z67/Z68/Z77 motherboard except high-end boards with PLX chips. You've only got 16 PCI-E lanes from the CPU, so provisioning 2 x16 slots is impossible without extra hardware.

2. If you're using an Ivy Bridge chip, you've got PCI-E 3.0 lanes with twice the bandwidth as PCI-E 2.0 lanes, so those two x8 slots are the equivalent of two x16 slots if you're using a PCI-E 3.0 compliant graphics card.

3. But even if you're running Sandy Bridge CPU and older graphics cards, guess what? Nothing out there saturates 8 PCI-E lanes anyway, so games won't play one FPS slower on a 2x8 SLI or Crossfire system than they would on a 2x16 system.

But if you want to spend extra money, yes, there are many LGA1155 motherboard that can supply 2x16: ASUS Maximum V Extreme, ASUS P8Z77-WS, ASUS P8Z77-V Premium; EVGA Z77 FTW. MSI doesn't seem to have any boards like this, but again, unless you're running triple or quad cards, you don't really need a board with a PLX chip.
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# Black screenJOHN 2012-12-26 09:59
Bios update failed.. blank screen, anybody knows how to restore bios,, have blank screen, I try to reset removing battery and clear cmos and nothing happen, is another way to do it>>>???
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