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MSI Z68A-GD80 Intel Motherboard E-mail
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Written by David Ramsey   
Thursday, 02 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
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

The Intel Z68 Express Chipset

Although the Z68 chipset had been rumored for some weeks, it's still a little surprising how rapidly it appeared after the introduction of the P67 chipset. This architecture diagram summarizes its features:


If you're looking at this diagram and thinking "This looks just like the P67 Express block diagram", then you're right! There are only two differences:

  1. The "Intel Smart Response Technology", an intelligent caching scheme that uses a small (20-64G) SSD as a cache to a selected hard drive. I examine Smart Response Technology in this article.
  2. The "Intel FDI" (Flexible Display Interface) link between the processor and the chipset, culminating in the "Digital Display" section.

Everything else is the same; disappointingly, Intel has not given us any increase in the number of PCI-E 2.0 lanes, which remain at 16 from the processor plus 8 from the chipset for a total of 24. Compared to the 40 lanes available on an X58-based system or the 42 lanes available on an AMD 890FX system, the Z68 still comes up short. Users running multiple graphics cards are limited to 8 PCI-E lanes per card with two cards, or 8x4x4 with three cards. While tests have shown that there's very little degradation in performance with 8x8 dual-card systems as opposed to 16x16 systems, enthusiasts tend to look askance at limitations like this, even though they might be of little real-world significance.

But there can be some less obvious effects: remember that PCI-E lanes are also used to support SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbp/s ports, and the Z68 has four of each. If you're running multiple graphics cards, several SATA 6 devices, and several USB 3.0 devices, you're going to run out of lanes (which will be taken from the PCI Express slots). Granted, not many users will run into this limitation, but some will.

Aside from the paucity of PCI-E lanes, though, it's all good. The Z68's most significant new feature is its support for integrated Sandy Bridge graphics even when one or more separate graphics cards are installed. This has several advantages: on its own, it means you can run two monitors directly from the motherboard, or four or six with one or two separate graphics cards. With Lucid Virtu technology, you have power savings when the performance of the separate cards isn't needed, and the ability to make use of Intel's Quick Sync video transcoding feature even if you have a video card installed. Benchmark Reviews examines Virtu technology in detail in a separate article.



# 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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