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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

Z68 Motherboard Final Thoughts

The Intel Z68 chipset really brings Sandy Bridge processors into their full-featured birthright. The initial Cougar Point chipsets all hobbled the new CPUs in one way or the other: you couldn't use the integrated GPU, or you couldn't overclock. The Z68 removes these arbitrary restrictions, and along with Lucid's Virtu, enables new options in system configuration.

Lucid (formerly LucidLogix) originally came onto the enthusiast scene with their "Hydra" chip that promised vendor-independent multi-GPU scaling, i.e. the ability to use multiple ATI and NVIDIA cards in the same system, combining their performance. Hydra never worked as well as Lucid had hoped, although in some situations the performance gains could be significant. Lucid's "Virtu" GPU virtualization software still has some rough edges— you must manually designate programs you want it to apply to, and not all programs can be so designated— but within these relatively minor constraints it works very well, imposing roughly a 5% performance penalty as compared with a "native" Radeon 6850 in my testing, and saving a significant amount of power when the performance of the discrete video card isn't needed. Remember, though, that multi-GPU setups cannot benefit from Virtu's i-Mode and its power-saving features. Perhaps NVIDIA's forthcoming Synergy will enable power savings for NVIDIA SLI setups.


This is the second Z68 motherboard I've reviewed, and with the exception of oddly lower scores in some benchmarks that use the iGPU, its performance was pretty much the same as the previous one...which is to be expected. Since the processor and chipset are the same, motherboard manufacturers must distinguish their products by their proprietary features. For MSI, it's their military-grade components, OC Genie, THX TruStudio Pro audio, SuperCharger USB ports, dual BIOSes, extra PCI-E power connector near the first x16 slot, and applications like the MSI Control Center, which I found more intuitive to use than ASUS' Turbo V Evo. MSI's OC Genie beats ASUS' Turbo V Evo by overclocking memory as well as the CPU and GPU (although I suspect this might only work with memory that has an XMP profile).

The Z68A chipset, combined with the amazing performance and lower power requirements of the "K" series Sandy Bridge chips, seem poised to put the final nail in the coffin of the aging X58 chipset. The only reasons I can see to go for an X58 system these days are if you absolutely must run a triple-card SLI system and really, really need 6 DIMM slots.



# 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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