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Intel Z77 Chipset motherboard Review

ccokeman    -   April 9, 2012
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Conclusion:

MSI: Z77A-GD65

Looking at the MSI Z77A-GD65 you have a motherboard that comes with a full feature set that is forward compatible with Intel's upcoming 3rd Generation Core series processors that will most definitely use the feature set on this chipset and motherboard. Equipped with a Second Generation Core i7 2600K there is no real performance advantage to upgrading as the Z68 chipset equipped Z68A-GD80 G3 can do what this board the Z77A-GD65 can in terms of overclocking and performance enhancements using Intel's Smart Response Technology and switchable graphics via Lucid Logix Virtu software. That being said the real performance potential will come with PCIe 3.0 graphics cards and Intel's next generation CPUs.

As an overclocking motherboard the MSI Z77A-GD65 was just as solid as the Z68 boards I have tested that incorporate MSI's Military Class II and Now III build philosophy. I had not a single issue running my trusty workhorse of a CPU up and over 4.9GHz using the same tools and voltages used on earlier MSI Z68 boards. A real testament to the continued refinement of the brand and consistency of the build quality. OC Genie II is a new step in the right direction and still delivers solid repeatable results with my Multiplier and PLL overvoltage challenged CPU. OC Genie II one touch overclocking netted a nice stable 4.2GHz overclock on the CPU with the memory pumped right up to 2133MHz - something this new implementation has the ability to do. OC Genie II now will overclock the CPU , Memory, IGP and storage solutions for an ultimate boost in performance.

Price is comparable with the current crop of Z68 motherboards at $189, so there is no reason to start off with an earlier chipset board with the feature set on the Z77 PCH equipped MSI Z77A-GD65. With Tri-SLI and CrossfireX on a PCIe 3.0 bus as options with future products the performance only looks to scale upwards. Utilize Intel Smart Response and Rapid Start technologies and we could be looking at a new level of performance. Add in MSI's reliability standards using Hi-c Caps, Super Ferrite chokes, Active Phase switching and a solid BIOS, the MSI Z77A-GD65 has potential.

 

Pros:

  • Military Class 3
  • PCIe 3.0 readiness
  • Backwards compatible
  • Click BIOS II
  • OC Genie II
  • Comparable overclocking

 

Cons:

  • No real performance advantage over Z68

 

 

 

Gigabyte: GA-Z77X-UD3H

After running the GA-Z77X-UD3H through its paces and seeing just what it had to offer I was impressed with the fact that Gigabyte has finally moved into the now with their Dual UEFI BIOS implementation called 3D BIOS. After playing with the old school blue screen BIOS on boards as recent as the G2 Sniper this is a welcome change. With it comes an all-new 3D Power design that incorporates an all-digital power supply to the CPU, DRAM, Integrated graphics core and CPU Memory controller. Ultra Durable 3 construction has been around for some time now and has been replaced by Ultra Durable 4. What does this do for us? Well to start a new fiber weave in the PCB closes up the gaps reducing the chance of moisture intrusion, dual 2oz copper layers for improved signal response and lower impedance, improved chip selection for more ESD resistant chips to reduce the frequency of failures, all Japanese solid capacitors, and ICs designed to eliminate surge damage.

So how does this impact overclocking? Well by manually tweaking the new BIOS I was able to reach within 30MHz of the MSI Z77A-GD65 at 4889MHz all with a less robust cooling solution on the board than many of the Z68 boards I have used. Overclocking followed standard for Sandy Bridge overclocking by increasing the bclock multiplier, CPU voltage and finally the bclock to reach the highest speeds on both the memory and CPU. If manually tweaking the BIOS is not your cup of tea you can use Gigabytes Easy Tune 6 Quick Boost feature for a simple one click overclock from mild to fairly robust levels. The utility features plenty of tuning options to further the experience to test and tune within the operating system.

Equipped with an onboard mSATA slot the GA-Z77X-UD3H is prepared to take advantage of Intel's next generation CPUs for the mainstream by having the ability to use Smart Response and Rapid Start technology and leverage the design aspects of the board. The 3D BIOS implementation is a great new addition to the board and hopefully it carries to other boards in Gigabyte's arsenal. Priced at $169, the Z77X-UD3H comes in a little less expensive than the MSI Z77A-GD65 but has some unique features that help justify the drop in price along with some pretty robust overclocking.

 

Pros:

  • Overclocking
  • 3D BIOS
  • 3D Power
  • Ultra Durable 4
  • Easy TUne 6
  • Backwards compatibility
  • PCIe 3.0
  • Onboard mSATA socket

 

Cons:

  • No real performance advantage over Z68
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