MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) Reviewccokeman -
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When you first take the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) out of the anti-static bag you are going to see that the motherboard has a very simple and clean layout, while it does have a very different layout than some of the motherboards that I have played with in the past. The first noticeable thing that threw me for a little look is that you have a total of eight RAM Slots on the motherboard with four being on both the right and left sides of the CPU, whereas normally you would find all of the slots on the right-hand side of the board (when positioned in the orientation in the picture below). While this is the standard positioning on the X79 motherboards, it is just something that looks quite different. You are also going to notice that the overall look of the motherboard has a dark background with bright white, silver, and blue highlighted accents to make it stand out. When you flip the board over you can see that the PCB is a nice dark-black color.
When you take a look at the Rear I/O Panel you are going to find a PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard port, a Clear CMOS button, a Coaxial and Optical SPDIF port, an IEEE 1394 port, an RJ45 LAN Jack, eight USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and the six-in-one audio jack. Taking a look at the expansion slots MSI put on the X79A-GD65 (8D), you are going to find a total of three PCI Express gen3 x16 slots, two PCI Express gen2 x16 slots, and a PCIE x1 slot. PCI Express Gen3 slots will cap out a 32GB/s transfer bandwidth, which is twice as fast as the cap of the previous generation of PCI-E slots. You are also going to have increased efficiency and compatibility while giving extreme performance for current and next-gen PCI Express cards.
Along the bottom edge of the motherboard you are going to find the front-panel audio connector, a 4-pin molex power-in adapter for additional power the board requires, the IEEE front panel connector, the Power Button, OC GENIE button, and the OC +/- buttons. To the right of the buttons you are going to find the rest of the motherboard headers for your front-panel connectors, such as USB headers and power button/LED headers. You are going to see a bright blue header, which is used for the USB 3.0 back-panel expansion slot. However if your chassis has USB 3.0 ports on it you can choose to hook those up instead. Around the corner you are going to find the Post Diagnostics LED; this is going to help out a lot if you have issues when you are first setting up your system to pinpoint exactly what is going wrong with the install or if you are overclocking and running into issues.
When it comes to the SATA ports on the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D), you are going to get a total of eight ports. The two on the right side are your SATAIII ports controlled by the Intel X79 chipset, while the other two white ports on the other end are your SATAIII ports controlled by the ASMedia ASM 1061 chipset integrated to the motherboard. The remaining four ports are your SATAII ports that are controlled by the X79 chipset. All of the ports except the two controlled by the ASMedia ASM 1061 chipset support RAID features. However, the SATAIII ports are limited to 0/1. Right next to your SATA ports is where you are going to find the Multi BIOS switch to manually switch between the two BIOS chips installed on the motherboard.
In the bottom right hand corner, you are going to find all of the different check points that are quite well labeled so you can check the voltages with a Voltmeter by placing the ground lead on the labeled ground point, then putting the positive lead on the desired point on the motherboard. When it comes to the Military Class III components you are going to find them all around the CPU socket. You are going to find the DrMOS II, Hi-C CAPS, SFC, and Solid CAPs all located under the heatsinks around the socket to help keep them cool while they are working to deliver the most stable power to your installed components. DrMOS II is the next-generation of the DrMOS series that provides an integrated Double Thermal Protection to maximize the lifespan of components. All Military Class III components have passed MIL-STD-810G Certification. The Highly-conductive polymerized capacitor (Hi-c CAP) have a high thermal stability, no mechanical issues, and an ultra-low ESR with 8x the lifespan of a Solid CAP (up to 160,000 hours). The SFC has a 10% higher power efficiency, better overclocking, and better power stability while the Solid CAPs are non-volatile, have low SER, and operate at a low temperature, all while still being able to last 10+ years under full load. The Active Phase Switching (APS) technology is an intelligent design that helps to save engery on MSI's motherboards — the idea behind it is to switch off the power supply as soon as no electricity is needed, and when the system needs more resources, the ASP will automatically adjust electricity supply accordingly. The specially developed IC chip can operate automatically depending on the demands of the power supply which is helpful in reducing the total power usage of your system.
Towards the top-left hand corner of the motherboard right behind the Rear I/O Panel, you are going to find the 8-pin power adapter for the motherboard to again get additional power, making for a total of three power adapters for the motherboard to operate properly. While you are up in this area, you will find all eight of the unbuffered DIMM slots that support DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1800/2133/2400 DRAM at 1.5 volts with a maximum of 128GB supported by the X79A-GD65 (8D). As you can guess, X79 motherboards do support Quad Channel Mode for your installed RAM Modules. You are also going to find the 24-pin power adapter for the motherboard to gather a majority of its power from right next to the RAM slots closest to the edge of the board.
When it comes down to the actual CPU socket, you are going to be getting support for the 2nd Generation Intel Core i7 processors in the LGA2011 package, which on this board is powered by the Intel X79 Chipset. With the LGA2011 package, you are going to have up to six Execution Cores, which happens to have Intel's Hyper-Threading Technology which means you are going to have up to 12 threads. The socket does have a very similar ZIF socket that we are used to on previous packages; however, on this one you are going to get two bars, one on each side, to help secure the processor.
When it comes to cooling the onboard components you are going to get a large heatsink above the CPU socket that covers up all of the voltage regulators and CAPs to help keep them cool while they are cleaning up the power that the board needs and directing it to the right area. The smaller and thin one down towards the bottom of the board is where you are going to find the X79 chip. This chip needs some extra cooling as it is doing quite a bit of work processing input and output commands.
Now we know exactly what the board looks like, so let's take a look at the BIOS to see what kind of settings we have control over.