MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) Review

ccokeman - 2011-10-25 18:38:32 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: January 18, 2012
Price: $299

Introduction:

Well the new Intel 2011 chips have finally been released and we are now starting to see some more motherboards coming out that are packed full of next generation feature sets, such as USB 3.0, Sata 6Gb/s, uEFI BIOS, and PCI-E 3.0. So have you been thinking about finally upgrading that aging system you are still trying to use to play games? Maybe you are big into video editing/rendering and use software on a daily basis that can make full usage of multiple CPU cores; well then the next generation of Intel processors may just be what you are looking for. If you have the coin to drop on one of the new chips, you need to start to look at the different boards that are out there that can unleash all of the power the 22nm cores can pack. Well one motherboard brand name that always jumps to mind when looking for a great feature set is MSI, I am very curious to see exactly what kind of features MSI has packed on their X79A-GD65 (8D) motherboard this go around.

 

Closer Look:

When you take a look at the front of the packaging for the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D), the first thing that grabs my attention is the large Military Class III logo that is printed on the right hand side of the package, this is going to let you know that MSI has put the top notch components on the motherboard to help give you the best quality board and improved stability over some of the other motherboards out on the market. With the Military Class III branding, you know that you are going to find MIL-STD-810G Certified Components installed. When you take a look at the top left hand corner of the package, you are going to find MSI's logo printed with the MSI 3 Year Warranty logo printed right by it, which lets you know that you are going to get some of the best support for your motherboard if something were to ever go wrong with it. In the top right hand corner, you are going to find all of the badges for some of the features the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) supports, such as NVIDIA SLI, ATI Crossfire-X, Windows 7, and Intel Core i7 CPUs. Along the bottom edge of the package you are going to find the X79A-GD65 (8D) logo printed in a nice holographic text with the Military Class Motherboard tag line printed above it. You are also going to find the PCI Express Gen3 and Click BIOS II logos printed on the package. When you flip it over to the back you are going to see a much more detailed listing of the features that MSI wants to let you know about such as DrMOS II, Hi-c CAP, Solid CAP, Super Charger, PCI Express Gen3, InstantOC, OC Genie II, and THX TruStudio PRO. I will get into a more detailed explanation of these features a little while later in the article.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you get the package opened up you are going to find a nice brown package that houses not only the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D), but the accessories as well. When you first open it up, you are going to see the motherboard in its anti-static bag to keep it protected for any thing that could possibly harm the board while you are opening it up. Once you move the motherboard out of the way, you are going to find the Quick Guide which covers all of the other accessories and has all of the other paperwork tucked away inside it. You are not only going to get a Drivers CD and the Quick Guide, but you are also going to get a few user manuals. Probably one of the coolest pieces of paper work you will find inside of the package is the very nice looking Certificate of Quality & Stability which has a very similar look to a diploma or degree.

  

 

 

After sorting though all of the paperwork, you finally get into the accessories that will help you get your system set up, like the USB 3.0 back plate, a SLI Bridge, some SATA Cables, 4-pin molex to SATA power adapters, eSATA power adapter backing plate, the rear I/O panel cover, and a few headers to help you organize your front panel connectors.

 

 

 

Now that we know exactly how the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) is packaged and what it comes with, it's time to take a closer look at the motherboard itself to see what sets it apart from the others on the market.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

 

The BIOS

When you first open up the BIOS for the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) you are going to see that it does have the uEFI BIOS installed on the motherboard, which is going to help with people that are not very familiar with the old blue screen BIOS organization, as well as allow for mouse support. The main screen is very well set up and you are given quite a bit of information about the system's current state, such as the current CPU and Mainboard temperatures. You also get a digital clock with the date printed at the top with the current CPU and frequency selected. We also have the DRAM Frequency and Memory Size located at the top. We have a click and drag-able Boot device priority along the top section of the BIOS, which makes it easy to quickly jump into the BIOS and change what you want to boot from first. When you click into the Settings Menu, you are going to get System Status, Advanced, Boot, and Save & Exit sub-menus. Clicking into the System Status, you are able to set the system clock and date as well as view which SATA ports are currently used and what device is hooked up to it. The System Information section at the bottom of the screen gives you your CPU name, BIOS version, Build Date, Memory Size, Cache Size, and L3 Cache Size. Under the Advanced sub-menu you are going to find all of your advanced settings for your PCI Subsystem, ACPI, Integrated Peripherals, USB Configuration, Hardware Monitor, Power Management, and Wake Up Events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selecting the Hardware Monitor sub-menu you are going to get a screen that shows you your CPU Smart Fan Target, CPU Min Fan Speed as well as the current temperatures for your CPU and System Temperatures, as well as the different fan speeds that are hooked up to your board's fan headers. Under the Boot sub-menu, you are going to be able find the settings to adjust the Boot Configuration, you can enable or disable the Full Screen Logo Display. You are also going to be able to change all of your Boot Option Priorities here. The final option in the Settings Menu is the Save & Exit sub-menu — here you are able to save the changes you have made, discard them, or even restore the default values. You also have the Boot Override options here, which is going to allow you to exit out and directly boot to one of these devices.

 

 

 

Now the fun part: Overclocking on the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D). When you go into the Overclocking settings menu, you are going to get a list of all your overclocking settings that you can tweak. You have a whole bunch of settings like your Internal PLL OverVoltage, CPU Base Clock, CPU Base Clock Ratio, CPU Ration, EIST, Intel Turbo Boost 2.0, OC Genie Button, Direct OC Button, DRAM Frequency, CPU Voltages, as well as all your other voltages you are used to adjusting. When you select into the CPU Features sub-menu at the bottom of the screen you will be taken to a new screen that allows you to adjust all of the CPU specific features such as Hyper-threading, C1E Support, OverSpeed Protection, # of Active Processor Cores, and a Core Ratio Limit for each individual core.

 

 

 

When you go under the ECO menu you will find all of your settings for changing the power savings features for your system like EuP 2013, CPU Phase Control, CPU I/O Phase Control, Motherboard LED Control, C1E Support, Intel C-State. You will also find a list of all the current voltages at the bottom section of the screen like your CPU Core Voltage, System Agent Voltage, CPU I/O Voltage, CPU PLL Voltage, along with others.

 

 

When you click into the Utilities menu you have three different options: HDD Backup, Live Update, and M-Flash. When you go into the M-Flash you are going to get MSI's version of a flashing utility, which will allow you to save the currently installed BIOS to a file on your hard drive or USB Flash drive. You are also going to be able to select a file that you want to install on your BIOS chip. When you go into the Security section you will find the abilty to set an Administrator Password or a User Password. You can also set up a Udisk-Key and set up your Chassis Intrusion Configuration.

 

 

 

Now let's take a quick look at the included programs and then get to the benching!

Specifications:

 

Product Name
X79A-GD65 (8D)
CPU Support
Supports 2nd Generation Intel® Core i7 processors in LGA2011 package.
Chipset
Intel® X79 Chipset
Memory
Supports eight unbuffered DIMM of 1.5 Volt DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1800*/2133*/2400* (OC) DRAM, 128GB Max
     - Supports Quad channel mode
Expansion Slots
3 PCI Express gen3 x16 slots
- PCI_E1 & PCI_E4 support up to PCIE x16 speed
- PCI_E6 supports up to PCIE x8 speed
2 PCI Express gen2 x16 slots
- PCI_E2 & PCI_E5 support up to PCIE x1 speed
1 PCIE x1 slot
On-Board SATA
SATAII controller integrated in Intel® X79 chipset
- Up to 3Gb/s transfer speed.
- Supports four SATAII ports (SATA3~6) by X79
 
SATAIII controller integrated in Intel® X79 chipset
- Up to 6Gb/s transfer speed.
- Supports two SATAIII ports (SATA1~2) by X79
 
SATAIII controller integrated in ASMedia® ASM 1061 chipset
- Up to 6Gb/s transfer speed.
- Supports two SATAIII ports (SATA7~8)
 
RAID
- SATA1~2 ports support Intel Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (AHCI / RAID 0/1) by Intel X79
- SATA3~6 ports support Intel Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (AHCI / RAID 0/1/5/10) by Intel X79
USB 3.0 Support
1 USB 3.0 internal connector by NEC® D720200
2 USB 3.0 rear I/O ports by NEC® D720200
Audio
Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC892
- Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
- Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
- Meet Microsoft Vista Premium spec
LAN
Supports one PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek 8111E.
IEE1394 / FireWire
VIA® VT6315N chipset
- Supports up to two 1394 ports. (Rear panel x1, pinheader x1)
- Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps.
Internal I/O Connectors
- ATX 24-Pin power connector
- 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
- 4-PIN Power connector
- CPU x 1 / System x 4 FAN connectors
- Front panel audio connector
- Front panel connector
- 1 x chasis intrusion connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 connectors
- 1 x USB 3.0 connectors
- 4 x Serial ATAII connectors
- 4 x Serial ATAIII connectors
- 1 x IEEE1394 connector
- 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
- 1 x Power button
- 1 x OC Genie button
- 2 x Direct OC buttons
- 1 x Multi BIOS switch
- 1 x Voice Genie connector
- 1 x MultiConnect Panel connector
Back Panel I/O Ports
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard port
- 1 x Clear CMOS button
- 1 x Coaxial SPDIF port
- 1 x Optical SPDIF port
- 1 x IEEE1394 port
- 1 x RJ45 LAN Jack
- 8 x USB 2.0 ports
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 1 x 6 in 1 audio jack
BIOS
-The mainboard BIOS provides "Plug & Play" BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
-The mainboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your mainboard specifications.
Dimensions
30.5cm(L) x 24.4cm(W)
ATX Form Factor
Mounting
9 mounting holes

 

 

Features:


 

Information on this page courtesy of MSI @ http://us.msi.com/product/mb/X79A-GD65--8D-.html#/?div=Overview

Testing:

Testing the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) will involve running it and its comparison products through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which include both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications, to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual game play, in which we can see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD 6970. To ensure as few variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages and latencies – unless otherwise stated. Turbo Boost is disabled on all processors to make a fair comparison without skewing the results.

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 2011

 

Comparison Boards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking on MSI's board is accomplished in a couple of different ways. First, you can navigate through the uEFI Click BIOS II to manually set the parameters needed to reach the end result or if that's a bit too complicated there is always MSI's well managed one-touch OC Genie II system. MSI recently overhauled their uEFI Click BIOS on the Z68A GD80 G3 that brought an entire new look and and ease-of-use. Overclocking the X79A-GD65 is like deja-vu as many of the same voltages and settings carry over from the earlier socket 1155 implementation of Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture. The lower bclock limitations and voltage's tuning points are almost the same, making the transition to socket 2011 easy to do. The one wrinkle that's not seen on socket 1155 is the availability of "Gear Rations" or straps to push the bclock limitations higher than the traditional 104-110Mhz limits by providing a 125MHz and 166MHz strap that only impacts the bclock for the CPU and memory. Where I ended up on the X79A-GD65 was pretty close to what I could achieve on the Intel board at 104MHz x 46 or 4784MHz using 1.43v in the BIOS on the CPU core. VTT, VccSA, and CPU PLL voltages were left at the factory defaults. It was quick and easy really. Changing the strap to 125MHz works, but requires a little more attention to the impact it has on other settings in the BIOS such as the memory speed. Overclocking recovery is still fairly good with three failed reboots or a hard shutdown giving a return to the BIOS. Where MSI has put their money at besides the Military Class II build philosophy is in the One Touch OC Genie II. This hardware-based overclocking utility is one that has earned them plenty of praise, as it enables even the novice to get increased performance with just the touch of a button. After being disappointed that it did not work as well on their 990FX AMD board, I was afraid that this beloved tool would not be as robust. Resetting the the BIOS to factory defaults is the best way to start off the process. Power down and push the OC Genie button and you will get a nice, solid, conservative 4.0GHz prime stable overclock. It can't get any easier than that.

 

 

 

Maximum Clock Speed:

Each CPU and motherboard has been tested for stability at the clock speeds listed when in an overclocked state. These clock speeds will be used to run the test suite and will provide the performance difference increase over the stock settings in the overclocked scoring.

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Geekbench 2.1
  4. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  5. POV-Ray 3.7
  6. Bibble 5
  7. Sandra 2011
  8. AIDA64 1.85
  9. ProShow Gold
  10. HandBrake .9.5
  11. ScienceMark 2.02
  12. Cinebench 10 & 11.5
  13. HD Tune 4.60
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Civilization V
  3. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  4. 3DMark 11

Testing:

The first part of our testing will involve system-specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. Here, we will test the time needed to compress files of 100MB and 500MB. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

Geekbench:

Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy-to-use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.

  

Higher is Better

 

Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting 100 8.2MP RAW images to jpeg format. The file size is 837MB. The measure used for comparison is time needed to convert the file in seconds.

  

Lower is Better

 

During the Apophysis testing, you can see that both the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) and the Intel DX79SI were very close to eachother, and the Intel board was beating the MSI board during stock testing. However, the MSI board took the lead in the Overclocked testing. During the ZIP testing, both boards were able to perform neck and neck until the 1000MB Overclocked testing where the MSI board took the lead by almost 11 seconds. In the RAR testing, the MSI board was able to beat out the Intel board in 75% of the testing. Both boards performed very similar during the Geekbench testing. When it comes down to the Rendering Time in the Bibble 5 benchmark, we can see that the MSI board was able to take the lead by .4 seconds when both boards were overclocked.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is the amount of time it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower Is Better

 

POV-Ray 3.7: This program features a built-in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing), enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for quicker completion.

  

Higher Is Better

 

ProShow Gold: This program is used to take a collection of images and stitch them together in a slide show, using a variety of transitions and effects, to make a compelling show you can share with friends and family. The workload consists of 29 high-resolution images that are stitched into a 3 minute video file.

  

Lower Is Better

 

HandBrake .9.5: is an open source application used to transcode multiple video formats to an h.264 output format. The test file size is 128MB in size and 43 seconds in length.

  

Lower Is Better

 

Looking at the Excel 2007 Big Number Crunch benchmark we can see that both the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) and the Intel DX79SI were once again able to perform almost identically, which is actually the same scenerio in the POV-Ray, ProShow Gold, and HandBreak benchmarks. The only test that showed quite a significant difference between the two boards was the ProShowGold Overclocked test, in which the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) beat the Intel board by 4 whole seconds.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

  

  

Multi-Core Efficiency

  

  

 

Memory Bandwidth

  

  

 

Memory Latency

  

 

Cache and Memory

  

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

  

 

AIDA64 Extreme Edition: is a software utility designed to be used for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the CPU Queen test that looks for the solution for the "Queens" problem on a 10x10 chessboard. This tests the branch-prediction capabilities of the processor. The FPU Mandel test measures double precision floating point performance through computation of several frames of the "Mandelbrot" fractal.

  

  

Higher is Better

The same theme continues over to the Sandra testing where both boards are performing very similar. However the Multi-Core Bandwidth test showed that the Intel board was able to give a slightly better score during this test as well as the Multi-Core Latency testing by a significant amount — 11.4ns during the overclocked Latency test. In the Memory testing, the MSI board did take the lead during all four tests, but it was slightly slower in the Memory Latency testing. Both the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) and the Intel DX79SI were able to once again be neck and neck during all four of the AIDA64 benchmarks.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real-world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we run the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

Higher is Better!

 

 

 

Cinebench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program, CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5

 

  

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

 

  

 

  

Lower is Better

 

PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This latest version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs from laptops to desktops.

  

  

Higher is Better

 

The Intel DX79SI is the board that comes out on top during the Sciencemark benchmark, where both boards were able to once again perform almost identically in the Single and Multi-Core tests under Cinebench 10, which is actually what is going to continue on in the rest of the testing on this page in the Cinebench 11.5 and HD Tune benches. When we get down to the PCMark 7 benchmark, things start to liven up a little bit; the Intel board takes the lead in both of the stock benchmarks, but the MSI board takes the lead in both benchmarks when the system is overclocked.

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based on the two popular sci-fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species: the Alien, the Predator, or the Human Colonial Marine. The game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine, which supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. For testing, I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

We have almost identical scores once again during the AVP benchmark at both the tested resolutions, and the small differences between the two boards will not be noticed during actual gameplay.

Testing:

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead it from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and brings massive changes to the AI behaviour in the game. Released for Windows in September of 2010, Civilization V was developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K games. Testing will be done using actual gameplay, with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns, 199-205 turns into the game.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

The Maximum difference between the two boards in the Civilization V benchmark is 2 FPS, which happened in the 1920x1200 Overclocked test.

Testing:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts for Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360. This game is part of the Battlefield franchise and uses the Frostbite 1.5 Engine, allowing for destructible environments. You can play the single-player campaign or multiplayer, with five different game modes. Released in March 2010, it has sold in excess of six million copies so far.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the 3DMark 11 benchmark, we can see that no matter what resolution we run the test at with stock speeds the Intel board comes out slightly ahead. However, at the Performance and Extreme overclocked presets, the MSI board does jump up ahead of the Intel board.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment for Futuremark in the 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies the benchmark's focus on Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence matches the current year in number (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 was designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 are required alongside a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition gives unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage only allows for a single test run. The Advanced Edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all features of the benchmark, while the Professional Edition runs for $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing – one that tests physics handling and one that combines graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics Library is used for physics simulations and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still remains a popular choice.

The new benchmark comes with two new demos that can be watched; both of which are based on the tests, but unlike the tests, contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a number of vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and displays a location similar to South American tribal ruins, with statues and the occasional vehicle. The demos are simple in that they have no story, but really demonstrate testing conditions. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors, MSI and Antec, on the sides, helping to make the Basic Edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to find the performance of each card. The presets are used because they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

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Throughout the tests in 3DMark11, the Intel board was able to pull ahead of the MSI board in all of the stock testing. Where the MSI board was able to shine is in the Performance and Extreme benchmarks once the system was overclocked.

Conclusion:

The latest Intel launch brought the Intel X79 chipset and Sandy Bridge architecture to the Extreme side of the fence and out of the mainstream. With it came all the efficiencies and performance improvements garnered with the mainstream products to drive performance up to new levels. MSI has built on the base they have with their Z68 lineup and carried all of the features onto the X79A-GD65. MSI has built this board using its Military Class II build philosophy that includes dynamic switching Super Ferrite Chokes, Solid State tantalum-based Hi-C self-repairing capacitors, DrMos II and parts that meet Mil-STD 810G. What these components allow is for some spirited overclocking as well as long term stability or any combination in between. The original BIOS needed a little work and was quickly swapped for a newer version that smoothed everything out. It seems my 3960X is limited to just under 4.8Ghz and the X79A-GD65 was able to get me there without too much work. Just the same standard for the Sandy Bridge platform: bump the multiplier, tweak the bclock, set the volts, and go! Simple! If that little bit of work is just too much to tweak, there is MSI's fully functional OC Genie II One-touch overclocking tool. On an Intel platform, the OC Genie II is almost too easy to use and is the easiest one-step process to get an overclock out of the system. I found with the headroom available on the 3960X that the OC Genie II was a little conservative when the Turbo-Boosted speeds of the Core i7 3960X are 3.9Ghz. The OC Genie II delivered a solid 4.0GHz overclock, and just like every Intel MSI board I have tried over the past four years has proven perfectly stable under load. It really is a feather in MSI's cap that this tool has been so good for so long.

Overclocking and build philosophy kind of go hand in hand, but this is not all the MSI X79A-GD65 is about as it is a feature-rich board. It has support for USB 3.0, PCIe 3.0, SATA 3, Quad Channel memory with 8 dimm slots, CrossfireX, Nvidia Tri-SLI and THX TruStudioPro, +3TB disk drives, USB Charging, and so much more. MSI's Click BIOS II is a drastic improvement over their prior implementations and coupled with the latest version of the Core Center utility gives the user a way to monitor and tweak the system from within the operating system. Priced at $299 the X79A-GD65 8D is not at the top nor bottom of the pricing ladder for an X79 board, but more comfortably packed right in the middle. Fully featured and offering great performance and overclocking ability for your dollar the MSI X79A-GD65 8D is one board to keep on the list while shopping for this new platform.

 

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