MSI Z68A-GD80 Revision G3 Reviewccokeman -
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Earlier this year, the Z68 chipset was launched by Intel as a way to take advantage of all the benefits of the P67 and H67 chipsets all in one package — not to mention the snafu with the P67 chipset's SATA 3Gbps controller that was quickly resolved by Intel. At launch, we looked at MSI’s top offering equipped with the Z68 chipset, the Z68A-GD80 B3 revision, and found it to be a fully loaded board that offered tremendous upside and overclocking to match the feature set — things like Smart Caching technology, switchable graphics, Military Class II component selection, OC Genie one touch overclocking, uEFI bios. and more. Here we are that few months down the line and we have an update to the Z68A-GD80 with the G3 (Generation 3), which brings along an updated feature set to take advantage of Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge lineup, like a pair of 16x PCIe Gen 3 slots that deliver multi-GPU Gen3 bandwidth, an improved implementation of MSI’s Click BIOS, with Click BIOS II, support for 2.2TB and greater disk drives, and a much improved user interface. The warranty period is another upsell from MSI, with the G3 revisions of the Z68A-GD80 and GD65 seeing an increase to five years from the previous three years . Performance-wise, this revision is not going to differ from the B3 revision, but just provides a way to prepare for the future launch. Let's dig a little deeper into what the MSI Z68A-GD80 has to offer.
From a packaging perspective, the packaging does not see much change other than to highlight the additional capabilities and feature set of the G3 revision. Highlighted on the front panel are the new features, as well as some of the previous ones that are still there. One of those new features is that MSI has the first PCIe Gen 3 solution usable for dual-GPU use. Click BIOS II removes the cartoonish look to the uEFI BIOS and an enhancement to its OC Genie II one touch hardware based overclocking utility. The rest of the feature set is strategically spread over the front and rear panels. Across the top, Lucid Logix Virtu technology is supported, as well as AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU solutions. The back panel goes into detail on the attributes of MSI’s Military Class II Technology, which uses Hi-C Caps, Super Ferrite chokes, and long life solid capacitors. All this helps with the other major callout, the OC Genie II overclocking utility. Winki 3 is a small Linux-based application that allows much of the OS functionality without taking the time to boot into the OS, and Super Charger provides the current needs for charging today's mobile power house phones and tablets. A flip-open cover is used to provide an even more granular look at the feature set. There is plenty of information placed, so if you do purchase from as brick and mortar location, you can at least make an informed decision.
Inside the packaging is a pretty stout bundle of accessories packed into the available space. Remove the accessory bundle and the Z68A-GD80 comes into view.
The bundle comes in two parts, the documentation and the hardware. Included are a pair of quick start and installation guides, the manuals, a quality certification for the Military Class II components, and the software and driver disk. The hardware side gives us the usual, as well as some exclusive parts. Included is the I/O panel, Molex to SATA power adapters, a USB 3.0 bracket with two additional USB 3.0 ports, SATA 3 Gbps and 6Gbps cables, V-check adapters, and the M connector package. The M Connectors allow those of us with a large hand to connect the small front panel wiring onto one plug outside the chassis and connect one wire package easily versus fighting the individual connectors. The V-check cables are extensions used to insert a multimeter into them to read critical voltages via the V-Check points on the Z68A-GD80.
All in all, a slick package that is almost identical to the B3 revision Z68A-GD80. Even so, it's the new hardware and capabilities that count, so let's look at the board and what it has to offer.