MSI Z68A-GD80 Reviewccokeman -
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Just a few short months ago the Intel Sandy Bridge platform was introduced to the world. This new platform showed great promise and stunning performance by comparison to the earlier Core i7 and Core i5 processors. Overclocking was rumoured to have died with the release but in reality a new bar was set with chips that seemed to go well past 4.5Ghz (at will) on air. Just after launch, we looked at a series of P67 motherboards including the MSI P67A-GD65 and were able to see the performance scale with more capable boards. One thing missing was the ability to use the Intel HD 3000 graphics on our K SKU processors with the P67 boards as this ability was limited to the H67 chipset based which in itself was limited by the inability to overclock above the limits of the Turbo Boost ratios. Now we have the best of both worlds with the release of Z68 chipset motherboards such as the MSI Z68A-GD80 that I am looking at today. Add in dynamic graphics switching and Intel Smart Response technology and the latest chipset looks pretty interesting.
What you get with the MSI Z68A-GD80 is a full featured motherboard with all of the MSI engineering and Military Class II build-up that includes DrMOS, Hi-C capacitors and Dynamic switching Super Ferrite Chokes, OC Genie one touch overclocking, Voltage Check points and more. Let's take a look and see if this latest offering from MSI is a worthy successor to the P/H67 series and whether this is the chipset we should have seen to begin with.
The packaging for this offering from MSI is full of information on all sides but the largest single item of note on the front panel of the box is the use of its Military Class II component selection that includes Super Ferrite chokes, Hi-C caps with Tantalum cores and the use of solid capacitors. After this is, the one second OC Genie is featured prominently (as it should be) since it is a feature with a proven track record then there's USB 3.0 and SATA 6. Beside the Z68A-GD80 name is verification that this board uses B3 Revision silicon so there will not be an issue with the SATA 3Gb/s ports. Across the top is a list of supported technologies that include SLI, CrossfireX, Intel Second Generation Core processors and Windows 7. The back panel has a synopsis of many of the listed Military Class components as well as other features including Control Center Instant OC, Super Charger, Winki 3 and THX True studio sound. The front cover flips up to show a picture of the Z68A-GD80 with individual features pointed out on the PCB as well as discussion on the Extreme Power Design.
Opening the package shows the bundled accessories stacked on top of a cardboard divider that is pretty much standard packaging for a motherboard these days. Underneath this divider is where the motherboard sits in an anti static bag.
The bundled accessories for the Z68A-GD80 includes everything you need to get the board installed and operational. Of course you need to supply the CPU, memory and associated peripherals. What MSI supplies is the documentation including the manual, a guide for the MSI specific applications, a quick start guide, driver and application disk and the hardware part of the bundle. Included are the rear I/O panel, USB 3.0 expansion bracket, SATA 6Gb/s cables with locking ends, a pair of 4 pin the SATA power adapters, an SLI bridge, M-Connectors and the V check cables to extend the V check points out further from the PCB.
The M-Connectors are used as an intermediate connection point that can be used to put all the front panel connections onto one block while they can be clearly seen and reached. This eliminates trying to fit the connections to the motherboard individually once it is in the chassis. Nothing like trying to hook up the HDD light connection to the bottom right corner of a board in a tight chassis. The V-check cables extend out the V-Check ports so they can more easily be accessed.
MSI has put enough information out on the box so an informed buying decision can be made. The key is will the hardware back up the claims?