MSI Z68A-GD80 Reviewccokeman - May 10, 2011
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So where do I start with the Z68A-GD80? If you start with the performance and overclocking, its P67 Deja Vu all over again. To put that in context, I need to say that it is a good thing. Even a mediocre chip can pull off some stellar numbers when thrown into a well built board. The Z68A-GD80 fits that description to a "T". To that end, the maximum clock speed I was able to pull out of this board with stability was 4966MHz or pretty much equal to the highest clock speed my poor 2600K will run Prime 95 at. I did find I needed a tad more voltage to get it stable than some of the other boards I have used but it's really a moot point at close to 1.5 volts. If manual tweaking is something that is above your means or capabilities, MSI has equipped the Z68A-GD80 with its One Touch OC Genie. I am still amazed at how simple it is to get a nice stable overclock with just the push of a button. That's it. Push the button and watch the clock speed it delivers. In this case, 4.2Ghz was the result. That's 500MHz more than you get with Turbo Boost enabled and all for a minimum time commitment. But wait there's more...MSI's Control Center utility will allow for both overclocking and power saving features from within the Windows environment with a real time application of the adjustments. This can be good or bad depending on how aggressive you are with the adjustments. Making all of this performance possible is the Military Class II components including DrMos, Dynamic Switching Super Ferrite Chokes, Hi-C caps with Tantulum cores and Active phase switching . DrMos allows for higher current flow (2x or 40A) and increased efficiency of up to 96%. The Tantulam core capacitors offer 15% less current leakage while the Dynamic Switching Super Ferrite Chokes offer increases in current capacity and a 10% increase in efficiency.
While performance is good, it's not the determining factor in many builds. Reading the forums people are looking for value and features. Features sell. Of course with the Z68A-GD80 there are the Military Class II components but there's more to the board than that. The list includes USB 3.0 connectivity front and rear, Intel Z68 Chipset to take advantage of Intel Quick Sync technology, LucidLogixs Virtu software that allows for a single monitor connection to the system when a discrete video card is used to get the best of both worlds (low power consumption in 2D mode and the power of the discrete GPU in the 3D environment) when you are ready to game. I found that this option worked fine in most of the games I tried but 3DMark Vantage still did not show any improvement while Batman AA showed the performance jump it should have when the software was enabled. Support for both CrossfireX and NVIDIA SLI GPU technologies is included and up to two cards are supported in Virtu. What has to be one of the best additions to a board are the V Check points. These are so far the best implementation of this option allowing the user to leave the multimeter probes in place during a bench session without modifying anything. And last but not least, is the UEFI Click BIOS. For my tastes it does not fit in the grand scheme of the Z68A-GD80. The look just does not fit. However that's where the bad stops and the good begins. Once you work your way through the BIOS a few times, I found it easy to navigate and easy to use with both a mouse and keyboard. The "save overclocking profile" option in the Click BIOS worked great and allowed for an immediate boot up to 4.96GHz from the stock settings. The SSD caching feature of the Z68 chipset showed some promise. I was able to see increased performance in the PCMark Vantage testing as well as the start up and shut down testing. However, to see these benefits you need to use a drive that is at least twice as fast as the mechanical drive you are using. The maximum size cache that can be used is 64GB so a small SSD is a good choice to increase performance without going off the deep end on costs. Z68 is a mainstream chip set you know.
When it's all said and done, MSI has put together a good functional package with the Z68A-GD80 that offers up real performance enhancements along with some innovative features to put this board a couple notches above the P67 based boards in its lineup.
- Good Looks
- Military Spec components
- OC Genie
- USB 3.0
- V Check Points
- Click BIOS
- Super Charger
- Virtu still needs a little work
- Click BIOS