MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming Reviewccokeman - June 9, 2013
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MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming Closer Look:
MSI's Z87-GD65 Gaming motherboard is based around the Intel Z87 chipset for use with LGA socket 1150 Fourth Generation Core series processors from Intel including the Core i7 4770K. This black and red beauty features a standard layout with plenty of room on the board for supporting parts from mild to wild. The dragon design seen on the packaging carries through to the heat sink package. As far as functionality you get DRAM support up to 3000MHz, better than standard audio and networking, Multi GPU support, and more. The front of the board is covered with silk screened emblems to let you know what's included if you raced straight past the box and documentation. The back of the board is barren but looking closer we see that the cooling package is held in place with spring loaded screws. The CPU socket and retention hardware are from Lotes and have a black chrome finish that fits the theme of the board. As part of MSI's Military Class IV package, the PCB features a new construction method that seeks to limit EMI radiation and improves humidity and temperature tolerances.
From left to right on the I/O panel are a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 "Gaming" port using gold contacts, a Clear CMOS button, Coaxial and Optical S/PDIF outputs, two of the three display outputs, the Killer E2200-controlled Gigabit LAN port, four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 1.4 port that supports up to 4K resolutions, and the Realtek ALC 1150-powered 7.1 HD audio jacks that have been gold plated. All of the outputs on the board feature ESD protection as part of MSI's Military Class essentials package. Expansion capabilities include three x16 PCIe slots that support multi GPU solutions including up to 2-Way SLI, 3-Way CrossfireX, and Lucid Logix Switchable graphics technology. The slots can run in x16, x8, x8 with a pair of cards or x8, x4, x4 with all three populated. Additionally there are a total of four x1 PCIe 2.0 slots for other peripherals. In front of the bottom x1 slot surrounded by the capacitors and headphone amplifier for the audio solution is the isolating cover for the Realteak ALC 1150 IC. Taking advantage of Intel's Rapid Storage Technologies is made easier with the onboard mounting for an mSATA SSD right above the top x16 PCIe slot.
Along the bottom edge of the PCB are some interesting items on top of the standards for the form factor. From the left is the front panel audio header, the onboard power and reset buttons, the OC Genie4 button for one touch overclocking featuring multiple levels, OC Genie Mode switch to choose between the Gaming mode or Turbo modes of operation, TPM header, GO2BIOS button that functions as the gateway to the BIOS when Fastboot is enabled, debug LED, serial port connection, three front panel USB 2.0 headers (one of which supports MSI Supercharger), one of the five 4-pin fan headers, and the front panel connection.
SATA connectivity consists of six SATA 6Gbps ports supplied natively off the Intel Z87 PCH and a pair supplied by an ASMedia 1061 controller. The Intel ports support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10, as well as Intel Smart Response, Rapid Start, and Smart Connect Technologies. If an mSATA drive is used you do lose the functionality of SATA Port 6. Right next to the drive connectivity is a front panel USB 3.0 header that adds another pair of ports for a total of six on board. Moving up the PCB we get to the 24-pin ATX main power connection. On each side are points of interest. On the left is the Dual BIOS switch that allows you to switch the BIOS should you corrupt one of the two Winbond 64MB ICs. To the left is a staple of MSI's lineup, the V-Check points, used to check voltages with a multimeter rather than with software-based tools and utilities.
A quartet of DRAM slots support up to 32GB of DDR3 memory at speeds of up to 3000MHz (OC) in a dual channel configuration. Intel XMP Profiles are supported to ease memory setup issues. MSI has adopted the use of a T-Topology with the traces feeding the DIMM slots to help improve memory overclocking margins and stability at the edge; a feature I saw last on ASUS' Z77 lineup. How it affects the memory overclocking is yet to be seen with this iteration from MSI.
Around the top of the PCB is where you will find more of the onboard fan headers, the top of the VRM cooling solution, and the 8-pin auxiliary CPU power connection.
The MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming motherboard is built around the ability to use Intel's Fourth Generation Core series processors like the Core i7 4770K I will be using to put this board through its paces. This processor fits into an LGA 1150 socket and is not backwards compatible with processors in the Second or Third Generation Core lineup. Around the socket is MSI's Military Class IV VRM circuit utilizing Super Ferrite Chokes, Hi-C Caps, Dark Capacitors, and components that meet MIL-STD-810G or better. With MSI's component selection you get a more efficient, longer lasting design. While the CPU socket design is not backwards compatible, the heat sink mounting pattern is identical to that used with Intel's earlier LGA 115X sockets.
The heat sink package on the MSI Z87-GD65 is robust enough to get the job done while fitting clearly into the design elements of the board, keeping in mind MSI's Gaming Spirit philosophy. The dragon emblem seen on the front panel of the package is repeated throughout the board's heat sinks with the most obvious being on the large two-piece design covering the Z87 PCH. Much less subtle is the integration into the heat pipe connected VRM heat sink.
Looks are not everything as performance is king. However, the new look for MSI's Gaming series is pretty interesting and will hold some visual appeal when viewed through a case window. Coupled with a three-year warranty and MIL spec components we should see some spirited performance.