P67 Motherboard Roundupccokeman -
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MSI has been a major player in the enthusiast market for a while now and have increased their standing in the overclocking community with high-end offerings that perform well and come with an extensive list of innovative technologies. Most notable is the use of military grade components. MSI uses Hi-C caps, Super Ferrite Chokes and DrMOS (Driver Mosfet) a replacement for three chips combined into one for a cooler, more efficient solution. Other exclusive technologies from MSI include their Click BIOS feature introduced with the P67 based lineup. You get their OC Genie one push overclocking feature that so far has been by far the easiest and most reliable overclocking utility from any manufacturer. Coupled with the OC Control center that allows real time overclocking from within the OS environment. Add in the latest in connectivity solutions with USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s capabilities and you have a high-end solution for the masses. The packaging that MSI chose to use highlights the Miltary Class II components selection along with the three year warranty. On the box now, across the top are supported technologies and hardware. Multi-GPU strategies from both NVIDIA and AMD are supported as well as Intel's second generation Core series processors. Other mentions on the front are USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s connectivity options. The rear panel goes into detail on the Military Class II components and exclusive feature set including Instant OC, Super Charger to fast charge your portable devices, Click BIOS and MSI's low overhead quick boot option (Winki) that allows you to enter into an OS environment much faster for a quick check of your email. Opening the package allows you to get a quick look at the full size bundle of accessories.
The accessory bundle that comes with the board is substantial and contains everything you need to get started along with a few unique items. You get the manual and driver disk, the application and quick start guide, SATA 6Gb/s cables, USB 3.0 bracket, I/O shield, M-connectors, SLI bridge, SATA power adapter and the V-Check cables. These cables extend the socket to make using a multimeter to read the voltages supported by the measuring points a bit easier to get to.
The MSI P67A-GD65 is one step down from the top in its P67 based motherboard hierarchy so you should see some value and performance with this board. Much like most of the comparison field, the MSI offering is an ATX form factor motherboard that uses MSI's exclusive Military Class II build-out with low profile Tantalum cored Hi-c capacitors that offer an 8x improvement in life span as well as Super Ferrite Chokes that show a 10% improvement in efficiency and a 30% boost in current capacity. The layout looks fairly standard with the heat sinks being slightly smaller than either of the high-end ASUS or ECS solutions. The PCB is black with blue and silver accents. The back side of the PCB is clean with the exception of the Lotes CPU retention backing plate. Just like the rest of the comparison field, the heat sink package is held on with spring loaded screws offering a more secure mount.
The I/O panel is fully loaded with connectivity options. From left to right you have the combination PS/2 port, two of the eight USB 2.0 ports, a clear CMOS switch, Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF outputs, a single IEE1394 port, two eSATA ports, one RJ-45 Gigabit LAN port, two USB 3.0 ports and the analog outputs for the 7.1 sound solution that supports THX Tru Studio Pro standard. Expansion capabilities come in the form of a pair of 16x PCIe slots that support both SLI and Crossfire multi-GPU strategies, three 1x slots with one being above the top 16x slot making it perfect for use with a PCIe 1x sound card if the onboard solution is not to your liking and a pair of PCI slots at the bottom of the PCB.
Across the bottom of the board you find more connectivity options to increase functionality. Starting on the left is the front panel audio header, CD input connection, S/PDIF out header, the USB 3.0 header that is backwards compatible to USB 2.0, the IEE1394 header, front panel USB 2.0 header that supports MSI's Super-Charger technology allowing you to fast charge a portable device, the TPM header, serial connection and last but not least the Power, Reset and OC Genie one touch overclocking button to allow you to overclock your system with nothing more than the touch of a button.
On the right hand side of the board are the JFP1 and 2 headers. These are the connection points for the front panel switches and LEDs. Up next are the SATA ports You have two pairs of white 90 degree connections and a pair of black connections. The left hand pair of SATA 6Gb/s ports are controlled by the Marvell 0128 controller supporting RAID 0 and 1. The remaining ports are controlled from the P67 PCH with the black ports being the SATA 3Gb/s connections that support RAID 0,1, 5 &10 with the last pairing being the SATA 6Gb/s ports. The 24 pin ATX power connection, two chassis fan headers are up next with one of the best implementations of a voltage checkpoint solution is available with MSI's V check points. What I like about this setup is that your multimeter leads can sit in the pockets while you are doing some extreme testing. Freeing your hands for other uses such as pouring LN2. Just like the balance of the P67 boards, the P67A-GD65 supports memory speeds up to 2133MHz in dual channel mode. 16GB is the maximum supported capacity.
Next to the heat sink across the upper power circuit are the Active Phase shifting LEDs that indicate the how many power phases are being used at any one time and are labeled 1-6. Further to the right is the eight pin auxiliary power connection to supply additional current to the processor.
Due to the use of Hi-c caps, Super Ferrite Chokes and DrMOS components, the area around the CPU socket is very clean and efficient. The 6+2 phase design utilizes Active Phase switching. This technology dynamically alters the amount of power phases needed based on loading to provide a cool running stable power supply to the CPU, memory and chipset. Based on the efficiency of the design, the heat sinks used around the socket are smaller in size than those of the competing boards in this roundup and were more than capable of keeping the temperatures of the power circuit in check under load. The heat sink used over the P67 PCH is a finned piece that follows the design of the main cooling package and board color scheme.
The MSI P67A-GD65 is a full featured offering much like the rest of the comparison field and makes use of its own unique features to set it apart from the crowd.