MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Motherboard

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Review

Micro Star International, more commonly known as MSI recently sent us over one of their recently released Intel Z77 Gaming motherboards. What they sent over isn't your average mom and pop motherboard. The MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard is a beast of a motherboard and geared for those looking only for the best. Although there are several others in the MSI Gaming Series, the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming is the top dog of the series. The MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming is available for as little as $169.99. The Z77A-G45 Gaming and Z77A-G43 are available for $139.00 and $109.99. Each of the boards has its respective place, but we are going to focus on the flagship board of the gaming series the Z77A-GD65 Gaming.

The MSI Z77 series of motherboards are built with the intent of giving gamers the top features and technology so that the can be at their best and not have to worry about their hardware. According to MSI the Gaming boards have 'The best weapons at hand'.

Each of the above features adds to the performance of the Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard and would make a great addition to any gamers arsenal.

Killer E2200 NIC

The Killer E2200 Intelligent Networking Platform is built for maximum networking performance for online games and high-quality streaming media. Featuring Advanced Stream Detect, Killer E2200 automatically detects and accelerates game traffic ahead of other network traffic for smoother, stutter-free in-game performance and the competitive edge. With this exclusive, automatic traffic prioritization, games and real-time chat get priority over low-level system chatter, giving you the lowest latency for game data on the most controllable network hardware available. Through the detection and prioritization of gaming traffic you can finally fully utilize your network without fear of being kicked from an on-line game because of high ping. This enables true multi-tasking without manually enabling or disabling applications, updates and installations. Killer networking actually allows you to use your PC 24 hours a day.

Gaming Device Port

You want more FPS, lower ping, but why use a pro-gaming mouse with old-fashioned standards? MSI Gaming Device Port is optimized for high polling rate mice (500 to 1000 Hz) which lowers your mouse's response time from 8 milliseconds to 1 millisecond! This gives a much smoother mouse response in games. The additional gold plating on the ports enhances the durability drastically and ensures your PS/2 and USB ports are always working when you ship out to a LAN party.

Gaming Benefits

Technical Benefits

The onboard audio performance of a motherboard is almost always questionable for some and good enough for others. Lately though each motherboard manufacturer has found ways to try and set themselves aside from the crowd. Some have replaced the typical Realtek audio codec with another, others have had the Realtek audio codec set up to use third party software. In the case of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming, MSI is utilizing Creative Sound Blaster Cinema software to hopefully boost the sound quality quality and performance of the onboard Realtek ALC898 Hi Definition audio Codec. I would have liked to see MSI step it up a notch and use an actual Creative Audio chip, after all, MSI is going after the die-hard gamers out there that are likely using dedicated sound cards.

Military Class 3

Many of the remaining features are the same technologies that we have seen on MSI motherboard in recent times. All the components on the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard are Military Class III Components. The Military Class III Components consist of DrMOS II, Hi-c Cap, Solid CAPS, and Super Ferrite Chokes. Below is the explanation of each of these components from MSI

DrMOS II

Hi-C CAP

Solid CAP

Super Ferrite Choke

Beyond the Military Class III technologies, we have features such as Super Charger, Click BIOS II, Total Fan Control, and the ever so important Dragon Heat-Sink... Each of these features plays an important roll in the performance of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard (yes even the Dragon Heat-sink that is over-sized to aid in heat dissipation).

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Motherboard Specifications

CPU (Max Support)
  • Supports 3rd Gen Intel Core i7 / Core i5 / Core i3 / Pentium / Celeron processors for LGA 1155 socket
Chipset
  • Intel Z77 Express Chipset
Main Memory
  • Support four DDR3 DIMMs 1066/1333/1600*/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2667*/2800*/3000*(OC) DRAM (32GB Max)
  • Supports Dual-Channel mode
Slots
  • 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
  • 4 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
On-Board SATA

SATAIII controller integrated in Intel Z77 chipset

  • Up to 6Gb/s transfer speed.
  • Supports two SATA ports (SATA1~2) by Z77

SATAIII controller integrated in ASMedia ASM 1061 chipset

  • Up to 6Gb/s transfer speed.
  • Supports two SATA ports (SATA7~8) by ASM 1061

SATAII controller integrated in Intel Z77 chipset

  • Up to 3Gb/s transfer speed.
  • Supports four SATA ports (SATA3~6)

RAID

  • SATA1~6 ports support Intel Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (AHCI / RAID 0/1/5/10) by Intel Z77
USB 3.0
  • 2 USB 3.0 rear I/O ports by Intel Z77
  • 1 USB 3.0 onboard connector by Intel Z77
Audio
  • Chipset integrated by Realtek ALC898
  • Supports Sound Blaster Cinema
LAN
  • Supports one PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Killer E2205 Gigabit
Multi-GPU
  • Supports ATI CrossFire Technology
  • Supports NVIDIA SLI Technology
  • Supports Lucid Virtu Universal MVP
Internal I/O Connectors
  • ATX 24-Pin power connector
  • 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  • CPU x 1 / System x 4 FAN connectors
  • 3 x USB 2.0 connectors
  • 1 x USB 3.0 connector
  • 1 x IEEE 1394 connecto
  • 1 x Multi BIOS Switch
  • 1 x TPM Module connector
  • 1 x Front Panel connector
  • 1 x Front Panel Audio connector
  • 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
  • 1 x Debug LED panel
  • 1 x Voice Genie connector (optional)
  • 1 x MultiConnect Panel connector (optional)
  • 1 x V-Check Points Set
  • 1 x Power button
  • 1 x OC Genie button
  • 1 x Reset button
  • 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
Back Panel I/O Ports
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  • 1 x Clear CMOS button
  • 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF-out port
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF-out port
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
  • 1 x 6 in 1 audio jack
  • 1 x HDMI port with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @60Hz
  • 1 x DVI-D port with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @60Hz
  • 1 x VGA port with max. resolution up to 2048x1536 @75Hz
BIOS
  • The motherboard BIOS provides "Plug & Play" BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
  • The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.
Dimension
  • 30.5cm(L) x 24.5cm(W) ATX Form Factor

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Motherboard Retail Packaging

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Retail Packaging

The retail packaging for the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard is easily a favorite of mine. I happen to have a thing for dragons and think this one might make a sharp looking tattoo, but I digress. The packaging points out some of the technologies which are key to the Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard including but not limited to the Intel Z77 express chipset, support for the Intel Core series of processors as well as the integrated Killer E2200 gaming NIC (Network Interface Card). Dead top center MSI has placed the evidence of the three year warranty for the U.S.A., Canada, and Mexico.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Retail Packaging

The back of the packaging spares no shortage of marketing text. Here we can find information about the Killer E2200 Ethernet card, Military Class III Components, and the OC Genie II.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Retail Packaging

Opening up the retail packaging for the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard first thing that becomes quite apparent is that the board is secure inside the box. The motherboard itself is packed within a typical anti-static bag to protect it from ESD (Electro Static Discharge). It may not be the most eye catching method, but it is certainly effective.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Retail Packaging

The bundle that accompanies the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard seems a little on the sparse side, but it will get the job done. In addition to the typical manuals and driver/utility disc, there is two pairs of SATA cables, and a NVIDIA SLI Bridge.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Retail Packaging

Hidden below the rest of the bundle is a door hanger that reads "I'm sorry busy gaming" on one side and "I'm not here" on the other. There is also a case badge that will show off the fact that you have a MSI Gaming G Series motherboard inside.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Motherboard Layout & Features

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Layout

While I'm not one to make a purchasing decision on looks, the look of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming could certainly put me over the edge if I were debating between this motherboard and another. The mostly blacked out look with a few red accents is sharp looking, add in the Dragon and I'm nearly sold. Now before you put to much weight on my preference of aesthetics, keep in mind that if it doesn't perform well, it won't matter how good it looks! It won't end up in my system.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Layout

Looking at the first corner of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series motherboard there are a number of features worth mentioning. In the corner we can see the Easy Button 3 set up which consists of the onboard power button, reset button and OC Genie II button. To the immediate right of the DIMM slots we can see we have the 4pin CPU fan header, a 3pin system fan header, and a series of 9 LEDs. The topmost LED is the DrMos alarm while the remaining eight LEDs indicate the number of phases that the CPU is currently using.. The four DIMM slots on the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard supports up to 32GB of DDR3 RAM at speeds up to 3000MHz(O.C.). Below the 24pin motherboard power is the V-Check points. The V-Check points allow us to check the VCCP, CPU VTT, CPU Graphics, DDR VCC, and the PCH 1P05 voltages.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Layout

Along the leading edge of the MSI Z77A-GD65 we have the internal SuperSpeed USB 3.0 controller. One of the features that really caught my eye was the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port, it comes off the board parallel to the board making it much easier to hide the USB 3.0 cable. It's little things like that which can really make or break the layout of the board. Looking at the SATA ports, the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series motherboard has a grand total of eight SATA ports. The right SATA ports are SATA III 6Gbps which are native to the Intel Z77 chipset along with the four black SATA II 3Gbps ports. The remaining two SATA ports are SATA III 6Gbps as well, though they are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip. Along the left edge of the MSI Z77A-GD65 we have three sets of internal USB 2.0 headers. To the right of the USB 2.0 headers we can find the switch to bounce between the different BIOS chips.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Layout

The MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard features three PCIe x16 Gen 3.0 expansion slots and four PCIe x1 slots. Along the edge of the MSI Z77A-GD65 we can see the blue internal IEEE1394a (Firewire) header, front panel headers, Voice Genie connector (JDLED3), Trusted Platform Module, a 3pin system fan header, and the internal header for the front panel audio. Swinging around to the bottom edge of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming we can see the Realtek ALC898 high definition audio codec, Fintek F71889AD Super I/O controller, and the Killer E2200 Gaming Ethernet controller.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Layout

The MSI Z77A-GD65 has a single 8pin CPU power plug to supply power to the LGA1155 processor. To the left of the LGA1155 socket we can see that the Z77A-GD65 is using Super Ferrite Chokes.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Layout

The I/O panel for the MSI Z77A-GD65 relatively typical, though MSI has upped the quality of the pair of USB 2 ports below the PS/2 port. MSI has dubbed these as Gaming Device Ports and they are optimized for high polling rate mice which lowers the mouse responce time from 8 milliseconds to 1 millisecond. Next to those we have a rear I/O panel clear CMOS button (ever so handy when overclocking), optical and coaxial SPDIF out ports, a second pair of traditional USB 2.0 ports, and HDMI port, a pair of Intel Z77 Controlled SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, Killer E2200 Ethernet, DVI, VGA 15pin D-Sub, and the traditional six 3.5mm audio jacks.

The Legit Reviews Test System

Before we look at the numbers, here is a brief glance at the test systems that were used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 8 Ultimate 64-bit. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Test System

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Motherboard - $174.98

                                            Intel Test Rig

 Processor  Intel Core I7 3770K  Live Pricing
 Motherboard  See Above  Live Pricing
 Memory  8gb Corsair Dominator Platinum 2133MHz  Live Pricing
 Hard Drive  Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD  Live Pricing
 Video Card  AMD Radeon HD 7950  Live Pricing
 CPU cooler  Corsair H100
 Live Pricing
 Chassis  None - Open Bench  
 Power Supply  Corsair HX750   Live Pricing

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Intel Z77 System Settings

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Motherboard System Settings

Futuremark 3DMark 2013

fire_strike_ss_550

Fire Strike is our new showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. It is our most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today. Fire Strike will only be available in the Windows editions of 3DMark initially.

Futuremark 3DMark Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series motherboard was able to handle Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike without an issue. With the AMD Radeon HD 7950 for graphics we were able to score 5615 3DMarks and a physics score of 10029.

Futuremark 3DMark 2013 Intel HD 4000 Graphics

fire_strike_ss_550

Fire Strike is our new showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. It is our most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today. Fire Strike will only be available in the Windows editions of 3DMark initially.

Futuremark 3DMark Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Removing the AMD Radeon HD 7950 from the mix, and utilizing the Intel HD 4000 Graphics on our Intel Core i7 3770K our Fire Strike score dropped to only 673 3DMarks.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.

Battlefield 3 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming series motherboard didn't have any issues running Battlefield 3 on the most demanding graphics presets. At 1920x1080 we were able to average 60.811 frames per second while at 1280x1024 we saw an average of 82.77 frames per second.

Battlefield 3 Intel HD 4000 Graphics

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.

Battlefield 3 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Removing the AMD Radeon HD 7950 once again, the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming series motherboard performance dropped as expected. The Intel HD 4000 Graphics aren't as powerful as one may hope. At 1280x1024 we were able to maintain an average of 32.381 which is playable. Once we increased the resolution to 1920x1080 we were hitting an average of 21.863 frames per second and it was pretty choppy at times and a little difficult to play. Though this is no fault of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard.

Metro Last Light

Metro Last Light Benchmark

Metro: Last Light is the hugely anticipated sequel to 2010’s critically acclaimed cultclassic Metro 2033. Experience thrilling combat with an exotic arsenal of hand-made weaponry against deadly foes – both human and mutant – and use stealth to launch attacks under the cover of darkness Explore the post-apocalyptic world of the Moscow Metro, one of the most immersive, atmospheric game worlds ever created! Fight for every bullet and every last breath in a claustrophobic blend of survival horror and FPS gameplay. Next generation technology boasting stunning lighting and physics sets a new graphical benchmark on both console and PC.

Metro Last Light Benchmark

Like Metro Last Light's predecessor, Metro 2033, this is a very demanding game. We set the resolution and increased all of the settings to the highest allowed. Though we did leave NVIDIA PhysX disabled.

Metro Last Light Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Metro last light is a rather demanding game. Even using the AMD Radeon HD 7950 we were able to average only 50.107 frames per second at 1280x1024 and 38.833 frames per second 1920x1080.

Metro Last Light Intel HD 4000 Graphics

Metro Last Light Benchmark

Metro: Last Light is the hugely anticipated sequel to 2010’s critically acclaimed cultclassic Metro 2033. Experience thrilling combat with an exotic arsenal of hand-made weaponry against deadly foes – both human and mutant – and use stealth to launch attacks under the cover of darkness Explore the post-apocalyptic world of the Moscow Metro, one of the most immersive, atmospheric game worlds ever created! Fight for every bullet and every last breath in a claustrophobic blend of survival horror and FPS gameplay. Next generation technology boasting stunning lighting and physics sets a new graphical benchmark on both console and PC.

Metro Last Light Benchmark

Like Metro Last Light's predecessor, Metro 2033, this is a very demanding game. When taking advantage of the Intel HD 4000 Graphics we set everything to a minimum setting.

Metro Last Light Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Even with all the settings at a minimum, Metro Last Light isn't what I would call playable. At 1280x1024 we were able to average only 17.223 frames per second, 1920x1080 was an average of only 12.243 frames per second. This is a game that certainly needs a little more power than the Intel HD 4000 Graphics aboard our Intel Core i7 3770K.

Intel Z77 SATA III 6Gbps Performance Testing

CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard SATA III Performance

The SATA III 6Gbps performance testing was completed using a Corsair Force GT 240Gb SATA III 6Gbps SSD.

Benchmark Results: The Intel Z77 Express chipset is a very solid SATA III 6Gbps solution. Coupled with the Corsair Force GT 240GB SSD on the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard we saw read speeds of 497.0MB/s and write speeds of 312.4MB/s.

HD Tune Pro 4.01 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

Intel Z77 HD Tune Pro 5.50 Write Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard SATA III Performance

Intel Z77 HD Tune Pro 5.50 Read Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard SATA III Performance

Benchmark Results: Firing up HD Tune Pro 5.50 we saw average read speeds of 338.9MB/s and average write speeds of 335.5MB/s. Overall a solid SATA III 6Gbps performance for the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard.

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance Testing

Thermaltake BlackX 5G SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Dock

There are a number of different Super Speed USB 3.0 host controllers out there. In order to know which ones perform the best we run a series of tests that will put the controller through the ringer and see how it comes out on the other side. Each of our motherboards uses a different Super Speed USB 3.0 controller and you can find the below.

CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance

Testing of the USB3 was done using the "Thermaltake BlacX 5G Hard Drive Docking Station . The drive used was an Corsair Force GT 240Gb SSD.

Benchmark Results: While not quite as fast as the SATA III performance on the previous page, we still saw some impressive numbers. The Sequential read hit 417.4MB/s and the Sequential Write hit 287.5MB/s.

HD Tune Pro 5.00 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 HD Tune 5.50 Read Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 HD Tune 5.50 Write Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance

Testing of the USB3 was done using the "Thermaltake BlacX 5G Hard Drive Docking Station . The drive used was an Corsair Force GT 240Gb SSD.

Benchmark Results: Once again we saw the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard put up some solid numbers. The Average read of the Intel Z77 Express USB 3.0 and Corsair Force GT 240Gb SSD was solid at 259.1MB/s and the Average Write hit 251.7MB/s.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Audio Performance

RightMark Audio Analyzer

The RightMark Audio Analyzer suite is designed for testing quality of analog and digital paths of any audio devices, be it a sound card, an MP3 player, a consumer CD/DVD player or an acoustic set. The results are obtained by playing and recording test signals passed through the tested audio path by means of frequency analysis algorithms. The latest version of RightMark Audio Analyzer can be found here.

RightMark Audio Analyzer Results

Rightmark Audio Analyzer Comparison Chart

Rightmark Audio Analyzer

The MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Motherboard, despite the Creative Sound Blaster Cinema Software, still relies on the Hardware performance of the Realtek ALC898 Hardware. According to Rightmark Audio Analyzer the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming series motherboard has an overall rating of Good.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Power Consumption

CPU Power Consumption

Since power consumption is a big deal these days, we ran some simple power consumption tests on our test beds. The systems ran with the power supplies, case fans, video cards and hard drives. To measure idle usage, we ran the system at idle for one hour on the desktop with no screen saver and took the measurement. For load measurements, Prime95's in-place large FFT's were run on all cores to make sure each and every processor was at 100% load for maximum power consumption and heat. Curious about real world scenarios, we decided to drop Furmark and ran 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and took the maximum power consumption during the first GPU test.

System Power Consumption

Benchmark Results: Without the AMD Radeon HD 7950 the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard doesn't use much power. At idle it was sipping only 40 Watts at the wall, running the latest iteration of 3DMark Fire Strike it hit a maximum of 91 Watts and Prime 95 Large FFT's hit 113 Watts at the wall.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Overclocking

Overclocking greatly varies due to what hardware is being used and who is doing the overclocking. Always remember that no two pieces of hardware will perform the same, so our results will differ from what you might be able to get.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Overclocking

The Intel Core i7 3770K utilizes a Bclk of 100MHz, under full load the Intel Core i7 3770K uses a multiplier of x35 to achieve the final clock speed of 3.5GHz. Since we are using a K series processor which has an unlocked multiplier we will be able to increase the default x35 multiplier to achieve our overclock today. The Intel Core i7 3770K has a turbo multiplier of x39 which will cause the system to run at 3900MHz (100MHz x 39) with a lightly threaded application.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Overclocking

One of the key points of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series motherboard is the OC Genie II. This is an automatic method to overclocking the processor. Once we depressed the MSI OC Genie II button on the motherboard and booted the system up we found that our Intel Core i7 3770K was now running at 4.2GHz. From previous experience with the Intel Core i7 3770K processor we know that this is a rather conservative overclock. Though MSI does have to keep the automatic overclocking a little on the safe side due to the heat that can be generated by an overclocked processor.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Overclocking

We obviously weren't going to only use the OC Genie II on the Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard, so we stuck our heads into the UEFI BIOS and began to manually overclock the I7 3770K processor. Within a short time we found ourselves with a solid overclock at 4.8GHz! We set the multiplier to x48 and the CPU VCore to 1.3V and we were golden.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Review

The MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming series motherboard isn't a bad board. Though much like the Gigabyte was with the original X58 G1 Series of gaming motherboards, they are a bit late to the party. The Intel Haswell launch is right around the corner, rumored to be in just a few weeks at Computex. Granted, at this point the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard has been available since the beginning of April which is a little better, but still only two months before the new Intel LGA1150 socket and Z87 chipset start coming out. Though if you're looking to build an Intel Z77 system the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard has some great potential.

Aside from the timing of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming being so close to the next generation. It's nearly the identical board as the MSI Z77A-GD65 motherboard. Other than the obvious cosmetic differences between the two boards, there are very few hardware differences.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Side by Side

The most notable hardware difference between the two is the NIC. The original MSI Z77A-GD65 uses a Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet controller. The Gaming Series motherboard uses a Killer E2200 Gaming NIC. The advantage to the Killer E2200 NIC is the ability to prioritize the network traffic. Though if you're a serious competitive gamer, I doubt you will have a need for prioritizing your network traffic as it's likely that the only thing you'll be using the network for is the game. You're probably not running a torrent program to download, streaming music, or other network heavy tasks, you'll be gaming. There is a lot of debate as to whether or not this will actually improve latency and network performance. There's no doubt that the Killer E2200 NIC won't hinder you're network performance. Another area that is different from the standard Z77A-GD65 is the 'Gaming Device Ports'. There is a pair of USB 2.0 ports below the PS/2 port that are designed for use with high performance gaming devices such as high polling rate mice, more specifically those with rates of 500MHz to 1000MHz. This reduces the response time for your mouse and gives you a smoother response while gaming.

When it comes to performance the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard didn't disappoint. We ran the synthetic benchmarks like 3DMark, as well as the real world gaming in Battlefield 3 where we use fraps. Not once were we let down with the scores or gaming experience while playing through the levels. While looking at the peripherals like Audio performance, SATA III 6Gbps performance, and SuperSpeed USB 3.0 performance everything was right where we would expect to find it. Overclocking on the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard was a breeze.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard Overclocking

In almost no time at all we were able to bring our Intel core i7 3770K to 4.8GHz. 4.8GHz is the most this particular processor is capable of without using sub-ambient CPU cooling, at least while remaining stable. 4.9GHz has always been achievable as long as we didn't try and do anything within the operating system.

Right now the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series motherboard is available for as little as $169.99 shipped, while the MSI Z77A-GD65 motherboard is available for only $154.99 shipped AR. There isn't much in the way of differences between the two boards, so it's up to you if the differences are worth the extra $15. Personally I would probably spend the extra 15 bucks, between the Killer E2200 NIC, and the better looking aesthetics it would be worth it to me. Whether you choose the Gaming edition of the Z77A-GD65 Intel Z77 motherboard or the vanilla edition we looked at when Intel 'Ivy Bridge' first launched, both are covered by a 3 year limited warranty.

Legit Bottom Line: Although the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Series Motherboard may be a day late to the party, it's certainly not a dollar short. Everything we asked the Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard to do it did without fail. We're happy with the overall performance and feature set the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming motheroard has to offer!