MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard


MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Layout

It's not often that we can preview a motherboard before the official launch of the chipset, but today we have exactly that for you. The MSI Z77A-GD65 is based on the upcoming Intel Z77 chipset. The Intel Z77 chipset uses the Intel LGA1155 socket and will support the latest 22nm processors from Intel. From what we can tell, the only real design change between the Intel Z68 chipset and the Intel Z77 chipset is the addition of SuperSpeed USB 3.0. There may be a few other design changes in the chipset, but we don't have the full details about the Intel Z77 chipset just yet. Those much more specific details will be released with the official launch of the Intel 'Ivy Bridge' platform later this year. For now though, what we have is the opportunity to look at the MSI Z77A-GD65 Intel Z77 'Ivy Bridge' motherboard. Unfortunately, we don't have an Intel 'Ivy Bridge' processor in our greedy hands just yet, the good news however is that the Intel Z77 chipset will support all of the existing Sandy Bridge processors so we will be using our Intel Core i7 2600K Sandy Bridge processor for testing today.

As I mentioned above, we have the opportunity to take an early look at the MSI Z77A-GD65. While the Intel Z77 chipset doesn't launch for some time, we can see that at least one company already has boards out in the wild. With that detail alone, I would imagine that the Intel 'Ivy Bridge' launch is coming up quick for those who are waiting for it. Once we hit the official launch for the Intel Z77 chipset and the new Ivy Bridge processors we will likely be coming back to this board to compare the numbers at some point. For now, let's take a look at what makes the MSI Z77A-GD65 tic.

For starters at the heart of the MSI Z77A-GD65 is the new Intel Z77 chipset. Like the previous Intel Z68/P67 chipsets the Z77 features a total of 16 PCI Express Gen3 lanes for the graphics cards. On the MSI Z77A-GD65 we can run one card at x16, two cards at x8 (x8, x8), or one card at x8 and two cards at x4 (x8, x4, x4). The MSI Z77A-GD65 will support both NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX. The key point to the MSI Z77A-GD65 is the SuperSpeed USB 3.0. Now that the Intel Z77 chipset supports SuperSpeed USB 3.0 MSI didn't need to use the NEC/Renassas SuperSpeed USB 3.0 controller on the Z77A-GD65 like they have on their previous motherboards.

MSI Big Bang XPower II Military Class Components

The MSI Z77A-GD65 mainboard uses Military Class components. Though MSI has recently updated their boards to Military Class III components. The Military Class III components are comprised of DrMOS II, Hi-C Caps, Super Ferrite Chokes, and Solid Capacitors. Each of the four parts of the Military Class III technology play a vital role in the capabilities of the MSI Z77A-GD65. The DrMOS II is comprised of three components on one chip. The Driver IC, top MOSFET, and the Bottom MOSFET were originally combined in the original DrMOS by MSI a few years ago. Today nearly all motherboard manufacturers have switched over to their own variant of this design. Stepping up to DrMOS II, MSI has raised the bar even further. The have added active protection for your motherboard. The MSI DrMOS II has added the ability to monitor and prevent damage from pushing the system to far by adding in double thermal protection. The double thermal protection first informs the user if the operation temperature hits 115 degrees Celsius, at 130C the system automatically shuts down. The Hi-C capacitors (Highly-Conductive polymerized capacitor) offer a high themal stability, ultra low ESR, and no mechanical issues. Another great advantage to the Hi-C capacitors is the life span. The Hi-C capacitors have a life span of up to 8 times that of the more traditional solid capacitors still found on many boards today. The SFC or Super Ferrite Chokes offer 10% higher power efficiency, stability and better overclocking. The solid capacitors that are used on the MSI Z77A-GD65 offer a life span of more than 10 years under a full load. All of the Military Class III components have passed the testing to be certified by the MIL-STD-810G standard.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Specifications

Processor Support 3rd Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron Processors in LGA1155
Chipset Intel Z77 Chipset
Memory Support 4x DDR3 DIMMs Support DDR32667/2400/2133/1866/1600/1333/1066 DRAM 32GB Maximum
LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Intel 82579V
Audio Integrated HD Audio Codec by realtek ALC898
8-Channel audio with jack sensing
Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
SATA 4x SATA 6Gb/s ports
-SATA 1-2 by Intel Z77
-SATA 7-8 by ASMedia ASM1061
4x SATA 3Gb/s ports
-SATA 3-6 by Intel Z77
RAID SATA 1-6 Support Intel Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (AHCI/ RAID 0/ 1/ 5/ 10) by Intel Z77
USB 3.0 2x USB 3.0 Rear I/O ports by Intel Z77
1x USB 3.0 Internal Connector by Intel Z77
Multi-GPU Supports ATI CrossFire Technology Supports NVIDIA SLI Technology Supports Lucid Virtu Universal MVP
Back Panel 1x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Port
1x Clear CMOS Button
1x Coaxial SPDIF-out Port
1x Optical SPDIF-out Port
4x USB 2.0 Ports
2x USB 3.0 Ports
1x LAN Port
6x Audio Ports
1x HDMI port
1xDVI-D Port
1x VGA Port
Onboard 3x USB 2.0 Connectors
1x USB 3.0 Connectors
1x IEEE 1394 Connector
1x Multi BIOS Switch
1x TPM Connector
1x Front Panel Audio Connector
1x Chassis Intrusion Connector
1x Voice Genie Connector
1x MultiConnect Panel Connector
1x V-Check Points Set
Expansion Slots 3x PCIe 3.0 x16 Slots
4x PCIe 2.0 x1 Slots

Now that we have looked at some of the technologies and specifications of the MSI Z77A-GD65 we can move on to the retail packaging on the next page.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Retail Packaging


MSI Z77A-GD65 Ivy Bridge Motherboard Review

The MSI Z77A-GD65 retail packaging boasts about the features that are included on the Z77A-GD65. The largest and most prominent is the Military Class III logo. We can also see the OC Genie II, Click BIOS II, MSI 3 year warranty, PCI Express Gen 3, 22nm processor support, NVIDIA SLI, and the AMD CrossFireX logo.


MSI Z77A-GD65 Ivy Bridge Motherboard Review

Flipping the box over we can see a breakdown of the various technologies on the MSI Z77A-GD65 motherboard. Some of the technologies not included on the front of the packing include, Instant OC, Super Charger, Winki, and the THX TruStudio Pro.


MSI Z77A-GD65 Ivy Bridge Motherboard Review

Once we open up the retail packaging we can see that the included bundle is more chaos than organization. Keep in mind that this is an early sample and not necessarily the finished packaging.


MSI Z77A-GD65 Ivy Bridge Motherboard Review

Removing the bundle for the MSI Z77A-GD65 we can see that the motherboard is quite securely packaged within the packaging and protected from ESD with the traditional anti-static bag.


MSI Z77A-GD65 Ivy Bridge Motherboard Review

The bundle that comes with the MSI Z77A-GD65 has all the accessories that you need to set up your new system. Included with the MSI Z77A-GD65 are, Manuals, Driver Disc, quick installation guide, four SATA cables, NVIDIA SLI bridge, I/O shield, MSI M Connects, V-Check plugs,and a certificate of quality and stability.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Layout


MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Layout

The MSI Z77A-GD65 is a sharp looking board. I wouldn't base a purchase on the look, but the blue and black color combination is sharp. The all black look is overdone lately, and while red and black looks good. The blue and black color combination is much more subtle and less contrasting, but still looks great. The overall layout of the MSI Z77A-GD65 is quite good. The Easy Button 3 onboard buttons are out in the open and easy to access even inside a PC case, the SATA ports and SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports all come out parallel to the PCB so it will make cable management a breeze.


MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Layout

This is possibly the most important corner of the MSI Z77A-GD65, or at least the one with the most features. Staring in the corner we a series of three buttons, MSI calls this technology Easy Button 3. The first on the right is the OC Genie II, followed by the power and reset buttons. 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. The memory support for the MSI Z77A-GD65 is impressive, it will support up to 32Gb of memory running at 2667MHz! Along the right edge of the MSI Z77A-GD65 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.


MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Layout

Along the leading edge of the MSI Z77A-GD65 we have the internal SuperSpeed USB 3.0 controller. What makes the MSI Z77A-GD65 different from the MSI P67 and Z68 motherboards is the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 is now part if the Intel Z77 chipset. There is no need to add a third party USB 3.0 controller to motherboards anymore. Looking at the SATA ports, the MSI Z77A-GD65 has a grand total of four 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 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Layout

The MSI Z77A-GD65 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 we can see the Realtek ALC898 high definition audio codec, Fintek F71889AD Super I/O controller, and the Intel 82579V 10/100/1000 fast Ethernet controller.


MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' 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 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Layout

The I/O panel of the MSI Z77A-GD65 looks like it could be off of any of the Intel Z68 motherboards. In addition to the pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports we can see an additional four USB 2.0 ports. There is a single PS/2 port that can be used for either a keyboard or mouse, optical and coaxial SPDIF out ports, HDMI, 15pin D-Sub VGA, DVI, Gigabit LAN (Intel 82579V) and the ever popular Clear CMOS Button.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard UEFI BIOS

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The MSI Click BIOS II offers a very clean look. Along the top of the page we can change the boot device priority and along the sides we can access the various areas of the Click BIOS II.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The first section of the MSI Click BIOS II is the MSI Settings. The MSI Settings section will give us access to the System Status page, Advanced page, Boot page, and the Save and Exit page.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The system status page displays our system date and time as well as the devices that are plugged into the SATA ports and some basic information about the system.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The Advanced page of the MSI Click BIOS II brings us to nine additional pages. These include the PCI Subsystem Settings, ACPI Settings, Integrated Peripherals, Integrated Graphics Configuration, Intel Rapid Start Technology, USB Configuration, Hardware Monitor, Power management Setup, and the Wake Up Event Setup.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The Integrated Peripherals page has a few options for the SATA ports and the other various onboard devices.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

Above we can see the options for the integrated graphics device. We can enable or disable the Virtu technology and set the primary graphics adapter.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

Above we can enable the Intel Rapid Start Technology.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The USB Configuration page allows us to enable or disable the USB controller as well as the Legacy USB Support.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The hardware monitor is a little light. I would have liked to see some of the voltages monitored here as well.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The Boot Configuration page allows us to change all the various boot device settings.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

Nothing to surprising on the Save and Exit page. Here we can discard or save the BIOS settings, restore the system defaults, or set the boot override device.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The overclock settings page is full of the useful options if you are looking to overclock your Intel 'Ivy Bridge' processor.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

Should be more than enough voltage for 99.9% of the enthusiast out there.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The MSI Z77A-GD65 has six different profile slots to save your BIOS settings to. We can also save them to a USB flash drive as well as load settings from a USB flash drive.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The CPU Specifications page gives us the details about our Intel processor. Above we can see the CPU model, microcode, frequency, CPU ratio, all three levels of Cache, number of cores, and the CPU stepping. We can also access another page with the CPU Technology support.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

Above we can see all of the various technologies supported by our Intel Core i7 2600K

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The Memory-Z page of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Click BIOS II will only show the DIMMs that you have memory installed into.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

Opening up one of the DIMM pages that we have memory installed into we can see the type of memory installed and the various timings associated with the JEDEC settings. At the bottom of the page we can access the page with the X.M.P. support information.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

Above we can see the maximum bandwidth and the timings for the X.M.P. profile of our Corsair Vengeance Memory.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The CPU Features of the MSI Z77A-GD65 Click BIOS II has the various settings for our Intel Core i7 2600K.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The MSI Z77A-GD65 has a page dedicated to going green, here we can find the some of the various power saving technologies.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The Utilities page has access to the HDD Backup, Live Update, and the M-flash BIOS flash utility.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Click BIOS II

The Security page allow you to set the various passwords and chassis intrusion settings of the MSI Z77A-GD65.

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 7 Ultimate 64-bit. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

Intel Z68 System

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard

 

                                            Intel Test Rig

 Processor  Intel Core I7 2600K  Live Pricing
 Motherboard  MSI Z77A-GD65
 Live Pricing
 Memory  8gb Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz  Live Pricing
 Hard Drive  Kingston SSDNow 96GB SSD  Live Pricing
 Video Card  XFX Radeon HD 6950  Live Pricing
 CPU cooler  Corsair A70
 Live Pricing
 Chassis  None - Open Bench  
 Power Supply  Corsair TX750   Live Pricing

MSI Z77A-GD65 System Settings

SiSoftware Sandra 2012 sp2 Memory Bandwidth

Sisoftware Sandra 2011 SP5

The Sisoft Sandra 2011 SP5 benchmark utility just came out a few weeks ago and we have started to include it in our benchmarking. Sandra 2011 comes with support for Virtualisation (Virtual PC/Server, Hyper-V, VMware) and GPGPU (OpenCL, DirectX 11 DirectCompute), but today we will be using the program to look at memory and CPU performance!

MSI Big Bang XPower II Intel X79 Sandra 2012 SP1 Memory Benchmark Scores

Benchmark Results: The MSI Z77A-GD65 managed to eek past the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro in the SiSoftware Sandra 2012 Sp2 memory bandwidth test. We only talking about a difference of ~.05 GB/s across either of the tests. The MSI Z77A-GD65 averaged 21.251GB/s in the Float memory bandwidth tests and 21.242GB/s in the Integer memory bandwidth tests, the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro averaged 21.209GB/s on both of the tests.

3DMark 11 DirectX 11 Benchmark

3DMark 11 Screenshot

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

3DMark 11 Settings

Since Futuremark is releasing 3DMark11 today we decided to run the benchmark at both performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard 3DMark11 Extreme Preset Benchmark Results

MSI Big Bang XPower II Intel X79 Motherboard 3DMark 11 Extreme Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard 3DMark11 Performance Preset Benchmark Results

MSI Big Bang XPower II Intel X79 Motherboard 3DMark 11 Performance Benchmark Results

Benchmark results: The MSI Z77A-GD65 was slightly faster in both of the 3DMark 11 presets than the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. At the Extreme preset the MSI Z77A-GD65 had an overall score of 1660 and a graphics score of 1489. The overall score is 3 points faster than the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. The MSI Z77A-GD65 were also faster than the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. The MSI Z77A-GD65 broke past the 5300 mark with an overall score of 5320 while the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro hit 5299.

POV-Ray 3.7 RC4

Processor Performance on Pov-Ray 3.7 RC4:

The Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer was developed from DKBTrace 2.12 (written by David K. Buck and Aaron A. Collins) by a bunch of people (called the POV-Team) in their spare time. It is a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The POV-Ray package includes detailed instructions on using the ray-tracer and creating scenes. Many stunning scenes are included with POV-Ray so you can start creating images immediately when you get the package. These scenes can be modified so you do not have to start from scratch. In addition to the pre-defined scenes, a large library of pre-defined shapes and materials is provided. You can include these shapes and materials in your own scenes by just including the library file name at the top of your scene file and by using the shape or material name in your scene. Since this is free software feel free to download this version and try it out on your own.

The most significant change from the end-user point of view between versions 3.6 and 3.7 is the addition of SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) support, which, in a nutshell, allows the renderer to run on as many CPU's as you have installed on your computer. This will be particularly useful for those users who intend on purchasing a dual-core CPU or who already have a two (or more) processor machine. On a two-CPU system the rendering speed in some scenes almost doubles. For our benchmarking we used version 3.7 RC3, which is the most recent version available.  The benchmark used all available cores to their fullest extent to complete the render.

Pov-Ray 3.7 RC3

Once rendering on the object we selected was completed, we took the elapsed time from the dialog box, which indicates the exact time it took for the benchmark to finish the benchmark. A lower time indicates faster system performance. This benchmark used all 12 threaded and loaded each one up at 100% load!

Pov-Ray 3.7 RC4

Benchmark Results: It isn't to surprising that there isn't a significant difference between the two systems. The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro had a .01 second faster time than the MSI Z77A-GD65.

Cinebench R11.5

MAXON; CINEBENCH R11.5:

MAXON recently released CINEBENCH Release 11.5, an advanced hardware testing suite that assesses a computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on the same powerful technology as MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. The new version of CINEBENCH includes the ability to more accurately test the industry’s latest hardware, including systems with up to 64 processor threads, and the testing environment better reflects the expectations of today’s production demands. A more streamlined interface makes testing systems and reading results incredibly straightforward. Again, higher Frames/Second and point score equal better performance.

Cinebench R11.5

Cinebench R11.5 was able to put a 100% load across all the cores on all of the processors, which makes this a great benchmark to look at multi-core platforms.

Cinebench R11.5 Results

Benchmark Results: In Cinebench R11.5 the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro once again had a slight lead over the MSI Z77A-GD65. The multicore performance of the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was 7.48 while the MSI Z77A-GD65 hit 7.46 points. The single core performance of the MSI Z77A-GD65 hit 1.53 points while the ASUS edged it out by .02 points with a score of 1.55.

wPrime

wPrime

wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard wPrime Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: We were a little bit surprised to see as much of a difference as we did between the MSI Z77A-GD65 and the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. In the 32 Million tests the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was 4.4% faster than the MSI Z77A-GD65. Running the wPrime 1024 million test, the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was only .56% faster than the MSI Z77A-GD65.

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City PC Game

Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The game was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The PC and Onlive version was released on November 22, 2011.

Batman: Arkham City Game Settings

Batman: Arkham City Game Settings

Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal Engine 3 game engine with PhysX. For benchmark testing of Batman: Arkham City we disabled PhysX to keep it fair and ran the game in DirectX 11 mode with 8x MSAA enabled and all the image quality features cranked up. You can see all of the exact settings in the screen captures above.

Batman: Arkham City Benchmark Results
Benchmark Results: The only score that varied in Batman: Arkham City was at 1280x1024. The MSI Z77A-GD65 hit 63.7 frames per second while the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was able to average 63 frames per second. Both of the systems averaged 43.7 frames per second at 1920x1080.

DiRT3

Dirt 3 PC Game

Dirt 3 (stylized DiRT 3) is a rallying video game and the third in the Dirt series of the Colin McRae Rally series, developed and published by Codemasters. However, the "Colin McRae" tag has been completely removed from this iteration. The game was released in Europe and North America on the 24 May 2011.

Dirt 3 Game Settings

Dirt 3 Game Settings

Dirt3 uses Ego 2.0 Game Technology Engine (more commonly referred to as Ego Engine or EGO, stylised ego), which is a video game engine developed by Codemasters. Ego is a modified version of the Neon game engine that was used in Colin McRae: Dirt and was developed by Codemasters and Sony Computer Entertainment using Sony Computer Entertainment's PhyreEngine cross-platform graphics engine. The Ego engine was developed to render more detailed damage and physics as well as render large-scale environments.

Dirt 3 PC Game Benchmark Results
Benchmark Results: Gaming performance in DiRT3 was quite solid for both systems. The Ego 2.0 engine relies heavily on the graphics card being used. Since both systems are using the Intel Core i7 2600K and the XFX Radeon HD 6950 there is very minimal difference between the two systems. At 1280x1024 we saw a difference of ~.5 frames per second average between the two systems with the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro taking the lead with 76.09 frames per second and the MSI Z77A-GD65 with 75.49 frames per second. Firing up DiRT3 at 1920x1080 the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro held onto a greater lead averaging 59.06 frames per second while the MSI Z77A-GD65 averaged 58.14 frames per second, nearly a full 1 frames per second behind.

Intel Z77 SATA III 6Gbps Performance

Corsair Force GT 240Gb SSD

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 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Results

The SATA III 6Gbps Testing was done using a Corsair Force GT 240GB Solid State Drive.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The MSI Z77A-GD65 fell a little bit short of the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro in terms of read and write performance in CrystalDiskMark. The ASUS managed a sequential read speed of 512.3MB/s and sequential write speed of 307.0MB/s. The MSI Z77A-GD65 saw a sequential read speed of 488.5MB/s which is 23.8MB/s slower than the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. The sequential write speed was much closer, at only 2.9MB/s behind.

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.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune Pro 4.61 Write Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune Pro 4.61 Read Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune 4.61 Benchmark Comparison

Benchmark Results: HD Tune mimics the results we saw in CrystalDiskMark. The MSI Z77A-GD65 was 20MB/s slower in the average read tests and 27.9MB/s slower in the average write.

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance

Corsair Force GT 240Gb SSD

Intel LGA1155 Motherboard SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Controller Chips:

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 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Results

The SuperSpeed USB 3.0 performance testing was done using a Corsair Force GT 240GB SSD.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Comparison

Benchmark Results: The performance of the Intel Z77 chipset in our SuperSpeed USB 3.0 tests was impressive. The sequential read hit 257MB/s while the sequential write was 256MB/s. This is significantly faster than the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro that hit 228.4MB/s sequential read and 230.7MB/s sequential write.

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.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune Pro 4.61 Write Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune Pro 4.61 Read Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune Benchmark Results

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard HD Tune 4.61 Benchmark Comparison

Benchmark Results: HD Tune 5.00 flip flopped our results that we saw in CrystalDiskMark. The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro had a slightly faster average read by 5.2MB/s and averaged 230.7MB/s versus the MSI Z77A-GD65 average read of 225.5MB/s. The average write of the MSI Z77A-GD65 was 4.8MB/s faster than the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro with a write speed of 202.7MB/s versus 197.9MB/s.

System 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.

MSI Big Bang XPower II Intel X79 Motherboard System Power Consumption

Benchmark Results: The MSI Z77A-GD65 has lower power consumption across all of our testing than the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. At Idle the MSI Z77A-GD65 was pulling only 76 Watts while the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was pulling 15 Watts more at 91 Watts. 3DMark 11 was the closest test for the systems and the MSI Z77A-GD65 was 7 Watts lower.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard 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 Big Bang XPower II Overclocking

The Intel Core i7 2600K utilizes a Bclk of 100MHz, under full load the Intel Core i7 2600K uses a multiplier of x34 to achieve the final clock speed of 3.4GHz. Since we are using a K series processor which has an unlocked multiplier we will be able to increase the default x34 multiplier to achieve our overclock today. We can see in the above CPUz 1.60 screen shot that with the Turbo mode engaged we are cruising along at 3.5GHz.

MSI Big Bang XPower II Overclocking with the MSI OC Genie II

The MSI Z77A-GD65 has the OC Genie II capabilities. This means that we can automatically overclock our Intel Core i7 2600K by simply depressing the OC Genie II button on the motherboard. Doing this we were able to automatically overclock our i7 2600K to 4.2GHz. The OC Genie increased the CPU multiplier to x42 instead of the default x34 for an 800MHz boost to the performance.

MSI Big Bang XPower II Overclocking

We didn't want to leave the overclocking to automatic alone, what fun would that be? Once we disabled the OC Genie we stuck our heads into the MSI Click BIOS II and started to tinker with the settings. After a few short minutes we had our system chugging along at 4.9GHz! The only adjustments that we made were the CPU ratio, CPU Core Voltage, Vdroop control, and the CPU Core OCP Expander.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Overclocking BIOS Settings

Above you can see the settings that we used to bring our Intel Core i7 2600K up to 4.9GHz. If you happen to use this combination of parts, you can use these as a baseline to hit your desired goal. Though this particular piece of silicon takes a bit more power than some.

MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Overclocked Benchmark Results

Not wanting to leave our overclocked systems alone we fired up several of the benchmarks to test the stability of our systems.

MSI Z77A-GD65 POV-Ray Overclocking Results

The first benchmark to run under the overclocked systems is POV-Ray. We were able to bring the Intel Core i7 2600K to 4.9GHz on both systems. The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was a hair faster completing the rendering benchmark with a time of 154.16 seconds. The MSI Z77A-GD65 completed the benchmark in 154.5 seconds, .34 seconds behind the ASUS system. We also ran the MSI Z77A-GD65 while testing the OC Genie II overclock and it was able to complete the POV-Ray benchmark in 180.02 seconds.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Cinebench R11.5 Overclocking results

Cinebench R11.5 is next on the chopping block. At 4.9 GHz the MSI Z77A-GD65 took the top spot with a score of 9.51 while the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro had a score of 9.46. When automatically overclocked by the OC Genie II to 4.2GHz the MSI Z77A-GD65 had a score of 8.15 over the stock score of 7.46.

MSI Z77A-GD65 wPrime Overclocking Results

Our final test for stability is wPrime. The MSI Z77A-GD65 started the day completing the 1024 million benchmark in 225.301 seconds. Running the system under the OC Genie II the completion time dropped to 203.032 seconds, an improvement of 9.7%. At 4.9GHz the MSI Z77A-GD65 completed the benchmark in only 174.33 seconds for an improvement of 22.6%!

Final Thoughts and Conclusion


MSI Z77A-GD65 'Ivy Bridge' Motherboard Review

It's going to be an interesting ride for the Intel Z77 chipset. It is looking like the only difference is the addition of the SuperSpeed USB 3.0. The problem with the Intel Z77 chipset is that it doesn't feature anything really worth upgrading for over the Intel Z68 system. If your looking to build a new system with either a Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge processor, the Intel Z77 would be the way to go. If you're on an existing 'Sandy Bridge' system, there really isn't a good reason to make the switch. Let's take a quick look at the evolution of the Intel LGA1155 platform.

When the Intel Sandy Bridge platform launched it had the P67 and H67 chipsets. The P67 could overclock while the H67 had the graphics capabilities of the Intel HD graphics. While the graphics aren't great for gaming, features like Intel QuickSync were great if you needed them. A few months after the initial launch of Sandy Bridge came the Intel Z68 platfrom. The Intel Z68 chipset combined the overclocking potential of the Intel P67 chipset and the Intel HD graphics of the Intel H67 chipset. The Intel Z68 chipset also brought with it the ability for SSD Caching. Intel Smart Response Technology was a good way to get SSD like performance and the capacity of a hard drive with out the high cost of a large SSD. The Intel Z68 chipset brought with it some good reasons to upgrade early on.

The only feature that the Intel Z77 chipset is bringing with it is SuperSpeed USB 3.0. In all honesty most people wont likely notice a performance difference between the Intel Z77 USB 3.0 and the performance of third party controllers. The speeds that we are seeing in our testing are partially due to the controllers, but we are also using a $360.00 Corsair Force GT SSD. I don't think that to many people will be using a drive like that for storage. If we were using a traditional hard drive we wouldn't be seeing read and write speeds nearly that high. We only use the Corsair SSD to show a difference in the controllers.

With my little rant being said, the MSI Z77A-GD65 was on the ball for all of our tests. When it came to performance there was very little difference between it and the ASUS P8Z68 in any of our tests. The gaming performance between both of the boards was negligible. Any differences that we saw in the games isn't anything that would be noticeable unless that you are running benchmarks. The CPU intensive tasks did show a slight favor to the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro, but once again not a difference that would be noticeable unless comparing the performance head to head. Even then as we saw it's a very close call and the two systems traded spots.

I suppose the question of the day is; How did the Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 perform? Overall I would have to say it did a fine job. The MSI Z77A-GD65 uses the Intel Z77 chipset SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro uses an ASMedia ASM1042 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 controller. The first test we ran was CrystalDiskMark. In CrystalDiskMark the MSI Z77A-GD65 was able to outperform the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro by a solid margin. We also fired up HD Tune 5.00. The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was able to outperform the MSI Z77A-GD65 by a small margin in the average read. The average write in HD Tune was wone by the MSI Z77A-GD65. You can find all the results on our SuperSpeed USB 3.0 testing page.

Since we are looking at the MSI Z77A-GD65 significantly early, we don't have a price for it just yet. Looking at the MSI Z68A-GD65 as a reference point, we would guess that the price will be similar at around the $190-$200 range. Don't quote me on that though, as it is purely speculation at this point. What I am sure of is the warranty. In the event of the MSI Z77A-GD65 failing, the MSI Z77A-GD65 is backed by a three year warranty from MSI.

Legit Bottom Line: The MSI Z77A-GD65 is an overall great board. If you are looking to build a socket 1155 system and want to wait for availability of the Intel Z77 chipset the MSI Z77A-GD65 is a great bet!