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MSI Z68A-GD80 G3 LGA 1155 ATX Motherboard Review

Author: Steve Grever
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Specifications, Packaging, Layout, Included Extras

Technical Specifications (from MSI's website)

CPU

  • Supports Intel® Sandy Bridge processors in LGA1155 package. Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.

 

Chipset

  • Intel® Z68 (B3) Chipset

 

Main Memory

  • Supports four unbuffered DIMM of 1.5 Volt DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/2133*(OC) DRAM, 32GB Max
  • Supports 1GB/ 2GB/ 4GB/ 8GB DRAM size
  • Supports Dual channel mode

 

Slots

  • 2 PCI Express gen3 x16 slots
  • PCI_E2 supports up to PCIE x16 speed when PCI_E4 is empty, or PCI_E2 will support up to PCIE x8 speed when PCI_E4 is installed
  • PCI_E4 supports up to PCIE x8 speed
  • 1 PCI Express gen2 x16 slot
  • 2 PCIE x1 slots
  • When both of the PCIE x1 (PCI_E1, PCI_E3) slots have been installed, only the PCI_E1 slot is available, using one PCIE x1 slot is recommended.• 3 PCI Express gen2 x1 slots
  • 2 32-bit v2.3 master PCI bus slots.
  • Support 3.3v/5v PCI bus interface.

 

On-board SATA

  • SATAII controller integrated in Intel® Z68 (B3) chipset 
  • Up to 3Gb/s transfer speed.
  • Supports four SATAII ports (SATA3~6) by Z68 (B3) PCH
  • SATAIII controller integrated in Intel® Z68 (B3) chipset
  • Up to 6Gb/s transfer speed.
  • Supports two SATAIII ports (SATA1~2) by Z68 (B3) PCH
  • SATA1~6 ports support RAID 0/1/5/10 mode by Intel Z68 (B3) PCH
  • SATAIII / eSATAIII controller integrated in Marvell® 88SE9128 chipset
  • Supports one SATA 6Gb/s port & one eSATA 6Gb/s port (back panel)

 

USB 3.0

  • 1 USB 3.0 internal connector by NEC® D720200
  • 2 USB 3.0 rear I/O ports by NEC® D720200

 

Audio

  • Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC892
  • Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
  • Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
  • Meet Microsoft Vista Premium spec

 

LAN

  • Supports two PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek 8111E.

 

IEEE1394 / FireWire

  • VIA® VT6308P chipset
  • Supports up to two 1394 ports. (Rear panel x1, pinheader x1)
  • Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps.

 

Internal I/O Connectors

  • ATX 24-Pin power connector
  • 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  • 6-pin ATX 12V VGA connector 
  • CPU x 1 / System x 4 FAN connectors
  • CD-in connector
  • Front panel audio connector
  • Front panel connector
  • 1 x chasis intrusion connector
  • 3 x USB 2.0 connectors
  • 1 x USB 3.0 connectors
  • 4 x Serial ATAII connectors
  • 3 x Serial ATAIII connectors
  • 1 x IEEE1394 connector
  • 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
  • 1 x SPDIF-out connector
  • 1 x TPM module connector
  • 1 x Voltage Check Point
  • 1 x Power button
  • 1 x Reset button 
  • 1 x OC Genie button

 

Back Panel I/O Ports

  • 1 x Optical SPDIF port
  • 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard port
  • 1 x Clear CMOS button
  • 1 x IEEE1394 port
  • 2 x RJ45 LAN Jacks
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x eSATA port
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 1 x DVI-I port
  • 1 x HDMI port

 

Motherboard Layout

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The retail packaging for the Z68A-GD80 highlights several key features on this motherboard like its support for PCI Express 3.0, Virtu technology, OC Genie II, and the use of "military class" components for stability.

 

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The back panel goes into more detail about the board's quality components and other technical specifications. 

 

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The PCB is well organized and uses minmal heatsinks and heatpipes to cool the chipset and power components. There's ample room around the CPU socket for larger third-party heatsinks as well. The placement of the power, reset, and OC Genie II button is a bit awkward if you plan on using three PCIe graphics cards in SLI or CrossfireX. 

 

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The back of the PCB is very plain with one aluminum plate behind the CPU socket.

 

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The back I/O panel includes tons of features like an optical SPDIF port, PS/2 mouse/keyboard port, Clear CMOS button, firewire 400 port, dual Gigabit LAN jacks, four USB 2.0 ports, eSATA port, two USB 3.0 ports, and DVI and HDMI ports for video. 

 

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One of the best features of this board is its support for three PCI Express 3.0 graphics cards (8x8x4) that can run in SLI or CrossfireX configurations. MSI also added two PCI Express x1 slots and two PCI slots to give users plenty of options for using high-end graphics or legacy add-on cards.

 

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Here's an upclose look at the reset, power, and OC Genie II buttons at the bottom of the PCB. These buttons are highly functional for troubleshooting and basic overclocking.

 

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This board supports four SATA 3GB/s ports and three SATA 6GB/s ports as well as RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 via the Z68 chipset.

 

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A trend we've been seeing with high-end motherboards of late is adding voltage checkpoints like the ones above. MSI added seven checkpoints to monitor CPU, chipset, and system memory voltages. Monitoring these voltages is essential for hardcore overclockers looking to squeeze every megahertz of performance from their PC systems.

 

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The Z68A-GD80 supports up to 32GBs of dual-channel DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/2133*(OC).

 

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The real estate around the CPU socket is free and clear to use any massive, third-party heatsink or custom watercooling solution. The power components are also tucked away under minimal aluminum heatsinks with one heatpipe.

 

Included Extras

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MSI bundled quite a few accessories with the Z68A-GD80 like four SATA 6GB/s data cables and two SATA to Molex power connectors shown above.

 

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They also threw in a handy USB 3.0 bracket that adds two more USB 3.0 ports to any free PCI slot. The bracket connects directly to one of the free USB 3.0 headers on the PCB.

 

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Overclockers will also rejoice with the addition of multimeter probes to monitor system voltages through the board's voltage checkpoints. MSI also provided mini connectors to make connecting USB and front panel headers painless. There is also an SLI bridge to connect two graphics cards.

 

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They also bundled a simple I/O backplate that is labeled with white lettering.

 

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This quick installation guide should also help novice PC builders upgrade their rig with the Z68A-GD80.

 

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These two user guides provide additional information about the board's BIOS and other bundled software applications that add more bang for the buck with this $200 motherboard.

 

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Lastly, users will get a driver CD, OC Genie II guide, and a certificate of quality and stability. This certificate lets users know they stand behind their products and ensure that the hardware and software they bundle are checked for quality and performance.

October 14, 2011 | 05:19 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nice board and all. But it's $240 compared to $180 I paid for a P67A-GD65 7 months ago.

Surely the Virtu folks want to get paid, and Intel probably charges a bit extra for a Z68 compared to the P67, but as the consumer I don't ask *why*, I just see the price tag.

The board is not $60 faster. If one really needs the Z68 features, well then this is a great choice. I just think the pricing isn't good for the level of performance.

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October 14, 2011 | 06:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That $240 price (at least, in the US) is for the B3 version, which is being replaced by the G3 reviewed here. I'm not sure why the price is higher, unless it's due to odd supply/demand.

The Z68A-GD80 G3 is around $220 from most resellers, but MSI also has the Z68A-GD65 G3 for people who are in the sub-$200 range; it is priced around $180 and is still an enthusiast class board.

Currently, I'm running a Gigabyte board. However, I am interested in seeing what MSI has up their sleeve with their upcoming X79 and 7-series chipset boards. I've had some good boards from them in the past, and it looks like they are making improvements to their Gen-1 UEFI BIOS with ClickBIOS II, which is very welcome.

October 14, 2011 | 07:46 AM - Posted by drbaltazar (not verified)

i tend to suggest to user to stick to intel when they get intel cpu

November 30, 2011 | 12:16 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

you do know Intel makes the chipsets but doesn't actually make motherboards anymore?

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