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MSI Z77A-GD80 with Thunderbolt Motherboard Review

Author: Ken Addison
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Software Features

MSI Suite

MSI Suite is the overarching software which provides easy access to all of the MSI applications included with this board.

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Once installed, Suite provides an auto hiding bar at the top of the screen. Mousing over this board will bring up the main menu, and show all of the MSI software available for use. While installing the Suite software will show icons for all of these applications, it is important to note that they will still need to be downloaded or installed from the bundled CD separately.

Some of the software in MSI’s Suite includes:

LiveUpdate 5

LiveUpdate 5 is the newest version of the MSI software which aims to keep all of the bundled software on your system, and even your UEFI and motherboard related drivers up to date.Aiming for full integration with their Suite software package, MSI allows you to launch LiveUpdate from either inside the Suite toolbar, or as a standalone application.

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When launched from the Suite toolbar, LiveUpdate shows all available updates, and allows you to install individual ones, or launch a “Total Installer” to fully update your machine.

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You can also launch the full LiveUpdate UI for more information like motherboard and VGA BIOS versions, as well as the same update features found in the toolbar version.

Super Charger

A feature that we have seen from a lot of motherboard manufacturers in the past few years, Super Charger provides the ability to quickly charge high power USB devices from your computer.

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Once Super Charger is enabled, it activates the charging circuit for individual USB ports, tripling the default amperage of USB from 500mAh to 1500 mAh.

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However, you should be aware that the USB data connection is disabled when Super Charger is enabled for that port.

SafeSync

A particularly interesting feature that MSI has chosen to integrate with MSI Suite is Trend Micro’s SafeSync.

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SafeSync is a Dropbox-like service, which provides cloud syncing for certain files and folders which will do things like syncronize files between computers and provide for mobile access to uploaded content. Features which differentiate SafeSync from competitors such as Dropbox include no limits on file size, and versioning so you can restore files which you may have overwritten.

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Once installed, SafeSync integrates with Windows Explorer to show file sync status. If you have ever used Dropbox before, the interface for SafeSync will seem very familiar. After files are uploaded, they can be accessed from a web interface as well as with Trend Micro’s applications. Having used Dropbox extensively for years, I found SafeSync to be a competent competitor, which I think is a good thing for the cloud file storage market.

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While pricing for SafeSync includes 20GB, 50GB and 100GB plans, MSI has provided users of the GD80 with 2GB of free space to try out the service

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October 30, 2012 | 11:15 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thunderbolt is of no use if you have two other displays. That is not quite par with the way ASUS, Gigabyte and others have implemented it.

MSI could have justified this with some other useful feature like 2x GbE RJ45 ports to offset the loss of the use of Thunderbolt as storage and network interface - since a lot of people could use 2 gigabits per second to their NAS or network, especially in small offices working on media-intensive tasks. As it is there's no reason to prefer this over the ASUS or Gigabyte dual-Thunderbolt alternatives now on the market.

Given that Thunderbolt seems intended on this board only as a display technology, one would wonder about their implementation in other ways.

ASUS shows USB3 speeds using their proprietary technology that exceed out-of-the-box Thunderbolt with low-end enclosures. Given that, it's the higher end enclosures and more serious users that probably need the 10Gb interface, and those will want two ports.

MSI board lifespan has historically not been up to ASUS, Gigabyte, intel or Apple quality. Cheaping out and buying MSI doesn't pay in my experience. It would be worth it only if MSI had some features like dual-gigabit LAN at a substantially lower price than the others, and they don't. Probably the only way MSI can appeal is to get a 10GbE interface on the board, if they insist on having only one RJ45 port. Thus triggering the Thunderbolt vs. 10GbE war that we all want - the way Firewire brought 1GbE prices way way down and then disappeared, Thunderbolt can do the same for 10GbE prices. We all ought to encourage that, and not buy substandard stuff like this.

October 31, 2012 | 10:06 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Why do you think it is only a display technology?  It runs just as fast in storage and data connectivity as the ASUS Premium board does...?

October 30, 2012 | 11:19 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

3xPCIex16 slots are nice and offset the video deficiency to some degree (each card comes with usually two more ports, so three monitors leaves the Thunderbolt free). However someone who spends that much on video is probably not going to buy from MSI unless they really need three x16 slots. PCIe SSDs, a major growing use of PCIe slots, may use x16 eventually but most available now top out at x4, a few at x8.
So the more typical two-card six-display setup of very high end gaming and room displays doesn't need that third card which doesn't need x16.

The board electronics for another GbE RJ45 or a 10GbE RJ45 would have been a better investment than that third slot, for almost all users. After all what's the use of a 10Gb interface if you talk to your net at 1 gigabit maximum? It ends up being only for those who shlep the physical drives around.

October 31, 2012 | 10:07 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I think most high end Z77 boards have three PCIe slots though.

October 30, 2012 | 04:54 PM - Posted by Angry

Picky much?

Board looks pretty solid.
And minding the above post, ive got msi boards that have been well abused that are still chugging along. One of which Is an am2+ board has been on for almost 3yrs straight (Or more)...minus the power going out or swapping parts.

November 17, 2012 | 07:06 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Why do you think it is only a display technology? "

Given there's only one port, no chaining, it makes a lot more sense to use HDMI+VGA and leave that one Thunderbolt open for those $500+ storage devices where it actually beats the optimized USB3 drivers ASUS and others now have...

I will probably never buy another MSI board, to even consider it would require something like a 10 gigabit Ethernet port (are you listening, MSI?) or (something worth $400) two 10 gig, two 1 gig, and two Thunderbolt ports. Plus an ARM core making it useful as a router when it's "off". Likely we'd get the ARM core from AMD and 10 gigabit chipset from Intel (why not? Thunderbolt chips do 10 gig) and wait until say 2016 for something with both.

If MSI wants to ship that in 2015, though, I will look. ;-)

November 17, 2012 | 07:10 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If PCPer wants to do a real service, it will clearly mark all dual-gigabit LAN board reviews as such in the title. And dual-Thunderbolt board reviews too.

Had I known this had only one of each, I would not even have looked at it. 10 gigabit devices are expensive and without fast chaining or LAN teaming (getting at the data at 2 gigabits from elsewhere) it makes little sense to attach them to one desktop except in specialized video and audio editing tasks and a few weird things involving huge local data.

Would rather see smaller boards without so many PCI slots that are useful as HTPC+NAS+10gigrouter.

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