MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming Motherboard Review
MSI kept to the black and red theme with their latest addition to the Gaming board line, the Z87-GD65 Gaming. Their is more than adequate room between the onboard components and the added bonus on an integrated mSATA port.
The back of the Z87-GD65 Gaming board is almost completely free of components with no power components impeding the use of a CPU cooler back plate.
MSI integrated the following ports and devices into the board's rear panel assembly:a PS/2 keyboard and mouse port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 4 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset, a Qualcomm Killer E2205 GigE NIC port, an HDMI video port, a DVI video port, a VGA video port, a CMOS reset button, optical and RCA component audio output port, and 6 analog audio ports.
The Z87-GD65 Gaming board comes standard with a total of three PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots and four PCI-Express x1 slot. The board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card, x8 / x8 bandwidth with dual cards, and x8 / x4 / x4 in a tri-card configuration. Notice that there is more than enough space between PCI-Express slots for the use of dual slot card coolers and a PCI-Express x1 slot always remains usable.
In the upper left quadrant of the board are the audio chipset covered by an illuminated cover, front panel audio header, power, reset, OC Genie, and GO2BIOS buttons, the OC Genie switch, the CMOS battery, the CMOS clear jumper, and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header. The OC Genie button invokes the automated overclocking engine, enacting the preset profile selected based on the OC Genie switch position. The switch in the down position is for the Turbo Mode preset, indicated by a blue LED. The switch up position designates the Gaming Mode preset, indicated by a red LED. The audio chipset is covered by a heat sink with an integrated LED that illuminated when the board is powered. The GO2BIOS forces the board into the BIOS on the next reboot without having to press the F2 or DEL key on reboot.
To the lower left of PCI-Express x16 slot 3 are the 2-digit diagnostic LED display, serial port header, and the onboard USB 2.0 headers. The debug LED display can be used to troubleshoot system boot related issues by cross-referencing the displayed code with the table in the user manual.
The USB 2.0 headers, SYSFAN2 header, and front panel headers are located in the lower left corner of the board.
The Intel Z87 Express chipset is covered by a large aluminum, low profile heat sink just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is black and red in color with a dragon logo embossed into the heat sinks surface.
The eight on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports and the on-board USB 3.0 header are located just under the chipset cooler. The six Intel controller SATA ports are to the right of the port assembly with the two ASMedia controlled ports to the left.
The four on-board DDR3 memory slots are located in the board's lower right quadrant. The primary memory slots are the second and forth slots from the CPU socket with dual channel memory mode enabled when modules are seated both slots. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at up to 3000MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications.
The 24-pin ATX power connector, an MSI debug header (JSPI1), and the Multi-BIOS switch are located to the lower left the memory slots. The Multi-BIOS switch is used to switch between the main and backup BIOS. With the switch to the right (default position), the main BIOS is active which is designated by a blue LED. Moving the switch to the left activates the secondary BIOS, causing the LED to change to a green color.
To the lower right of the DIMM slots are the V-Check Points voltage measurement block, SYSFAN3 header, and CPUFAN2 header. The V-Check Points voltage measurement points allow for direct board voltage measurement using a volt meter.
To the upper right of the DIMM slots are the CPUFAN1 header, another MSI debug header (IR_ROM1), and an LN2 cooling jumper (JLN2). The LN2 cooling jumper can be used to optimize board operation when super cooling the CPU with liquid nitrogen.
The CPU socket area has plenty of room for the use of larger coolers, even with large aluminum heat sinks covering the CPU power circuitry along the upper and right side of the socket. MSI includes a total of 12 power phases dedicated to the CPU for board stability under the most grueling conditions
To the left of the CPU socket in an on-board mSATA slot. The mSATA slot is a 6Gb/s capable device port controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset. When in use, SATA port 6 tied to the Intel controller is automatically disabled.
For the power needs of the CPU, MSI included a single ATX12V 8-pin power connector in the upper left corner of the board.