HardwareCanuck Review Editor
- Feb 26, 2007
CES 2012: MSI’s Z77 Motherboards & Graphics Upgrade System
The show may not have even started yet but CES 2012 is already off to a roaring start and we’re got a few people nosing around. The latest bit of information we’ve received is a quick peak inside of MSI’s suite, a location that held a few surprises including Ivy Bridge motherboards and Thunderbolt-equipped external graphics solutions.
Here’s one important thing to note though: all of these items are engineering samples whose designs aren’t complete yet so expect some significant differences when they are released to the public.
Let’s start things off with the showstopper: MSI’s highest end (for the moment) Z77 board, dubbed the Z77A-GD80. While the vast majority of this Ivy Bridge supporting board is still covered by an NDA, we can tell you a few things just by looking at the picture. It supports dual Crossfire X and SLI solutions through a PCI-E 3.0 interface with the possibility of adding a third card if you’re ok running the last slot in x4 mode. As with other MSI boards it also features Military Class components and DrMOS MOSFETs.
Essentially, this may look like a Z68A-GD80 but there are some significant differences as well. First of all, since the TDP of Ivy Bridge CPUs is lower than its predecessor, the CPU power phases have been reduced from 12 to 10. In addition, MSI has move the power / reset buttons away from the motherboard’s lower edge to a more convenient location next to the memory slots.
Most MSI Z77A motherboards will also come with THX certified audio, USB 3.0 ports and SATA 6Gbps compatibility. In terms of enthusiast level features, expect a fully featured UEFI BIOS, onboard power, reset and CMOS buttons and dedicated voltage read points.
Like some other Ivy Bridge boards, expect to see an I/O port for Intel’s Thunderbolt technology as well. Unfortunately, we can’t discuss any more info at this time but expect our review of this board sometime in the future.
The Z77A-GD65 may upon first glance look like the GD80’s doppelganger but there are a few differences. It has less CPU phases (six in this case), a simplified rear panel connector layout and a few less USB / SATA connections. We also see that like its sibling, MSI has worked towards the elimination of legacy PCI slots which have been replaced with PCI-E x1 slots at various intervals between the three x16 graphics slots. Unlike the GD80, don’t expect the GD65 to support Thunderbolt right out of the gate.
Expect this board to be quite a bit less expensive than the GD80 but should still provide a laundry list of features for overclockers and gamers alike.
GUS II Graphics Upgrade System
Now here is something interesting: a unit which MSI calls their GUS II. Basically, the second iteration of their Graphics Upgrade System is tailor made to increase the graphics performance of certain notebooks by allowing users to run a discrete GPU alongside their onboard graphics solution.
The idea has been tried several times already but MSI is giving a new spin on it by not limiting (at least not by that much) themselves to a preset solution. Instead, someone has to buy the enclosure from MSI and is then free to install the GPU of their choice as long as its power consumption come in at under 150W and are compatible with the device's x16 interface. The only other limitation is the interface; it works directly with Intel’s Thunderbolt and the fact that MSI recommends the installed GPU comes from the same manufacturer as your system’s integrated solution (Intel users can conceivably use either AMD or NVIDIA cards). So while this may not be the best solution for everyone, we can see Macbook Pro and some Ultrabook users chomping at the bit for this product.