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MSI P67A-GD65 Sandy Bridge Motherboard Preview

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SKYMTL

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A while ago, we previewed ASUS’ entries into the Sandy Bridge motherboard market and some of Gigabyte’s own products received similar treatment as well. Not to be outdone by their competitors, MSI will be introducing no less than ten 1155-based boards in the coming months of which some are still in their beta stages while others will be available right alongside Intel’s new processors when they launch.

The subject of today’s preview will be the P67A-GD65; a mainstream product that has some big-time features. Priced at $180, this may not seem all that affordable but when you consider the $200 and higher SRPs similarly spec’d boards from the likes of Gigabyte and ASUS, MSI seems to be out for blood.

The $150 to $175 price point has always been highly competitive and these days, it really is amazing what you can get for what amounts to be a relatively minor investment. On the GD65, USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbps are both supported and dual GPUs are a possibility for those who want to give their budget-friendly rig an edge in gaming. MSI has even followed in others’ footsteps by including features like dual BIOS chips and an all-new UEFI BIOS that gives users the ability to navigate through its menus with a mouse. Overclocking plays a significant role as well with straightforward tools that beginners can use to get the absolute most out of their system.

MSI does seem to have an excellent combination on their GD65 so let’s take a closer look at the board itself along with the rest of their upcoming lineup.

MSI-GD65-16.jpg
 

SKYMTL

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MSI’s P67 Lineup in Detail

MSI’s P67 Lineup in Detail


To say that the GD65 is the tip of MSI’s product stack would be a serious understatement since there are plenty of other products to choose from.

MSI-GD65-14.jpg

At the very top of MSI’s lineup will be the massively well endowed Big Bang Marshall which will sport a Lucid Hydra chip in order to multiply the onboard PCI-E lanes. With eight PCI-E x16 slots (not all of them will work at full x16 bandwidth), it requires more space than the standard ATX design can handle. As such, it requires what MSI calls an ALT-ATX size which should be roughly compatible with XL-ATX supporting cases.

MSI-GD65-11.jpg

Directly below the Marshall will be the GD80 and the mainstream GD65 and GD55. The GD80 is geared towards overclockers in particular since it incorporates several design features that aren’t available on the slightly lower-end boards. It uses a cutting-edge power distribution layout which MSI dubs Power4 and includes a multi-phase DrMOS setup as well as Proadlizer “super” capacitors. The GD80 will also have a few more USB 3.0 ports than other less expensive options.

The GD65 and GD55 are nearly identical to one another with only a few differentiating factors between the two other than their respective prices. The GD65 incorporates a dual BIOS function which the GD55 does without and also has two more SATA 3 ports. There is an addition P67S-GD53 which also omits the USB 3.0 ports altogether.

Moving further down the lineup we come to the C-series boards that are tagged with the “multimedia” moniker and tend to do without dual GPU support, dual BIOS chips and certain USB charging options. The BIOS on these boards are also quite basic as they don’t have the overclocking options of their enthusiast-oriented brethren.

MSI-GD65-12.jpg

MSI’s H-series of motherboards typically target the HTPC or small form factor markets and in this case the H67MA-ED55 leads the way with dual GPU support and a bevy of other higher-end features. It also makes use of a two-phase GPU power design which is dedicated to the integrated graphics.

Meanwhile, the E45 and E43 are toned down versions of the ED55 which trade in some higher end features for lower price points. As usual the “S” branded board is carbon copy of the “A” series but does without the USB 3.0 support.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Tour of the MSI P67A-GD65

A Tour of the MSI P67A-GD65


MSI-GD65-1.jpg

Unlike some other motherboard manufacturers, MSI looks to have stayed the course and retained their usual colour scheme of black and blue for their GD65. One thing to note is that unlike Gigabyte’s higher-end boards, this one uses a PCB that slides slightly towards the brown end of the spectrum. Otherwise, the layout looks to be sensible with excellent access to connectors and slots.

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All of the major motherboard manufacturers have their own marketing scheme which is directed towards conveying some form of upgraded design features. Gigabyte has Ultra Durable, ASUS uses Xtreme Design and MSI has their Military Class.

The second generation of MSI’s Military Class component selection will be used on their Sandy Bridge motherboards and includes a number of upgrades over its predecessor. Even mainstream boards like the P67A GD65 will now enjoy elements that used to only be reserved for flagship models.

MCII-branded motherboards will include three separate features: super ferrite chokes, highly conductive polymerized capacitors and ultra long life solid capacitors. When compared to the standard chokes many boards use, the super ferrite variety are supposed to increase current capacity by approximately 30% while increasing overall switching efficiency by 10%. This should lead to increased overclocking stability when pushing chips to their upper limits.

The Hi-c capacitors meanwhile are supposed to take the place of solid caps around the CPU socket area and feature a tantalum-based core design. Since a minimal amount of tantalum can be used in the place of standard polymers, these capacitors can feature an extremely low profile design. In addition, it makes these Hi-c capacitors highly stable and resistant to wear while increasing overall thermal efficiency.

MSI-GD65-2.jpg
MSI-GD65-3.jpg

As you can see, there aren’t any of the usual large standard ferrite chokes or solid capacitors surrounding the GD65’s CPU socket. Instead, we see the telltale slim and high super ferrite chokes along with the low-slung Hi-c capacitors which are laid out in pairs for each dedicated CPU power phase. There is also a relatively small heatsink and heatpipe setup placed over the main VRM banks in order to improve heat dissipation.

MSI-GD65-4.jpg
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The outer edge features a trio of the GD65’s five perfectly placed fan headers which will come in handy if your case happens to have a large number of front-faced fans. MSI has also included a small break-out box that houses voltage read points for everything from the memory to the CPU core and PLL. Oddly, the ATX connector is pushed in from the edge of the board but it is still readily accessible.
 

SKYMTL

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The Tour Continues…

The Tour Continues…


MSI-GD65-10.jpg

MSI’s OC Genie has been around with us for a while and like the Military Class components, we are now about to see the second generation of this feature. It its most basic, it allows for quick and easy overclocking of both the CPU and memory on P67 motherboards. Unfortunately, this function (along with most other forms of overclocking on Sandy Bridge CPUs) will be limited to the K-series chips rather than all SKUs as was the norm in past generations. OC Genie II will also have the ability to overclock the integrated GPU on H67 products.

MSI-GD65-5.jpg

The bottom portion of the P67A-GD65 has eight SATA connectors of which four have SATA 3 6Gbps compatibility. This is also where MSI mounts their onboard control buttons; Power, Reset and the aforementioned OC Genie button are all included while the Clear CMOS button is located among the backplate connectors.

MSI-GD65-6.jpg

MSI’s chosen expansion slot layout on this board isn’t anything unique but it is quite functional. There is a pair of physical PCI-E x16 slots that operate at either x16 / x0 when a single card is installed or x8 / x8 for dual card use. Like most other P67 boards, the GD65 supports both SLI and Crossfire configurations.

The rest of the slots are what you would expect to find: three x1 PCI-E and two legacy PCI connectors pushed to the bottom of the board.

MSI-GD65-8.jpg

Backplate connectors run the gamut and the selection is likely more than anyone could possibly need. There are ten USB 2.0 connectors of which two pull dual use as eSATA ports along with two USB 3.0 connectors as well. Close to the left hand side in the picture above is the small Clear CMOS button as well as the digital coaxial and optical audio outputs. The usual PS/2 Firewire and LAN jacks are also included.

MSI-GD65-15.jpg

Among all of the overclocking options on the board itself, MSI has also included a full-fledged software suite dubbed the Instant OC Control Center. This is supposed to give users the ability to bypass the BIOS options and do all of their overclocking from within the more user-friendly Windows environment. System monitoring capabilities as well as the option to load and store custom profiles is also included. However, the main selling point of Control Center is its ability to apply new settings without forcing a system reboot.


To us, MSI seems to be on the right path with this board. After using it for a few days in conjunction with a K-series chip we can honestly say that it is stable and overclocking is extremely user-friendly. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the P67A-GD65 becoming the go-to board for many budget minded enthusiasts.



 
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