MSI Z68A-GD80-G3 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review

MSI expand their motherboard line-up with the new "G3" versions which bring with them PCIe support. Let's check out the Z68A-GD80-G3 today.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Wed, Sep 7 2011 10:40 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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The introduction of PCIe 3.0 has done almost what your normal new chipset would do when it comes to the motherboard market. We've seen companies start releasing a new flock of motherboards supporting PCIe 3.0. Unfortunately we're still yet to see anything really make use of it, but at least we're prepared for the next iteration of CPUs from Intel and GPUs from AMD who have hinted at PCIe 3.0, and hopefully NVIDIA too.

What's funny about MSI is that they've been pushing the whole "Worlds 1st" thing when it comes to the release of their Gen 3 boards. To be honest, while I actually heard about them jumping on PCIe 3.0 before anyone else, ASRock actually released both a press release and samples before MSI did.

Don't get me started on the whole "Words 1st" thing, though, after the "World's first true gaming laptop" from Razer. I'm not even going to start talking about my feelings on a non SSD wielding, non-highest end GPU and $2,800 US price tag "gaming laptop". Anyway, that's nor here or there; instead let's just check out what's going on with this new motherboard from MSI.

The first thing we'll do is get stuck into the package to see what MSI are offering us, then we'll take the time to have a closer look at the board itself before we get into the BIOS and check out the newly released ClickBIOS II. Once that's done, it's time to do some overclocking before we get into the performance side of things.

The Package

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We've got a fairly typical box setup from MSI here which opens up and gives us a wealth of information in regards to the main features.

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As for the bundle itself, we've got the normal line up of paperwork and a driver CD. We've also got four SATA cables, Molex to SATA power connector, SLI Bridge and Rear I/O panel to round out the normal kind of connectors.

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As far as extras go, we've got a USB 3.0 header that has two USB 3.0 ports on it. Along with that, we've got some quick headers to make connecting everything up a bit easier along with four little connectors that are used on the voltage check points that you'll see in the coming pages.

The Motherboard

Looking at the motherboard, you're not going to really see anything that we haven't already seen before from the MSI Z68A-GD80-B3 we looked at when the Z68 chipset launched. You've got that Black / Blue design going on which really does look good and is probably one of the better color schemes on the market at the moment.

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Moving in closer to the board, we can have a look at the expansion slots that are going on. We've got two legacy PCI slots, two PCIe x1 slots and three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots. If you're using one card, the top slots will run at x16. If you're using two cards, both will run at x8. If the top slot and the bottom slot are used, the top will run at x8 while the bottom will run at x4.

If you use the bottom most slots, you will lose an eSATA port, SATA7, one onboard front USB 3.0, two PCI slots and Firewire. So if you can avoid it, you might want to just try and skip the use of that slot. Of course, it's only x4, so it's going to be a last resort option anyway.

Also around here, above the top most slot we've got a 6-Pin power connector. This is similar to the Molex connector we see some companies use. It's used to provide extra power to the VGA side of things to make sure everything is running smoothly. It tends to only be used when going for multi GPU setups, though.

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Moving to the bottom of the board, we can see all the usual culprits present. Starting from the left, we've got an audio, speaker and 1394 Firewire header. Next to that we've got three buttons which include reset, power and OC Genie. Continuing to move over, we've got a USB 3.0 header and three USB 2.0 headers.

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Turning the corner, we've got a total of seven SATA ports here. Our two white ones that sit together are both SATA III running off the Z68 chipset. Next to that we have four SATA II ports in black which also run off the same Z68 chipset. The other white port that sits by itself is again a SATA III one, but this one is running off the Marvell 88SE9128 controller.

The Motherboard Continued

Moving to the top of the board, we've got our four DIMM slots that we're used to seeing. We've got support for up to 32GB of DDR3 running at 1066MHz DDR to 2133MHz DDR. Below that we have our standard 24-Pin ATX power connector.

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Below our main 24-Pin ATX power connector you can see we've got another piece that stands out here. This is the Voltage Checkpoint that we've seen on a couple of MSI boards. It's used to get accurate voltage readings on certain areas of the board like CPU or DIMM. It's probably something most people won't use. It's still present, though, and indeed a main feature of the board.

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Moving around to the CPU area, we can see our 8-Pin CPU power connector and the very clean looking CPU socket area. As for the heatsink setup, we've got that same design we've seen before which has the Military Class II / OC Genie II branding on it. The heatsink quality seems good and it's proved to do a good job of helping us achieve a strong OC in the past.

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Finally, we finish up with the I/O side of things and starting from the left, we've got a combo PS/2 port and optical out port that runs off the Realtek ALC892 codec. Next to that we've got a little black button which is used to clear the CMOS. Moving over again, we've got an eSATA port at the bottom running off the Marvell 88SE9128 controller, two USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire port running off the VIA VT6308P chipset.

Continuing to move across the board, we've got two Gigabit networking ports running off the Realtek 8111E controller, two USB 2.0 ports and two blue USB 3.0 ports which run off the NEC D720200 controller. Next to that, we've got a DVI-I and HDMI port for video out and six analogue audio ports running off that Realtek ALC892 codec again.

BIOS

Getting into the BIOS, I instantly found myself shocked to see that we've got a new version of the ClickBIOS which in this case has been dubbed ClickBIOS II. It looks fantastic and you can see comparing ClickBIOS and ClickBIOS II next to each other, the new one looks so much nicer.

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Above you can see a screenshot of the intro screen that greets you when you get into a BIOS that was using the original ClickBIOS.

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Above you can see the new ClickBIOS II screen and it looks so much better. It just looks more polished and professional looking. As for the rest of the BIOS, while everything is in different positions, overall it's not too hard to figure everything out and you'll probably find yourself in the "Overclocking" section if you're in the BIOS.

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In the end we've got a pretty good BIOS on hand that gives us all the normal options. The decision to change it up a bit, though, with the introduction of ClickBIOS II is really nice and helps make it stand out as one of the better looking BIOS versions on the market.

Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

With the motherboard looked at, it's time to get into the testing side of things. We won't really go into much detail as all the information above pretty much covers our testbed and once we get into our tests from the next page you'll see the lineup of boards we'll be using for comparison.

We'll now take this opportunity to cover the overclocking side of things to find out just what kind of performance we could get out of the MSI Z68A-GD80-G3 here today when we took the time to start messing around with the BIOS settings.

Like other MSI motherboards, there's two ways to overclock. The first is you can go down the easy path of using OC Genie II. This can be activated by pressing the OC Genie II button on your motherboard or selecting OC Genie II in the BIOS.

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By going down this path you can, as you see above, get a overclock to 4.19GHz on a i7 2600k. This is done by pushing the multiplier to 42x. Because the BCLK sits just under 100, you see that it falls just shy of 4.2GHz. It's a good way of overclocking, though, if you don't want to mess around with the BIOS.

The other way is of course going into the BIOS and fiddling around with the settings yourself. Going down that path, we ended with our multiplier running at 50x and our BCLK coming in at 101.

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As you can see above, that resulted in an overclock of 5052MHz or 5.05GHz as represented in our graphs here today.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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As usual, we can see that out of the box the MSI Z68A-GD80-G3 performs with our other Z68 based boards. As always, though, when we crank up the clock speeds we see a nice strong boost in overall performance with a good chunk of time getting shaved off our HyperPi time.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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Under PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso we can see that performance at stock is comparable to the other boards we have here. Again, we see when we increase our clock speed to just over 5GHz we see a real strong performance increase with MediaEspresso giving us a good idea of how the overclock helps in a real world environment.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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USB 2.0 performance falls a little behind our ASRock boards which use XFast, while USB 3.0 performance falls almost directly in line with all our other boards.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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Looking at the performance of our SATA III SSD, we can see that under AIDA64 the performance is a little down when compared to our other boards using the same HDD. Under HD Tune Pro we can see that while the minimum is a little lower, the maximum is a little higher. Ultimately we see it fall just a little behind again, though, when it comes to the average.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Like our other boards, the MSI memory performance sits fairly close to the competition. Like always, though, we see when we crank up the clock speeds we get a really nice boost in memory performance with some big gains seen in the write performance.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Looking at gaming performance, we don't see any surprises. At stock all our setups perform quite close to each other. Overclocked, we see a bit of a boost in our Performance preset, but apart from that everything sits pretty close to each other.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

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Power draw on the MSI Z68A-GD80-G3 is good and we see its idle sits nice and low while its load also sits a little lower than the competition. Of course, when we overclock and throw more voltage through the board, the overall power draw increases, but it's nothing too crazy.

Core Temperature

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Temperature on our CPU using the MSI Z68A-GD80-G3 falls in line with our other boards with again no real surprises. As usual, we do see those numbers jump up a bit when it comes to overclocking.

Final Thoughts

First things first; when it comes to the PCIe 3.0 side of things we don't really see any benefit at the moment. That's not a bad thing and at least we come prepared for the next generation of video cards and next generation of LGA 1155 processors. It would be nice to get some kind of benefit now with PCIe 3.0, but unfortunately there's just nothing that can really make use of it.

That's not MSIs fault, though. The same problem is present on the recent ASRock and GIGABYTE boards we've looked at. In the end there's really nothing wrong with being ready and the chances are if you're looking for a Z68 based motherboard now, PCIe 3.0 support is probably something you're going to want.

On the performance side of things, the MSI Z68A-GD80-G3 performs well and offers us a nice overclock at just over 5GHz. The overall look of the board is great and the Black / Blue color scheme present is clearly one of the nicer ones on the market. For the $234.99 US price tag associated with the board, it's really a nice pick up for that kind of money.

OC Genie II is a nice bonus and if you want to overclock a bit, but find yourself nervous about entering the BIOS and adjusting voltages, an 800MHz overclock at the touch of a button on a 2600k is indeed appreciated.

The other big stand out for the board is the new ClickBIOS II. The original ClickBIOS wasn't bad, but when you compare it to the latest version it does look really crap. This new version looks extremely sharp and you've got a wealth of information as soon as you enter the BIOS. MSI have done a fantastic job reworking this area and I've got to give them real props for doing such a good job.

Outside of that stuff, we've got a good bundle on hand which includes a USB 3.0 header and a couple of other little extras. In the end, you find yourself dealing with just a really nice board that looks good, performs well and offers some features that stand out from the competition.

If you're looking for a Z68 board and you're thinking that PCIe 3.0 is something that you want to have, then this is a board worth looking at. MSI has just done a really good job with it and no doubt you can see that here today.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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