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MSI X79A-GD65 (Intel X79) Motherboard Review

We start to work our way through X79 boards and the next one on the chopping block is the MSI X79A-GD65.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Nov 17 2011 12:42 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 42 IMAGES

Get ready for an absolute slew of motherboards. With boards from all the major companies like MSI, GIGABYTE, ASUS and ASRock to name just a few, we've got so many boards to show you over the coming weeks. Today, though, it's going to be all about the board we have on hand.

The MSI X79A-GD65 isn't all that new to us, as earlier in the month we did a full preview on it. Today, though, we get to dive a little deeper into the board and cover some of the stuff we couldn't at the time, including the BIOS and the latest rendition of ClickBIOS II.

There's not a lot more to say about it all really. With our MSI X79A-GD65 in hand and our beloved new Intel i7 3960X, we can get into the performance of the new board fairly quickly. Before we do, though, we'll just throw up all the pictures of the board from our original preview if you didn't already look at that, or simply can't be bothered now. We'll also cover the few things we couldn't at launch including the PCIe layout and of course, the BIOS.

Once that's done we'll get into the testbed system setup and talk about the overclocking side of things before we get into the performance side of things to see just what the new MSI X79A-GD65 is able to offer us.

The Package

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There's not much that has to be said about the package that we didn't already cover in our original preview, so let's just move onto the board.

The Motherboard

The Motherboard

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For the most part there's not much here that you don't already know about. Saying that, we do need to take a closer look at the expansion slot setup.

Outside of the single PCIe x1 slot, we've got five PCIe x16 slots. Of course, not all those slots run at x16 - PCI_E1 and PCI_E4 both support x16 when two cards are used. If you throw a third card into the mix PCI_E4 runs at x8 along with PCI_E6 which supports x8. As for PCI_E2 and PCI_E5, they support up to x1.

The Motherboard Continued

The Motherboard Continued

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Moving around the rest of the board, there wasn't much again that we didn't tell you in our original preview. The only thing we can say that we couldn't before is of course the four DIMM slots supporting Quad Channel memory. While we couldn't say this earlier, it comes as no surprise that X79's Quad Channel support was known a long time before.

BIOS

BIOS

Moving into the BIOS, we've got the updated CLICK BIOS II which looks so much better than the original CLICK BIOS that we saw in the original UEFI designed boards. Moving through the BIOS is fairly simple and the chances are if you intend to do any overclocking, you'll want to be in the "Overclocking Settings" section.

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Going through the BIOS, there's nothing that we haven't really seen from CLICK BIOS II before. Like we said, most of the stuff you'll want to do is in the OC area and we'll cover that in some more detail on the next page.

Test System Setup

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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.

On the testbed side of things there's nothing that you wouldn't have seen already, so we'll just instead get into the overclocking side of things as that's no doubt one of the more important areas.

Oh what an emotional rollercoaster ride you've taken me on in a 4 day period, MSI. On Friday I couldn't get the X79A-GD65 to overclock, on Saturday we had a little bit of movement and by Sunday we were up and running at 4.625GHz as you can see in the below image.

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This was achieved via a 125 BCLK and 37x multiplier. This is a strong overclock and a lot better than it was doing just 24 hours earlier. The board continued to have some issues. Any time we went to a 38x multiplier or over, the board would sit at 1200MHz in Windows. If we turned on OC Genie II, we'd also get only 1200MHz in Windows because OC Genie II would move to a 40 x 100 setup.

To be honest, I was fine with the board. Its stock performance seemed to be good and it offered a nice overclock. It no doubt had some issues that I spoke to MSI about, but I didn't want to keep the board around, but insisted more performance could be had out of the board as I should be able to get a 38x multiplier or higher.

Having to be firm, I gave MSI a time that they could send me BIOS' to. 45 minutes before that time was up, we got the absolute most recent BIOS, and what happened?

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Well, as you can see above, we started benchmarking at 5GHz! - The multiplier issue was indeed fixed and we ended up running a 40x multiplier and a 125 BCLK, which as you can see above, resulted in almost 5GHz even.

Having done all my graphs for the board and written such a large portion of the review, it was time to start testing again and work back a little. Because of the fact we already had full results for the 4.65GHz clock, we've left them in here today to go alongside the 5GHz benchmarks.

The only thing we haven't done is include the OC Genie II results, because the simple fact is the 4GHz clock it offers is only 100MHz higher than the Turbo clock we get out of the 3960X CPU. OC Genie II while helpful on the 3960X in the sense that it removes the need to use Turbo to get 4GHz and instead just gives you 4GHz flat, it would be more useful on lower clocked CPUs that come in at around the 3.6GHz mark with Turbo.

I think that pretty much covers everything and we should be able to get into the performance side of things to see exactly what's going on.

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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Under HyperPi we can see some good performance which gives us similar numbers to the R4E we looked at. We also get a really good idea of what happens to performance as we increase the clock speed of our processor. The exact same thing is also seen under AIDA64 when we look at the CPU performance.

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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We continue to see how the performance differences improve performance under PCMark 7, but moving to something real world we can see that at 5GHz we manage to shave a really nice chunk of time off the encode process.

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 is fairly middle of the road, while we can see that USB 3.0 performance lines up with our other boards just as we'd expect.

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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You can see looking at our SATA III performance the MSI offering falls a fair bit behind our ASUS offerings, but does perform better than the 990FX based board. We quite often see SATA III performance bounce around on boards, even if it's using the same controller.

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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We can see that memory performance is strong and improves as we go up, but under AIDA64 we can see that compared to the Z68 platform it sits a little behind. We've mentioned this a few times and we're sure we'll see some improvements from AIDA64 in no time.

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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We see a nice little performance boost in our performance preset as we climb up the speed table. We also see a little bump in lower resolution performance under Metro 2033. This isn't the first board to give us a bit of a performance boost.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

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Out of the box the MSI offering offers a lot of strong power numbers when compared to the Rampage IV Extreme. The same goes for load. You can see as we move further up the MHz table, though, those numbers really begin to change with the difference between stock and 5GHz being almost an extra 170 Watt.

Core Temperature

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A lot like power, you can see the temperature head north the more we overclock our CPU due to the extra voltage we're putting through it. We're not too sure if 5GHz is what you'd want to run at daily - 4.6GHz looks a lot more attractive.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

The MSI X79A-GD65 got off to a rocky start for us. Actually, that's a little bit of a lie. Initially when we setup the system it ran like a dream; out of the box the performance is really strong. The problem was when we started to overclock our 3960X. Initially we just couldn't go anywhere and it was really frustrating. We emailed MSI and we got a new BIOS at 2am in the morning their time.

After flashing to the latest BIOS, we started to have a bit more luck with the system and the overclock. The next day we didn't hear much, but we started to hear more on Sunday and a new BIOS came in that ended up giving us a 4.6GHz overclock.

At this point I was happy with where we found ourselves with the board. We managed to get a nice overclock out of the board and while we weren't at the point where we could give the board an award, we could at least give it a fairly strong score.

Of course, during the whole process we kept MSI up to date with how we were going with the BIOS' we had and let them know the problems we had. The biggest issue we had that we felt was holding our OC back was the divider issue. With more and more boards building up around us, though, we didn't have the luxury of having a board sitting around for days on end.

Anyway, we gave MSI the chance to get us an update by 4pm Monday and they delivered a final BIOS to us at 2:30pm and you can see what the end result was - silky smooth testing at 5GHz and some fantastic performance across our benchmarks. The most recent BIOS fixed all the issues we had initially with the board and helped improve our overclock by a good margin.

The most up to date BIOS turned the MSI X79A-GD65 from a good board that had some issues that needed to be ironed out, to a fantastic one. I asked MSI when we'd see this BIOS hit the website and they said very quickly as it solves very important issues that need to be addressed. Of course, for the most part the BIOS is probably in its earliest stage and probably need to go through a few things before it hits the website, but it's good to know that not only are MSI aware of the issues, they're actively working on fixing them.

With the fixed BIOS, though, everything just lined up as we would hope. In the looks department the X79A-GD65 is a good looking board with the Black / Blue color scheme going on and the bundle is also really strong. The eight DIMM model comes in at $299 US, so the price is good. The 4 DIMM should be just slightly cheaper.

In the end everything on the MSI X79A-GD65 was looking good until we had the overclocking issue. With that gone, though, thanks to the most recent BIOS we end up with a really nice X79 motherboard from MSI.

Paired up with the new 3930K, the MSI X79A-GD65 starts to look like a really nice buy. We really look forward to seeing what they've done with the new Big Bang board that's due out in December!

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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.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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