Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

MSI P67A-GD80 Motherboard Review

While Z68 is the new hotness, there are still plenty of solid P67 boards out there, and plenty of people who do not need or want the extra features Z68 offers. As a result of the recall, there are many more mature P67 boards out there to pick from. We take a look at MSI’s P67A-GD80 to see just what kind of choice it could be.

Introduction

MSI or Micro Star International is a well established brand name in the motherboard market. While not quite as revered as ASUS or Gigabyte, we’ve found many of MSI’s offerings to be just as good and sometimes better than their competitor’s offerings. This is not to say MSI was not a huge force to reckoned with years ago and surely is on the enthusiast comeback trail. Right now there are tons of great boards from all the major brands out there and surely MSI has more than a few horses in this race. These days we’ve got to really got to look at the small stuff in order to differentiate one brand from another. Gigabyte didn’t offer UEFI on their earlier P67 chipset based boards so the nod went to ASUS. MSI has their OC Genie which allowed for easier overclocking than ASUS. You get the idea. In the current P67 landscape there are two things that separate boards from each other. Features, and the details. The devil is always in the details. The MSI P67A-GD80 illustrates this point perfectly, and I’ll get to that later in the article.

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The MSI P67A-GD80 B3 is based on Intel’s now tried and true P67 Express chipset. Well when I say "tried and true" I mean the current B3 stepping of the chipset which are little more than a bug fix of the original P67 chipsets which shipped initially.

The MSI P67A-GD80 used a 12 phase power design. Though phase count can be misleading as quality beats quantity every time. The board uses all solid electrolytic capacitors and MSI's "HI-C caps" which boast a titanium core. MSI is continuing to use their Dr. MOS IC driver for PWM control, super ferrite chokes which boast a 30% higher power output. The board also boasts an extra 6-pin PCI-Express VGA power connector on the motherboard. Though I’m not sure why they actually do this. Gigabyte used to do stuff like that which ultimately led to problems. I’m uncertain what MSI is trying to accomplish, though their box says that it’s for memory overclocking on multiple graphics cards. An interesting boast to be sure. (Editor's note: The reasoning behind this extra 6-pin power connector is to simply be able to deliver more power to PCIe cards. We have not seen any issues with MSI's design on this. Whether or not it is a usable feature except for those doing "edge of the envelope" overclocking, is debatable.)

Like ASUS and Gigabyte, MSI offers a charging feature for charging USB devices while the system is off. MSI calls theirs "Supercharger." Other notable MSI features include "Military Class II" components and the OC Genie. The latter has always worked really well while the former is little more than marketing speak although there is actually a "mil spec" for computer hardware and this MSI motherboard does follow that specification. Another selling point for the MSI P67A-GD80 is MSI’s "Click BIOS" which is their UEFI implementation. Of course we’ll cover some of these features in greater detail as the article progresses.

The P67A-GD80 is a feature rich design supporting USB 3.0, IEEE1394, SATA 6G, eSATA ports, SLI / Quad-SLI, CrossFireX, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and more.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

MSI uses these boxes with this glossy finish which changes color as you angle them. This makes the board boxes really hard to photograph. In any cases the box is pretty much like any motherboard box we’ve seen for the last two decades but it has a flap with feature listings added to it. Our board arrived damage free which is what the packaging should do above all else. Included in the box are the following accessories: User’s guide, software application guide, driver DVD, quick installation guide, another quick guide, USB 3.0 bracket, I/O shield, M-connectors, SLI bridge, SATA cables and 4 pin Molex to SATA power adapters. The final accessory is some probe extensions for multi-meters.

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Board Layout

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The MSI P67A-GD80 has a solid layout. I’ve got very few complains about the layout if any. Like some of ASUS’ boards, the MSI P67A-GD80 has the USB 3.0 bracket header in a place which is either brilliant or horrible depending on if you are using the included I/O bracket or front panel connectors in a case.

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The CPU socket area is clear of any major obstructions. So I can’t really complain about anything here. As usual it can get tight depending on the cooling solution and memory modules selected, but that pretty much goes without saying. However I will say that only the most extreme spectrum of either air coolers and tall memory modules are likely to create issues here.

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The color coding of the DIMM slots makes sense and is easy to follow. Like every other board I can think of they use a scheme which properly denotes dual channel memory mode operation.

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The P67A-GD80 has no north bridge so as a result all we have is the ever cool running P67 Express chipset itself which is mounted where the south bridge on an X58 board would be. It’s a flat, passive heat sink with a low profile to prevent interference with the installation of peripheral cards. In front of that we have the six SATA ports attached to the chipset. These are right angled, locking ports which are both good things in my book. The black SATA ports are your standard SATA 3G ports and the two grey / white ports are the SATA 6G connectors. What I did find odd is that there are no Marvell 9128 ports to be found here. Instead those are actually used for eSATA ports.

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The expansion slot area is a good setup. The top most PCIe x1 slot is perfectly usable. One legacy PCI slot is also easily usable in most cases. The second PCIe x16 slot is actually well placed although the third could have been done better. Dual slot cards like a GeForce GTX 480 or similar won’t work here unless your case allows it. However given that this slot operates at a maximum of x4 speeds, it is not ideal for video cards. Actually the back of the box states that this board only officially supports Quad-SLI or dual card, quad-GPU CrossFireX. So anyone looking for 3-Way, 4-Way, or 3 and 4 card CrossFireX should keep on looking. This board won’t fit the bill.

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The I/O shield / back panel area has a massive amount of items. 1 PS/2 keyboard or mouse port, clear CMOS button, S/PDIF out, optical out, IEEE1394a port, 6 USB 3.0 ports, 4 USB 1.1/2.0 ports, dual RJ-45 ports, and six-mini-stereo jacks for audio output. MSI really made good use of the space here.