MSI Z68A-GD65 G3 LGA 1155 Motherboard Review

In the motherboard business, it’s about differentiating the product. Once in awhile a motherboard manufacturer like MSI does just that before "the other guy." And that’s where the Z68A-GD65-G3 comes in bringing PCI-Express Generation 3 support and a new UEFI interface to the table.

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Overclocking

For all Overclocking Testing, an Intel Core i5 2500K (stock 3.30GHz) and 2 x 4GB Corsair Vengeance (1600MHz DDR3 9-9-9-24-1T @1.50v) memory modules running at DDR3 1600MHz were used. The CPU was cooled with a home brew water cooling setup consisting of a Swiftech MCR320 triple radiator, 3x120mm fans, Swiftech MCP655-B pump, and a Koolance CPU-350 AT water block with LGA1156 / LGA1155 mounting hardware.

OK, so up until now the board has been a little rough around the edges or rather its software has. The hardware has been great with no problems or issues but the software has been somewhat lack luster. However, if there is one trade off it’s that the Z68A-GD65 G3 is the second best overclocker I’ve ever seen and the only board that did better was much, much more expensive. So automatically I’ve got to applaud MSI on this front and again while rough around the edges, when it comes to overclocking, the Z68A-GD65 G3 has the chops to hang with the best of them. I did the usual and went right for glory on this one as I’ve become quite familiar with what it takes to get 4.8GHz+ out of these things. I enabled PLL overvoltage, set it to 1.95v, and increased CPU voltage to 1.475v. I did have to make a slight adjustment to the base clock as the MSI default clock runs slightly under spec at 98MHz. I increased it to 102.1MHz which gave me exactly what I needed for 5.0GHz. Load temps were about 69c which is a little lower than I usually get when I push this far up, but nicer ambient temperatures (thanks to slightly cooler weather) in my office are probably helping. Still, we have NEVER seen a 5GHz overclock out of this particular 2500K though! Below are screen captures of my results for your viewing pleasure using a water cooling setup.

5.00GHz (100.0 x 50) DDR3 1600MHz

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Conclusion

Dan's Thoughts:

At the end of the day, I walk away from the MSI Z68A-GD65 G3 feeling pretty good about it. Again the board is a little rough around the edges software-wise, and I’ve got to hand it to MSI as they revamped Control Center and its UEFI interface completely. I’d liked to have seen more of those changes we wanted up front, but what we got was a staggering improvement over the last incarnation of their UEFI implementation. Onboard hardware was trouble free and the performance was exactly what we expected. Overclocking was honestly more than I expected. I don’t think I’ve broken 4.8GHz or maybe even 4.7GHz on an MSI P67 / Z68 board before so I’m really pleased with 5GHz I’ve seen here.

MSI really has its ear to the ground and it is taking criticism very seriously. If there is one thing I can say about them as a company, it’s good about that. The real question is: Can I recommend the MSI Z68A-GD65 G3 over some other choices out there? The answer is really; "Yes and no." It isn’t as refined as some boards out there, but it’s a lot better than some others. If overclocking is what you are after, then my answer is an ardent "Yes!" The MSI hardware is fantastic and is as good as anything else I’ve seen for the money. I think the smooth experience with the hardware and exceptional overclock proves that. With MSI proactively working on improving the software side of things, I feel pretty good about recommending the Z68A-GD65 G3 over similar alternatives from some other manufacturers. Just keep in mind that you may have to wait several weeks for some of the rough edges to be smoothed out. If you aren’t willing to do that then you want to look elsewhere, but if the items needing improvement aren’t deal breakers for you today, then the Z68A-GD65 G3 is worth a serious look.

Kyle's Thoughts:

Like Dan, my biggest gripe about MSI's new product UEFI BIOS products has been the tremendously poor GUI interface. A LOT of that has been fixed in this new product. The Click BIOS II is much easier to work with, but still has some frustrating features, but nothing like version 1. The biggest issue is having to double click every item in the menu. MSI let us know yesterday that this is finally going to be remedied. YEA! This will make its Click BIOS II much more intuitive and workable. The "home page" of the Click BIOS II is awesome in the fact that boot devices are shown via icons and you can move this around with a little drag and drop action; a very nice touch. Be careful as setting Optimized Defaults put all you SATA channels into IDE mode, not AHCI as it should.

I used a USB flash drive to flash the BIOS several times without issue. Also, nice that I did not have to have the flash drive installed at POST in order to use it. I could insert it after POST and the board would detect it and make it usable for flashing.

I incubated the Z68A-GD65 G3 and tried my best to kill it. I ran incubated Torture Test for 8 days and the motherboard did not fail. When I pulled it out of the incubator, there were surface component temperatures registering at over 175F. The board was blistering hot but still trucking right along. There is no doubt in my mind that MSI has built a very punishment resistant motherboard in the Z68A-GD65 G3.

Using the OC Genie one button overclocking on the Z68A-GD65 G3 netted us some good results with the 2600K. 4.2GHz with 1600MHz memory speeds at 1.32vCore were realized. Unlike, ASUS and recent Gigabyte offerings, the MSI Z68A-GD65 G3 handles Intel's Turbo function with actual scaling as intended. With 8 thread loaded, we got stock 3.5GHz clocks, and with 1 thread loaded we got 3.7GHz clocks....like we should.

The Bottom Line

First the bad. The Z68A-GD65 G3 software features for overclocking were terrible in our experience. The UEFI Windows BIOS did not work right for us and neither did Control Center II. The Click BIOS II is a huge step in the right direction, and now very usable, although we are waiting to see the flurry inducing double clicking situation remedied as MSI has now promised. If you are guy that does not like to go into the BIOS past first POST, this board is not for you.

Now for the good, if not great! The MSI Z68A-GD65 G3 is the only motherboard we have ever tested that allowed us to stably overclock our 2500K CPUs to 5GHz. That is a certainly a statement about the Z68A-GD65 G3, no matter how you look at it. The MSI Z68A-GD65 G3 is an overclocking and stability monster. We cooked it under duress for over a week without even a hint of failure. This board is a brick house, and you know what kind. If you are an "old school" overclocker and like attacking your tweaking through the BIOS, then the Z68A-GD65 G3 should be on your short list.

We have been big fans of the GD65 series of MSI motherboards since these debuted. The Z68A-GD65 G3 is a bit more expensive than these boards have been in the past, but this new GD65 is also fairly feature rich comparatively as well. This new Z68A-GD65 G3 will cost you $190.00 as of writing this. With that said you have to remember that the Z68A-GD65 G3 is poised to deliver PCIe Generation 3.0 specification transfer speeds when you can finally seat an Intel Ivy Bridge processor on this motherboard.

And finally, the huge plus with all enthusiast MSI motherboards is that these all now have a 5 year warranty, just make sure to register yours.

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MSI Z68A-GD65 G3 Motherboard

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