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

MSI Z77A-GD55 LGA 1155 Motherboard Review

This motherboard might be a bit off-the-radar for most enthusiasts since it is a bit "down the scale." However, if you want a lot of bang for your buck, then look no further than MSI's Z77A-GD55. While it's somewhat basic in features it's overclocking performance is stellar for the price, which is very value oriented.

Introduction

MSI is a well known name and staple of the computer enthusiast motherboard market. MSI offers a wide range of products including, tablets, notebook computers cases, servers, graphics cards, and wireless networking hardware. Despite having such a wide range of products, MSI is best known for its motherboards. It has built a solid reputation over the years and it is among the go-to brands of choice for many enthusiasts. MSI tends to price its offerings more aggressively than some of its competitors while offering comparable feature sets. This is part of what attracts many people to MSI motherboards.

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The MSI Z77A-GD55 is a Z77 Express chipset based motherboard designed for socket LGA1155 processors. The feature set for the motherboard as well as its model number places it in the low to midrange motherboard market. Despite being basic, it still has many features to offer. The motherboard has several MSI specific features to offer such as MSI's Military Class III design specifications, Click BIOS II, and OC Genie. Naturally a lot of that is marketing speak for features others have as well, such as UEFI and automatic overclocking, but MSI does have unique implementations of these features.

Among the more technical features of the motherboard are DrMOS II MOSFETs, Hi-c Caps, solid ferrite core chokes, solid electrolytic capacitors, and active phase switching. Additional features provided by the chipset are 4 SATA II 3Gb/s ports, 2 SATA III 6Gb/s ports, PCI-Express 3.0 and 2.0 support, SLI / CrossFireX support, and support for USB 3.0 devices.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The MSI Z77A-GD55 ships in the usual cardboard shipping container with decent box art. Our sample arrived damage free with all accessories accounted for. Inside the box is enough paper to tell you that at least one tree was harmed in the making of this motherboard. You get a software manual, user guide, certificate of MIL-STD-810G qualification, quick installation guide, Windows XP installation guide note, and a paper sleeve for the driver disc. There are also more stickers stuck to the motherboard when you first open the box than there are under the hood of your average Fast & Furious fan's Honda. Beyond that you get the driver disc, M-connector, SLI bridge, SATA cables, and an I/O shield.

Board Layout

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The layout of the Z77A-GD55 is good. The only thing I question here is the extremely poor placement of the CMOS battery, which will most likely end up tucked underneath your video card once installed. Also I just realized that the bottom PCI-Express x16 slot card retention tab doesn't match the others, which is likely nitpicking, but I do find it bothersome.

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The CPU socket is clear of any major obstructions and though the MOSFET coolers are fairly beefy these shouldn't pose a problem. The DIMM slots are too close but that's nothing new. Everyone has the same issue but that comes with the territory on LGA1155 boards or any board which is compatible with CPUs that use an integrated memory controller.

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There are four DDR3 DIMM slots which are correctly color coded to indicate proper dual channel mode operation. Furthermore these are free and clear of the primary PCI-Express x16 slot so installation of memory modules won't require removing the video card. This simple thing is often taken for granted but trust me it will upset you off if it's done wrong.

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The Z77 Express chipset is a unified chipset and as a result the north bridge is actually located in the area where the south bridge used to be located and still is on some boards. It is cooled by a flat, passive heat sink which has a low enough profile to avoid expansion card clearance issues. It is also directly behind the board's 6 SATA ports, which are all properly right angled for your convenience and eliminate further clearance issues.

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The expansion slot area is done well aside from the ridiculous location of the CMOS battery. This requires you to remove the primary graphics card to remove the battery, if you happen to have a dual slot video card installed, which is spreading to lower and lower price brackets every generation. Many people won't keep their board's long enough to ever replace these batteries so this is most likely not a deal breaker for a lot of enthusiasts, but the problem comes when you have to pull it to reset the CMOS, which is a problem that we did not run into.

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The rear I/O panel area is packed with about as many ports as it can be. It contains the following ports: 1 PS/2 keyboard or mouse port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 clear CMOS button, 1 S/PDIF out, 1 optical out, 1 RJ-45 port, 1 HDMI port, 1 DSUB port, 1 DVI-D port and finally 6 mini-stereo jacks.