Physique and Features
Z77 In Military (Class III) Regalia
Now that Intel has officially launched its new processors based on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture in the country, do anticipate more platforms that are made to utilize the new chips to hit local store shelves in the coming months. Being one of the known manufacturers of Intel-based motherboards and notebook PCs, MSI will not let itself be left behind for sure. A couple of months back, MSI let us have a glimpse of the Z77A-GD65, a board that integrates Intel’s Z77 Express chipset and is designed to run on Ivy Bridge processors. Recently, the Taiwanese company sent us another Z77-based motherboard, the Z77A-GD80 which boasts itself as the world’s first motherboard equipped with the new Thunderbolt interface.
Physically, the MSI Z77A-GD80 sports an appealing appearance because of its blue and black color combination which reminds us of the previously-previewed Z77A-GD65. Aside from looks, one common denominator between the two Z77-based motherboards is the inclusion of Military Class III components, integrating SFC (super ferrite chokes) and Hi-c capacitors into each board’s schema. In addition, MSI’s Military Class III standard requires the use of DrMOS II. The successor to the original DrMOS feature, MSI’s new DrMOS II implements double thermal protection control, wherein the board will shut down once it reaches a critical temperature level to avoid heat damage. MSI has also equipped the board with hefty heatsinks to dissipate heat from VRM components as well as the Z77 chipset.
MSI has retained their well-recognized Easy Button 3 which consists of the power, reset, and OC Genie buttons. But for some reason, MSI has moved the onboard switches from the usual lower portion of the board to the upper corner. Such an arrangement allows for convenient control while the board is being overclocked or troubleshot in an open environment without a casing. But once the board is mounted inside a chassis with other hardware components, accessing the onboard switches could become a challenging experience.
Inspecting the lower half of the board, the Z77A-GD80 comes with three PCI-Express (PCIe) 3.0 slots combined with four PCIe 2.0 x1 slots for expansion cards. Given the board’s ATX form factor, offers plenty of room for either an AMD CrossFireX or an NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU setup. On the storage front, the board hosts a total of eight SATA connectors, four of which operate at 6Gbps transfer speed.
A highlight feature of the Z77A-GD80 in terms of connectivity is the inclusion of a Thunderbolt port. Per MSI’s claim, the board is the first one to integrate the new interface. At the time of writing, Thunderbolt is already made available on other Z77-based offerings such as the Maximus V Gene. However, in the case of the ASUS board, the implementation is via a separately-sold ThunderboltEX upgrade card. We got a chance to test MSI’s Thunderbolt interface by using the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo desktop hard drive which was featured in a separate review that we published earlier this month.
For overclockers, some must-have utilities that MSI offers include Click BIOS II and Control Center. The former allows you to see BIOS settings while the latter enables on-the-fly overclocking while inside Windows’ software environment. MSI also has Super Charger which functions like Biostar’s Charger Booster, a software application that speeds up the recharging process of an Apple device such as an iPad or an iPhone.