Intel Z68 - The True Sandy Bridge Chipset

By Vincent Chang - 12 May 2011

MSI Z68A-GD80 (B3)

MSI Z68A-GD80 (B3)

Unsurprisingly like its competitors, MSI's Z68A-GD80 (B3) reminds us of its current P67 lineup, with the same set of features, like OC Genie and Military Class, and a similar design. Since it's not part of MSI's Big-Bang series, we can safely assume that the GD80 is not the ultimate, top model in the vendor's lineup, but on paper, it's competitive with the ASUS P8Z68V-PRO.  

Looks familiar? Well, the blue, brown and black aesthetics has been preferred by MSI for a while now. And we can't really be expecting something new so soon after the P67/H67 launch right?

MSI too has dual Gigabit LAN ports, though there's no VGA output, not that we feel its loss. Along with the now-standard rear Clear CMOS button, there are also two USB 3.0 ports in blue.

Besides the standard 6 SATA ports (two SATA 6Gbps in white), a Marvell 88SE9128 controller adds an extra SATA 6Gbps port and the eSATA 6Gbps port at the rear.

Below the power connector, there's a set of voltage measuring points for the niche group of users who are prepared to do some serious overclocking.

There aren't that many USB 3.0 ports available on this board, with just one USB 3.0 header to complement the two ports at the rear.

The power and reset buttons are clearly labeled. The OC Genie feature works decently, giving us an overclock of up to 4.2GHz. Users have to shut down the system, depress the OC Genie button to enable it, then restart the system before it kicks in.

In terms of its specifications, this MSI board certainly has quite a lot going for it, from its support for dual Gigabit LAN ports to three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots. However, the lack of bandwidth (which the Gigabyte alleviates with its NF200 controller) means that like the ASUS, you'll need to compromise. In the case of this MSI board, adding a third graphics card into the third PCIe x16 slot will lead to the loss of functionality for the Marvell-enabled ports (eSATA and the seventh SATA port), the VIA FireWire controller and the neighboring two PCI slots.

Additionally, the bandwidth is sufficient to support only x4 for that last PCIe x16 slot. Frankly, we don't think too many users are looking into installing more than two graphics cards, but if you do, then be prepared to fork out more for a board with the necessary bandwidth.

Overall, this MSI board maintains the quality and design elements that we have come to expect from the manufacturer. There are no layout issues that we can tell and the board is solidly built, though not to the extent of Gigabyte's 8-layer PCB. MSI also has an EFI BIOS with a graphical user interface. We have commented on it before and it remains a bit too bright and colorful for our tastes and could perhaps be improved in terms of visual cues; often we aren't too sure we had selected a particular icon due to ambiguous cues. At least it has improved in responsiveness from our initial experience.


Given how power hungry graphics cards can be nowadays, it's prudent to use the extra, dedicated power connector for your graphics cards. Especially if you have two or more cards.

There may be three available PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, but the PCIe configuration defaults to x16/x8/x4 with three cards. And you lose the Marvell and VIA controllers onboard. It's your call if you think that's worth it.

A VIA controller provides FireWire functionality for that small group of users who will need it. Personally, we're all for more USB 3.0 ports instead. As for the THX logo, it's stuck over the standard Realtek ALC892 HD audio CODEC that's actually doing the work.

All those high-quality components are focused mainly at the CPU socket region, where power delivery to the processor is important to ensure stability and of course for the enthusiasts, overclocking headroom.

Some of the more costly components on this board, hi-c capacitors with tantalum cores and ferrite cores.