MSI Z77A GD65 Motherboard Review
When we reviewed the P67 GD65 we found it to be good. It wasn't, to us, quite as stunning as some people seemed to be claiming, but it was alright. The Z77A-GD65 definitely is as great as the original we claimed to be.
No matter which area you focus on, it comes up trumps.
The documentation is well written and clear. The packaging is solid and eye-catching. The motherboard itself is attractive with no clashing colours or curious design decisions. In fact in terms of just working there are few better. It seems like damning with faint praise to say that the layout of the motherboard is excellent, but not having to stretch your fan cables to reach an oddly-placed header, or cutting your knuckles getting the CPU power in, are things which too many motherboards fail to get right.
Performance is a little bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand the stock performance is only average. It's nothing to write home about at all, and sometimes was bordering on being poor. However, you have to remember that with the GD65 and it's incredibly easy-to-use and convenient automatic overclocking available from the OC Genie, there is no reason whatsoever to ever run the GD65 at stock. Even if you've never dared venture into a BIOS at all you can still push your CPU beyond its stock settings, safe in the knowledge that, as long as you're not running a 40mm CPU cooler, everything will work as smoothly as it would at defaults. So this merely average stock performance isn't really a hindrance because you've zero reason to ever experience it.
Should you delve into the manual overclocking though the performance is nothing short of stunning. It was neck and neck with the infinitely pricier Gigabyte Sniper 3, and occasionally beat it. The Memory performance is a particular highlight. The overclocking will be simple too thanks to one of the most user-friendly and stable BIOS' currently available.
The downsides are both few and minor. The CPU Phase LED indicators flicker quite a lot, as they would when the motherboard is shifting through power phases. However if you have your case to the side of you and the top of the motherboard is on your eye-line then this could become tiresome. if you haven't got a window or your case on a desk then you wont even notice. A few times when booting the USB ports 'forgot' our keyboard, so we ended up at Windows because it wasn't recognising the pressing of the DEL key to enter the BIOS. Finally we think that considering how easily we went far beyond its settings, the OC Genie could be a bit more aggressive in its overclock. We understand why MSI are cautious though. Just because we know we have more cooling than we need doesn't mean everyone will, so it's better to be safe than sorry, even if it did run our RAM slower than the XMP profile indicates it's capable of.
But truth be told those are incredibly minor. The keyboard thing can potentially be fixed with a BIOS update, and the OC Genie is a feature you'll either be delighted at the free performance, or ignore and manually overclock.
The price of the GD65, currently around £140, makes this an absolute steal. When it's half the price of the Sniper 3 but delivering equal performance you can't help but nod appreciatively at what MSI have managed to pull off. It reminds us a lot of the ASUS Sabertooth range, in that the whole package performs as well as top end motherboards but comes in at a budget price. MSI have delivered a corker and the Z77A-GD65 is easily worthy of our OC3D Gold Award.