Articles: Mainboards

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This summer mainboard makers were nearly fighting for the right to be the first in the market with a products supporting PCI Express 3.0. Such companies as ASRock and Micro-Star posted victory press-releases on their company web-sites, Gigabyte announced that the entire family of their mainboards will now come with the native support of the new standard, new models from ASUSTeK are also in the pipeline at this time… In fact, there are currently no graphics cards or processors that would support the new twice as fast video interface, that is why in reality it doesn’t matter to us who was the first one to announce this new feature, when the production started and what models were readily available in retail. By the time it is possible to make practical use of the functionality of the new standard, new mainboards will already be available and then we will look at the actual implementations of the PCI Express 3.0 support by different manufacturers. And in the meantime I was facing the task of reviewing the same MS-7672 ver.3.0 mainboard, like the one we have recently tested, with a slightly different name – MSI Z68A-GD80 (G3). Since the only announced difference was the PCI Express 3.0 support, I wasn’t particularly excited about the review process and even started to plan what parts of the previous review I could simply copy-paste into the new article. However, the reality turned out much more interesting than I had expected. The mainboards only look similar. Their features and functionality are totally different. Some of the innovations were great, some were a bit of a disappointment. Anyway, I had a great time reviewing this product, and I hope you will find this article interesting, too.

Package and Accessories

MSI Z68A-GD80 (G3) mainboard comes in a box with Micro-Star’s traditional design. The front of it is covered with numerous logotypes of supported technologies and functions, with a new one indicating that it is the world’s first mainboard supporting PCI Express 3.0 standard. The flip-open cover reveals a large image of the actual mainboard and a brief description of its selected features, which continues to the back of the box.

Since it is one of the company’s flagship products, it comes with a large number of accessories including the following items:

  • Four SATA cables with metal connector locks, two with L-shaped locks and another two - with straight ones;
  • Two power-adapters for SATA drives;
  • A flexible bridge for two-way SLI graphics configurations;
  • Additional rear panel bracket with two USB 3.0 ports;
  • I/O Shield for the back panel;
  • “M-Connector” block including modules for easy connection of the system case front panel buttons and indicators, audio, IEEE1394 and USB 2.0 ports;
  • “V-Check Cable” adapter set for manual voltage monitoring with a voltmeter;
  • User manual;
  • A booklet on proprietary software;
  • Colorful poster with mainboard connector layout;
  • A booklet with brief assembly instructions;
  • DVD disk with software and drivers.

We have already seen modules bringing USB 3.0 ports to the system case front panel with products from ASUS, Elitegroup and Gigabyte. It is a real pity that a useful device like that is not yet part of the accessories bundle for MSI’s high-end products. There were even a few differences from the previous model: now the mainboard is accompanied by a reliability certificate listing all components testing methods, similar to the one included with Asus Sabertooth products and promising longer warranty.

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