PCB Design and Functionality
The layout of the MSI Z77A-GD65 mainboard is very similar to the traditional one, so it looks good and is very convenient to work with.
The heating components of the processor voltage regulator circuitry built with high-quality “Military Class III” parts are hidden beneath two additional heatsinks connected via heatpipe. All heatsinks on this board, including the third one on the chipset, are attached to the PCB with screws. There is a row of CPU Phase LEDs in the upper right corner of the board, which shows the number of active phases in the processor voltage regulator circuitry. There are also three glowing buttons: Power On, Reset and OC Genie, which allows overclocking the system automatically. The “V-Check Points” panel located nearby and the enclosed “V-Check cable” set will allow to manually control all the most important system voltages using a voltmeter. The only comment we have at this point is about the color of the memory DIMM slots: in our opinion, the color coding should prioritize those DDR3 memory DIMMs, which should be used first for the memory modules installation – the ones located farther away from the processor socket.
The board is based on Intel Z77 Express chipset, which provides support for four SATA 3 Gbps ports (black connectors) and two SATA 6 Gbps ports (White connectors). Two more SATA 6 Gbps ports are added with an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. We won’t consider the use of same white color for all SATA 6 Gbps ports, because there is a special sticker marking the chipset ports, as you can see from one of the previous photographs. There is another informational sticker on the lowest of the three PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots. The user manual lists very illustratively all possible operational modes for these slots, with the last one only available with the latest third-generation LGA 1155 processors.
All three PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots have connector locks with convenient tabs. Besides, there are also four PCI Express 2.0 x1 connectors for additional expansion cards. The components layout scheme reveals a few other peculiarities of this mainboard. Among them are a POST-code indicator and two independent BIOS chips. The user can select an active chip by flipping a special two-position switch. There are five fan connectors on this board, three of which are four-pin connectors, including the processor fan connector.
The list of ports and connectors on the MSI Z77A-GD65 back panel looks as follows:
- PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
- Four USB 2.0 ports, six more USB ports are available as three onboard pin-connectors;
- Clear CMOS button;
- Coaxial and optical S/PDIF, and six analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC898 codec;
- D-Sub, DVI-D and HDMI Video outs;
- Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via Intel Z77 Express chipset, there is another onboard pin-connectors for two more USB 3.0 ports;
- A local network port (network adapter is built on Gigabit Intel 82579V controller).
I have to say that the additional VIA VT6315N controller provides support for IEEE1394 (FireWire), however, there was no room on the back panel for this port that is why it only exists as an onboard pin-connector. Moreover, we did not see any eSATA ports either, that is why we pointed out that there were no back panel brackets with any additional ports among the bundled accessories.
All major technical specifications of the MSI Z77A-GD65 mainboard are summed up in the following table: