MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING Motherboard Review
After much waiting and a fair bit of drooling I finally have the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING motherboard in my hands. This will be the first Haswell based motherboard tested here at pcGameware, but maybe more interesting is that THIS motherboard is designed for Gamers! Now I like the sound of that…
There are two boards in MSI’s Gaming line up this one the GD65 and the slightly lesser GD45, both feature an ATX Form Factor. The GD65 has 8 SATA ports compared to the GD45’s 6 SATA ports, with the additional ports supported by AS Media. In addition to this the GD65 also features motherboard based Power and Reset buttons, on-board Debug LEDs, MSI’s OC Genie 4 technology, an mSATA port (EDIT: actually both MB have mSATA) and V-Check points.
Currently the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING supports all Intel Haswell based CPUs, via Socket 1150.
The MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING came well packaged in an extremely smart black and red box, adorned with a silver dragon. The front features a few logos highlighting the board’s credentials:
- RECOMMENDED BY FNATIC
- Killer E2200 GAME NETWORKING
- INTEL CORE
- INTEL Chipset Z87
The back of the box has a wealth of information regarding the Z87-GD65’s features. In addition to the Specifications and I/O overview the following are the main highlights.
- AUDIO BOOST (REWARD YOUR EARS WITH TRUE QUALITY) – The entire design of the Audio Boost circuitry has been designed to get the best performance out of studio-level materials, ensuring optimal audio reproduction of Games, Movies and Music.
- KILLER ETHERNET (KILL YOUR LAG) – Tired of lag? Fret no more! MSI’s GAMING motherboards are equipped with Killer Ethernet that eliminates latency and ping spikes and lets you concentrate on your frags and kills.
- OC GENIE 4 (OVERCLOCK IN 1 SECOND) – OC Genie 4 supercharges your OC experience! When enabled, OC Genie overclocks your entire system and the new Gaming mode puts your overclocked system into overdrive! Tuned by professional overclockers, OC Genie 4 hands you record-breaking performance on a platter.
- MULTI-GPU – The Multi-GPU capabilities make it possible to intelligently scale graphics performance by combining two or more compatible GPUs and unlock game-dominating power.
- SOUND BLASTER CINEMA – Realistic surround sound and the ability to clearly hear specific sounds in gaming environments make your ears a decisive tool on the battlefield.
- MILITARY CLASS 4 – MSI’s new Military Class 4 components support you while you’re questing, racing, battling and shooting your way to the top. Delivering record-breaking stability when you need to keep cool in the heart of battle.
- GAMING DEVICE PORT – Double your reaction speed thanks to the special PS/2 and USB ports that are optimized with triple gold plating for high-frequency gaming devices.
On opening the box we get to see the Z87-GD65 GAMING in all its glory (well, once the anti static bag has been removed!). There’s a fair amount of paperwork and accessories included too…
In addition to the motherboard the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING comes with the following paperwork and accessories:
- x4 SATA Cables (x2 with 90 degree plugs)
- SLI Bridge
- I/O Shield
- x4 V-Check Cable
- User Guide
- Software & Application User Guide
- Quick Installation Guide
- Drivers & Utilities Disc
- Door Hanger (I’M SORRY BUSY GAMING)
At the time of writing the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING is retailing for approximately £154 and comes with a 2 year warranty.
courtesy of MSI
|CPU (Max Support)||i7|
|FSB / Hyper Transport Bus||100MHz|
|Chipset||Intel® Z87 Express Chipset|
|DDR3 Memory||DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000*(*OC) HMz|
|Max Memory (GB)||64|
|PCI-E Gen||Gen3 (16,0,0), (8,8,0), (8,4,4)|
|USB 3.0 ports (Rear)||4|
|USB 2.0 ports (Rear)||2|
|Audio ports (Rear)||6+Coaxial / Optical SPDIF|
|VGA Max Share Memory (MB)||1760|
WOW! That’s the first impression you get when looking at the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING for the first time, this board’s a thing of beauty that’s for sure. The board has such a clean overall look to it, not adorned with too many logos and monikers, or silly heat-sinks. In fact those dragon styled CPU PWM heat-sinks are so subtle it’s even easy to miss, very tasteful!
Starting at the bottom of the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING and working left to right first we find the HD Audio front panel output, followed by the three easy buttons (Power/Reset/OC Genie). Once the motherboard is powered up the Power button lights green (and remains lit), the Reset button lights green while the PC is running and the OC Genie button lights blue once activated (and remains lit while active). Next to this we have the Game Mode switch, this effectively overclocks the CPU even further than OC Genie and lights red when switched on (switch up) and blue when off. Following on we find the Go To BIOS button, that allows you to re-boot directly to the BIOS, always useful to stop you having to SPAM that F2/Del key! Next to this are the Debug LEDs, always good to see these present as they can prove invaluable should problems arise. After the Serial port we find three USB 2.0 ports, one of three System Fan headers (all with PWM support) and finally the Front Panel connections.
Looking at the top of the board we see the two CPU Fan headers (with PWM support) and then those gorgeous dragon heat-sinks (MSI have really stole the show here!). On the far right we find the 8-pin CPU 12v power connector. The top corner of the board is obviously dominated by the Socket 1150; a new socket for Intel Haswell CPUs, although only the pin configuration is different meaning that most Socket 1155 Coolers should fit fine.
On the right side of the board we find the eight SATA ports on the left, six of which are provided by the Intel chipset and the other two provided by ASMedia. For performance reasons it’s always best to use the Intel ports first, as they generally perform better. Next we find the USB 3.0 port, beautifully angled at 90 degrees; this prevents that enormous loop up and over the motherboard caused by the cable normally being rather thick and inflexible. Next we find the BIOS switch; as the Z87-GD65 is equipped with dual BIOS (useful, as this allows you to recover one BIOS from another, or even store 2 profiles). Finally we have the main 24-pin 12v connector and the V-Check points allowing you to get accurate voltages direct from the board (should you wish!). Finally we find the third and last PWM controlled System Fan header.
Looking at the left side of the Z87-GD65 GAMING we find the main I/O ports (see below), with the Audio out jacks hiding the second of three PWM controlled System Fan headers. This is then followed by the main logos found on the board indicating that the board uses Killer E2200 GAME networking, Military Class 4 components and Sound Blaster Cinema technology. To the right of this we find the upgraded on-board Realtek Audio (Audio Boost), with Gold plated audio jacks, a headphone amplifier, EMI shielding and high quality audio capacitors.
Below left we can see a rather nifty additional port that can be found in the centre of the Z87-GD65 GAMING, and that’s an mSATA port. This port basically accepts mSATA SSDs, these are currently available up to 256GB in capacity (physical size is about x2 Fifty Pence pieces, amazing!) and supports Read/Write speeds in excess of 550MB/s and 500MB/s respectively. This makes them perfect for a boot drive, it also means less wiring and that you can have a PC up ‘n running with no additional storage, I like this (a lot!).
For testing purposes and to ensure we put the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING through its paces we used Intel’s highest spec Haswell CPU, the Core i7-4770K.
A new build was put together to house the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING and the Haswell 4770K CPU. The following components were used:
|Case||CM Storm Stryker||Power Supply||Corsair AX860|
|Motherboard||MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING||CPU||Intel Core i7-4770K|
|CPU Cooler||Cosair H100||RAM||Kingston HyperX Beast 8GB 2400MHz|
|Graphics Card||MSI TWIN FROZR GAMING GTX 780 (OC Edition)||SSD (mSATA – on-board port)||ADATA SX300 (64GB)|
|It’s also worth noting that I’m using an mSATA device as my boot drive, this plugs easily into the centre of the motherboard. This natty little Mini SATA device is about the size of two Fifty Pence pieces and comes in capacities up to 256GB, with speeds up to 550/500MB/s Read/Write. It actually overrides the sixth Intel STATA 6GB/s port, meaning that the SATA6 port will be unavailable when using mSATA. I’m really impressed with this setup, I’m currently using a ADATA SX300 64GB version.|
A new installation of Windows Home Premium 64bit (Service Pack 1) was performed and the following drivers were then installed. The latest MSI Drivers were used and can been obtained here (I did not use the ones on the disc as I wanted to be using the latest).
* The latest BIOS version (1.3) was downloaded and installed (I had problems with installing this via the UEFI, although it was fine via Windows!?).
- Intel Chipset Driver (INF driver ver: 18.104.22.1687)
- Realtek High Definition Audio Driver (22.214.171.12423)
- Killer Network Driver (126.96.36.1991)
- Intel USB3.0 Driver (188.8.131.52)
- NVIDIA Graphics (320.49 WHQL)
During testing the following tools/benchmarks & games were used/played:
The MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING came to life on the first stab of the power button, which is always good to see. The first job that I undertook was to install the latest BIOS as the board shipped with version 1.0 and version 1.3 was now available. Unfortunately this was met with failure as when I used the M-Flash Utility within the UEFI, after selecting the file the BIOS/UEFI would just freeze!? After a few attempts I gave up, mainly because the new BIOS versions related to BIOS updates, maybe I would get better luck within Windows…
The Click BIOS 4 UEFI is excellent, well laid out and easy to navigate, not sluggish like some of the UEFIs of days past, with both mouse tracking and mouse wheel support proving very responsive. With the overall aesthetic matching the motherboard itself, it’s very slick indeed.
With Windows 7 64Bit installed and MSI’s Live Update utility installed I was able to update the BIOS with no issue. It was now time for some testing (READ Gaming) to ensure the board’s stability.
With stability proven at the Load Optimized Defaults setting (below left), it was time to take a look at that OC Genie 4 button, apparently 1 sec overclocking! They’re right with the power off, a press of the button makes the OC Genie button turn blue, meaning that it’s now active. This boosts the default clock of the 4770K from 3.5GHz to 4.0GHz and forced the Kingston HyperX Beast memory to run at its XMP setting of 2400MHz, (below centre). Finally flicking the Game Mode switch up, changes the colour of its associated LED from blue to red and boosts the CPU clock speed up to 4.2GHz, nice, (below right).
With the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING now running at 4.2GHz (1.2250v) via on-board controls (OC Genie + Game Mode), further overclocking required some manual intervention. Enter MSI’s Command Center; using this software I was able to get to a stable 4.5GHz at 1.278v, all of this was achieved via the software, which after some initial confusion is relatively easy to use.
It’s also worth noting that at this speed (4.5GHz) I was still able to run the Kingston HyperX Beast modules at their XMP setting of 2400MHz, which is impressive. This is due to the fact that as the Core speed of the CPU increases it becomes increasingly more difficult to hold the higher memory speeds. It may even be possible to overclock the CPU further if the memory speed was reduced, although thermals are already getting the better of us.
At 4.5GHz and with a Core voltage of 1.278v temperatures were reaching 83 degrees, with the CPU cooled by a Corsair H100 AIO liquid cooler. There’s no doubt about it the Haswell CPU is one warm processor, not dissimilar to the outgoing Ivy Bridge CPU.
- Benchmark Results (CPU @ 4.2GHz (1.250v) : RAM @ 2400MHz) with NVIDIA GTX 780
|Metro Last Light||2560×1440||45.67|
|Metro Last Light||1920×1080||66.33|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||2560×1440||FPS 32.9 Score 828|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||FPS 52.5 Score 1322|
|Unigine Valley 1.0||2560×1440||FPS 37.8 Score 1583|
|Unigine Valley 1.0||1920×1080||FPS 61.3 Score 2564|
That’s pretty much standard fair then when it comes to Gaming, the Haswell CPU delivers no more performance than that of Ivy Bridge in pretty much all of these tests (see below for comparisons of other systems). Of course this is no fault of the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING, in fact the board performed flawlessly throughout testing and during overclocking.
- AMD Piledriver FX 8350 @ 4.8GHz vs Intel Ivy Bridge 3770K @ 4.4GHz vs Intel Haswell 4770K @ 4.2GHz with NVIDIA GTX 780
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||Metro Last Light||2560×1440||44.33|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||Metro Last Light||2560×1440||46.00|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||Metro Last Light||2560×1440||45.67|
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||Metro Last Light||1920×1080||63.00|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||Metro Last Light||1920×1080||66.33|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||Metro Last Light||1920×1080||66.33|
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||Tomb Raider||2560×1440||51.1|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||Tomb Raider||2560×1440||53.0|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||Tomb Raider||2560×1440||53.8|
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||Tomb Raider||1920×1080||76.4|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||Tomb Raider||1920×1080||76.5|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||Tomb Raider||1920×1080||76.0|
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||Unigine Heaven 4.0||2560×1440||FPS 32.4 Score 816|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||Unigine Heaven 4.0||2560×1440||FPS 33.2 Score 837|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||Unigine Heaven 4.0||2560×1440||FPS 32.9 Score 828|
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||FPS 51.7 Score 1302|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||FPS 52.9 Score 1333|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||FPS 52.5 Score 1322|
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||Unigine Valley 1.0||2560×1440||FPS 37.3 Score 1560|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||Unigine Valley 1.0||2560×1440||FPS 37.7 Score 1578|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||Unigine Valley 1.0||2560×1440||FPS 37.8 Score 1583|
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||Unigine Valley 1.0||1920×1080||FPS 59.8 Score 2501|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||Unigine Valley 1.0||1920×1080||FPS 62.0 Score 2594|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||Unigine Valley 1.0||1920×1080||FPS 61.3 Score 2564|
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||3DMark Firestrike||Default||8160|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||3DMark Firestrike||Default||8742|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||3DMark Firestrike||Default||8784|
|AMD (Piledriver FX 8350)||3DMark Firestrike||Extreme||4416|
|Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K)||3DMark Firestrike||Extreme||4454|
|Intel (Haswell 4770K)||3DMark Firestrike||Extreme||4471|
- Additional Software/Features
Of course the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING is packed full of other features that will excite the Gamer, let’s take a look at some of them now.
Last but not least we come to MSI’s OC Genie 4, a simple 1 sec overclock button found at the bottom left of the board, and it is truly as simple as that. With the button depressed (lights blue) our Intel Core i7-4770k was now running at 4.0GHz instead of its default 3.5GHz. With OC Genie On the memory is also now forced to run at its XMP setting, in the case of the Kingston HyperX Beast, that was 2400MHz up from 1333MHz! Now flick the Game Mode switch (that’s now 2 seconds, cue red LED) and we’re now running at 4.2GHz.
I like this approach to overclocking, as it gives you something for free straight out of the box (well after 2 seconds work!), the overclock proved rock solid throughout testing too. The only oddity is the fact that the highest setting overclock comes from flicking a not so nice switch on the motherboard, where the OC Genie button is far nicer, a little more thought could have been made here. While I’m having a little moan (I think this is the first in this review!), why do we have so many different LED colours (Red, Green, Blue) on such a beautiful Red dominated motherboard!? Green and red maybe, but blue…
There is no doubt that the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING is the best Gaming motherboard to date, that’s maybe because there’s not much competition as far as Gaming motherboards go, but MSI set out to adjust this and they have undeniably succeeded. Before I delve into the finer points, I’d just like to say, the box looks the business, the board looks awesome, the performance is excellent as is the Gaming orientated feature set and of course those dragon heat-sinks are just the icing on the already very tasty cake!
When you open the box and see the Z87-GD65 GAMING for the first time, you’ll spend the first few minutes drooling over the design, it really is a thing of beauty. Not adorned with logos or silly heat-sinks, just clean and tidy, even the dragon heat-sinks themselves are subtle enough that you might even miss them at first. The slew of Gaming orientated features such as the Audio Boost, Killer E2200 networking and OC Genie 4 are all welcome, although I’m unsure that we really need those additional ASMedia SATA ports, or those voltage check points.
Performance wise the board performed well overclocking our Intel Core i7-4770K to 4.5 GHz with ease via MSI’s Command Center software. Strangely (I’m not a fan of manipulating sound via software) but the Sound Blaster Cinema software was able to provide an extra boost to the audio performance produced via the Realtek ALC2200 (with Audio Boost) on-board sound.
There’s so much to like about the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING that it’s almost unfair to pick fault, but I will, especially as the retail price seems to be going up at this point in time, although this is unlikely MSI’s fault. The colouring of the LEDs on the board are not in keeping with the Red design, especially the BIOS switch (A or B) LED, as it’s found in the top right quadrant of the board and it’s either blue or green (red & green would have been better) but not blue. Also down at the bottom of the board, we have all of the OC buttons etc, we have two green power buttons (On/Off and Reset), a blue OC Genie button, either a red or blue Game mode switch, followed by the Debug LEDs that remain on (green) even when the system has booted. Now this may seem petty but if you’re customising your rig build to a particular colour, some of these LEDs may frustrate a little…
The current price of around £170 (this was closer to £150 some time ago) is now beginning to seem a little expensive, but to be fair the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING is still worth every penny in my book. From a Gaming perspective this is the best motherboard we have seen here at pcGameware, and from a pure motherboard point of view, it’s still one of the best. If you’re looking for the perfect partner to a Haswell CPU and you’re a Gamer, then look no further, MSI has the answer, the Z87-GD65 GAMING.
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Many thanks to MSI for providing this sample for review