- Brand: MSI
- Model: Z87-GD65 Gaming
- RRP: £150 (At time of the review)
When Micro Star International, MSI, started out in the computer business long ago in 1986, the mainstream computing industry for the masses was practically non-existent. You either had to be made of money or in one of the few jobs which allowed you to work on them to be able to use one. So a stark contrast to what we see today. MSI was one of the first companies to bring computers to the masses, not just at home but into differing industries such as education and communication, which has revolutionised the was we live our lives today.
In today’s market, MSI are one of the big players, dealing with a vast range of equipment from motherboards to graphics cards, and very recently have added to their standard ranges with Lightning and Gaming variants of popular motherboards and graphics cards. With innovation being a clear goal of MSI, this is reinforced with what we have seen with the Lightning and Gaming focused hardware, which are pushing boundaries whether it be with stability, longevity or overclocking. MSI are clearly making a statement of intent and are going toe to toe with the likes of GIGABYTE and ASUS.
Today, we have the latest offering from MSI’s gaming series of motherboards, the Z87-GD65 Gaming. Produced on Intel’s latest chipset for the LGA1150 platform. With a lot of similarities from its ancestor in the Z77 GD65 Gaming series, how will this new board compare? Can it build on the reputation and popularity of its Z77 brother? Will it be able to cope in an already overpopulated motherboard market? Well, I won’t keep you waiting any longer, let the testing commence..
CPU – 4th Generation Intel Core i7/Core i5/Core i3/Pentium/ Celeron processors for LGA 1150 Socket
Main Memory – Support four DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000* (*OC) MHz, 64GB MAX-Dual channel memory architecture
-Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
-Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory
Slots- 3x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (supports x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4 modes)
– 4x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
-SATAIII controller integrated in Intel Z87 chipset
-1x mSATA 6Gb/s port1
-Supports six SATAIII ports (SATA 1-6) by Z87
-Up to 6Gb/s transfer speeds
-SATAIII controller integrated in ASMedia ASM1061 chipset
-Up to 6Gb/s transfer speed
Supports two SATA ports (Sata 7-8) by ASM1061
-Sata 1-6 ports support Intel Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (AHCI/Raid 0/105/10) by Intel Z87
-6x USB 3.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through internal USB connectors)
-8x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 6 ports available through the iunternal USB connectors)
-Realtek ALC1150 Codec
-7.1 Channel High Definition Audio
-Supports S/PDIF output
-1x Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN controller
-Support ATI CrossFire Technology
-Supports NVIDIA SLI Technology
Supports Lucid Virtu Universal MVP 2.0
Internal I/O Connectors
-ATX 24-Pin power connector
– 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 1 x mSATA port
– 3 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports)
– 1 x USB 3.0 connector (supports additional 2 USB 3.0 ports)
– 2 x 4-pin CPU fan connectors
– 3 x 4-pin system fan connectors
– 1 x Multi BIOS Switch
– 1 x TPM Module connector
– 1 x Serial port connector
– 1 x Front Panel Audio connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
– 1 x V-Check Points Set (7x V-Check connectors)
– 1 x GO2BIOS button
– 1 x Power button
– 1 x OC Genie button
– 1 x Reset button
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x 2-Digit Debug Code LED
Back Panel I/O Ports
-1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port
– 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF-out port
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF-out port
– 2 x USB 2.0 ports
– 4 x USB 3.0 ports
– 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
– 6 OFC audio jacks
– 1 x VGA port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920×1200 @60Hz, 24bpp
– 1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920×1200 @60Hz, 24bpp
– 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×[email protected], 24bpp/ 2560×[email protected], 24bpp/ 1920×[email protected], 36bpp
-The motherboard BIOS provides “Plug & Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
– The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.
-12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.4 cm x 24.4 cm) ATX Form Factor
-9 Mounting holes
The front of the packaging has a dark appearance to it, displaying the large MSI ‘Gaming Dragon’ and the G series Crest that we have all come to associate with MSI’s Gaming series hardware. We can also see that MSI have also included a little promotional material on the from in regards to some of the technology used on the board as well as it being endorsed by the Fnatic gaming clan. It is showing that it has built in Killer E2200 Killer networking on-board as well as using the latest Intel z87 chipset and support for all of the latest Intel Core processors.
On the rear, there is information regarding numerous features which have been packed into this motherboard. This is primarily showing off three things. Audio Boost, Killer E2200 and OC Genie 4. Audio Boost, Designed by MSI claims to enhance sound output by upto 30%. Gold flash audio jacks provide stable sound transmission, reduced obstruction, and works in conjunction with the optimized AMP design. Characterised by low noise and low distortion, to greatly enhance headphone performance and faithfully reproduce each acoustic detail. Killer E2200 is an ‘Intelligent Networking Platform’ built for maximum networking performance for online games and high-quality streaming media.
Featuring Advanced Stream Detect™, Killer E2200 automatically detects and accelerates game traffic ahead of other network traffic for smoother, stutter-free in-game performance and the competitive edge. With this exclusive, automatic traffic prioritization, games and real-time chat get priority over low-level system chatter, giving you the lowest latency for game data on the most controllable network hardware available.
C Genie is the world’s first built-in hardware overclocking technology on motherboards. With this new generation of OC Genie, MSI are giving you even more performance. The OC Genie button works as you expect it to, but now you have even more control. Flick the OC_MODE switch from the normal “Turbo” to “GAMING” and your PC gets another adrenalin shot! For the more advanced overclockers, MSI give you complete control of your settings with “My OC Genie”.
On the side of the box we get another look at the MSI Gseries crest as well as ‘JUST GAME’ across the side. MSI are really driving the emphasis on gaming!
Something that I did not expect to find on the inside of the box was the certificate of its factory testing. The testing was for the overclocking of course, and this board in particular managed to hit 4.5GHz on the CPU and 1150MHz on the on-board GPU. This motherboard also appears to be number 68 and was tested on the 23/4/13. Other information includes the hardware that was tested with the Z87 Gaming to achieve its tested overclock and also results to certain benchmarks which I find fantastic and informative, not just for reviews but also for anyone buying this board.
Bundled with the Z87 Gaming, is a massive cache of accessories and leaflets. Included there is:
- Drivers & Utilities Disc
- Motherboard User Guide
- 4 x SATA cables
- Network Driver & Utilities Disc
- Software & Application User Guide
- I/O Shield
- SLI bridge
- V-Check cable x4
I really like the inclusion of the V-Check cables as these are a must for anyone wishing to do extreme overclocking, even though this is a Gaming series board, it still has some of that MSI overclocking pedigree that we have seen from the MPower Max carried over to it.
Now to take a look at the GD-65 Gaming in its entirety. It is a standard ATX form, even though it doesn’t have as many power phases as the MSI MPower MAX, it is still a board jam packed full of features, so I am quite surprised that MSI haven’t taken the leap up to the E-ATX form factor to be able to accommodate them easier. However, I can see why they have stuck to the ATX form factor, for the simple reason of being able to appeal to more people, this is a credit to the thought processes and ingenuity that MSI have put into this motherboard.
As we can see from the Heat sink design, MSI has decided to stick with the popular Z77 gaming design which adorned the previous board, a colour scheme which is predominantly black and red. However, the GD65 Gaming mother board is a lot darker shade of black, not quite as matte black are the MPower MAX that Gavin reviewed, but not too far off. This is mainly due to the high levels of Copper that is used in the PCB production, but then this has the benefit of giving the board more layers to the PCB which has an added benefit of increasing the motherboards resistance to humidity as well as making it a better candidate for those of you wanting to dabble with LN2 cooling.
There are four DIMM slots for RAM, with a maximum capacity of 64GB, which is a huge amount of RAM to have, especially for a gaming orientated system. This would be brilliant if you were planning on using a RAM Disk, or just want a general purpose computer for say video rendering with the ability to have all the gaming features that you may also want. We can also see the 24pin ATX power connection, the USB3.0 front panel header and the V-Check points, which are another fantastic feature if you’re planning to overclock with extreme cooling, but also if you are just curious to see what voltages your board is handling at any given point. This may not interest many people but MSI have been including the V-check points on their boards for a little while now. Remember what i said about them being innovators? We can also see the PCI slots, which include three PCIe x 16 3.0 slots, which run at x16/x8/x8 and x8/x4/x4 and four PCIe x1 2.0 slots. This is plenty, especially if you wish to run tri-fire or 3 way SLI for all those GPU intensive games out there. In the PCI slots, you could have a sound card and a separate RAID card etc. With that being said, with the on-board audio built into the board, you would need to really listen hard to distinguish between a good sound card and the on-board audio.
As above, the GD-65 Gaming has a good amount of Power Phases, granted it is not as much as the MPower MAX, but then this board is cut from a different cloth and is not aimed at achieving maximum overclocks. With all that being said, it still boasts a 12 Phase CPU power, 1 Phase PCH power and 2 Phase Memory power. The MOSFETS are cooled with a beautifully crafted, black and red heat sink, which MSI have amazingly managed to incorporate the Gaming dragon into the design, a very nice touch, even though a lot of people probably wouldn’t notice this touch. The CPU socket is, of course, socket LGA1150, which houses the new Haswell CPUs, the CPU socket area is rather spacey and I feel there would be no issues in mounting a cooler. As with any motherboard, i would advise that you check clearance yourself before you put a radiator in the top of your case, as it may foul the heat sink or RAM clips depending on the design, in this case as the heat sink ever so slightly protrudes the top of the motherboard PCB, this is where the issues may lie. Having a closer look around the CPU socket, we have a single 8pin 12v power socket located at the top of the motherboard. This is an ample amount for what the motherboard is designed to do, it should allow CPU voltages to remain stable during overclocking, more so now that Haswell needs less volts to achieve its overclocks.
Moving on to the storage configurations, there are 8 x SATA3 (6GBps) ports, which allow you to run HDDs/SSDs in RAID-0, 1, 5 and 10, which is standard with the Z87 chipset. Six of these ports run off of the Intel Z87 chipset, whilst the remaining two are controlled by ASMedia and this board sports the ASM1061 chipset. There is also an mSATA port, which is useful for cache drives. Please note that when using SATA port 5, it will be unavailable when an mSATA drive is installed.
The southbridge heatsink is large, but isn’t over-encumbering on the motherboard. It is good to see that MSI have decided to keep the beautiful dragon branding on this heat sink as it is, in my eyes, what defines the gaming series motherboards. Also in view is the BIOS battery, which isn’t in the most accessible place but there isn’t really a better position for it available. A brilliant feature of this motherboard is the GO2BIOS button which when pressed will put you straight into the bios when you next reboot your computer. Granted this will be fiddly when in a case, however, on a test bench, this is a god send to an overclocker.
At the bottom of the board, we can see the OC genie button that is used for auto overclocking, a power on button, a reset button. I would still prefer to do this in the BIOS but some people would find this very handy and is good for those of us that use test benches and open cases.
On the rear of the motherboard, we, ofcourse, have the I/O. Connectivity wise, there are 4 x USB3.0 ports, which are backwards compatible with all USB devices, 2 x USB2.0 ports, 7 audio connections (6 x 3.5mm jack and 1 x SPDIF), a Killer E2200 NIC LAN RJ45 port, 1 x HDMI which support up to 4K resolutions (which means the motherboard is future proofed for the next gen of monitors/TVs and 1 x display port). A nice feature to see is the inclusion of a DVI port and a VGA port for those people using an older monitor or prefer to use DVI instead of HDMI as an output. Lastly, we have the S/PDIF and Optical outputs.
Finally, we have the Audio Boost chip, which is the Realtek ALC1150 and it supports up to 7.1 surround sound. This is a slightly higher grade chip than the ALC898, which is also made by Realtek.
To showcase the MSI BIOS and to show you basically you get in terms of BIOS features before you buy, I have taken screenshots to show you the different menu’s available. Here they are, in order of each menu starting with the main screen.
The main screen is MSI’s version of the UEFI BIOS, with 6 main categories, which I will illustrate more on this page.
The settings section is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. You can change various settings such as SATA settings, on-board GPU functions, enable and disable certain features such as hyper-thread (providing you have a supported CPU of course) amongst other things.
In the overclocking part of the BIOS, we have all the tools needed to increase the performance of your CPU by the powers of overclocking. Here we have options to overclock the CPU core itself, the on-board GPU core (GT in the case of the MSI BIOS) and also plenty of memory overclocking options. Also present is the ever popular XMP setting for quick and painless use to enable you to use your RAMS profiled ratings. Please note that overclocking can kill your hardware and will void any warranty with your hardware vendor.
Here we have the M-FLASH, which allows you to save your BIOS to storages devices such as flash drives and external HDDs. Here you can also update the BIOS to the latest version, but I only recommend you do this if you’re having instability issues, my motto is, if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it.
On the OC Profile page, here we have 6 profiles where you can save your overclocking profiles, basically what it says on the tin. If you have more than 6 profiles, you have the option to save and even load them from USB.
In the hardware monitor section, you can adjust the fan profiles. This is a handy tool especially if you prefer performance over noise or vice versa; air cooling wise of course.
Finally, we have the board explorer screen, which allows you to identify the components installed onto the GD65 Gaming itself. Not sure why I like it, but it’s a very nice feature.
So that’s the BIOS, all in all it’s a very nice looking BIOS, it works well and I had no instability issues while using it
CPU – Intel i7 4770K
Motherboard – MSI Z87 GD65 Gaming
Memory – Kingston HyperX Beast 8GB (2400MHz CAS10) 2x4GB
Graphics – HD4600 (Onboard)
Cooler – Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2
Storage – Kingston HyperX 3k 120GB SATA3 SSD
PSU – Enermax 650w Revolution 67+
Intel Core i7-4770K Overclocking
This is my favourite part of testing hardware and with a board of this value, it is going to be interesting to see what we can achieve with it. With the board packing 12 power phases, 1x 8 pin 12v connectors and a very aggressive heat sink design style, it is likely to be a good clocker, but unlikely to break any records. However, is it going to be able to deliver a good clock in our testing?
Well starting with the BIOS, everything is where I would have expected it to be. The only disappointment at this stage was an alarming lack of vDroop information, as it only displayed – and + values for it, instead of giving an actual figure. Other than that, the menus were easy to go through and find the tools that were needed, everything was where i would expect to find it. Starting with the test bench overclock, I entered the 45x multiplier, with a standard 100BLCK and then I upped the voltage to 1.275v which is what this CPU requires for this clock speed. After saving and exiting, we were off and straight into windows, the first time.
Next step was to see how far I could push the multiplier. I will be the first to admit, the voltage is a little over the top, but I was really struggling to get this 100% stable without it, this may be due to the power phases or that I have a bad chip but nonetheless we got there. Baring in mind that I was using a Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 air cooler, I had to keep within certain thermal limits. Here is the maximum clock speed I achieved:
It was a good overclock in my eyes for a motherboard that is aimed at gaming rather than overclocks, some will argue that a gamer will want to overclock to get the gains from their CPU in the games they play, but as you will see in the up coming benchmarks, it delivers performance in over areas. This overclock was 100% prime95 stable, although it did kick out a lot of heat and with it being a generally hot day, I didn’t manage to run it for long without worrying too much about the temperatures.
Overall, my experience with overclocking on the MSI Z87 GD65 Gaming motherboard was a pleasant one. The one thing that really let it down for myself was the lack of vDroop information, especially in terms of having no actual values to increase. This could be amended at a later date with a BIOS revision, but until then we can only hope. There is the MSI Extreme Tuning Utility which is software based overclocking. This is normally something that I would shy away from using but given how easy the software is to use, given you know what you’re doing, it was a good tool for the motherboard.
So, now that we have seen what this board is capable of, is it going to be worth its £150 price tag? Does it offer a superior gaming experience over the other boards available? Can it out-perform those board that command a higher price tag? Well, let’s get to the evaluation then.
Starting with the aesthetics of the board which is an area that MSI are really starting to focus on. Personally, I love this board, I think that the black and red colour scheme, though slightly overdone, really does look good. The striking red dragon on the southbridge chipset really does look good and its really good to see the attention to detail that MSI have put into the heat sinks around the CPU socket which incorporate the dragons head. MSI have been known in the past to use the disgusting brown PCB’s with their boards, where this one isn’t matte black like we see from other manufacturers, it is almost there, the only time that you ever see a tinge of brown is when the board is enveloped in light, but that just goes to show how much copper MSI have put into the layers of the PCB.
Now for the overclocking side of things, this board was never going to break any records when it comes to overclocking, it has considerably less phases than the MSI Mpower MAX that we reviewed, and as it is gaming orientated, it doesn’t really need the extra power phases either. The maximum stable overclock that I managed to achieve with this motherboard was 4.8 GHz which considering what this motherboard was designed for, I think is really good. I feel that with a little more tweaking and better cooling I could push this chip to 5GHz and I may try to in the future, but for the time being this was the maximum I could achieve. The overclocking capability is complimented by the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, but as always, I tend to overclock in the BIOS as that’s how I prefer it.
Looking deeper at some of the GD65 Gaming’s feature set, I would say that I keeps up with the majority of the more expensive boards on the market. The inclusion of a Killer E2200 NIC LAN port is a brilliant addition to a gaming orientated board as it helps to reduce latency whilst gaming. In multiplayer games, it will automatically optimise your internet connection so that you can get the best connection possible for your gaming needs. The inclusion of Audio Boost, designed by MSI, claims to enhance sound output by up to 30%. Gold flash audio jacks provide stable sound transmission, reduced obstruction, and works in conjunction with the optimized AMP design. Characterised by low noise and low distortion, to greatly enhance headphone performance and faithfully reproduce each acoustic detail, ideal for gamers looking to enjoy the big booms from explosions as well as being able to hear the footsteps of approaching enemies. Also with the inclusion of the latest version of MSI’s OC Genie, gamers with little overclocking knowledge can now achieve a modest overclock from their CPU with the press of a button. This is a great feature for those wanting to get a little more performance from their system with no effort at all. The GD65 Gaming really has the majority of the bases covered and for such a good price point, I think I beats a lot of its competition too.
Let me talk about something which most people are going to be interested in – performance. How did it do? Well overall, it superseded my expectations for a board of its price which was aimed at a gaming audience. The bench marks were above what a lot of us hear at Play3r.net thought they were going to be. For most of the tests it was either beating or staying with the MSI Mpower MAX and the ASUS Maximus Hero. It did very well and for a board of this calibre, it is well up to the task. The interesting benchmark to note in particular were Cinebench and the Hitman Benchmark. I for one did not expect this test to get anywhere near the 10 mark, let alone surpass it, and in the Hitman Benchmark, again, for the price of the board I expected it to be a bit closer to the ASrock offering and not the Mpower MAX but the GD65 Gaming certainly comes out on top in terms of performance.
The last thing I wanted to touch on was the price, coming in at approximately £150, I really do think this motherboard is a bargain for its price, as not only does it offer a lot of the features that you need as a gamer, you really do not lose much compared to a £300 board. For the money, you get a very high performance board that is able to attain very good overclocks and is packed full of features to aid your gaming, like the onboard sound and the Killer NIC.
The MSI GD65 Gaming blends great aesthetics, with a potent gaming package including high-end built-in sound, specialist networking hardware and comes in at a fantastic price point offering exceptional bang for buck. If you’re looking for a Z87 motherboard and have a budget of up to £150, you wouldn’t be disappointed with this board. It’s a true compliment to the MSI Gaming graphics cards range that came before it.
Due to its great looks, brilliant feature set and excellent bang for buck, as well as out performing much more expensive boards from other manufacturers, i feel that the MSI GD65 Gaming deserves nothing less than 5 stars and our Editors choice award.