MSI’s Z77A-GD80 motherboard brings a ton of features for overclocking, performance as well as a Thunderbolt connection for external devices.

Today we are taking a look at MSI’s flagship Z77 motherboard, the Z77A-GD80. Beyond being the GD80 SKU, which for several generations now has been given MSI’s premiere options, this GD80 in particular is an innovative board. This is due to the Z77A-GD80 being the first Windows motherboard that was certified for Intel’s Thunderbolt technology.

As many of you may know, Thunderbolt has 10 Gbps of bandwidth, as well as integrates Mini DisplayPort for video. With all of this bandwidth, Thunderbolt is an exciting standard, which we will focus on in depth later in this review.

Features Overview

  • CPU
    • Supports 3rd Gen Intel® Core™ i7 / Core™ i5 / Core™ i3 / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1155 socket
  • Chipset
    • Intel® Z77 Chipset
  • Main Memory
    • Support four DDR3 DIMMs 1066/1333/1600/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2667*/2800*(OC) DRAM (32GB Max)
    • Supports Dual-Channel mode
    • To support DDR3 2200*/2400*/2600*/2667*/2800*(OC) ,you must install an Intel 22nm CPU
  • Slots
    • 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
    • 4 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
  • On-Board SATA
    • SATAIII controller integrated in Intel® Z77 chipset
      • Up to 6Gb/s transfer speed.
      • Supports two SATA ports (SATA1~2) by Z77
    • SATAIII controller integrated in ASMedia® ASM 1061 chipset
      • Up to 6Gb/s transfer speed.
      • Supports two SATA ports (SATA7~8) by ASM 1061
      • (If you set external SATA 6Gb/s ports to AHCI mode, we highly recommend that you install Windows 7.)
    • SATAII controller integrated in Intel® Z77 chipset
      • Up to 3Gb/s transfer speed.
      • Supports four SATA ports (SATA3~6)
  • RAID
    • SATA1~6 ports support Intel Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (AHCI / RAID 0/1/5/10) by Intel Z77 
  • USB 3.0
    • 2 USB 3.0 rear I/O ports by Intel® Z77
    • 1 USB 3.0 onboard connector by Intel® Z77
  • Audio
    • Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC898
    • Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
    • Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
  • LAN
    • Supports one PCI Express  LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Intel® 82579
  • Multi-GPU
    • Supports ATI® CrossFire™ Technology
    • Supports NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
    • Supports Lucid® Virtu Universal MVP
  • Internal I/O Connectors
    • 3 x USB 2.0 connectors
    • 1 x USB 3.0 connector
    • 1 x IEEE 1394 connector
    • 1 x Multi BIOS Switch
    • 1 x TPM Module connector
    • 1 x Front Panel connector
    • 1 x Front Panel Audio connector
    • 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
    • 1 x Voice Genie connector (optional)
    • 1 x MultiConnect Panel connector (optional)
    • 1 x V-Check Points Set
    • 1 x Power button
    • 1 x OC Genie button
    • 1 x Reset button
    • 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
    • CPU x 1 / System x 4 FAN connectors
  • Back Panel I/O Ports
    • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
    • 1 x Clear CMOS button
    • 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF-out port
    • 1 x Optical S/PDIF-out  port
    • 4 x USB 2.0  ports
    • 2 x USB 3.0  ports
    • 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
    • 1 x 6 in 1 audio jack
    • 1 x HDMI® port with max. resolution up to 1920×1200 @60Hz
    • 1 x Thunderbolt port (Mini DisplayPort) with max. resolution up to 2560×1600 @ 60Hz
    • 1 x VGA port  with max. resolution up to 2048×1536 @75Hz
    • MSI Reminds You…
    • This mainboard supports dual-display function by any two onboard graphics output ports (HDMI+VGA, VGA+Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt+HDMI)
  • BIOS
    • The mainboard BIOS provides "Plug & Play" BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
    • The mainboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your mainboard specifications.

As mentioned before, the Z77A-GD80 is a feature packed board, with an impressive amount of connectivity options. Like many Z77 boards we have seen, MSI has chosen to include 3 physical PCI-e x16 slots, as well as 4 PCI-e x1 slots.

As you can see in this diagram, while the board has 3 x16 slots, the third slot can only be utilized with a Ivy Bridge processor installed. Since the Z77 chipset also supports Sandy Bridge processors, it becomes important to make sure that both your motherboard and processor can support the configuration you desire.

The Z77A-GD80 also supports other connectivity options provided by the Z77 chipset. Some of these features include Intel SATA 6G and USB 3.0 controllers (including a front panel USB 3.0 connector), as well as native support for Intel HD graphics solutions. However, since we have covered these features in our initial Z77 review, we won’t be focusing on them here. Also included, is 8 channel audio with analog and digital connectors.

MSI has chosen to include an ASMedia ASM 1061 for two extra SATA 6 Gbit/s ports, providing greater flexibility to the user.

In the box, MSI has included 4 SATA cables, a USB 3.0 mounting bracket, along with the I/O shield and all the necessary documentation.

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