MSI Z77A-GD80 is the top notch product of MSI for their Z77 series. The most unique feature it has is the so called "Thunderbolt" Technology.
So what is Thunderbolt (aka Light Peak)? its an interface for connecting peripheral devices to a computer via PCI express for data and DisplayPort for displays. If it acts as storage connector, it can run as fast as 10 Gbps. That's twice a USB 3.0 can do. Also, Thunderbolt technology delivers data at full duplex using a single cable which even if you daisy chain it with multiple devices, it can maintain the maximum throughput.
Going back to Z77A-GD80, the chipset is intended for Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge 3rd Gen processors and somehow it still supports the same LGA1155 Sandy Bridge processors but ofcourse with limited features. Other than this, it now natively supports USB 3.0 as well as for the PCIE Generation 3 x16 slot connectivity.
Flipping the box front cover, all the rich features of the board are enumerated with short descriptions
Its all about the Thunderbolt
and MSI is the 1st one to implement this with a mainboard.
Certificate of Quality/Stability and set of manuals - Mainboard / Software & Application / Thunderbolt
Below are the bundled Accessories:
1. I/O Rear Backplate
2. USB 3.0 PCI Bracket
3. V-Check Cables
4. Easy Header Connector Guide
5. SATA 6gb/s Data Cables
6. SLI Bridge
Here is it the mainboard. The layout is very clean and well organized. Black & Blue color theme looks nice and certainly those new cooling heatsink designs.
Military Class III components surrounding the processor socket area. You have SFC "Super Ferrite Chokes", "Hi-C Caps" and "Solid Capacitors". You will also find that there is a flat heatpipe inside the heatsinks. Underneath the heatsinks are the DrMOSII chips.
Below the 24Pins of the mainboard are the V-Check Points to monitor VCCP, CPU, VTT, CPU Graphics, DDR VCC and PCH voltages using a digital multimeter. To the right are the Easy Buttons with OC Genie II. I'm glad that MSI placed these things at this area for easy access.
4x PCIE x1 Slots and three PCIEx16 Gen3 Slots. The board has good spaces in between the video card slots which a 3 way SLI configuration won't be a problem. The board also has a Debug Led Indicator and beside it is a Multi Bios Switch.
If you use a Sandy Bridge 2nd Gen processor. The last PCIEx16 lane won't be available and bandwith for the remaining two will be at PCIEx16 Gen2 speed.
Eight SATA ports. Starting to the right are 2 white SATA III 6Gb/s ports which are native to the intel Z77 Chipset. At the middle, are 4 black SATA II ports which is also handled by the intel chipset and the last 2 white SATA III 6GB/s ports are based on ASMedia ASM1061 chip.
I/O Panel. Starting from the left. 1x PS2 Combo Port which automatically detects if a keyboard or mouse is connected / 2x USB 2.0 / Clear CMOS /
Digital Audio SPDIF and a Digital Coaxial Audio Port / another set of 2x USB 2.0 and HDMI display port / Intel 82579V 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet Port and 2 SuperSpeed USB 3.0/ VGA and underneath it is a mini Display Port either for Data or Display / 6 Analog Audio Ports
Ok here is my test system configuration:
Processor: Intel Core i7 3770K
Cooler: Thermaltake Advanced Frio
Memory: Kingston HyperX T1 2x1GB DDR3 2333MHz
VGA: Leadtek 7600GS
SSD: OCZ Agility 3
PSU: Antec TPQ 1200w
Actually I tested the board using few 2D bench softwares only. I managed to get the highest frequency memory speed I can get with the Kingston HyperX T1 (2725mhz) and ran SuperPi32M and Aida64 Memory Benchmark.See results below
The Intel i7 3770K was running at 5065MHz during all those benchmarks and it was easy for the GD80 to handle these high frequency speeds.
That's it. Thanks