The precursor to the latest LGA1155 P67 series of motherboards, the LGA1156 P55, was probably dominated by MSI. Many manufacturers released very good motherboards, but for consistency and the absolute best then we'd probably just edge our choice to MSI.
You can understand our excitement when we received the MSI P67A-GD65 for review then. The mid-range of the MSI P67 series it comes with all the features we could hope for including the excellent MSI OC Genie button which is a previous winner of our innovation award for the ease in which anyone can overclock their system simply, and effectively.
So does MSIs reputation continue into the latest Intel socket? Only one way to find out.
Looking through the boards specifications we have all that we'd expect on a modern mid-range board. SATA 6Gbp/s, USB3.0, SLI and Crossfire support as well as enough PCI sockets for most peoples needs.
|CPU (Max Support)||Sandy Bridge|
|AM3 CPU Ready||N/A|
|FSB / Hyper Transport Bus||100MHz|
|DDR3 Memory||DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/2133*(OC)|
|Max Memory (GB)||32|
|PCI-E Gen||Gen2 (1x16, 1x8)|
|USB 3.0 ports (Rear)||2|
|USB 2.0 ports (Rear)||8|
|Audio ports (Rear)||6+Coaxial/Optical SPDIF|
|Serial ports (Rear)||N/A|
|Parallel ports (Rear)||N/A|
|1394 ports (Rear)||1|
About the only surprise is the inclusion of two legacy PCI sockets. There can't be anyone left with a single PCI card, much less two?
Let's take a look at it shall we.
The box is standard MSI fare with their quality components "Military Class II" classification dominating the box.
Once open the accessories bundle has all the bits you'd expect. SATA leads, IO shield, manuals for both the motherboard and the included utility disc. The utilities are comprehensive containing monitoring, overclocking, updating, and a wealth of other features in an easily installed, small footprint package.
The board itself follows the modern MSI colour scheme of black and dark blue plastics with gun-metal hardware. It looks very classy although it's visually strange to not have the standard chipset cooler below the CPU socket.
PCI arrangement is fine with plenty of space between the two main PCIe slots. It's, as I said on the previous page, odd to see three PCIe x1 sockets and 2 legacy PCI ones on such a modern board. Sure the GD65 isn't the top-end model, but if MSI are going for the masses then why hasn't it got an IDE socket?
The bottom right hand corner has the on-board buttons for overclocking out of the case, and of course the magical OC Genie button itself. Just above the OC Genie is the JFP1 which is actually the front panel connectors. We laud Gigabyte regularly for their use of a colour-coded one, but to see one without even a plastic surround is perhaps a step too far in the other direction for our tastes.
Around the DIMM sockets we have the ATX24 pin as we'd expect and also a place for your probes if you're a high-end overclocker wanting more accurate monitoring of your motherboard. It's nice to see a couple of fan headers out here too which makes cable routing for your intake fans much simpler.
The CPU socket has plenty of room around it for even the largest cooler, although if you've got tall RAM and a big cooler the DIMM sockets are too close to be able to use both. Thankfully modern RAM doesn't really need the oversized heat-sinks any more. The down-slope of the MSI power circuitry heat-sinks are incredibly polished.
MSI have provided plenty of SATA headers for your storage needs and thankfully we haven't got any of those silly vertical ones.
Around the back is all you'd expect these days, including USB 3.0, e-SATA and a combined PS2 port. It's nice to see the CMOS clear switch located somewhere easy to get hold of too, for reasons we'll get to on the next page.
Intel Core i5-2500K
4GB Kingston Hyper-X
Cougar CM1000 Modular PSU
Windows 7 x64
Overclocking inc OC Genie II
Knowing that this CPU happily will do 4.6GHz but has a bit of a struggle going much past it without silly voltages we were hopeful than the excellent OC Genie would at least get us to the 4.6GHz mark.
Sadly it has many issues, not least of which we'll show below, but for now the best it manages is 4.19 GHz which is a good overclock and plenty fast enough for most people, but considering the Gigabyte UD7 and ASUS Maximus IV both have in-BIOS 4.6 GHz options it's quite disappointing to see something so conservative.
It might however be to do with the mid-range nature of the board itself as despite some hefty voltage and plenty of tweaking we couldn't get it stable at all past 4.7 GHz. It was pretty "all or nothing". Whereas with the LGA1366 and P55s you had a gradual slope of stability from fully stable down to a suicide shot, this either worked or it didn't.
This screenshot was taken prior to tuning the voltage for stability and in the end we ran at 1.45v to keep our 4.69 GHz overclock.
The BIOS still feels fairly rough around the edges. Despite using the very latest one from MSI there were still some issues to overcome.
One of the more "fun" ones was when first using the OC Genie it kept giving the "overclock failed" beeps. Much faffing about later we discovered that if you manually set your RAM speed prior to using the OC Genie button it gets... well let's be kind and say it becomes rather hopeful about the potential speed your processor will achieve.
If you leave everything on auto this goes away, but nonetheless it's quite fun to see it attempt a 25 GHz overclock. If only the damn thing had booted to CPUz I think we'd have had the world record well into the next decade.
At stock the GD65 makes use of the performance of the Kingston very well. Although the write speed is a little low generally everything is good and much higher than the reference Intel board.
Overclocked is a different matter though as the memory, even at 2133MHz and with our 4.7 GHz CPU doesn't seem to benefit much from the overclock. Certainly nowhere near as well as the reference Intel or the Gigabyte UD7.
We find similar things with the CPU benchmarking suite of AIDA64. The GD65 performs very well at stock but the overclocked result doesn't really thrill us quite as we'd hoped. Although the zLib result is far and away the best we've seen rocking 267MB/s.
Strange things are happening at the Circle K. Sandra, which tests the processor as a separate entity from the rest of the system should, theoretically at least, give a nearly identical result at stock to the Intel reference board and only differ once the overclock is in place.
However on the GD65 at stock it's clearly slower than the reference board. With the overclock though things settle down much closer to how we'd expect. It falls behind the UD7 but that's largely due to the GD65s inability to achieve the same overclock as we obtained on the Gigabyte.
wPrime seems to back up the Sandra results in that something is definitely hindering the performance of the otherwise outstanding i5-2500K. 356 seconds for the 1 billion place test is frankly ridiculous on a 3.2GHz quad-core.
Does this synthetic-test disappointment follow through into the real-world?
PC Mark Vantage
The short answer seems to be yes. It's so frustrating that even though the GD65 doesn't overclock as well, it's not even very good at stock. Although the overclock helps it only just about reaches the levels of the i5-2500K at stock on the Intel reference board.
It's not very surprising to see that CineBench suffers equally with the sluggish performance of the MSI GD65. Rendering is so dependant upon every ounce of processing power that even the slightest lapse has heavy consequences and so it proves.
3D Mark Vantage
Away from the processor dependant testing and into the gaming world the MSI performs just as well as all the rest. Surprisingly when overclocked we see the highest P-Score we've achieved amongst our LGA1155 tests. The power of the GTX570 is undiminished.
3D Mark 11
Our Vantage results are echoed in the much more strenuous 3D Mark 11 with the overclocked GD65 managing to forge ahead of all the others, even the heavily overclocked i7-2600K.
At least if you're only gaming it seems ok so far, so let's try a couple of games out.
Well it's still perfectly playable. Although the MSI doesn't reach the heights of the rest of our benchmarks it still keeps Crysis ticking away about 60 FPS. It's a bit of a double-edged sword as it remains playable, but is still 6 or 7 frames behind what we'd expect. That could just be Crysis Warhead being its usual strange self though.
Alien vs Predator
Thankfully we can end on a positive note as the heavily GPU dependant Alien vs Predator benchmark gives us very level results throughout all our tests. Even if the GD65 at stock trails, it's only a tenth of a frame, so nothing that isn't within error tolerance.
Reviewing the MSI P67A-GD65 have left us distinctly ambivalent.
On the one hand it's extraordinarily simple to setup. The board itself is a pleasure to use with everything being laid out very well and plenty of room to work. The only slight issue with the design is how close the RAM slots are to the CPU and so our Hyper-X T1 wouldn't fit under the Noctua NH-D14 so we had to revert to the plain Hyper-X. Otherwise it's very well designed with no nasty surprises or awkward fiddly bits.
The included utility package is very good with all of the applications only having a tiny footprint and none of them running automatically. They all do exactly what you want with the minimum of fuss. The drivers themselves install easily and it's one of the few times you can safely click the "install everything" button without ending up with a plethora of things you really could do without.
Unfortunately this is where the good news tails off a little.
While the GD65 is a joy to setup and use at stock, the results really are disappointing. The only time it keeps up with either the reference Intel design or the Gigabyte UD7 we've previously tested is when the processor performance is far less important than GPU performance. Even the most hardcore gamer will do a little net surfing or utility work and once you're into Windows applications the GD65 just doesn't perform that well.
So perhaps the truly brilliant OC Genie will be the solution to the poor stock performance? It's a one-button overclock that guarantees good results. Or at least did. There appears to be some bugs in the calculation side of things as it either ran at a disappointing 4.2 GHz or tried to boot at a laughable 28 GHz. Talk about sublime to the ridiculous.
Manual overclocking involves, as always, entering the BIOS. Whilst the MSI comes equipped with the EFI BIOS which is all mouse controlled and very user-friendly. It doesn't take two seconds to get used to with everything laid out where you'd expect and the ability to use your mouse just makes it a pleasant experience. It's not without bugs though. We used the very latest BIOS from MSI but there were still issues with it being unresponsive, or registering a single-click as a double. It makes voltage adjustments quite a hairy proposition.
Once you have got it overclocked we didn't quite reach the heights of the UD7, but at over a hundred pounds cheaper we wouldn't expect it to be. What is disappointing though is how the MSI responds to the overclock. We'd expect a 4.7 GHz CPU to at least give good results but it often struggled to keep up with the Intel reference board at stock.
Hopefully a more mature BIOS will iron out the issues with the BIOS and the OC Genie overclocking, but for now it's very difficult to recommend the MSI P67A-GD65.
If we accept that we might have an average CPU and so we wont get some of the more high-speed overclocks around, it still cannot be denied that the benchmarks both at stock and overclocked don't do the board any justice. If it's possible that Toms, erm, strenuous efforts to overclock it previously have damaged it in some way, we'll gladly come back to this when we get a new chip in hand. For now though we can only go with what we've got on the bench, rather than theoretical improvements.
Even at only £142.99 (Aria) we still feel that there just isn't enough performance to make it a worthy purchase. It's a shame that a board we had high hopes for after the brilliance of the P55 range from MSI entirely fails to deliver.
Thanks to MSI for providing the GD65 for review. Discuss in our forums.