With the launch of LGA 1155 from Intel, MSI is taking the opportunity to expose a technology the processor giant began a few years ago. Unified Extensible Firmware Interface is out to take the throne from your computer's BIOS, and the P67A is equipped to help the revolution. Along with putting MSI's Sandy Bridge board against the best the gaming industry has to offer, we also take a look at the new approach to pre-OS operations.
Product Name: P67A-GD65
Review Sample Provided by: MSI
Review by: Adam
Pictures by: Wes
Intel Sandy Bridge processor in the LGA1155 package
Intel P67 chipset
4 DDR3 DIMMs support DDR3 2133(OC)/ 1600(OC)/ 1333/ 1066 DRAM (16GB Max)
Supports Dual-Channel mode
Supports LAN 10/100/1000 by Realtek RTL8111E
2 IEEE 1394 ports by VIA VT6308P (pinheader x1, rear panel x1)
Chip integrated by Realtek ALC892
Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
4 SATA 3Gb/s ports (SATA3~6 by Intel P67 PCH)
4 SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1~2 by Intel P67 PCH, SATA 7~8 by Marvell 9128)
2 SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA 1~2 by Intel P67 PCH)
2 eSATA ports (back panel) by JMicron JMB362
Back Panel Connectors
1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
1 clear CMOS button
1 Coaxial S/PDIF-out
1 Optical S/PDIF-out
1 IEEE 1394 port
10 USB 2.0 ports
8 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports
2 eSATA ports
1 LAN port
6 flexible audio ports
2 USB 2.0 connectors
1 USB 2.0 connector, 1 USB 3.0 connector
1 IEEE 1394 connector
1 Chassis Intrusion connector
1 CD-In connector
1 S/PDIF-Out connector
1 Front Panel Audio connector
1 TPM Module Connector
1 Serial connector
1 Reset button
1 Power button
1 OC Genie button
1 Voltage Check Point set
1 PCIE 2.0 x16 slots (PCI_E2)
1 PCIE 2.0 x8 (in x16 slot)(PCI_E5)
3 PCIE 2.0 x1 slots
2 PCI slots, support 3.3V/5V PCI bus Interface
ATX (30.5cm X 24.5cm)
9 mounting holes
- Military Class II
- Hi-c Cap
- Solid CAP
- OC Genie
- USB 3.0 x4
- SATA6 x4
- Super Charger
- Snooze Charger
- Mobile Charger
- Instant OC (control center II)
- Winki III
- Power4 Architecture
The P67A's packaging is packed with logos and badges from all of its certifications and compatabilitys, as usual, speaking of the plethora of features the board carries. Second perhaps only to the large font print of the boards name is the 'military class' banner, ensuring the quality of the parts and promobing both its stability and solid cap 10 year lifetime. The reverse is neatly cluttered with a additional information advertising overclockability, USB 3.0 and SATA3, and a preview of the I/O panel.
Inside, you'll unwrap the P67A as well as the included accessories: rear I/O panel cover, four SATA cables, SATA-to-Molex power adapter, USB 3.0 PCI adapter, interface adapters, and a pouch of adapters for voltage measurements. Packed away as well is the user guide, reference pamphlet, and driver disc.
As if you didn't get enough advertising from the box, removing the board from the anti-static sleeve will reveal a few reflective signs placed in choice locations on the board advertising the grade, you know, in case you forgot.
Input headers run mostly along the bottom edge of the board, with a few capacitors heads shuffled here and there. In addition to the usual roster of inputs, you'll note a port for the included USB 3.0 PCI adapter here. The ads for the 'OC Genie' finally manifest once you reach the end with a turbo button accompanying the power and reset quick buttons, a small addition appreciated by those of us running tests. How the Genie works and its efficiency will be discussed later in the Performance section.
The P67A comes equipped with two each of PCI-Express x16, PCI-Express x1, and PCI slots, supporting SLI and CrossFireX. The second x16 slots will in reality act as a x8 slot, since the controller doesn't allow the bandwidth for two x16 to run at once. It's still plenty enough to run whatever you throw at it, as you'll see in our testing procedure we used two Nvidia GTX 580's, arguably the top of the market in power and likewise in performance, without any problems whatsoever. The x16 slots are the only type not aligned next to one another, a decision that will help to guarantee enough room for video cards with a larger heatsink design.
SATA ports sit angled on the right side of the board, expanding the standard P67 chipset limit of two SATA 6Gb/sec to four by including an additional Marvell SE9128 controller. Inside these white SATA3 ports are four SATA2 (3Gb/sec) ports, inversely colored black.
Beginning at the left, the rear I/O panel includes a dual PS/2 port for mouse or keyboard as well as two of the eight USB 2.0 ports. Positioned between this tower and the high-definition audio ports is a small clear CMOS button. An IEEE 1394 port begins the next tower, followed by two more USB 2.0 ports and end in the first eSATA port. The P67A is equipped with two eSATA ports, the other directly beside the first underneath another set of USB 2.0 ports. Since MSI had already used the six SATA port quota on the internal chipset, they've utilized an additional JMicron JMB362 chipset for the rear I/O. Next is a 10/100/1000 LAN port from Realtek, accompanied by the final two USB 2.0 ports. Two USB 3.0 ports sit between this and the six 3.5mm audio outputs.
For memory the P67 is equipped with four DDR3 DIMMs supporting up to 2133Mhz clock speed, as well as Dual-Channel mode. Next to the RAM slots you'll notice a unique 7-pin input box, which is a nice tool used for checking the voltages of the board. Either through use of the adapters mentioned in the Packaging section or simply a Multimeter, the user can easily keep an eye on ratings.
Unified Extensible Firmware Interface has been around for about three years, first began by Intel themselves. UEFI, or 'Click BIOS', is an improvement on the traditional BIOS method that supported keyboard and contrast-colored screens only. The P67A from MSI is equipped with UEFI, which allows for more graphic-based menus, the ability to use a mouse (hence 'Click BIOS'), and LAN support. This isn't the first time MSI has incorporated UEFI into their boards, a few models from the P45 also used the Click BIOS system. However, this may be the first time the technology gets the exposure they're aiming for.
MSI isn't wasting time showing off what UEFI can do. Those use to working within the single-color menus are sure to notice not only a large palette of colors, but also a decent res galaxy image in the background.
The menu itself is navigated mostly by using buttons as opposed to the traditional two-columned menu system. Users can choose from System Status, Advanced option, Nflash, Security, Boot, and Exit while Saving Changes. Once you get deeper into the settings, the menus begin to look more familiar to the BIOS we know, a left side column listing categories and right side options. As mentioned, the UEFI enables the use of a mouse, so you'll be able to maneuver and click to your heart's content.
For those opting for a more personal overclock, the OC menu provides your standard customization options including current CPU and DRAM Frequency, ratios, Vcores, and voltages. This menu also includes a nice readout in the upper right-hand corner giving the user a visual idea of the CPU Frequency and Temperature. The overclock menu also allows for users to store up to six settings profiles.
You can also access a service called Winki from the BIOS menu, which is basically a mini operating system, with the ability to view media files, instant messaging, Skype, hard drive utilities, and even a web browser before the main OS even loads!
The Northbridge heatsink on the P67A is smaller than previous sockets, a trend consistent with many of the new 1155's. A right-angled design still occupies the top-right corner of the CPU directly above the runs of SFC (Super Ferrite Choke) caps. These chokes utilize a dynamic switching method that enables higher current capacity and stability, especially in regard to overclocking. You may also notice the absence of the tall, traditional capacitors in this area, replaced by a much smaller component known as Hi-c caps (Highly-Conductive Polymerized Capacitor). These caps boast a longer life than their predecessors, and provide better thermal stability, with the low-profile design aiding airflow and cooling in general.
The Southbridge area is still fairly typical in its rectangular heatsink design. The P67A is not completely absent of the taller capacitor models, and you'll see a few more collected around this area and the RAM slots, as well as a few more SFC caps.
Our Test Rig
Intel i5-2500K Socket 1155
Crucial Ballistix Tracer 1600MHz RAM 4GB
OCZ Agility 2 60GB SSD
Cooler Master Silent Pro 850W PSU
Sapphire HD 6970 (Build 1)
Nvidia GTX 580 SLI (Build 2)
Stock CPU Cooler
Microcool Banchetto 101 Test bench
Its obvious MSI has put some thought into convenience, not only for a typical user but also enthusiasts who want to micromanage and tweak their system. The one-touch, instant overclock ability from the Genie is a great way for users who may not be comfortable enough to jump into BIOS and start ramping up clock speeds and voltages. The OC Genie is advertised to automatically detect your specific hardware environment and create an overclock that is best (and safe) for the system. It is important to note, however, that this requires an unlocked K version of Intel processors, and the effect varies depending on what board you have. A 'P6x' board, such as this board (P67), or 'performance', will see a boost in CPU and memory, whereas an 'H6x', or 'home' board will see a boost in the integrated GPU. This makes sense, in that performance boards support SLI/CrossFireX but have no onboard graphics, where the home board are the opposite.
Having little experience with the Genie, I booted up the system without it enabled, to pull of CPU-Z and hopefully watch numbers climb when I pressed it. Unfortunately, they didn't budge. With a little homework, I discovered the power must be off before enabling. The clock rating went from 3.3GHz to 4.2GHz, not a bad little boost considering the effort involved. The system consequently ran without stutters or hiccups.
If you are the kind to jump in and start tweaking numbers however, MSI hasn't abandoned you. On the contrary, they have incorporated somewhat of a new technology of UEFI to make your life easier, as mentioned above in the BIOS section. In addition, features like the voltage reader create a much friendlier testing environment.
Worth mentioning too is the absence of a third PCI-E x16, for those users looking to run three graphic card builds. One of the PCI slots at the bottom of the board could have easily been excluded in lieu of another x16 without alienating those still using older graphics cards. With a board such as this that is prepared for future generations of technology, this is a potential deal breaker for a few now and likely more tomorrow.
To test the board, we ran our usual roster of synthetic and real game benchmarks using the build above, both from the AMD and Nvidia perspective. You will notice the absence of a 3DMark 11 result for the GTX 580, since SLI is not supported at this time.
During our HD6970 testing, the GD65 gave us results second to only one board, on par or above the other three. When equipped with the GTX 580 SLI, this board really stood out leading all games framerates except one, short only by 0.1 frame.
Just as in our real game benchmarks, 3D and PCMark show the difference components working with the board can make in performance. The GD65 held the the lead position in CPU score in 3DMark Vantage for both Performance and High Settings, though lagged by a very small amount in overall score. The exception is during SLI testing on peformance, in which MSI took all the medals. Bumping the settings up to High managed to give the competing Gigabyte board a slight advantage however. 3DMark 11 put the GD65 in third for most of our results, though only by about 30 points or so, relatively a small amount when dealing with numbers in the thousands. Again, SLI results in PCMark were a bit more favorable for this board, but its managed to keep its own overall between all boards.
The MSI P67-GD65 is thus far the lowest price P67 board that we've tested; not bad for a board that was on par, and in some cases leading, our test results. The board is a great cornerstone to any build, and more than enough to tackle the most stressful titles that the gaming genre has to offer. Keep in mind that our tests were ran at the stock clock speed, which can be bumped up to around 4.2Ghz at any time by anyone with the press of a single-button. Paired with an improved BIOS interface allowing enthusiasts the ability to navigate with a mouse, the GD65 creates a great coverage for all types of users.