The X58 Motherboards You Can Afford


MSI X58A-GD65

MSI X58A-GD65

Finally, we get to the MSI X58A-GD65, which along with the high-end Big Bang-XPower, is the company's attempt to rejuvenate the X58 chipset with newer models that offer SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 support. Since it has been more than a year from the last budget X58 board we saw from MSI, the X58 Pro-E, the board design has changed significantly. Gone is the brown PCB, for a darker, but still brown PCB, but we jest.

The main difference between now and then is the choice of components, with MSI embarking on its 'Military Class' components, featuring new ferrite chokes and digital PWMs. MSI has also ditched older interfaces like IDE support, with the space going to the two new SATA 6Gbps ports (Marvell controller again).

Not everything has been changed though, with MSI strangely keeping with its hardware OC jumpers, which allow users to toggle between three set base clock frequencies, 133, 166 and 200MHz. Naturally, we aren't too keen on using this, unless it's to bring an overclocked system back from the brink, but again, that's what the Clear CMOS button is for. So instead of the OC Genie that's prominently featured on the Big Bang-XPower, there's no such equivalent on the more budget-friendly GD65. More than the high-end boards, we think features lik the OC Genie should propogate to their lower tier boards as well.

Like its competitors, the MSI X58A-GD65 offers a similar set of features, with USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps the important ones. Others include 3-way SLI/CrossFireX, the ICH10R Southbridge and its six SATA 3.0Gbps ports and of course, the same triple-channel memory architecture. Unlike the ASUS and Gigabyte boards in this roundup, we did find Power and Reset buttons on this board.

Compared to the two boards from ASUS and Gigabyte, the X58A-GD65 from MSI felt the lightest. It's however the same, ugly brown PCB with blue and black to differentiate the various expansion/DIMM slots.

Again, the blue USB ports are USB 3.0 capable. There are also two eSATA ports in blue along with FireWire, and optical/coaxial S/PDIF outputs. A small Clear CMOS button is also found.

The two white ports are SATA 6Gbps versions, with six other black SATA 3.0Gbps ones. The amount of extra PCB besides the white SATA ports hint at this design being reused from a higher-end X58 board. Or it could just be the IDE connector that has been removed.

The usual six DIMM slots with the ATX power connector.

There's surprisingly no OC Genie on this board, but there's a manual jumper setting to toggle the base clock between 133, 166 and 200MHz.

With three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots spaced out evenly, it's no surprise that this board can support 3-way SLI/CrossFireX. Looking at the right, while MSI has tried to put the heatsink out of the way of the PCIe x1 slot, it still seems a tad insufficient to us for anything but a short expansion card.

The typical onboard controllers that are found on many of today's motherboards. From audio to Ethernet to FireWire and of course now, the NEC USB 3.0 controller that's apparently the only option for USB 3.0 support.

A minimal amount of passive cooling is found near the CPU socket. Digital PWMs and what MSI dubs 'icy chokes' are used.

The layout of the GD65 was mostly excellent, due in part to its lack of onboard clutter. The passive heatsinks on this board were minimal, with ample amount of PCB space. Interestingly, no heapipes were used. The SATA ports were aligned outwards and will not interfere with the graphics cards. In short, except for a possibly limited PCIe x1 slot, we were quite pleased with what we found on this board.