We love Sandy Bridge, and we even like some aspects of the P67 chipset. But, we’ll say it again: Intel’s decision to cheap-out on SATA 6Gb/s will create massive port confusion. With the Asus board, we had to RTFM to figure out which port went to which controller and at what speed. The situation is murkier with the P67A-GD65. The board features eight SATA ports and tells you which are SATA 6Gb/s. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you which controller they’re running off of.
Windows 7 is so smart, though, that it will boot a board on the Marvell controller without missing a beat. However, if you’re running a SATA 6Gb/s drive, you’ll want to be on the Intel PCH, which is a good clip faster than the Marvell part. Unfortunately, the European manual that came with our early review board didn’t tell us which controller ran which ports. The only way to figure it out was to plug in the drive, boot the board, and see which controller initialized in the BIOS.
MSI’s P67A-GD65 is a screaming deal.
But let’s not get sidetracked. Despite this minor documentation issue (perhaps Europeans can sense what port to use), the P67A-GD65 is a solid board that’s seriously cheaper than the Asus board on the facing page. And despite costing $60 less than the Asus P67 mobo, the P67A-GD65 is almost on par with its competitor. It has a secondary SATA 6Gb/s controller, an NEC USB 3.0 controller with two ports, and an additional two ports on a USB 3.0 dongle. What you don’t get is the built-in Bluetooth features of the Asus board, nor its dual-Gigabit ports or front USB 3.0 bay, either. And while Asus gives you a choice of a Realtek network PHY or an Intel PHY, the P67A-GD65 gives you only the former. MSI does, however, give you access to Creative Lab’s X-Fi algorithms. And in a tip of the hat to super-duper overclockers, the board also features a header to directly measure voltages off the board.
Like the Asus board, we tested whether this board could boot to a 3TB Western Digital drive, and both passed. Both also offered good USB 3.0 speed, ran SLI just fine, and offered comparable SATA 6Gb/s performance.
One feature that’s slightly disappointing is the MSI ClickBIOS. MSI actually planned to release a board with UEFI more than a year ago, but that board never materialized. Still, we thought the early lead MSI had would have resulted in a highly polished UEFI interface. It’s not terrible, but at times, the interface felt, well, like a BIOS, but with mouse navigation.
We tested both boards with some mild overclocking, pushing our 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K to 4.5GHz using the wimpy stock cooler. As expected, both passed just fine. Our only issue with the MSI board came with installing the drivers for the Creative audio. As with the Asus board, we’ll chalk it up to early drivers or installers. For example, some of the drivers came on a USB key from the press office, so they’re clearly not final.
Overall, the P67A-GD65 doesn’t quite have the panache or super-smooth UEFI interface of the Asus, but it’s also cheaper. In this economy, if that makes the difference to you owning a GeForce GTX 580, it’s worth it.
UEFI! Native SATA 6Gb/s; seriously cheap
Really confusing SATA ports; pre-release drivers are slightly wonky.
PCMark Vantage 64-bit Overall
Everest Ultimate MEM Read (MB/s)
Everest Ultimate MEM Write (MB/s)
Everest Ultimate MEM Copy (MB/s)
Everest Ultimate MEM Latency (ns)
SiSoft Sandra RAM Bandwidth (GB/s)
3DMark Vantage Overall
3DMark Vantage GPU
3DMark Vantage CPU
Valve Particle Test (fps)
Resident Evil 5 low-res (fps)
HAWX low-res (fps)
HD Tune Pro Sustained Write w/ Marvell 6GB/s Controller (MB/s)
HD Tune Pro Burst (MB/s) (Marvell)
HD Tune Pro Sustained Write w/Intel 6GB/s Controller (MB/s)
HD Tune Pro Burst (MB/s) (Intel)
HD Tune USB 3.0 (MB/s)
16GB POST test
3TB boot test
We used a 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K, 4GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, 64-bit Windows 7 Professional, a Western Digital 150GB Raptor, and an EVGA GeForce GTX 285. To test SATA 6Gb/s, we used a Crucial C300 SATA 6Gb/s SSD on each controller. USB 3.0 performance was tested using an OCZ Enyo. To test SLI, we used two EVGA GeForce GTX 285 cards. The board was also booted with 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1333.