Prepare for the Ivy Bridge.
The MSI Z77A-GD55 marks the introduction of the first Intel Z77 based motherboard we will be reviewing in the coming months. The Z77 chipsets are actually made for the upcoming Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs, but the socket remains the same as Sandy Bridge, i.e. LGA 1155.
The Z77 chipset is quite literally the next-generation upgrade to the Z68 chipset released last year for Sandy Bridge CPUs. On the Z77 you can overclock your processor, memory as well as integrated GPU just like the Z68. Similarly the chipset supports the same number of SATA 2 and SATA 3 ports (4 and 2 respectively). Intel’s Smart Response Technology which uses SSD caching is also present on the Z77 chipset.
The real upgrades come in the form of USB 3.0 support. Where Z68 supported up to 14x USB 2.0 ports, Z77 has them divided by 10x USB 2.0 and 4x USB 3.0 ports. But this is an irrelevant upgrade as most motherboard manufacturers have been supporting USB 3.0 on Intel boards using Marvell controllers over the past two years.
That said, the major advantage every PC enthusiast is looking forward to in Z77 motherboards is PCIe 3.0 expansion slots, an upgrade last seen only on Sandy Bridge-E X79 motherboards. With PCIe 3.0 the bandwidth of graphics card literally doubles that of PCIe 2.0 slots; at least in theory.
So let’s see what comes along with this shiny new motherboard from MSI. Since this is the GD55 version of the Z77A chipset, most of the extra accessories is reserved for some of their higher-end models, like the GD65. What we get are 4x SATA cables, an SLI bridge, a rear I/O panel, drivers CD and installation guide books.