AMD is a company that not too long ago was on top. They had done something that no one thought possible; they were able to outperform Intel clock for clock. But they had a problem; they had a winning CPU but had to rely on others for a solid platform to run on. This prompted AMD to buy ATi (one of the companies that had a good chipset for AMD) which gave them a GPU business and a chipset business. The problem has been paying the bill on that particular purchase. This has prevented them from putting a lot of money into R&D and has also led to some, well unimpressive products (on the CPU side not the GPU). We have worked through several CPUs and chipsets; each one improving a little over the other but never really catching up to what Intel has on the market. Now things could be different; nVidia has allowed SLI on an AMD chipset and AMD is making good strides in terms of what their chipsets can do (with limitations from the CPU and IMC). We have their latest chipset in the form of the Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5. This is a Three-Way SLI AMD motherboard with lots to offer. We are going to look at the design, layout, and cover some design philosophy and features along the way.
At the request of some of our readers we are going to start splitting up the way we do our reviews. However, instead of the normal “unboxings” that we find out on the Internet we are going to break up our normal review into two distinct parts. There will be the first part that will cover design choices, board layout, and features. This will be followed up with our normal performance section. We feel that this will give everyone the pieces and parts they are looking for. You can still read both (they will be crosslinked) and also discuss them on our new forum, but this way we can cover things quicker and in a more complete fashion without making each review too long. For our first dive into this new style we have the MSI Z68A-GD80B3 up on the test bench and behind the camera lens. This board follows the same trend as most of MIS’s recent product, but now they are into their second generation; you get Military Class II and OC Genie II. So let’s dive into the more theoretical part of our review and take a look at the packaging, board layout and the features for the MSI Z68A-GD80B3.