z68a gd80 a First official pictures of MSIs Z68A GD80 motherboard

We're still at least a few weeks away from Intel's Z68 chipset launch, but it looks like at least some motherboard makers are already getting ready for the big launch. We've gotten our hands on what should be the first official pictures of MSI's upcoming Z68A-GD80 board with the B3 stepping chipset and although not much appears to have changed since CeBIT, these pictures we have are at least very clear and detailed.

z68a gd80 a First official pictures of MSIs Z68A GD80 motherboard

We're still at least a few weeks away from Intel's Z68 chipset launch, but it looks like at least some motherboard makers are already getting ready for the big launch. We've gotten our hands on what should be the first official pictures of MSI's upcoming Z68A-GD80 board with the B3 stepping chipset and although not much appears to have changed since CeBIT, these pictures we have are at least very clear and detailed.

The Z68A-GD80 should be one of MSI's top of the range models, although it's possible that we'll see a Big Bang Z68 board from MSI and we'd expect at least two or three models below it. There isn't much missing on the Z68A-GD80, but strangely enough it's not as feature packed as the P67A-GD80 which seems like a step backwards.

z68a gd80 b First official pictures of MSIs Z68A GD80 motherboard

The slot layout is identical of the two boards with three x16 PCI Express slots in a x16/dual x8 and x4 configuration, two x1 PCI Express slots and two PCI slots. However, MSI has dropped both of the USB 3.0 hubs of the P67A-GD80 and as such we're left with two rear and two front USB 3.0 ports, compared to six rear and four front for the P67A-GD80. On a more positive note MSI has moved one of the eSATA ports internally so there are now seven SATA ports and only one eSATA port which makes a lot more sense.

z68a gd80 c First official pictures of MSIs Z68A GD80 motherboard

Due to the space taken up by the DVI and HDMI ports around the back, we're looking at four USB 2.0 ports, the aforementioned two USB 3.0 ports and eSATA port, a FireWire port, a PS/2 port, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out and finally a clear CMOS button around the back. That's not fantastic in terms of connectivity and we'd actually rather have seen a DisplayPort connector here instead of the large DVI port, as this would've allowed for some additional USB ports around the back.

Overall the Z68-GD80 isn't a bad board, but it's not quite what we'd expect from a flagship product, especially not compared to what MSI is already offering in what will end up being a lesser chipset once the Z68 ships. We have a feeling some of the features were omitted due to the extra cost of the Z68 chipset over the P67 chipset. Interestingly, the internal MSI product code for both the P67A-GD80 and the Z68A-GD80 is the MS-7672, although the version number goes up from 2.1 to 3.0 for the Z68A-GD80 and it's clear the two boards share a very similar board layout, albeit not exactly the same.