Z68MA G45 1 MSI readying second mATX Z68 board

So far MSI has announced surprisingly few Intel Z68 based motherboards and if you swing by MSI's website you'll notice that there are a mere three models listed. A fourth model and MSI's second mATX Z68 board is on the way though, although we don't quite follow MSI's reasoning on where this model ends up in MSI's range of boards.

So far MSI has announced surprisingly few Intel Z68 based motherboards and if you swing by MSI's website you'll notice that there are a mere three models listed. A fourth model and MSI's second mATX Z68 board is on the way though, although we don't quite follow MSI's reasoning on where this model ends up in MSI's range of boards.

The upcoming model is called the Z68MA-G45 and the G in the second half of the model name signifies that this is a gaming board. The current mATX model is the Z68MA-ED55 where the E tells you that it's part of MSI's Extreme series of boards and as such should be a higher-end model than the Z68MA-G45, but this isn't quite the whole truth in this case.

Z68MA G45 1 MSI readying second mATX Z68 board

You see, the Z68MA-ED55 sports a pair of x16 PCI Express slots, but the board lacks support for CrossFire and SLI, as the secondary slot only offers four lanes worth of bandwidth. A surprising move on a high-end model like this and what's even more surprising is that the upcoming Z68MA-G45 offers support for both CrossFire and SLI. The basic layout of the two boards is near identical, with two x16 PCI Express slots and two x1 PCI Express slots, but the Z68MA-G45 is equipped with the all-important switches which enables the two slots to work in dual x8 mode, or at least it is if you want to use two graphics cards.

The Z68MA-G45 should end up cheaper than the Z68MA-ED55 as well, as the missing D in the model name signifies DrMOS, something that isn't present on the Z68MA-G45. The board has a fairly basic 4+1 PWM design whereas the Z68MA-ED55 sports DrMOS, SFC chokes and tantalum capacitors, all of which are expensive components and none of which are present on the Z68MA-G45. That said, we're not looking at a feature stripped board beyond this as pretty much everything you'd want it still there.

Z68MA G45 2 MSI readying second mATX Z68 board

As this is a mATX board it only has the standard four SATA 3Gbps and two SATA 6Gbps ports from the Intel chipset. What struck us as rather unusual when we first saw the pictures of the board were the angled pin-headers along the bottom edge, as they're all at 90 degree angle. The reason behind this appears to be so that you can fit a dual-slot graphics card easier, but you'd of course need a case with five slots at the back for this to work.

There appear to be three pin-headers for a total of six USB 2.0 ports, but things like the front audio, S/PDIF in and the chassis connectors are all also at an angle. Oddly enough MSI has also included pin-headers for a serial and a parallel port, just above the power connector. The board sports a really simple heatsink, although the one in our pictures might not be the final one.

Z68MA G45 3 MSI readying second mATX Z68 board

Around the back we find a PS/2 port, six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports (MSI is still using Renesas chips), a Gigabit Ethernet port, 7.1-channel audio and a D-sub, DVI and HDMI port. The only things missing here compared to the Z68MA-ED55 are a FireWire port and an optical S/PDIF of which only the latter might be an issue for some users.

The board should arrive shortly and it comes with Lucid Logix's Virtu software. Sadly we don't know what it'll cost, but judging by how many features MSI dropped, we'd bet this will be a pretty affordable board. At least this is one of only a handful of mATX Z68 board in the market and looking at the specs alone, this could turn out to be a fairly successful model for MSI. Just one thing MSI, when you have to start putting "Top Quality & Stability" on your boxes to convince your potential customers that you have a great product, then something has gone a little bit wrong.