Like the vanilla version of the MSI Z77A-GD65, the gaming version occupies a standard ATX form factor. The colour scheme, however, is quite different. MSI have ditched the black and blue colour scheme in favour of black and red, presumably with the intention of attracting a more gaming focused customer.
It’s quite clear that MSI have designed this board with overclocking in mind as there are some very sizeable heatsinks covering the VRM circuitry surrounding the CPU socket.
We find the 8-pin CPU power connector nestled between these large heatsinks in the top left hand corner of the motherboard.
Moving to the right of the CPU socket there are four DDR3 memory slots which support frequencies of 1066/1333/1600/1866/2000/2133 (OC)/2200 (OC)/2400 (OC)/2600 (OC)/2667 (OC)/2800 (OC)/3000 (OC) MHz in a dual channel configuration. These memory slots seem to be a little closer to the CPU socket than those on most motherboards so we would highly recommend using low-profile memory or perhaps an all-in-one liquid cooler.
Further to the right, we find the 24-pin motherboard power connector. Along the right edge of the motherboard, there are a series of voltage reading points which can be used to accurately measure various system voltages using a volt meter.
Up in the top right hand corner of the motherboard we find on-board power and reset buttons alongside an ‘OC Genie’ button which can be used to activate the automatic overclocking feature.
Moving further down the right hand side of the motherboard we find no fewer than eight SATA connectors. These are made up of four SATA-600 and four SATA-300 connectors. All of the SATA-300 connectors and two of the SATA-600 connectors are controlled through the Intel Z77 chipset while the remaining two SATA-600 connectors are hooked up to an Asmedia ASM1061 chip.
We also find the internal USB3.0 header right next to the SATA ports, angled at 90 degrees to the motherboard like the SATA connectors. This is without doubt the best USB3.0 header configuration we’ve seen as it makes cable management very simple.
Moving along the bottom edge of the motherboard we find the remaining internal headers. From left to right we find a HD Audio header, a 3-pin fan header, a TPM header two front panel headers and three US B2.0 headers. There is also a debug LED located in the bottom right hand corner of the motherboard, just below the chipset heatsink.
There is a generous selection of expansion slots on the motherboard. There are three PCI Express 3.0 lanes running at speeds of 16x, 8x and 4x as well as four PCI Express x1 slots.
There are also a good selection of rear I/O connections. From left to right we find a PS/2 connector, two USB2.0 ports, a clear CMOS switch, optical and analogue S-PDIF connectors, two USB2.0 connectors, a HDMI connector, an RJ-45 Ethernet connector, two USB3.0 connectors, VGA and DVI connectors and six 3.5mm audio jacks.