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MSI launches world’s first PCI-Express 3 mainboard

While the race to release the world’s first PCI-Express 3 graphic card is underway in the background, MSI has beaten its rivals to the punch with the world’s first mainboard to support Intel’s new industry standard. It is called the Z68A-GD80 (G3) and KitGuru got happy with the snappy.

It always strikes us an unusual when companies build huge stands, but have ‘world record holders’ tucked away around the back.

This was the case with MSI’s stand at Computex 2011.

While the main display did hold the new X79 and 990FX chipset designs (and very nice they look as well – more on those late), there was a humbling first hiding around the back.

Fortunately, we had the amazingly named Devine Chao on hand to point out the really cool stuff.

Worlds first PCI-Express 3 mainboard - Z68A-GD80 (G3) - presented by friendly expert Devine Chao

For those with memories as long as an elephant’s, the original Peripheral Component Interconnect Express specification was based around multiple ‘lanes’ of data transfer bus technology – that can be (effectively) bundled together in order to increase bandwidth further.

So a single lane would give you 250MB/sec, but a bunch of 8 of these could easily be brought together to give you an effective 2GB/sec, bi-directional.

PCI-Express 2 increased the throughput by 100%, which gave each lane 500MB/sec capability.

The new PCI-Express 3 standard takes this to 1GB/sec each. Nice.


So when Devine, Project Manager for MSI’s Technical Marketing Department in New Taipei City, offered to pose with the new board, we were very happy chappies indeed.

Board detail, specification and sticker telling you that it's a 'first'

Bandwidth these days, is being loaded more and more with the release of each generation of game and associated hardware. Consider the fact that when KitGuru tested the Radeon HD 6850, it delivered decent gaming results. But, only a few short months later, when we got a pair of Radeon HD 6990 cards into our reference rig – the 3DMark scores shot up by several hundred per cent. The correlation between on-screen performance and on-board bandwidth requirements are not 100%, but there’s definitely a correlation. More is certainly better.

From a single 1x PCI-Express 1.0 connection at 250MB/sec to a 16x PCI-Express 3 connection at 16GB/sec is definitely progress. Which we like. A lot.

When KitGuru labs lines up the Radeon HD 7990 against nVidia’s GTX690, will the additional bandwidth available on PCI-Express 3 mainboards be noticeable?  Given we had an expert on hand, we decided to ask.

“In our own initial testing, at the very high-end, we’re already seeing benchmark improvements of up to 10% with dual SSD drives”, said Devine. “But remember, that’s using traditional PCI-Express 2 graphic cards”.

Also very important, is the fact that this board is future proof – as it is 100% Ivy Bridge compatible. Impressive.

"Any attempt to take product from the MSI stand will be met by great anger and furious violence", said Devine - guarded by several well-armed soldiers of the MSI Plastic Army.

KitGuru says: It’s only a matter of time before MSI’s rivals also release PCI-Express 3 mainboards, but – for now – it’s a nice ‘first’ for Devine’s team with the Z68A-GD80 (G3).

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