MSI’s Z68A-GD55 is designed to compete directly against Gigabyte’s Z68XP-UD3, but it ended up priced $10 higher (before a mail-in rebate) at the time this story went live. The current MIR returns $20 to the buyer's pocket.
VGA and DVI ports consume more space than USB. MSI’s attempt to satisfy integrated, discrete, and integrated plus discrete markets force it to give up four USB 2.0 ports compared to Gigabyte. But the firm still manages to fit a legacy digital/coaxial audio jack into some of the space given up by its rival. The Z68A-GD55 is also the only motherboard in today’s roundup to include a CLR_CMOS button on the rear panel, which assists overzealous overclockers in their recovery efforts.
MSI supports the same x16/x0 and x8/x8 automatic pathway switching for single and dual graphics cards found on its competitor’s product, though the Z68A-GD55 adds a slightly more elaborate CPU voltage regulator. Tantalum capacitors and super ferrite chokes keep CPU cooler clearance in check.
A combination of front-panel and rear-panel USB 3.0 controllers also matches the competing product, though MSI ditches the FireWire and third-party SATA controller.
MSI does, however, add two features that some overclockers will surely find handy: a row of pins along the motherboard’s front edge allows experts to more easily monitor voltage levels, while amateur overclockers might also be tempted to push the “OC Genie” automatic overclocking utility button.
The Z68A-GD55 layout is nearly perfect, lacking any noticeable conflicts between cards and ports. Still, the front-panel audio jack is in the love-it or hate-it bottom-rear corner, where love or hate is dictated by case design and cable length.
MSI includes the same selection of cables as its competitor, but in different colors. Also included is a set of front-panel quick connectors, of which only the LED/power connector is really useful for most builders. This one-piece connector joins the individual cable ends supplied with most retail cases.
Now I just wish Intel would do the same -- can't they just rip off Asus's UEFI implementation?
Do you stare into your case whilst computing, or do you look at the monitor?
Some cheap monitors still use VGA, but these boards are not for the budget market! For VGA compatibility (for external capture devices and such) they could just use DVI-I and let the oddball user who needs VGA for that oddball purpose supply his own adapter.