With Ivy Bridge on track for an early Q2 release, motherboard makers have already started presenting their upcoming solutions for these processors, and MSI is one of the first to do so with the Z77A-GD80 and the Z77-GD65 Panther Point boards.As it becomes apparent from the names of these two motherboards, they are both based on the Intel Z77 chipset, which means that they feature native USB 3.0 support.
Four such ports are available from the PCH, two of these being routed to the back of the MSI boards while the other two are available via an USB 3.0 header angled at 90 degrees to improve cable routing.
This feature is present in both of the motherboards presented by MSI, but the Z77A-GD80 does come with one important addition that isn’t available in its smaller brother, namely Thunderbolt support.
The controller hasn’t been placed on the motherboard yet, nor is the required port, but MSI has told AnandTech that the design is almost complete and that this features will come standard in the retail version of the Z77A-GD80.
Intel’s Thunderbolt interconnect is said to add between $20 and $30 on average to the final price of any design implementing it.
The rest of the Z77A-GD80 and Z77A-GD65 motherboard specs list include three PCI Express x16 Gen 3.0 slots (we don’t know how these are actually wired), four PCIe x1 slots, four SATA 6Gbps and quad SATA 3Gbps connectors and support for DDR3-2667 memory in OC mode.
A series of MSI specific features such as the OC Genie on-board button and a V-Check header are also present on both of these Intel Z77 motherboards.
Right now, no official details regarding the launch of the two boards are available, but some recent rumors have suggested that Intel will release its first Ivy Bridge processors on April 8, so this is when we expect the two Z77-based solutions to arrive in retail.