Despite the increased power phase system on this board, there is about the same amount of room around the CPU socket for heatsink installation that we found on the GD65. This should allow you to use medium to large heatsinks, granted the heatspreaders on your memory aren't very large. I have run into this issue with every Socket 1155 board I have tested with the exception of the ASUS P8P67 EVO, which does NOT use the memory slot closest to the CPU as the default slot in two-stick dual channel configuration.
The memory I have been using lately with my Sandy Bridge reviews is the OCZ Flex EX PC3-17000 that features very large heatspreaders. When this was combined with the Noctua NH-D14 CPU cooler, problems arose with clearance. I was able to use the combination on the EVO review but I had to remove the outermost fan on the Noctua sink. With the GD65, this wasn't an option as the heatspreaders on the memory still didn't clear the heatsink. It looks like that will be the case here today as well so I will be using a different cooler.
As I touched on earlier, MSI has equipped this board with Driver MOSfet, or DrMOS. DrMOS is MSI's power-saving technology and with everyone now "going green", it's a good trend to get in on. With DrMOS, MSI has combined three separate chips (bottom-MOSFET, top-MOSFET and Driver IC) into one that results in more efficient power, lower temperatures and longer life.
Moving down the board we find another 3-pin fan header, three PCIe x16 slots, two PCIe x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots. Across the bottom of the board from left to right are connections for: front panel audio header, S/PDIF header, Firewire header, reset button, power button, OC Genie button, two front panel USB 3.0 headers, three front panel USB 2.0 headers and front panel I/O headers.
The OC Genie II allows for 1 second overclocking simply by pressing the button before booting your computer. MSI claims gains of up to 36% performance just by pushing a button. This, of course, is if you are using a "K" series CPU. The OC Genie button works on H67 boards as well, although it functions as a GPU booster, not a CPU + Memory booster as it does on P67 offerings.
Moving up the right side of the board we find more headers: another front panel header, MSI future control card connector, a Trusted Platform Module header, chassis intrusion header and a clear CMOS jumper. There are a couple of extra headers that are unlisted in the manual, labeled on the board as JSPI 1 and J1. A Google search reveals that JSPI 1 is used to program the BIOS by MSI; I'm not sure what J1 is used for, but it clearly isn't important to the end-user.
As was the case on the GD65, MSI uses front panel adapters for the front panel connectors rather than just labeling the pins on the board. I don't really care for this as you would have a problem should you happen to misplace the adapter. On the GD65, MSI supplied a small printed diagram near the front panel connectors. I don't see anything like that on the GD80 unfortunately.
There are six SATA connectors on the right side of the board. The two white connectors are SATA 6Gb/s while the four black connectors are 3Gb/s. The chipset cooler has been rotated on the GD80 board and is now in a vertical position.
The rear I/O panel includes the following connections, from left to right: PS/2 keyboard / mouse port, a clear CMOS button, coaxial and optical S/PDIF-out, FireWire port, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA ports, two LAN ports, four more USB 3.0 ports and six audio jacks (Line-in, Line-out, Mic, RS-Out, CS-out, SS-out). The back of the board is pretty uneventful, as all are. MSI sure loaded this board up with USB 3.0 ports which is a great idea to help future-proof your system.
That covers the physical features of the board. Let's move ahead and check out our test hardware.