During this year's CeBIT in the beginning of March, MSI announced it was developing a new line of motherboards aimed specifically at gamers. They're based on existing boards, but have different cooling and a number of gamer-oriented hardware features. We tested the first one in the series called Z77A-GD65 Gaming.
This motherboard is based on the previously-reviewed MSI Z77A-GD65. The completely different color scheme and coolers give the board a different appearance, but closer inspection reveals that the new Gaming board is virtually identical to the existing GD65 model. When you put their specs side-by-side you see that this is indeed the case.
Other differences include the Dragon logo on the chipset cooler, the same logo used on MSI gaming laptops. MSI wants to tie together all of its gaming products. A nice little detail is the fact that the dragon head can also be found hidden in other places on the motherboard. The new color scheme is black and red. Perhaps not so unique, but MSI seems to think that gamers like it.
Hardware-wise there are two changes compared to the standard GD65 board. MSI replaced the Intel network chip with a Killer E2205. It gives network traffic from games precedence over other traffic, which should keep lag as low as possible. The first time we tested a KillerNic network card we were not able to verify this objectively, and the manufacturer has yet to provide us with a reviewers guide on how to determine the difference with a conventional network card. However, what's a definite plus are the special drivers that let you prioritize how your bandwidth is used and they keep statistics on all of your network traffic.
Another change is that MSI allegedly used three times the amount of gold for two USB ports, that should be able to withstand 1000 pluggings and unpluggings. Even for avid LAN party attendees 1000 times is a lot, and USB ports physically breaking on motherboards is rare as far as we know.
The software has been enhanced as well with gamers in mind. The Realtek ALC898 audio chip now comes with Creative Sound Blaster Cinema software that can turn stereo into surround, and also create an impression of surround sound on stereo speakers or a headset. The BIOS also has the red gaming theme, but the settings and options are identical to the standard GD65.
MSI also claims that the GD65 Gaming is compatible with DDR3-3000 RAM modules which the normal GD65 isn't, but we did not have any of those exotic modules available to test it.