On Computex Taipei 2011, MSI exhibited a new revision of the Z68-based motherboard we recently tested. The most interesting feature of the Z68A-GD80 G3 is the fact that this is the world’s first motherboard with PCI Express 3.0!

Even though the Sandy Bridge processors nor the Z68 chipset officially support PCI Express 3.0, engineering department opted for an ingenious solution and adjusted the wiring and signaling to make sure PCIe 3.0 signal gets through. Also, the company changed the connectors, with the first two PCIe x16 being 3.0 compliant, wiuth x8 one being 2.0. They’re still backwards compatible with PCIe 1.x and 2.0 products, but fully support PCIe 3.0 features as well. Besides PCIe 3.0, the motherboard also has the redesigned UEFI Touch interface.

MSI's Z68A-GD80 is getting a third revision, and this one packs an updated UEFI BIOS and PCI Express 3.0. Picture Credit: VR-Zone
MSI’s Z68A-GD80 is getting a third revision, and this one packs an updated UEFI BIOS and PCI Express 3.0. Picture Credit: VR-Zone

According to people in the know, you should achieve better results even with the PCIe 2.0 components due to improvements in the standard. Bear in mind that PCIe 2.0 delivered double bandwidth from 1.0, but also introduced "8b/10b encoding which results in a 20% overhead on the raw bit rate." PCI Express 3.0 removes the requirement for 8b/10b encode and uses a method called "scrambling". Thus, PCIe parts should have up to 1.5% overhead, which is a massive improvement over today’s standard.

This move by MSI clearly demonstrates that the company plans to manufacture PCIe 3.0-compliant components as well. We would not be surprised if the company is preparing new revisions of AMD Radeon HD 6990 and nVidia GeForce GTX 590 cards supporting PCIe 3.0, as those cards have a separate PCIe bridge MSI can tweak to bring it up to 3.0 specification.

It will be quite interesting to see who of the Solid State Storage manufacturers will blink first and launch a PCIe 3.0-based SSD (should we write SSC i.e. Solid State Card?).