The MSI Z87-GD65is firmly in the middle ground. Not ultra cheap, not ultra expensive, but pragmatically somewhere in between and with a gaming focused twist.

Unsurprisingly, it's a bit of a mishmash. The back panel feels pretty budget and there are only six USB ports in total (four of them USB 3.0). DisplayPort is also a conspicuous absentee.

On the other hand, you get both AMD Crossfire and Nvidia SLI support, which is a must for any board that's pitching itself as a gaming platform.

You also get a grand total of eight SATA ports, all 6Gbps, though two of them are driven by a discrete chip, the rest are from the Z87 chipset.

More specifically gaming relevant are the Killer E2200 network adapter for low latency and a PS/2 port with a 1,000Hz poll rate for maximum response. Nice if you use PS2 peripherals, which only the hardest of hardcore do these days. It's debatable how much benefit these features bring, but MSI deserves kudos for the effort.

The same goes for the V-check points. It's the sort of thing that only very serious overclockers are going to care about, and yet it's still fun to have such a cutting-edge feature. You also get hardware power and reset buttons, LED debug, a quick switch for toggling between two BIOS images, MSI's OC Genie button for idiot-proof overclocking and EMI shielding for audio.

The components generally look slick. There's heat pipe cooling and an air of pricey premiumness. At which point, the MSI Z87-GD65 looks like a very nice deal.

Benchmarks

Multi-thread CPU performance
Cinebench 11.5: Index score: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 8.03
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 8.34
Asus Z87-Pro: 8.05
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 8.06
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 8.05
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 8.11
MSI Z87-G43: 8.5
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 8.48
MSI Z87 XPower: 8.5

Single-thread CPU performance
Cinebench 11.5: Index score: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 1.75
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 1.75
Asus Z87-Pro: 1.76
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 1.75
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 1.72
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 1.77
MSI Z87-G43: 1.72
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 1.71
MSI Z87 XPower: 1.72

Video encode performance
X264 4.0: Frames per second: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 45.5
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 46.3
Asus Z87-Pro: 45.6
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 45.5
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 45.5
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 45.7
MSI Z87-G43: 45.7
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 46.5
MSI Z87 XPower: 47.5

Memory bandwidth @ optimised defaults
SiSoft Sandra: Gigabytes per second: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 17.38
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 17.24
Asus Z87-Pro: 17.47
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 17.25
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 17.45
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 17.56
MSI Z87-G43: 17.32
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 17.2
MSI Z87 XPower: 17.39

Gaming performance
Shogun: Total War 2: Frames per second: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 38.4
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 39.4
Asus Z87-Pro: 38.1
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 34.5
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 37.1
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 37.9
MSI Z87-G43: 44.6
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 38.9
MSI Z87 XPower: 39.5

Maximum overclock performance
4770K: Gigahertz: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 4.7
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 4.7
Asus Z87-Pro: 4.7
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 4.0
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 4.7
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 4.5
MSI Z87-G43: 4.6
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 4.6
MSI Z87 XPower: 4.7

Verdict

Overall, the performance at stock clocks is very solid to boot, while a top clock for our 4770K test chip of 4.6GHz is only just behind the very best. This is one hell of an all-round package.

In fact, it's strong enough to give Asus's Sabertooth Z87 a fright. Lose the Sabertooth's cladding and back brace and there's little doubt this MSI board has more high quality components and a better feature set, and it's cheaper. That the Sabertooth remains marginally the better overclocker does confuse the issue, admittedly, but at current pricing, MSI gets the nod - if only by a whisker.