MSI is has become the first manufacturer to launch a PCI Express gen 3 motherboard, in the form of the Z68A-GD80 (G3). The board also confirms to Intel's latest design standard, making it decently future proof, which is important as it will be a while before hardware demanding the bandwidth offered by PCI-E gen 3 surfaces.
Offering twice the bandwidth - 32GB/s - of gen 2 PCI Express, gen 3 is a notable improvement. The number of devices that can come close to saturating a 16x gen 2 PCI-E slot is fairly limited, but with advances in PCI-E based solid-state storage, and ever increasingly powerful GPUs, among other devices, it probably won't be long before the extra throughput has a use found for it.
The Z86A-GD80 (G3) is based on Intel's socket-1155 Z86 chipset, and features two PCI Express gen 3 slots, one 16x and one 8x, in addition to three gen 2 slots: a single 16x PCI a pair of 1x. There are four DIMM slots, enabling the system to accept up to 32GB of RAM in total, four SATA-II and three SATA-III ports should cover all likely storage options, and a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports is welcome, if fairly standard.
Other than its faster PCI Express ports, the other unique features offered by the Z86A-GD80 (G3) include its Click BIOS II, which offers a homogenised interface between both the boot-time UEFI and Windows controls, HDMI 1.4, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, and Virtu switchable graphics, which will toggle between integrated and dedicated GPUs depending on the need.
The Z68A-GD80 (G3) isn't on sale yet, so pricing isn't known. However, the B3 version of the board, which lacks PCI Express gen 3, is selling for about £170, and the G3 will almost certainly command some premium over its lesser-equipped alternative once it goes on sale.