MSI 890FXA-GD70 Motherboard Review

MSI has been working hard to improve their reputation as an overclocker-friendly motherboard manufacturer, and I can say I’ve seen a pretty steady improvement in general overclocking performance over the past few years.  The first modern MSI motherboard I did any serious overclocking with was their top end P45 board at Tom’s Hardware Overdrive Competition a couple of years ago.  We ended up destroying most of the competition motherboards in the parking lot after the contest, so we could at least get some kind of satisfaction out of them.

A short time after that, MSI sent me a 790 AMD board for the release of Phenom II.  It was a pretty solid board, but when extreme cooling was applied, the competition left it in the dust.

I skipped MSI’s early X58 boards, but I can definitely say for P55, they stepped up their game, and after reviewing several more of their motherboards, I went from expecting mediocrity to experiencing bleeding-edge performance.  I’m happy to say MSI’s newest addition to their AMD line of motherboards is one of my favorite products yet.

First Look

Specs

Socket AM3
CPU Max Support Phenom II
FSB/HTT Bus up to 5200MT/s
Chipset AMD RD890+SB850
DDR3 Memory DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600/2133(OC)
Memory Channel Dual
DIMM Slots 4
Max Memory 16 GB
PCI-Ex16 5
PCI-E Gen 2.0 Gen2 (2×16, 2×8, 1×4)
PCI-Ex4 1
SATA III Ports 6
LAN 10/100/1000*2
USB 3.0 Ports (Rear) 2
USB 2.0 Ports (Rear) 6
Audio Ports (Rear) 6+Coaxial SPDIF/Optical SPDIF

Features

Unlock CPU Core Easy CPU core unlocking through BIOS
Auto OC Genie Auto-BIOS detection for automatic overclocking
OC-Dial Real time FSB adjustment
DrMOS Low temp, long life MOSFETs
APS Active Phase Switching for power efficiency
140w Support Support for high end 140W CPUs
Hi-C CAP Highly-conductive polymerized capacitors
M-Flash Easy BIOS flashing and backup from BIOS M-Flash menu
M-Connectors Easy connecting to front panel & chassis cable

890FXA-GD70 Box

890FXA-GD70 Box

890FXA-GD70 Box Back

890FXA-GD70 Box Bac

The 890FXA-GD70 comes out of the box sporting MSI’s usual (as of late) blue on black color scheme, with aluminum cooling hardware.   Packaged accessories include 4 SATA cables, 2 SATA power, 1 PATA cable, 1 USB 2.0 bracket, 6-in-1 M-Connectors, 1 Crossfire bridge, and user manuals.

890FXA-GD70 Motherboard

890FXA-GD70 Motherboard

890FXA-GD70 Accessories

890FXA-GD70 Accessories

The socket area is spacious, and was very easy to quickly insulate for the frozen part of my testing.  I’ve been waiting for AMD boards with alternate DIMM slots for dual channel to become the norm.  I guess I’ll keep waiting.

890FXA-GD70 Socket Area

890FXA-GD70 Socket Area

890FXA-GD70 DDR3 Slots

890FXA-GD70 DDR3 Slots

The 890FXA-GD70 sports five PCI-E 2.0 slots, with 2 at 16x, 2 at 8x, and 1 at 4x.  There is alos a PCI-E 4x slot, and a PCI slot.

890FXA-GD70 Expansion Slots

890FXA-GD70 Expansion Slots

890FXA-GD70 I/O Panel

890FXA-GD70 I/O Panel

In addition to the six SATA III ports in this corner, MSI has included power and reset buttons, as well as an OC Dial, which I made heavy use of throughout the testing process.

890FXA-GD70 SATA 6GB/s Ports

890FXA-GD70 SATA 6GB/s Ports

890FXA-GD70 Buttons & OC Dial

890FXA-GD70 Buttons & OC Dial

890FXA-GD70 Mosfet Heatsink

890FXA-GD70 Mosfet Heatsink

890FXA-GD70 8-Pin CPU Power

890FXA-GD70 8-Pin CPU Power

890FXA-GD70 Back

890FXA-GD70 Back

890FXA-GD70 Expansion Area Back

890FXA-GD70 Expansion Area Back

890FXA-GD70 Naked

890FXA-GD70 Naked

890FXA-GD70 Naked MOSFETs

890FXA-GD70 Naked MOSFETs

890FXA-GD70 Naked Northbridge

890FXA-GD70 Naked Northbridge

890FXA-GD70 Naked Southbridge

890FXA-GD70 Naked Southbridge

The BIOS

MSI’s BIOS has all the screens and settings you’d expect, and a few unique ones.

BIOS Main

BIOS Main

Advanced BIOS Features

Advanced BIOS Features

Integrated Peripherals

Integrated Peripherals

Power Management

Power Management

H/W Monitor

H/W Monitor

Dr.MOS Temperature

Dr.MOS Temperature

With MSI’s M-Flash utility, you can update your BIOS from a flash drive in only a few seconds.  There’s no longer any need for even booting from a flash drive to update BIOS, you can do it right from this menu.  I posted a video of this on Youtube the first time I encountered it.  The flashing procedure seems to take even less time on more recent motherboard models such as this one.  MSI also includes six “Overclocking Profiles” for storing six different sets of overclocking settings.

M-Flash

M-Flash

Overclocking Profile

Overclocking Profile

And this is where the real fun begins.  The Cell Menu is where all of MSI’s magic dust is hidden.  If you want to push your components to their limits, this is where it’s done.  Conversely, if you want a quiet, low-power computer, I guess you can make that happen here as well.  From the usual frequency and voltage adjustments to the extra CPU core unlocking support, MSI’s Cell Menu has grown into quite the powerful overclocking tool.  If you’re confused about what something does, most items even show an exceptionally detailed description when selected.

Cell Menu Top

Cell Menu Top - CPU Freq. & Features

Cell Menu Middle - Core Unlocking

Cell Menu Middle - Core Unlocking

Cell Menu - Memory & HTT Freq.

Cell Menu - Memory & HTT Freq.

Cell Menu - Voltage Adjustment

Cell Menu - Voltage Adjustment

Cell Menu - Advanced DRAM

Cell Menu - Advanced DRAM

Cell Menu - Memory SPD Info

Cell Menu - Memory SPD Info

Testing Setup

Testing components

  • Phenom II X6 1055T
  • MSI 890FXA-GD70
  • 2x2gb Crucial D9JNL Sticks
  • HD 5870 @ 1000/1230MHz
  • OCZ 1000w PSU
  • CoolIT ECO A.L.C.
  • Dragon F1EE for LN2 testing

USB 3 Testing

I was looking forward to testing for improvement in MSI’s USB 3.0 implementation since the 890GXM-G65 I tested a couple of months ago.  Using the same Kingwin Dock Master and a Samsung 1TB HDD, we see the 890FXA-GD70 provides a ~68MB/s improvement in burst speed over the 890GXM-G65.

890GXM-G65 USB 3.0 - HD Tach
890GXM-G65 USB 3.0 – HD Tach
890FXA-GD70 USB 3.0 - HD Tach

890FXA-GD70 USB 3.0 - HD Tach

Results

When overclocking this platform on air, you’re limited only by your cooling and willingness to push voltage through your components (up to a point).  Clocking the X6 1055T to well over 4.5GHz turned out to be quite easy, but it was far from stable when any kind of CPU load was applied.  Getting a 4.2GHz, perfectly stable overclock was also pretty easy.  But since I don’t see most  end users running that fast 24/7, I did the following benchmarks at settings I would call effortless, and perfectly suitable for daily use, given adequate cooling.  It’s worth mentioning I was able to hit 370MHz fsb before needing to put any effort into tweaking.

890FXA-GD70 Ambient Setup

890FXA-GD70 Ambient Setup

wPrime @ 4100MHz

wPrime at 4100MHz

Super Pi at 4100MHz

Super Pi at 4100MHz

Cinebench at 4100MHz

Cinebench at 4100MHz

Everest Memory & Cache

Everest Memory & Cache

3DMark 05 at 4100MHz

3DMark 05 at 4100MHz

3DMark 06 at 4200MHz

3DMark 06 at 4200MHz

3DMark Vantage at 4100MHz

3DMark Vantage at 4100MHz

For LN2 testing, I wanted to run some 3DMark Vantage with a frozen HD 5870, but my card and GPU pot were out on loan at the time.  So a team member and I did some benching with the X6 and his HD 4870 with the following results.  I didn’t get a chance to push CPU clock any further because I ran out of LN2.

890FXA-GD70 LN2 Setup

890FXA-GD70 LN2 Setup

3DMark Vantage at 5300MHz

3DMark Vantage at 5300MHz

3DMark 05 at 5500MHz

3DMark 05 at 5500MHz

3DMark 06 at 5500MHz

3DMark 06 at 5500MHz

wPrime at 5320MHz - Gold Cup 1024m Score

wPrime at 5320MHz - 1024m Gold Cup Score

wPrime 32m Silver Cup Score

wPrime 32m Silver Cup Score

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

I’ve been testing plenty of MSI’s motherboards on Intel side lately, and I’m happy to see MSI delivering the features and performance we need to get the most out of our components on their AMD products too.

I will say I managed to kill the original board MSI sent me, and had to buy a replacement to finish this review.  I did learn a valuable lesson though, and I think in the future I’ll finish my air testing before jumping into the LN2 stuff.  I’ll also be covering the exposed memory slots better so they don’t turn into little lakes.

Not taking my little mishap into account, I had a blast testing this motherboard.  At no point was my performance limited by the board, but by the rest of my components, like the value ram (which is actually really nice with a little extra voltage) and the average CPU.  I wanted to put a 1090T into the board for some serious overclocking, but I have an MSI XPower sitting here waiting for my attention.  Look for that review coming up shortly.  Until then, happy overclocking!

I’d like to give my thanks to MSI for allowing me to test this product.

-sno.lcn

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>