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It’s been a while since AMD introduced a new chipset. The 890GX-SB850 has several new features, including USB 3.0, SATA 3, 6-core CPU support, and upgraded integrated graphics with DirectX 10.1 support. MSI is getting into the 890GX game immediately, and has sent me their 890GXM-G65 for testing. Though the 890GXM-G65 is part of MSI’s “Gaming Series,” here I’ll be testing it in an HTPC setting.
890GXM-G65 Specs and Features
|Processor||Support for AMD Phenom™ II / Athlon™ II/Sempron Processors (AM3)|
|Chipset||AMD 890GX / SB850|
|Memory||4 DIMMs support for DDR3-2133(OC)/1333/1066 MHz up to 16GB max|
|Video||ATI Radeon HD4290 GPU Integrated with HDMI,D-SUB port & Direct X 10.12 x PCI Express x16 slot|
|Audio||8-channel (7.1) HD Audio subsystem (192K/24bit 2ch)|
|LAN||10/100/1000 Mbits / sec LAN subsystem|
|Peripheralinterfaces||5 x SATA 6.0 Gbps ports from SB850 ; 1 eSATA 3.0 / USB 2.0 Combo2 x USB 3.0 ports (internal) 12 x USB 2.0 ports (4 x external, 8 x internal)|
|Expansioncapabilities||1 x PCI-Ex1 slot1 x PCI slots|
|Accessories||SATA & PATA CablePower SATA convert cords|
OC Genie Lite
- Automatically detect best OC configuration
- Optimized for 3-D performance
- Revolutionary SuperSpeed USB 3.0, 10x faster than USB 2.0
- Up to 5Gbps bandwidth, boost data transfer rate between PC and USB device
- Help end-users upgrade CPU FSB directly
- Skip complicated BIOS settings and enjoy higher level CPU performance
eSATA/USB Combo Port
- Integrated eSATA and USB function
- No need for power source for external SATA device
- Fast, flexible, instant BIOS flashing
- Can still boot from USB flash drive if BIOS crashes
- Lossless content protection technology with full-rate audio enjoyment
- Support for 24bit/192KHz sample rate for high quality digital decoders and speakers
- Active Phase Switching to increase power saving
- SATA 6Gb/s
- Solid capacitors
- Super Ferrite Chokes
Price – $129.99
Packaging and motherboard pictures
I don’t know how many people have noticed this, but you can usually tell the grade of an MSI motherboard by the box color. Purple boxes are generally entry-level, orange boxes are mid to high level, and “special” motherboards, like the Big bang, get their own unique packaging. Since I’ve tested plenty of each, I usually know what to expect ahead of time.
This board came with just the essentials, as pictured here. I’m sure the full retail one will come with a bit more, including a user manual. I like the fact that MSI color codes their driver discs. The AMD ones have a green banner, while the Intel ones have a blue banner. This is a nice touch that I greatly appreciate. When I’m switching back and forth, and have a pile of driver discs on my desk, this makes finding the right one very easy.
The motherboard sports MSI’s typical (in recent boards anyway) blue on black color scheme, and has a nice clean layout. MSI has done a great job utilizing the small amount of real estate available in the mATX form factor. The two pci-e slots are spaced far enough apart for dual-slot video cards, while leaving enough room at the bottom for easily accessing the OC Switch and USB headers.
One thing I noticed right off is the lack of fan headers. This board has a total of two. That’s right, the CPU fan header, and the one near the SATA ports. For any additional fans, you’ve gotta run adapters straight from the power supply.
One thing I don’t like, but is not unique to this board, is the SATA connector orientation. Normally it’s not a huge problem, in fact it can make cabling much neater inside a case. But in a tiny mATX case, it can be very hard to get the SATA cables in and out of the ports, especially if they’re the type with clips on the ends. However, there is one upward-facing port, so if you if you have a need to frequently remove drives, this will make it much easier. If you’re using this in a full size case, ignore this paragraph.
The DDR3 slot placement is typical of most AMD motherboards. It’s all too common for memory slots on these boards to use adjacent slots for dual channel, instead of every other slot like the majority of Intel motherboards.
The CPU socket area is very clean and uncluttered, so insulating should be a breeze if I decide to do any overclocking with liquid nitrogen.
Now for the gratuitous nude shots.
The Cell Menu is where all of the overclocking settings live. Here, MSI provides complete control of all hardware settings essential to overclocking.
MSI’s M-Flash utility works extremely well, and is probably the quickest and easiest way ever created to flash a BIOS. You insert a USB flash drive with the new BIOS image, press enter, and about a minute later, the BIOS flash is finished and you’re ready to go.
The OC Profile menu provides six slots to store different overclocking profiles. It isn’t as user friendly as some other similar utilities I’ve used, but it definitely gets the job done.
This isn’t my favorite case, but I still use it for a reason. Right before CompUSA went under, I saw this on their Open Box table for $60. I’m normally not much of a haggler in retail stores, but I decided to ask for a price break because the case had a few scratches. I ended up walking out of the store with it for $25, and have been using it ever since. It began as just an HTPC case, but as I began to prefer a small, quiet PC over the big, loud, power-hungry monsters I had been running as long as I can remember, this became my primary computer case. The most recent inhabitant of this case was the MSI 760GM-E51 I reviewed last month.
- AMD Atlhon II 245
- MSI 860GXM-G65
- Onboard HD 4290 Graphics
- G.Skill HZ DDR3 1600
- Samsung 1TB HDD
- Antec Aria case w/ 300w PSU
You may notice that I took this last photo in the middle of playing Half Life 2. I do very little computer gaming because I prefer using consoles for that. But there are a few games that just aren’t as good on a console, and the Half Life series is one of them. The integrated HD 4290 graphics on this board handle the game perfectly at 1680×1050 with all other game settings on medium or high.
While the BIOS offers a complete set of overclocking features, vcore max is 1.35v. I asked MSI about this and was told that voltage adjustment capabilities will be added in future BIOS updates, and to give the OC Genie Lite a try in the meantime. However, during the brief testing I did with a Phenom II 545, I was able to achieve 3.7GHz with little effort. This was with only 2 cores enabled though, because core unlocking is not yet supported on this board. Even with the voltage limitations, the real limiting factor for me is going to be the Athlon II I’m using. Anyway, on to the OC Genie Lite.
OC Genie Lite
I’ve used OC Genie on both P55-GD80 and the Big Bang Trinergy, and while it was a cute feature, it didn’t seem very useful for 24/7 overclock settings. But, in the manual, MSI states the settings provided by OC Genie are to be used as starting values, and customized by the user.
With the lack of voltage adjustment abilities so far on this board, the settings provided by OC Genie Lite are in fact intended to be used as every day settings. Again, MSI does plan to include better voltage options in future BIOS versions.
After playing with the OC Genie Lite, I found it to be much ‘smarter’ than I expected. I had manually adjusted a few BIOS settings when I enabled the Genie. I fully expected it to clear my settings and put in some predetermined values based on a general OC than MSI had programmed. Instead, it kept my settings, and overclocked according to them. After playing some more, I’ve decided the OC Genie Lite goes for max fsb, and not processor clock speed. When I entered a multiplier of 14x, the Genie set the fsb to 209, and my memory to 1630. It kept the CL of 7 I had chosen, but changed the remaining timing values. This gave me a CPU clock speed of just over 3GHz, and very decent memory speeds, while keeping cool enough for the tiny Antec Aria case. So in my situation, the Genie did it’s job perfectly and gave me a modest 24/7 overclock.
Next I set all Cell Menu settings to Auto (except DDR3 voltage) and enabled OC Genie again. Then I went to brush my teeth. I heard a series of beeping, followed by a reboot, another series of beeping, and I came back to find the fans running, with no other sign of life. I started to clear CMOS, but decided on just pressing the reset button. It restarted just fine and I went into BIOS to find an fsb of 290 and a CPU multiplier of 10. The Phenom II that I tested when this board first arrived would have done fine at those settings. Unfortunately, this poor Athlon II just wasn’t up to the task. After experimenting with various settings, the Genie seems to set CPU frequency close to 3GHz fairly consistently with this Athlon II. Voltage settings from the OC Genie remain consistent, with vcore right at 1.35v every time.
I actually still have a lot of testing to do with this board, and before making any final conclusions on overclocking performance, I’d like to try it out with a stronger CPU. Overclocking results and benchmark scores will be in the forum thread accompanying this review.
USB 3.0 Testing
Kingwin kindly provided me with their DockMaster USB 3.0 hard drive docking station, which I’ll be reviewing after this. I did some quick HD Tack tests, and actually timed some file copying. I used a WD Raptor hard drive in the enclosure, since it’s the fastest hard drive I own. A 700MB movie was copied in 12.9 seconds. I’ve actually never tested an external USB 2.0 drive with HD Tach, so I did that for a speed comparison.
After the HD Tach tests and timing the file copy, I started wondering how much of a performance hit there was from using a traditional hard drive, rather than an SSD. With no SSD on hand, I decided on something that would be even better. I took the Kingwin unit apart and hooked it up to an ACARD ANS 9010 RAM Drive. The HD Tach results are below.
The full review of this unit will be posted roughly a week and a half after this review.
So far I’m quite impressed with this board. It’s been super stable and, given the limited voltage options in BIOS, has been very easy to overclock. The USB 3 is essential if you make heavy use of external storage. The integrated HD 4290 graphics are fantastic for htpc, but I’d like to run some synthetic benchmarks out of curiosity. I’ll be comparing this to Intel’s Core i5 IGP in a few weeks so see how the 4290 stacks up against it’s main competition. Be sure an keep an eye on the forum thread accompanying this article for updated testing results.