MSI 890FXA-GD70 review

7 Oct 2010

Expensive for an AMD-based board, but packed with an impressive roster of features

Price when reviewed 
145
5

AMD has been the best budget choice when it comes to processors in recent times, and socket AM3 motherboards follow suit with most we've seen coming in at under three figures.

The MSI 890FXA-GD70 is out of the ordinary, however; £123 out of the ordinary. Attempting to justify this is a host of high-end features, which are scattered liberally around the board's black PCB. The bottom-right corner, for instance, is home to a quartet of small touchpads that replace the buttons normally seen on expensive boards.

Besides the usual power and reset buttons are a couple of more intriguing switches. The first, labelled Green Power, turns off the system's LEDs, and the second works in conjunction with a circular dial next door. It's an overclocking control, and it's surprisingly easy to use. Delve into the BIOS to decide what sort of speed increase you'd like, and then turn the dial when you're in Windows to add this amount to your processor's clock speed.

While it's a handy addition that works reasonably well, we can't see it gaining much real-world use: after all, MSI provides its own software overclocking utilities that run within Windows already and, since you've got to head into the BIOS to activate the OC Dial anyway, you might as well tweak the clock speed and multiplier settings while you're there. Its position in the bottom-right corner of the board isn't exactly convenient, either.

MSI 890FXA-GD70

Further up the board sits a two-character LED panel that's handy for diagnosing boot issues, and the board is covered with a good selection of jumpers and connecters: three USB 2 headers sit next to, two FireWire, one for chassis intrusion detection, another for a TPM module and the usual clear CMOS jumper. There are five fan connectors too, although only one comes with the fourth pin that indicates variable speed control.

Even the more conventional features are of an enthusiast bent, with the 890FX chipset sitting at the top of AMD's range. While we're sure that gamers won't notice the lack of integrated graphics in their rush to fit a beefy discrete card, they might appreciate the fact that this is the only AMD chipset that supports four-way CrossFireX.

Fitting four graphics cards, though, isn't as clear-cut as plugging them in. While there's a whopping five PCI-Express x16 slots, only two run at their full x16 speed. The next pair is half as quick, with the final slot half as quick again. The sheer number of these slots also means there's room for only single PCI Express x1 and PCI sockets.

Details

Price ex VAT £123
Price inc VAT £145
Overall rating 5
Performance 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Motherboard form factor ATX
Motherboard integrated graphics no

Compatability

Processor/platform brand (manufacturer) AMD
Processor socket AM3
Motherboard form factor ATX
Memory type DDR3
Multi-GPU support yes

Controllers

Motherboard chipset AMD 890FX
South bridge AMD SB850
Number of Ethernet adapters 1
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
Graphics chipset N/A
Audio chipset Realtek 8112L

Onboard Connectors

CPU power connector type 8-pin
Main power connector ATX 24-pin
Memory sockets total 4
Internal SATA connectors 1
Internal PATA connectors 1
Internal floppy connectors 0
Conventional PCI slots total 1
PCI-E x16 slots total 5
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 1

Rear ports

PS/2 connectors 2
USB ports (downstream) 6
FireWire ports 0
eSATA ports 1
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 1
3.5mm audio jacks 6
Parallel ports 0
9-pin serial ports 0
Extra port backplane bracket ports none

Diagnostics and tweaking

Motherboard onboard power switch? yes
Motherboard onboard reset switch? yes
Software overclocking? yes

Accessories

SATA cables supplied 2
Molex to SATA adaters supplied 1
IDE cables supplied 1
Floppy cables supplied 0