MSI 890FXA-GD70 review
Expensive for an AMD-based board, but packed with an impressive roster of features
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.
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.
|Motherboard form factor||ATX|
|Motherboard integrated graphics||no|
|Processor/platform brand (manufacturer)||AMD|
|Motherboard form factor||ATX|
|Motherboard chipset||AMD 890FX|
|South bridge||AMD SB850|
|Number of Ethernet adapters||1|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|Audio chipset||Realtek 8112L|
|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|
|USB ports (downstream)||6|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||1|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||1|
|3.5mm audio jacks||6|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Extra port backplane bracket ports||none|
Diagnostics and tweaking
|Motherboard onboard power switch?||yes|
|Motherboard onboard reset switch?||yes|
|SATA cables supplied||2|
|Molex to SATA adaters supplied||1|
|IDE cables supplied||1|
|Floppy cables supplied||0|