MSI 890FXA-GD70 review

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

Mike Jennings
7 Oct 2010
5
Price when reviewed 
145

Page 1 of 2 MSI 890FXA-GD70 review

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.

Page 1 of 2 MSI 890FXA-GD70 review

Details

Motherboard form factorATX
Motherboard integrated graphicsno

Compatability

Processor/platform brand (manufacturer)AMD
Processor socketAM3
Motherboard form factorATX
Memory typeDDR3
Multi-GPU supportyes

Controllers

Motherboard chipsetAMD 890FX
South bridgeAMD SB850
Number of Ethernet adapters1
Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
Graphics chipsetN/A
Audio chipsetRealtek 8112L

Onboard Connectors

CPU power connector type8-pin
Main power connectorATX 24-pin
Memory sockets total4
Internal SATA connectors1
Internal PATA connectors1
Internal floppy connectors0
Conventional PCI slots total1
PCI-E x16 slots total5
PCI-E x8 slots total0
PCI-E x4 slots total0
PCI-E x1 slots total1

Rear ports

PS/2 connectors2
USB ports (downstream)6
FireWire ports0
eSATA ports1
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports1
3.5mm audio jacks6
Parallel ports0
9-pin serial ports0
Extra port backplane bracket portsnone

Diagnostics and tweaking

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

Accessories

SATA cables supplied2
Molex to SATA adaters supplied1
IDE cables supplied1
Floppy cables supplied0

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