MSI 790GX-G65 review
MSI’s new 790GX-G65 is one of the company’s first AM3 motherboards, supporting AMD’s latest Phenom CPUs with DDR3 RAM at speeds up to 1,600MHz.
Since DDR3 is still pricier than DDR2, any AM3 board released right now will appeal primarily to customers with an enthusiast bent, so it’s no surprise that the 790GX-G65 offers extensive controls for clock speed and voltage tweaks via MSI’s trademark “Cell Menu”.
But, as with MSI’s AM2-based DKA790GX motherboard, you don’t need to get your hands dirty to overclock the CPU: the “EZ OC” feature lets you boost the base clock by up to 20% simply by flicking a pair of switches. Onboard power, reset and Clear CMOS buttons are a nice touch too.
Since the 790GX-G65 is based on the same chipset as the DKA790GX, it also shares the Radeon HD 3300 IGP, implemented here with VGA, DVI and HDMI outputs.
It thus makes a perfectly good basis for a Windows workstation or media PC, while two PCI-E x16 slots (sharing 16 PCI-E 2.0 lanes) give gamers scope for CrossFireX configurations.
Along the backplate you’ll also find six USB 2.0 sockets, eSATA, FireWire and a Gigabit Ethernet port, plus six audio jacks for 7.1 audio and an optical S/PDIF connector.
And if that doesn’t satisfy, there are headers onboard for a further six USB ports and a second FireWire port, alongside less common sights such as a serial port, coaxial S/PDIF and even a header for connecting a front audio panel. Note, though, that the standard package doesn’t come with brackets for any of these headers.
The rest of the expected features are present and correct: the four DIMM slots will take up to 8GB of memory, the five SATA ports support the major RAID modes, and you get plenty of extra expansion options courtesy of two PCI-E x1 slots and two traditional PCI slots.
In all, the 790GX-G65 offers a perfectly good foundation for a home system. But at £96 exc VAT it’s already more expensive than most AM2 boards and that’s before you factor in the extra cost of DDR3 DIMMs.
Since we’ve found that doubling RAM speed only increases benchmark scores by around 5%, the whole deal only makes sense if performance is a high priority and you can’t afford an Intel Core i7.
Give it a year, and boards like this – and the RAM to populate them – will have fallen significantly in price, making AM3, and a board like this, a much more attractive choice.
But for the time being, we think the smart money remains on the AM2 platform – even for those who’ve splashed out on an AM3 processor.
|Motherboard form factor||ATX|
|Motherboard integrated graphics||yes|
|Processor/platform brand (manufacturer)||AMD|
|Motherboard form factor||ATX|
|Motherboard chipset||AMD 790GX|
|South bridge||AMD SB750|
|Number of Ethernet adapters||1|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|Graphics chipset||ATi Radeon HD 3300|
|Audio chipset||Realtek ALC889|
|CPU power connector type||4-pin|
|Main power connector||ATX 24-pin|
|Memory sockets total||4|
|Internal SATA connectors||5|
|Internal PATA connectors||1|
|Internal floppy connectors||1|
|Conventional PCI slots total||2|
|PCI-E x16 slots total||1|
|PCI-E x8 slots total||1|
|PCI-E x4 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x1 slots total||2|
|USB ports (downstream)||6|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||1|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||6|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Extra port backplane bracket ports||0|
Diagnostics and tweaking
|Motherboard onboard power switch?||yes|
|Motherboard onboard reset switch?||yes|
|SATA cables supplied||1|
|Molex to SATA adaters supplied||1|
|IDE cables supplied||1|
|Floppy cables supplied||0|