MSI 790GX-G65 review

£110
Price when reviewed

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.

MSI 790GX-G65 review

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.

Details

Motherboard form factor ATX
Motherboard integrated graphics yes

Compatability

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

Controllers

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

Onboard Connectors

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

Rear ports

PS/2 connectors 1
USB ports (downstream) 6
FireWire ports 1
eSATA ports 1
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 6
Parallel ports 0
9-pin serial ports 0
Extra port backplane bracket ports 0

Diagnostics and tweaking

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

Accessories

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

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