An Average Joe - MSI 785GM-E51

The MSI 785GM-E51

The MSI 785GM-E51

A familiar blue and black color scheme is used on a brown PCB, which is typical of MSI's recent motherboards. The MSI 785GM-E51 is an AM3 board sporting DDR3 memory slots, so only the newer AM3 processors are compatible since these CPUs have the integrated DDR3 memory controller. The standard four DIMM slots support up to 16GB of memory, with a maximum speed of 1600MHz (via overclocking of course). This memory speed is reflected in the memory settings in the BIOS.

A fairly typical rear I/O panel on the MSI, with the HDMI, VGA and DVI trinity of outputs complemented by an eSATA port and the usual USB, LAN and audio connectors.

Like all AMD 785G boards, the Southbridge is the SB710, which provides six SATA ports and an IDE interface. On the MSI, only five SATA ports are usable, the last has been converted to the eSATA at the rear. A floppy connector is included, along with other older technologies like serial and parallel ports. Sounds like a plan if you have a need for legacy devices. Conversely, there's no option for FireWire on this board and though S/PDIF is provided, it's present as a onboard header and not as a rear output connector.

With one eSATA port at the rear, there are five SATA ports left, of which four are aligned at the edge facing outward. The last SATA port risks getting in the way of a dual-slot graphics card.

With IDE and floppy support, it's a bit crowded here, especially with the power connector located here too. However, it's hard to fault MSI since this is rather common for mATX designs.

While we have seen solid capacitors on all the AMD 785G motherboards that we have reviewed so far, the MSI 785GM-E51 breaks the trend. It's only partially using solid capacitors, mainly for the multi-phase power design for the processor, which probably needs that the most. However, it's still quite a surprise to find MSI apparently skimping here when its competitors have all gone for the quality option.

Surprisingly, MSI does not use solid capacitors throughout this board. Only the phase power design for the processor here comes with solid capacitors. No such luck for the rest of the board.

The board's expansion options are limited by its form factor, which is why there are only four slots. Installing a dual-slot graphics card into the PCIe 2.0 x16 slot is possible, but it will likely interfere with one of the SATA ports. At least the single PCIe x1 slot looks usable, with MSI making sure that the nearby heatsink does not block the slot.

As you may expect, expansion options are limited and besides the PCIe 2.0 graphics slot, there are only two PCI slots and one PCIe x1 that is just about usable with sufficient allowance from the nearby heatsink.

We have seen this Easy OC switch before from MSI and frankly, we weren't impressed then. Nothing seems to have changed as this switch is a throwback to an era when vendors had sparse BIOS settings where one can't tweak clock frequencies.

Finally, there's an attempt to introduce some enthusiast-oriented features like the Easy OC Switch, which is a hardware switch to increase the base clock by fixed intervals of 10, 15 and 20%. It's something that one can easily do within the BIOS, so we aren't sold on its usefulness. Among its other 'extra' features include a TPM module header and the usual GreenPower and Active Phase Switch technologies to improve power efficiency.