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.
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.
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.
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.
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.