Preview: MSI 890FXA-GD70

Launch SRP: S$309

Quad CrossFireX

Quad CrossFireX Firepower

It's no secret that AMD's 6-core processors will be hitting the streets officially next week; you can even buy one of the models here locally now. As usual, along with these affordable 6-core processors are the supporting entourage of motherboards based on updated chipsets that will be in stores around the same time. The good thing about AMD is that those with motherboards using older chipsets are able to upgrade to an AMD 6-core since the new processor is backwards compatible with AM2+ and AM3 boards with a simple motherboard BIOS update.

Of course, if you crave the newer features, like SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0, it's worth looking at a new motherboard that's equipped with these and hence, future-proof for at least another couple of years. AMD's 890FX is one of these newer chipsets available next week and we continue our recent look at these new boards (see ASUS and Gigabyte) with a sneak preview of the MSI 890FXA-GD70.

Going by MSI's naming conventions, the MSI 890FXA-GD70 is likely the company's top model for the 890FX chipset and it's evident from the specifications. The design is a mostly incremental update to MSI's 790FX-GD70 board, with some of the newer proprietary features thrown in. Notably, the quad CrossFireX capability of this board should score highly with its intended enthusiast audience. At least it's something that we don't see on ASUS and Gigabyte's 890FX offerings at this early point in time.

 

It's the very familiar black and blue design, with MSI's DrMOS feature prominently advertised on the heatsink.

MSI has a rather well balanced mix of rear I/O ports. Besides the legacy PS/2 ports, there's a clear CMOS button, optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs and the USB ports. While this board has FireWire capabilities, they are implemented as onboard headers and not found here. An eSATA/USB combo port is also present along with dual Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. Finally, the blue USB ports represent USB 3.0, as is the convention now.

Six SATA 6Gbps ports aligned the way we like it, out of the way of add-on cards. There's also an IDE port as a nod to the old-timers. The blue SATA port just about avoids being affected if you have a couple of long dual-slot graphics cards installed.

Notice anything different about these DIMM slots? Yes, it appears that MSI is following ASUS in having single latching mechanisms for the DIMM slots. This is because these slots are directly in line with the first PCIe 2.0 x16 slot, so it's a necessity rather than a luxury.

MSI has gone with such 'touch' buttons for power, reset and its own OC Dial and Green Power features for a while now. The OC Dial allows on-the-fly tweaking of the base clock frequency.

An LED indicator for debugging purposes.

Most users should know this NEC controller by heart now, It enables USB 3.0 functionality on the motherboard.

A FireWire controller from VIA (with two onboard headers) and Realtek's ALC892 HD audio CODEC.

As one expects from high-end boards, there's two Gigabit Ethernet controllers. It's one too much in our opinion, but that's the state of the market.

If CrossFireX is your obsession, then this MSI board with its four PCIe 2.0 x16 slots will be perfect for you (one of these blue slots is only a PCIe x4). When quad CrossFireX is enabled, all the slots run at a very competent x8 configuration each and best of all, you can fit dual-slot graphics cards for all. Of course, this means giving up operating the PCI and PCIe x1 slots.

A relatively clean socket area, with the heatsink restricted to the area near the rear. MSI claims that its flat 6mm heat pipe design allows for better heat transfer.

Another touted feature is the use of hi-c capacitors on board for the power delivery system that promotes greater reliability and stability when compared to the already decent typical solid capacitors. They do cost more however.

 We haven't got the benchmarks and performance results or the expected retail price here in this preview, but based on the board's design, the MSI 890FXA-GD70 certainly looks very competitive with its rivals. Quad CrossFireX could be decisive for some enthusiasts, while the rest of the features are very suitable for its high-end status. MSI's OC Dial and auto-overclocking utility (OC Genie) are some of MSI's more well-known proprietary tweaking technologies found on this board and the use of quality components, while increasing the cost, should be appreciated by enthusiasts. Like some of the other brands (ASUS for example), MSI has a BIOS feature to unlock all the extra cores on your AMD processor. It's a simple matter of enabling it and rebooting.

The layout too appears to be well-thought out and we didn't find any instances where components could get in the way of each other. The way MSI manages to squeeze that single SATA port in between the PCIe slots without interfering is a case in point. Our impression so far: this is a board to look out for.

9.0
Performance
8.5
Features
9
Value
9
The Good
Excellent layout
Good value for its features and performance
The Bad
Awards:
Best Valued for Money