Subject: Motherboards | May 21, 2015 - 11:34 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: msi, amd, 990fx, FX-8370, FX-9590, sli, crossfire, SoundBlaster, killer nic, usb 3.1
Several weeks ago MSI officially announced the 990FXA-Gaming motherboard for the AM3+ market. The board is based on the tried and true 990FX and SB950 combo, but it adds a new wrinkle to the game: USB 3.1 support. MSI has released the other AMD based USB 3.1 board on the market, the 970 Krait.
Quite a few people were excited about this part, as the AM3+ market has been pretty stagnant as of late. This is not necessarily surprising considering that AMD has not launched a new AM3+ chip since Fall of 2014 with a couple of "efficiency" chips as well as the slightly faster FX-8370.
There was some speculation based on early photographs that the board could have a more robust power delivery system than previous AM3+ boards, but alas, that is not the case. Upon closer inspection it appears as though MSI has gone the 6+2 phase route. If there are good quality components in there, you can potentially run the 220 watt TDP FX-9000 series parts, but these puppies are not officially supported. In fact, I received an email saying that I might want to be really careful in my choice of CPUs as well as being extremely careful when overclocking.
The board still has some real potential at being a really nice home for the 125 watt TDP and below parts. The audio portion looks very well designed and features the SoundBlaster Cinema 2. It supports both SLI and CrossFire in native 2 x 16x (highly doubtful with 3 cards with the way the slots are configured). It has the Killer NIC ethernet suite which may or may not be a selling point, depending on who you ask.
Overall the board is an interesting addition to the club, but I really wouldn't trust it with the FX-9000 series chips. I have a 970 Gaming that came with the FX-9590 that had a similar power delivery system, and it ran like a champ; there is a possibility that the board will run this combination. This is going to be installed this weekend and I will start the benchmarking! Keep tuned!
MSI Redefines AM3+ Value
It is no secret that AMD’s AM3+ motherboard ecosystem has languished for the past year or so, with very few examples of new products hitting the scene. This is understandable since AMD has not updated the chipset options for AM3+, and only recently did they release updated processors in the form of the FX-8370 and FX-8370e. It has been two years since the release of the original FX-8350 and another year since the high TDP FX-9000 series of parts. For better or for worse, AMD is pushing their APUs far harder to consumers than the aging AM3+ platform.
MSI has refined their "Gaming" series of products with a distinctive look that catches the eye.
This does not mean that the AM3+ ecosystem is non-viable to both AMD and consumers. While Intel has stayed ahead of AMD in terms of IPC, TDP, and process technology the overall competitiveness of the latest AM3+ parts are still quite good when considering price. Yes, these CPUs will run hotter and pull more power than the Intel parts they are directly competing against, but when we look at the prices of comparable motherboards and the CPUs themselves, AMD still holds a price/performance advantage. The AM3+ processors that feature six and eight cores (3 and 4 modules) are solid performers in a wide variety of applications. The top end eight core products compete well against the latest Intel parts in many gaming scenarios, as well as productivity applications which leverage multiple threads.
When the Vishera based FX processors were initially introduced we saw an influx of new AM3+ designs that would support these new processors, as well as the planned 220 watt TDP variants that would emerge later. From that point on we have only seen a smattering of new products based on AM3+. From all the available roadmaps from AMD that we have seen, we do not expect there to be new products based on Steamroller or Excavator architectures on the AM3+ platform. AMD is relying on their HSA enabled APUs to retain marketshare and hopefully drive new software technologies that will leverage these products. The Future really is Fusion…
MSI is bucking this trend. The company still sees value in the AM3+ market, and they are introducing a new product that looks to more adequately fit the financial realities of that marketplace. We already have high end boards from MSI, ASRock, Asus, and Gigabyte that are feature packed and go for a relatively low price for enthusiast motherboards. On the other end of the spectrum we have barebone motherboards based on even older chipsets (SB710/750 based). In between we often see AMD 970 based boards that offer a tolerable mix of features attached to a low price.
The bundle is fair, but not exciting. It offers the basics to get a user up and running quickly.
The MSI 970 Gaming motherboard is a different beast as compared to the rest of the market. It is a Gaming branded board which offers a host of features that can be considered high end, but at the same time being offered for a price less than $100 US. MSI looks to explore this sweet spot with a motherboard that far outpunches its weight class. This board is a classic balance of price vs. features, but it addresses this balance in a rather unique way. Part of it might be marketing, but a good chunk of it is smart and solid engineering.
Pushing the 8 Cores
It seems like yesterday when I last talked about an AMD refresh! Oh wait, it almost was. Some weeks ago I was able to cover the latest AMD APU offerings that helped to flesh out the Kaveri lineup. We thought AMD was done for a while. Color us wrong. AMD pulled out all the stops and set up an AM3+ refresh! There is a little excitement here, I guess. I am trying to contain the tongue-in-cheek lines that I am oh-so-tempted to write.
AMD is refreshing their FX lineup in the waning days of Summer!
Let me explain the situation from my point of view. The FX lineup for AM3+ has not done a whole lot since the initial release of the Piledriver based FX-8350 and family (Vishera). Piledriver was a pretty significant update from Bulldozer as it slightly improved IPC and greatly improved power consumption (all the while helping to improve clockspeed by a small degree). There were two updates before this one, but they did not receive nearly as much coverage. These updates were the FX-6350 and the FX-9000 series. The FX-6350 is quite popular with the budget enthusiast crowd who still had not moved over to the Intel side of the equation. The FX-9000 series were OEM only initially and reaching up to $1000 at the high end. During that time since the original Vishera chips were released, we have seen the Intel Ivy Bridge and Haswell architectures (with a small refresh with Haswell with the 2nd gen products and the latest Socket 2011 units).