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MSI 890FXA-G70 Motherboard Review

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI
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More MSI 890FXA-G70

The design is fairly roomy, and the auto-sensing slots will configure themselves as needed when multiple graphics cards are inserted.  The black, blue, and titanium colors are not garish, but they do highlight the physical appearance of the board nicely.  The PCB itself is a 6 layer unit, but it does not feature the 2 oz. of copper that Asus and Gigabyte utilize on their top end boards.  There is a lot of debate about how effective using 2 oz. of copper in the PCB rather than 1 oz.  In this case, I do not think that it makes any significant difference other than slightly higher electrical resistance in the 1 oz boards.  If a single component on the board was sucking 200 watts of power, then it probably would make a difference.  But since the CPU is supplied by quite a few phases, and graphics cards utilize connections directly to the power supply, it is not a make or break deal in this particular case.

We are nearing the end of the PCI bus.  Hard to believe it has been around since 1993.  The board still supports one of them.  Directly to the right is the LED diagnostic display that is used to troubleshoot failed bootups, and while running displays the CPU temperature.

The heatpipe setup seems to work very well for this board.  The southbridge has a small cooler on it, and a heatpipe travels from that, to the northbridge, and then to the DrMOS chips.  There is a large cooler over the northbridge and DrMOS chips.  With around 19 watts TDP (at maximum) the chipsets themselves do not produce large amounts of heat.  With the greater efficiency of the DrMOS units, they also do not create an excessive amount of heat.  Cooling for this board is more than adequate, and the design allows the use of larger cards and heatsinks than perhaps some of the competition.

MSI is also including a new feature which allows internet access without actually booting up into an OS.  Winki is MSI’s version of a quick launch skinny client which allows internet access, browsing, Skype, Open Office, instant messaging, photo view, and System Rescue support in case the main OS is hosed.

Like most other recent boards, this one can flash the BIOS from a USB stick.  Also, if the BIOS flash is bad, the board can be recovered from USB as well.  This is a positive thing as anyone who has messed up a board while flashing can attest.  Inside the BIOS, MSI also allows the unlocking of disabled CPU cores.  In older SB750 and SB710 chips, AMD integrated ACC functionality which would allow unlocking of cores.  With the SB850, this feature was removed.  MSI has been able to create a workaround without any external chips attached to the board to allow unlocking of the latest CPUs from AMD.

The six SATA 6G ports support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10.  The blue port is off the JMicron SATA 2 controller.  This may be the last generation of boards seen with the old IDE port as well.

The BIOS is set up like most other MSI boards.  It has all of the basic functionality to enable and disable components.  Under the “Cell Menu” is where all of the overclocking features are located.  It contains all of the timings, voltages, multipliers, and other random settings needed to successfully overclock the CPU, memory, and northbridge.  MSI allows the unlocking of CPUs that have disabled cores in this area.  It also has the OC Genie functionality which will automatically overclock the board for the user and test itself so that it reaches a stable operation.

Instead of buttons on the board as MSI has been wont to do in the past, they placed touch sensitive pads on the motherboard.  When I first received the board, I thought I had a pre-production part that was not complete, and they had left off the necessary buttons.  Then I actually took the time to read the manual.  Shocking, I know.  A light touch on these pads will activate them.  As long as a user does not have sausages for fingers, then they will rarely touch two at once.  The four functions are power, reset, green power, and OC Dial enable.  Green power will underclock the board and components when necessary and will allow idle power consumption to be lower than at stock.  The OC Dial allows the overclocking of the HTT bus in realtime by turning the OC knob.

The board has essentially everything a user could possibly need, with the exception of pre-installed CPUs, memory, and video cards.

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