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MSI A88X-G45 Gaming Assassin's Creed Edition Review

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Conclusion

Writing a conclusion anymore is an odd process with the motherboard reviews that I have covered lately.  I have not been sent a really bad motherboard in a long time.  Probably one of the worst was a FIC socket 370 board that was well over 14 years ago.  Ok, I lied, there were some Abit boards in the early 2000s were not all that fantastic.  Still, the boards I have tested over the past several years with PCPer have all been very good.  Consider as well that I primarily cover just the AMD platform.

The MSI A88X-G45 Gaming is a really superb board for its market.  The product I have is the Assassin’s Creed edition, but those are not widely available now.  Initially the price was around $135, but that has since eroded quite a bit due to a multitude of reasons.  Users can now purchase this board for around $109 US.  That still makes it one of the more expensive FM2+ boards, but I would not consider a motherboard with this feature set and performance to be overpriced at $109.  The only competing motherboard that is more expensive is the Asus top end A88X based board.  That particular board does not have the feature set of the MSI board.

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Proof that the A10-7850K fully enabled runs quite happily right next to a standalone GPU from NVIDIA.

Overclocking performance was very good for the board.  While I have not had a whole lot of A88X/FM2+ boards in the lab, it certainly performed better in this area than the Gigabyte board.  The 4+2 setup was designed well enough to push my A10-7850K further than the previous board.  The overclocking options for manual and automatic are well rounded, and for the most part work as advertised.

The audio portion is really good, and it is complemented by the inclusion of the SoundBlaster Cinema software suite.  Remember, this software is all CPU based to deliver the necessary audio effects.  The Realtek Codec does not have the hardware to accelerate this functionality.  In the time I have used the software, it has not had a drastic effect on CPU usage.  It certainly performs better than the VIA USB 3.0 controller which consumed an entire core when under load.  While narrowing down how much CPU usage it consumes is a bit tough, my guess it would be around 10% to 15% consumption of a single core.

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The back of the board is pretty bare, but then again it is not aimed to be a 20+ phase monster that runs out of space on the front of the PCB.

The addition of the Killer NIC functionality from Qualcomm, the overall quality of the build (I have used this particular motherboard for around 2 months of daily abuse so far), and the easy to use firmware make this a very compelling board for those wishing to give AMD a chance with the latest Kaveri processors.  I had mentioned before that it is entirely possible to enable the graphics portion of this chip with a standalone, high performance graphics card to potentially utilize the HSA capabilities of the GCN unit in Kaveri.

MSI has made a great looking board that performs very, very well (given the limitation of the Kaveri APU).  It is only a “4 core” processor, but it can still push most modern games at a decent clip.  It does not match the IPC of competing Intel processors, but it does include the very flexible GCN based graphics unit that Intel has not quite yet perfected with their own architecture.  Unfortunately, the amount of software that is HSA aware is pretty thin as of yet.  Developer support is coming, but it is hard to say how pervasive it will be.

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In the UEFI the user can browse over the different parts of the motherboard to get information about it.

I have no problem recommending this board to any potential buyer.  It is inexpensive, it is feature packed, and it performs well at stock and overclocked speeds.  I did not have the issue with this board that I encountered with the Gigabyte G1.Sniper in that the firmware that shipped with the board did not support the latest Kaveri APUs.  I have also heard anecdotal evidence that this board has no problem with 16 GB DIMMS (I do not have any here for testing) as compared to the G1.Sniper which has problems recognizing these products.  A reader of ours reported that he was unable to run that configuration with the Gigabyte board, but it ran perfectly with the MSI A88X-G45 Gaming motherboard.

Now we just need to see how well AMD’s developer support is able to swing things their way and get HSA aware software into the hands of general users.

 

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July 23, 2014 | 02:06 PM - Posted by RedShirt (not verified)

I think what everyone wants to know is... where is the CMOS battery located?

:)

July 23, 2014 | 02:25 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

If you bothered to read... it is in the optimal position for a cmos battery.  Excellent placement, solid holder, and easy to access.  What more could one want from a cmos battery?

July 24, 2014 | 05:24 AM - Posted by RedShirt (not verified)

Well I clearly fail at comprehension!

Also failed at 'CTRL-F'ing CMOS just incase I failed at reading.

I suppose if you're going to fail you may as well do it right!

July 24, 2014 | 06:29 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Hey, only 1 in 10 knows what ctrl-f does!  Hell, I didn't!  Talk about a f-up...

July 23, 2014 | 02:56 PM - Posted by Sean Sinha (not verified)

By the Southbridge heatsink. Just look at the board for a minute next time...

July 23, 2014 | 02:58 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Can you calm down please?

July 23, 2014 | 03:02 PM - Posted by JxcelDolghmQ (not verified)

First page, second to last paragraph: "Hippon Chemi-con". Did you mean Nippon or is this some new startup I've never heard of?

1.288v for the maximum overclock seems a bit low, people were regularly giving Piledriver chips 1.5v, even on air. Is this just the standard voltage range for Steamroller? What cooler did you use? How is the power consumption when overclocked?

Good review and motherboard, 4.7ghz on a 4 phase board is certainly impressive.

July 25, 2014 | 08:22 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I believe it is in fact Nippon Chemi-con... mistyped that.

AMD scales the voltage up and down, so that screenshot of the overclock had the voltage down.  I believe that the actual peak voltage was around 1.45 (I used an offset of around 0.15v in the firmware).  I used one of the larger AMD stock coolers for the FX-8350.  Temps never got higher than 55C on a warm day and overclocked.  Power consumption did increase by about 30 watts.

July 23, 2014 | 08:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Got a bulldog in my Learjet
Gonna teach him how to fly!
By myself...

July 23, 2014 | 08:11 PM - Posted by dave (not verified)

Does it have a Discharge Button?

July 23, 2014 | 09:01 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Sadly... it does not.

July 24, 2014 | 02:36 PM - Posted by David Kollar (not verified)

Sorry Josh...but why you even bother write review, if this board dosn't have such essential futures like discharge button...i just dont get it...((-:LOL...very nice review BTW.

July 23, 2014 | 11:33 PM - Posted by AbhishekS (not verified)

How unfortunate thet this will never be launched in India.:(

July 24, 2014 | 03:22 PM - Posted by SHRAPNOL (not verified)

HEY CAN I USE MY FX-6300 ON THIS BOARD I HAVE A MSI R9 270X
BUT IN A ASUS BOARD WANT A MSI BOARDANY COMMENTS WOULD HELP

July 24, 2014 | 03:38 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Nope, FX-6300 is AM3+ while this is a FM2+ motherboard.  Totally different sockets, so the AM3+ FX chips will not run in it.

July 24, 2014 | 11:51 PM - Posted by abhishek

The MSI 970 Gaming mitherboard will be out soon, it will run the FX-6300 like a charm.

July 26, 2014 | 05:51 AM - Posted by sixstringrick

but where is the discharge button?

July 27, 2014 | 06:48 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I expect that MSI ensures the box contents .. no insurance req.
Where the m-itx beef? amd + m-itx ??

July 28, 2014 | 09:37 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Heh, insure/ensure can be somewhat interchangeable... depending on usage.  I guaruntee it?

Gigabyte has a nice m-itx A88X board.  I'm using it for an upcoming review this week.  Not sure if other manufacturers see m-itx boards for AMD as a profitable endeavor.

August 3, 2014 | 11:00 AM - Posted by Bruce Keegan (not verified)

Josh, I just completed a ASROCK A88X-itx build with a A10-7870K. 2400Mhz Team memory. When the APU is bumped up to 4.2Ghz I was amazed how responsive this thing was. I had 6 video streams open and 2 music files playing while I opened 10 more web pages, smooth as silk.

August 5, 2014 | 01:58 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Very nice!  I just wish AMD would start pumping up the clockspeed on these Kaveri parts, but alas... they have yet to do so.

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