MSI A88X-G45 Gaming Assassin's Creed Edition Review
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.
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.
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.
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.