AM3+ Keeps Chugging Along
Consumers cannot say that MSI has not attempted to keep the AM3+ market interesting with a handful of new products based upon that socket. Throughout this past year MSI has released three different products addressing multiple price points and featuresets. The 970 Gaming was the first, the 970 KRAIT introduced USB 3.1 to the socket, and the latest 990FXA-Gaming board provides the most feature rich implementation of the socket plus USB 3.1.
AMD certainly has not done the platform any real favors as of late in terms of new CPUs and architectures to inhabit that particular socket. The last refresh we had was around a year ago with the release of the FX-8370 and 8370e. These are still based on the Piledriver based Vishera core that was introduced three years ago. Unlike the GPU market, the CPU market has certainly not seen the leaps and bounds in overall performance that we had enjoyed in years past.
MSI has taken the now geriatric 990FX (based upon the 890FX chipset released in 2010- I think AMD might have gotten their money out of this particular chipset iteration) and implemented it in a new design that embraces many of the top end features that are desired by enthusiasts. AMD still has a solid following and their products are very competitive from a price/performance standpoint (check out Ryan’s price/perf graphs from his latest Intel CPU review).
The packing material is pretty basic. Just cardboard and no foam. Still, fits nicely and is quite snug.
The idea behind the 990FXA-Gaming is to provide a very feature-rich product that appeals to gamers and enthusiasts. The key is to provide those features at a price point that will not scare away the budget enthusiasts. Just as MSI has done with the 970 Gaming, there were decisions made to keep costs down. We will get into these tradeoffs shortly.
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.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of MSI
With the Z77A-GD65 Gaming motherboard, MSI takes is award-winning Intel Z77-based board design and melds it with a Killer - a Killer NIC that is. MSI integrated the Killer e2205 GigE NIC into the board's design for the ultimate solution for online gaming. The Killer NIC is well known in gaming circles for its superior hardware-based network traffic prioritization engine, making it a natural integration choice for a top-end gaming board. We put the MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming through our rigorous suite of tests to measures is performance and were not disappointed. At a retail price of $179, this board is a steal.
Courtesy of MSI
In designing the Z77A-GD65 Gaming board, MSI provided a total of 12 digital power phases for the CPU. MSI packed this board full of features: SATA 2 and SATA 3 ports; a Killer e2205 GigE NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots for up to tri-card support; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.
Courtesy of MSI