Review Index:

MSI 890FXA-G70 Motherboard Review

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

890FX Changes and the MSI Version

The new SB850 SATA 6G controller now appears to be at or near the same level as the industry leading Intel controllers.  Not only does it match those units, but again it is the only native chipset solution with SATA 6G.  On Intel based boards, SATA 6G is provided by the Marvell controller and its performance is certainly nothing to crow about.  It has a lot more overhead than the AMD part, and it simply cannot keep up with the I/O requests when that aspect is pushed.  I am currently trying to get our storage editor, Allyn Malventano, an AMD setup with the SB850 controller to give it the full review it deserves from a storage standpoint.  Hopefully we can get that to him soon so he can see exactly how effective this new southbridge is for AMD.

Production boards will not come with bubble wrap, but instead that strange, pink, spongy thingy.

AMD is also pushing motherboard manufacturers to include USB 3.0 support in every new AMD motherboard they produce.  For the most part these companies have complied, and it is only at the most price conscious points do we see AMD motherboards based on the 800 series without USB 3.0 support.

While AMD has not thrown any huge whiz-bang features with the 890FX as compared to the previous 700 series parts, the IOMMU and SATA 6G additions are very welcome.

The MSI 890FXA-G70

MSI looks to have built upon the 790FX-GD70, and improved it to a healthy degree.  Overall the board does look very similar to the older unit, but it has some significant differences.

It shares the same 4+1 phase DrMOS power supply to the CPU.  While other manufacturers are using 8+2 arrays for the CPU, MSI is taking a slightly different direction.  In some cases, more phases are not necessarily better.  DrMOS is essentially a solution that integrates the driver IC, top-mosfet, and bottom-mosfet into a single chip.  This somewhat simplifies PCB routing, but more importantly it does increase power efficiency due to its design, and can allow for higher switching frequencies than discrete components.  The only major change here is the use of long life Hi-C caps (flat) instead of the older solid/polymer caps (barrel).  The rest of the board features solid caps vs. the older electrolyte based, but the CPU power circuitry gets the slightly more robust and efficient Hi-C variants.  Plus, it does cut down on some of the clutter around the CPU socket.  This setup is rated for 140 watt TDP CPUs.

The package does look a little more impressive when spread out.

MSI markets this under their “Military Class” concept, which uses higher standard chokes and caps throughout the board.  In the case of this design, Military Class requires a certain lifetime on the part running at a higher than normal temperature.  So the use of solid and Hi-C caps throughout the design should enable the motherboard to survive even in high temp conditions that would eventually blow up an older electrolytic capacitor in short order.  Solid ferrite chokes are used, and as compared to older, exposed ring chokes, these do not buzz and have a larger overall surface area so it stays cooler under use.

The next change is that of removing one of the older PCI slots and replacing it with a PCI-E slot which can accommodate up to 4x PCI-E lanes.  This slot should not be used for CrossFire though.  The board still features the 4 x PCI-E 16 length slots which will support up to 4 x 8X PCI-E 2.0 lanes in total.

The use of the SB850 southbridge of course gives the added feature of SATA 6G support for the board.  It also features the NEC USB 3.0 chip, a JMicron 2 x SATA 2 and 1 x IDE chip, a VIA 1394a chip, dual Realtek PCI-E based Gig-E controllers, and the Realtek ALC 889 high definition audio codec.  The e-SATA port on the back is powered by the JMicron controller.

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