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MSI 990FXA-Gaming Review: SLI, CF, and USB 3.1 for AM3+

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

990FXA-Gaming Continued

The board supports both CrossFire and SLI.  This is not a new feature, but if an enthusiast wants the maximum flexibility for multi-GPU rendering, then this board supports both implementations.  The spacing of the two 16X slots provides more than ample room for larger cards that could go past the two slot size limit.  The 8X slot is right above the second 16X slot and can be used for newer PCI-E storage devices.  I do not believe this board supports NVMe and it is limited to PCI-E 2.0 speeds.  Still, the typical 4X implementations for the latest storage solutions will provide plenty of bandwidth, even on this aging platform.  With a dual slot video card installed only one of the 1X PCI-E slots is available for use.  The single legacy PCI slot is at the bottom for those who wish to use their old, favorite soundcard.

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The 6+2 VRM array is disappointing, but not surprising given the price point of this board. There is plenty of room around the CPU for aggressive cooling!

This is MSI’s second AMD based board that supports the new USB 3.1 Type-A standard.  The 970 KRAIT was the first, but reviews of this board were few and far between.  The Asmedia 1142 chip natively supports PCI-E 3.0, but again this particular implementation relies on the older PCI-E 2.0 support of the 990FX/SB950 chipset.  It is still a massive boost from the older USB 2.0 and 3.0 standards.  MSI rounds out USB support with 8 USB 2.0 ports on the rear and VIA powered USB 3.0 front panel support.

Previously I mentioned some corners being cut to achieve the price points necessary for this board to be competitive in a shrinking field.  This comes from a simpler VRM implementation that features a 6+2 setup as compared to the 8+2 that is common on higher end boards.  I would also be curious if this was a 6 layer motherboard design as compared to a higher quality 8 layer board.  The VRMs are not rated for 200+ watt chips from AMD, so that eliminates support for the FX-9000 series of products.  This is disappointing, but we also must consider the popularity of those chips and their need for higher end cooling.  Perhaps not an easy decision to make, but one that they thought worth it for the market this board is addressing.

Another cut is that there is not a secondary SATA controller on the board as others may be wont to include.  The SB950 has a total of 6 SATA6G ports which is typically more than enough, but it will likely exclude external SATA ports.  I am not heartbroken at this development, as few people likely fill up all 6 ports and very few people use external SATA (I in fact never have).

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The southside of town features the I/O connections and the southie heatsink. The USB 3.0 header is down near the bottom, which is not always the typical place for it.

 

Board Impressions

Installation of the board went without a hitch.  The post holes lines up without issue, the back I/O plate fit in the Corsair test case without issue, and physically the board is well built and of good quality.  The components used throughout are again of the Military Grade 4 series from MSI and everything looks good there.  There are plenty of USB 2.0 ports on the back, but the focus is obviously on the 3.1 units.  The single PS/2 and USB connectors below it are gold plated and are claimed to be slightly faster for gaming signals.  Hard to measure that one, but the idea doesn’t hurt.

The bundle is fairly minimal as can be expected for a budget board.  SATA cables, driver installation disk, quick install guide, back panel insert, and a solid manual are the basics.  MSI does go a step above by including SATA cable stickers to help in routing and identification, a nice case badge, and a door hanger for those not wishing to be disturbed.

The latest firmware is the only firmware, but if an update is needed then upgrading from within the firmware is simple and straightforward.  Flashing the firmware is so much easier and safer than back in the old days (DRDOS anyone?).  The BIOS is laid out in usual ClickBIOS 4 fashion.  Everything is easily accessible and most any setting can be found and changed easily.

Software and hardware installation went again without a problem.  The board was very stable with the FX-8370 that I had installed.  I set the memory for 2133 speeds and it again worked without a hitch.  The board seemed quick and responsive and the installation of the OS was no problem.  This had actually been one of my few truly non-problematic installations I have had.  Usually there is some small error or issue to work through, sometimes larger errors.  This time it was smooth as silk.

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The audio portion is surrounded by a vast array of high quality capacitors. Note as well the demarcation between the audio portion and the rest of the board.

The spacing around the board is another strong point.  It allows a good coverage of slots to be able to use, even in multi-GPU configurations.  Those still holding onto a PCI soundcard will have to deal with integrated audio if they use the 2nd 16X slot for CF or SLI use.  The SATA ports are fairly easy to access even with a long video card in.  The onboard headers are all in logical places which again are easy to access.  The board is not stuffed to the gills in extras, so space is available to make for a good layout.

Software installation is again quite easy and the disk has a surprising amount of latest drivers already on there.  It does not include the latest Win10 drivers, but those are easily accessible at this time and the software suites seem to work without issue.

It is hard not to like the board so far.  Spacing is good, installation is easy, and there are plenty of usable features around the board.  The only thing dragging it down is the cut down VRMs that do not allow for extreme overclocking or the use of 200+ watt CPUs in the FX-9000 range.

Audio quality is actually a step above what I have experienced from previous Gaming boards from MSI.  I have had issues with popping, some odd effects, and not as clear of a sound as one would expect.  It seems MSI got this one right and it has the smoothest, most natural sound of the bunch.  It matches, if not exceeds, the quality of some of the other units I have tested in the past from Asus and Gigabyte.  This is all subjective, but I have commented on the previous models’ issues in those reviews.  This board just worked as it was supposed to.

Video News


September 2, 2015 | 04:37 PM - Posted by derz

Nice to see AM3+ getting some LOVE.

September 2, 2015 | 04:47 PM - Posted by funandjam

#Joshtekk

that's all I got for now

September 2, 2015 | 06:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks, nice review.)

I use this bords, in one of my everyday workstation-pc and "sometimes as a gamer-pc", it runs with an FX 8150 + 16gb 2400MHz and 2*MSI 390X.
"it runs everything with ease, on stock settings"

It´s a very stabile bord, and easy to oc on.

Nice day.)

September 3, 2015 | 07:03 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Ps. When I OC my FX 8150, it runs 4.7GHz (24/7stabile), with one 120mm AIO kit.

Nice day.)

September 3, 2015 | 09:03 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

That's a good little overclock for that particular chip.  I never actually got my hands on that one.  First AM3+ chip I think I reviewed was a 4170 I believe?

September 4, 2015 | 01:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The best AM3+ board, that I has stumble upon so far, is still the Asus Formula-Z. (I have tried with a FX 8150, FX 8370E, FX 8370 and FX 9590)
With the FX 8150 on the Z-board, I can reach 4.8GHz 24/7 stable "with tornado-sound", and up to 5GHz non-stable. (I have only tried with a AIO-120P/P for cooling, maybe that´s why.)

September 6, 2015 | 07:30 PM - Posted by Cyclops

Bulldozer is as dead as the dodo.

September 9, 2015 | 03:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

POINT OF VIEW.)

February 15, 2016 | 08:50 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I also want to buy MSI 990 fxa gaming motherboard, and I already have amd fx-8150 processor, I want to ask that is it running good with these combinations? Plz reply, it will be appreciated.

September 2, 2015 | 07:51 PM - Posted by Anonymous31276 (not verified)

It's a nice way to clean out all the old am3+ crap left in the warehouse :)

Send it off in style.

September 2, 2015 | 08:17 PM - Posted by razor512

Without good power handling, the board will be a bad choice for anyone on the AM3 platform looking for an upgrade. Due to AMD making a ton of mistakes, the AM3 platform has not really seen anything new. if you have an AMD CPU, you pretty much have to overclock, and it is not uncommon to see voltages as high as 1.55V. A Phenom II x6 1100t overclocked to 4.3GHz at 1.55-1.56V, can easily pull 200-230 watts

An FX8350 at 5GHz will also pull well over 200 watts.

Any attempt to market to users on the AM3 platform, will need a board that caters to achieving the highest possible overclock.

The Phenom II x6 and 8 core FX CPUs form AMD can still offer a great computing experience if overclocked. The Phenom II x6 has a much higher IPC than the FX series, and when overclocked well, they do not bottleneck things too much.

The root of the issue is that unless they can significantly lower their price or use higher quality VRMs, most (if not all) users would rather buy a Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK (good for supporting both new and legacy stuff) and a Core i5 4690K and overclock that. It will be a large upfront cost, but it would also make for a 90+% performance boost for about 2.6 times the cost of this board.

September 3, 2015 | 02:54 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

90% ....science confirmed!

September 4, 2015 | 10:47 AM - Posted by joshjaks

Most people go FX for budget gaming. Even i3s can cost a pretty penny in comparison.

This board is actually great for what it needs to be. If a user is buying a 8350 or even a 9590, then it's far more beneficial to just spend a little extra cash and just go with one of the recent i5s.

Now, if someone were to go for a 6300 or 6350, the VRMs here are plenty to get a nice overclock out of those chips. The board is at a great price point to offer lots of gaming features so that combined with the aforementioned skus, it offers a lot of bang for the buck.

I would still recommend that if someone was looking to upgrade now, that they just wait till next year with Zen, but with the cost this board needed to be at, I don't think MSI could afford to put a larger VRM into it.

August 22, 2016 | 10:07 PM - Posted by Darkside (not verified)

Every single I5 dies in multitasking from every single FX x8 cpu. And that 90% performance boost are some mirages hahah. There are lot informations on internet in multitasking FX8350 can outperform i7 4790K, so don`t speak bullshits inferior fanboy..

September 2, 2015 | 08:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

no support for the 9590 kind of kills it...

October 10, 2015 | 08:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

you can use the FX-9370 & fx-9590 with bios 1.1 Released 8-6-2015

September 3, 2015 | 07:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

But the website says it does support fx 9590 and 9370 but a special thermal is required http://www.msi.com/support/mb/990FXA-GAMING.html#support-cpu

September 4, 2015 | 02:07 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Huh.  I was told, directly, that I should not run a 9590 with this board.  They are correct though that you do need a heavier duty cooling solution for that particular chip.

October 10, 2015 | 08:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

on there site says you can use the FX-9370 & fx-9590 with bios 1.1 Released 8-6-2015

October 10, 2015 | 08:58 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

is there going to be an update to the reviews to confirm the chips work ,FX-9370 & fx-9590 with bios 1.1, and also added full support NVMe booting. would love to see the Intel 750 PCIe NVMe to see if it works now. had my eye on the 400gb one as a boot drive... link below where it say World's first AMD motherboard with NVMe support.

http://us.msi.com/news/100110.html

September 4, 2015 | 04:00 PM - Posted by ashleyackley

This is the kind of board you use when your building a show machine. The black PCV is beautiful, the board components look higher end than most, and while the chipset heatsinks are functional but beautiful, the cap with MSI written on it on the bottom WILL get in the way of a full size video card. There will be hell to pay if someone tries to stuff crossfire on here.

September 6, 2015 | 12:20 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I just put a second, large card on that board in the CF/SLI secondary slot.  The lower heatsink doesn't impede it at all.  In fact, the SATA headers stand higher than the heatsink does.

September 5, 2015 | 12:03 AM - Posted by CFTheDragon (not verified)

Latest BIOS update indicates support for the 220W CPUs.

http://us.msi.com/support/mb/990FXA-GAMING.html#support-cpu

September 6, 2015 | 07:25 PM - Posted by Cyclops

Intel terminated North Bridge in 2011 with Sandy Bridge, eliminating QPI. AMD still has it with the FX series (HT) in 2015. It's just sluggish.

September 7, 2015 | 11:49 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

With a gold-pile who is worth, 100times more then what AMD have, and this is what they can come up with.. Now that´s is just "sluggish"

September 7, 2015 | 12:05 PM - Posted by Cyclops

Hey, buddy. You are everywhere!

September 7, 2015 | 12:33 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Maybe, somebody has a all-seeing eye.)

Nice Day.

September 7, 2015 | 01:47 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I am extremely curious what the 1090FX was going to be before AMD cancelled it.  HT isn't really holding back the FX platform.  Sure, a couple of cycles of extra latency in there, but nothing huge.  I'm just not entirely sure why AMD didn't refresh the 990FX northbridge with the A88X acting as the south.  In theory that is possible since the A88X communicates via 4x PCI-E.

September 7, 2015 | 02:43 PM - Posted by Cyclops

I wanted to see the 1090FX too but, 990 was a slight revamp of the 890, notable for SLI compatibility integration. I don't see how they would have made 1090FX that interesting, apart from adding PCIe 3.0 support which Intel has had since 2012. Maybe change their weird 38 lane PCIe configuration? We'll never know.

A88X as south bridge sound interesting. I can't, however, find any solid info about the SB950. I know it was a rebadged SB850, but other than that, data is vague. It seems to only have a 2x PCIe connection since even with a multi SSD RAID, it is unable to crack 1 GB/s.

September 9, 2015 | 12:36 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

The 990FX and SB950 communicate through the A-Link Express III connection.  This is a 4x PCI-E 2.0 solution.  The A88X communicates with the APU through a 4x PCI-E 2.0 solution known as UMI.  Unless there is some low-level changes made by AMD, you would think that the A88X could connect to an older generation northbridge?  I've asked AMD a number of times about this, but nobody has ever gotten back to me about the particulars behind the tech.

September 9, 2015 | 08:42 PM - Posted by Cyclops

Well, I was looking at this: http://bit.ly/1OAzsNE

The RAID results seem a bit inconsistent and don't seem to scale well, but that could be down to anything when 6 SSDs are involved.

At any rate, since both SB950 and A88X use the same communication method with the same bandwidth, I don't think it would have been difficult for AMD to make a 990FX refresh with the latter southbridge.

They have shifted focus to Zen though, so for all intents and purposes, AM3+ is at the end of the line.

You know, when they were switching from AM2/AM2+ to AM3, they had to implement both DDR2 and DDR3 controllers on the processor to be backward compatible with older AM2/AM2+ motherboards. From my understanding, Zen is a brand new architecture. They don't have to worry about backwards compatibility (And lets face it, AM3+ is way long in the tooth coming up on it's 4th anniversary), They're going straight for DDR4 on socket AM4 which looks like it will also support their APUs on the same socket. A bit unusual but I like the flexibility of the platform if the rumors are true.

Incidentally, I can't tell from the preliminary die shots if they will be integrating the PCIe controller in the CPU. You've got any info on that?

September 10, 2015 | 02:40 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I don't have concrete evidence of the PCI-E controller on the CPU, but it would make sense if they did.  I'm pretty sure that they will to simplify design and increase performance.

September 21, 2015 | 06:11 PM - Posted by T3hderk (not verified)

Now, all i would want and love would be a motherboard to have some built in WIFI (ala the AMD nForce 590 of old) and a gol'darned M.2 slot. Why does Intel get all the love?! All serious joking aside, would the processor on an AMD platform be a bottleneck for M.2 or is it just a cost effectiveness thing.

Many thanks,
T3hderk

October 1, 2015 | 11:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

See, I can easily tell you guys suck, because my 9590 has been very happy, stable, and @ 5Ghz ever since I updated the BIOS. Be sure to check everything when you make a statement. So, the 990FXA Gaming plays very nicely with the 9 series CPUs.

March 23, 2016 | 10:50 PM - Posted by PaulUK (not verified)

Thats great news! you say it runs at 5ghz? is that overclocked or stock?

January 20, 2016 | 07:15 PM - Posted by Tregarth (not verified)

Hi,
I've got question for fan control - is it possible to lower rpm for fans without pwm (only 3 cables)? I saw that Asus did something really nice with their latest z170 series for skylake cpu's (with adaptation and some fancy software) - is it similar for this motherboard?
Thanks for any hints,
Best Regards,
T.

February 12, 2016 | 10:15 AM - Posted by CrunkPlaya69 (not verified)

Waddup, Playas,

Yo, I gots a question fo y'all. I wanna git dis muthaboard n' SLI it wit two MSI GTX 760 4GB as a budget backup gamin' rig, namsayin? I'mma put an FX8350 in it, y'all. Wut I wanna know is will da two GTX 760 wit dem Twin Frozr fans run just fine on da first two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots? I gots a small PC case, da Silverstone RVX01. Peace, y'all. West side.

- CrunkPlaya69

P.S. Yea, dis b a series question, y'all.

October 31, 2016 | 01:35 AM - Posted by Uhhhh (not verified)

You asked that in a profoundly stupid premeditated manner. Kill yourself.

February 15, 2016 | 10:23 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This board with the FX8350 will be a nice upgrade for my BT48 and Q9559 cpu.

January 20, 2017 | 08:57 PM - Posted by emrik henson (not verified)

can it support the intel core i5 processer

January 20, 2017 | 08:58 PM - Posted by emrik henson (not verified)

can it support the intel core i5 processer

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