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MSI 790FX-GD70 Motherboard

Comprehensive features.

June 9, 2009



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There are not many motherboards for Socket AM2+ with AMD 790FX + SB750. And with the appearance of AM3 we can expect all manufacturers to "make up leeway", that is to launch new top models, for which this chipset is a natural choice. So along with DDR3 support, we expect such motherboards to use the most interesting proprietary technologies and solutions their manufacturers have. Today we'll have a look at a product from MSI.

Design





It's a rare design with the Northbridge installed near the CPU voltage regulator. In this case engineers went even further and installed a common heatsink on these components. As a result, the motherboard houses as many expansion slots as possible for the ATX format. On the whole, this PCB layout with multiple additional controllers is praiseworthy.



The cooling system is mounted with spring-loaded screws instead of cheap plastic latches. The heatsinks have an unusual design, and it's even more unusual for MSI to use large low-profile installations. If you take a look at designs of expensive motherboards for the past several years, you'll see mostly high heatsinks, often of intricate shapes. A low-profile heatsink is more convenient if for no other reason than you don't have to think about it when you choose a cooler. This design is certainly cheaper to manufacture, so this motherboard will be more affordable or it will offer more functions for the same price.



The CPU voltage regulator uses integrated transducers from Renesas (R2J20504) that combine MOSFETs and their driver. It's a more compact design compared to the standard solution. And owning to higher conversion efficiency, each phase can process higher currents. Unlike the previously tested DKA790GX, which uses a hybrid solution, this motherboard has such regulators installed in all five channels. The power circuit also contains 10 x 820 uF and 5 x 270 uF solid capacitors made in Japan. We have no doubts that such voltage regulator will work well even with overclocked processors with TDP up to 140W.



What concerns optional components, the bundle includes a bracket with two USB ports as well as PATA and FDD cables branded MSI. No souvenirs, external fan speed controllers, system indicators, or the like. However, the price issue is vital now even for users of High-End components, so it's probably unwise to make users pay for excesses. What concerns a fan controller, we have never seen such bonuses in pre-recession bundles, so we give this idea away to manufacturers of future elite boards.

The once-rich set of proprietary MSI utilities includes only Dual Core Center for system monitoring. Unfortunately, the BIOS flasher still cannot work with images on a disc, it supports only online images (notorious for its tendency to send users to service centers, but the company ignores all complaints posted on its own forum). At least it's possible to download BIOS images from the official web site and then flash them with M-Flash integrated into BIOS. The bundle also includes a trial version of Norton Internet Security.

Features



The motherboard is based on the AMD 790FX chipset (AMD 790FX Northbridge and SB750 Southbridge). You can read about its functions in this review. It supports processors for Socket AM3 only, you can install up to 16 GB of DDR3-1066/1333/1600 memory. There are eight internal SATA/300 ports (drives connected to six chipset-based ports can form RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5), another two internal SATA/300 ports are based on the JMicron JMB322 controller supporting RAID 0 and 1. Just like all motherboards with modern chipsets for the AMD platform, this model has a single chipset-based IDE channel supporting two PATA/133 drives. We should also mention seven USB ports on the rear panel, so most users will do fine without USB hubs. Functionality of the chipset is supplemented with the following controllers:

  • Integrated audio (8-channel HDA codec Realtek ALC889), coaxial and optical S/PDIF Outs on the rear panel.
  • Two Gigabit Ethernet controllers (Realtek 8111, PCIEx1) 10/100/1000 Mbps.
  • FireWire (VIA VT6315N, PCI) supporting two IEEE 1394a 100/200/400 Mbps ports (one on the rear panel and one internal).
  • System monitoring (Fintek F71889F), BIOS allows automatic speed control for a CPU fan and four system fans. For a CPU fan you can specify a target temperature and the minimal rotational speed (in percentage terms, down to zero). For each system fan you can specify target rotational speed (50, 75, or 100%), but the speed is adjusted smoothly. That is this option actually sets the minimum rotational speed -- the lower the target threshold, the lower it will be (for example, the minimum speed for 50% is about 25-30%, and maximum speed depends on readings of the system thermal sensor, it's not limited to avoid overheating in critical situations). Speed control is available for 3- and 4-pin fans.

The integrated audio quality was tested in the 16 bit 44 kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.3 and the ESI Juli@ sound card.


Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB: +0.01, -0.05 Excellent
Noise level, dB (A): -92.4 Very good
Dynamic range, dB (A): 92.4 Very good
THD, %: 0.0069 Very good
Harmonic distortion + noise, dB(A): -80.0 Good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %: 0.0092 Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB: -93.5 Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %: 0.010 Very good

General performance: Very good.

It looks like MSI engineers managed to squeeze maximum possible from the installed codec. Indeed, the audio is clear and nice. On the other hand, we've come across even better solutions in MSI motherboards with audio processors from Creative, for example. But it's still more expedient for audiophiles to install discrete sound cards than to choose motherboards with outstanding talents, which often cost too much. What concerns common users, this solution looks more than adequate, especially considering S/PDIF Outs of both types on the rear panel.


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