iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






MSI 790XT-G45 Motherboard

A solution for DDR2 memory users.

April 8, 2010

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  • CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 810
  • RAM: 2 x 2GB Apacer DDR3-1333 CL9 9-9-9-24-1T for Socket AM3 boards; 2 x 2GB GoodRAM PRO DDR2-1066 CL5 5-5-5-15-2T for Socket AM2+ boards
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200rpm)
  • Graphics card: ATI RADEON HD4850, 512 MB GDDR3
  • PSU: AcBel ATX-550CA-AB8FB
  • OS: Windows Vista SP1 64-bit, Catalyst 9.2, latest chipset drivers


  • 7-Zip 4.65 x64
  • WinRAR 3.80
  • XviD 1.2.1
  • x264 r1129 x64
  • FarCry 2 (Ranch Medium)
  • Crysis (DX10, HOCbenchmark, VGA test, built-in demo)
  • Devil May Cry 4 (built-in benchmark)
  • World in Conlict (built-in benchmark)

To assess performance we measure time required to archive a 297MB set of 277 files of various types and convert a 636MB MPEG2 video using XviD and x264. We also measure frames per second in game demos. In FarCry 2 we run tests in 4 modes: low, medium, high and very high quality. The first three modes imply the aforesaid quality level, 1280x720 resolution, DX9 rendering, High Performance. The last mode implies: 1680x1050 resolution, Very High setting for both graphics and system, DX10 rendering. In Crysis we also use 4 modes at 1024x768 and 1280x1024 and run tests at Low and High quality in each mode. In Devil May Cry 4 we run two tests: 1280x720 (High DX9) and 1680x1050 (Super High DX10). In World in Conlict we run test in 4 modes: 1280x720 Low, 1280x720 Medium, 1680x1050 High, 1680x1050 Very High.

It's obvious which modes should be used with integrated graphics and which, with discrete graphics. Note that if a motherboard has no integrated graphics, performance tests are only used to check for serious layout or BIOS flaws and can be reduced to minimum. Vice versa, performance tests are indicative for motherboards with integrated graphics. And if a certain motherboard review lacks certain details, we might add respective test results to make up for it.

To assess capabilities of a motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock test CPUs (which ones depends on board's market segment) to a stable maximum with the help of Zalman CNPS9700 AM2 and Cooler Master Hyper Z600 coolers. At that we use all motherboard features, like CPU core voltage adjustments and, if needed, bus multiplier and clock adjustments (Hyper-Transport, CPU NB, etc.) For RAM we select a clock rate typical for this class of modules by adjusting its multiplier, or clock rate needed to maximize CPU core clock rate. The stability of an overclocked machine is assessed in Windows Vista with the help of AMD OverDrive stability test (all tests are run for 5 minutes). Note that since overclocking potential somewhat varies from one board to another, we are not focused on finding board's exact overclocking potential accurate to 1MHz. We just try to find out if a board hampers in CPU overclocking (due to insufficient voltage stabilizer power, etc.) and see how it performs in atypical modes, including automatic BIOS recovery in cases of overclocking issues (not requiring CMOS reset) and such.

Power consumption is assessed in the light mode (with text editor running) and in the heavy mode (FarCry 2, high quality, 1280x720). At that we enable processor's standard power-saving features. Also, if a board has proprietary power-saving features, we examine their efficiency separately.

BIOS overclocking settings Availability Notes
Memory timings +  
Memory frequency + DDR2-400 to DDR2-1066
HT bus frequency (multiplier) +  
CPU reference frequency + 200 MHz to 600 MHz
CPU multiplier + Cores and CPU NB
Advanced Clock Calibration + Auto, -12% to +12% (for each core)
CPU voltage + 0.992 V to 1.942 V or -26.6% to +30.4%
Memory voltage + 1.83 V to 2.53 V
Chipset voltage + 1.115 V to 1.371 V (Northbridge)
1.218 V to 1.519 V (HT bus)

The BIOS adjustment ranges of the CPU multiplier and voltage, as well as the HT bus, depend on the given processor. We publish results for our Phenom II X4 810. We used BIOS v2.3 dated January 21, 2010.

The BIOS lacks an option to adjust CPU NB voltage, though there are two ways to adjust CPU core voltage. It also lacks user profiles, though this feature can even be found in lower-end MSI motherboards. Perhaps, these will be added in future firmware upgrades. For example, the CPU NB multiplier option has only been added recently.

CPU Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition 2.8 GHz Phenom II X4 810 2.6 GHz
CPU frequency, MHz 3700 3640
CPU reference frequency (multiplier), MHz 200 (x18,5) 280 (x13)
Core/CPU NB voltage (according to BIOS), V 1.48/1.20 1.46/1.20
CPU NB frequency (multiplier), MHz 2400 (x12) 2520 (x9)
HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz 2000 (x10) 2240 (x8)
Memory frequency, MHz DDR3-1333 DDR3-933
Notes Increase core and CPU NB multipliers Increase reference frequency, reduce CPU NB and HT bus multipliers

It's interesting that despite the aforementioned lack of BIOS options, we could overclock CPU NB with no problems. The memory controller and L3 cache worked fine at 2400-2500 MHz (vs. the typical 2000 MHz) even at the normal voltage. However, most users would still prefer to be able to raise the Northbridge voltage by 0.1 V or 0.2 V just in case. So let's hope this feature will be added in the future.

Performance and efficiency

We compared MSI 790XT-G45 with DFI LANParty DK 790X-M2R Socket AM2+ motherboard based on the same chipset.

Test MSI 790XT-G45 DFI DK 790X-M2RS
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:15 1:14
x264 encoding, min:sec 1:26 1:26
Crysis (High @ 1280x1024), fps 42 42
World in Conflict (Very High @ 1680x1050), fps 46 45
HDPlay (DXVA Off/On), CPU load 26%/3% 26%/3%

Enclosure power consumption

We measured power consumption with the wattmeter built into the PSU.

Phenom II X4 810 + Radeon HD 4850 MSI 790XT-G45 DFI DK 790X-M2RS
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 76 (APS On)
93 (APS Off)
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 100 99
FarCry 2, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 153-206 165-210

As you can see, the power consumption is lower in the idle mode, meaning that the number of active phases is dynamically adjusted.


Motherboards supporting DDR2 memory are in limited demand these days. On the other hand, modern Athlon II and Phenom II CPUs are still backward-compatible with this memory as well. Consider this MSI 790XT-G45, if this is important for you. The motherboard has no specifically attractive features, but it has a high-quality VRM and can dynamically adjust the number of active phases. Though the motherboard itself will hardly interest overclockers who will most likely prefer a solution with DDR3 support. On the downside, MSI 790XT-G45 only supports CPUs with up to 125W TDP and doesn't allows to adjust CPU NB voltage (at the moment).

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