Motherboards based on high-end chipsets are often purchased not only by overclockers and gaming enthusiasts, but also users willing to get the best components to build a reliable, nicely expandable rig. It's not a secret that motherboards like this feature the highest-quality power circuitry and coolers. This inspires hope that the resulting machine will be both powerful and stable. Formally, a single-processor server board would have done the trick, too. But from the home user's angle such products are not as feature-rich and, at the same time, have controllers unnecessary at home (e.g. SAS).
Today we shall review MSI 890FXA-GD70, a motherboard equally well suited for all sorts of demanding users.
The CrossFire support MSI 890FXA-GD70 offers is as full-fledged as possible: when two graphics cards are installed, each gets 16 PCIe lanes, when four, 8.
Another port is always working as x4, so you can easily use it for PhysX acceleration. Of course, nothing prevents you from installing long graphics cards, as there are no especially high, protruding parts. Fan connectors are spread thoughout the board for more convenience as well.
Like all motherboards all such class, MSI 890FXA-GD70 offers a few nice extras like a POST indicator and onboard controls. Controls, by the way, are touch-activated. Aside from the Power and Reset buttons, there's one that enables dynamic CPU VRM phase management, and a dial for fine-tuning clock rates.
The back panel has almost everything you may need, including two Gigabit Ethernet ports, eSATA, and 2 x USB 3.0. Strangely enough, there are no FireWire ports, although there's such a controller onboard. What's even stranger, there are no FireWire ports on the bracket supplied with the motherboard.
Chipset heatsinks are designed reasonably rather than stylishly, so even if you use liquid cooling for CPU needs, you won't have to provide additional airflow for chipset heatsinks. The proprietary voltage stabilizer which is obviously more efficient than regular components adds to temperature reduction as well.
The CPU VRM has 5 phases and features DrMOS chips traditional for high-end motherboards from MSI. The DrMOS technology provides higher conversion efficiency and output voltage stability. There are also 10 x 470µF tantalum capacitors and 5 x 270µF solid ones.
MSI 890FXA-GD70 supports processors with TDPs up to 140W, and obviously offers a leeway to overclock even the highest-end CPUs.
Aside from high efficiency, the circuitry has another advantage in terms of power stability: the switch frequency is 1000 kHz instead of the standard 250 kHz.
The package includes 4 SATA cables with metallic latches, a PATA cable, a CrossFire bridge, front-panel cabling, a USB bracket, and a software CD. The latter contains automatic driver/BIOS update utility and Norton Internet Security. Available proprietary tools include MSI Control Center that provides detailed system information and handles power saving and overclocking.
There's also Winki 2.0, a Linux-based shell that allows you to browse the Web, use Skype, watch photos, open documents in Open Office and create system backups. All that without booting to the primary OS.
MSI 890FXA-GD70 is based on the AMD 890FX chipset (AMD 890FX + SB850). It supports all Socket AM3 processors and up to 16GB of DDR3-1066/1333/1600 memory. It also has 6 internal SATA 6Gbps ports (RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5), one SATA 3Gbps port, and an IDE channel for two PATA/133 drives. Now let's take a look at onboard controllers.
- Integrated audio based on the Realtek ALC889 codec.
- USB 3.0 based on NEC D720200F1 (PCIe 2.0 x1), supporting two ports.
- 2 Gigabit Ethernet controllers based on Realtek 8111DL (PCIe x1).
- SATA 3Gbps / IDE based on JMicron JMB363 (PCIe x1). Provides an eSATA 3Gbps port combined with USB on the back panel.
- FireWire based on VIA VT6315N (PCIe x1), supporting two IEEE1394a ports.
- System monitoring based on Fintek F71889ED. The BIOS can automatically control CPU fan speed; you can set the desired temperature (40°C to 60°C); both 3 and 4-pin fans are supported; system fan speed can be limited to 50% or 75% of the maximum.
We tested the integrated audio solution in the 16-bit/44kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.3 and an ASUS Xonar DX sound card.
|Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB
|Noise level, dB(A)
|Dynamic range, dB(A)
|THD + noise, dB(A)
|IMD + noise, %
|Channel crosstalk, dB
|IMD at 10 kHz, %
Overall grade: very good. Standard results for this codec do not add to motherboard's high-end status, but also save you money. After all, if you need truly high audio quality, you should get a discrete sound card anyway.
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