iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






MSI 890GXM-G65 Motherboard

Examining chipset performance, Hybrid CrossFire included.

April 15, 2010

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The motherboard is based on the AMD 890GX chipset (AMD 890GX Northbridge + SB850 Southbridge). It features 5 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5) and a eSATA 6Gb/s port on the rear panel. There's also a regular PATA/133 interface for two drives. It's provided by the chipset so you don't need any special drivers or whatever. Additional controllers include:

  • Integrated audio based on the 7.1+2-channel Realtek ALC889 HDA codec, supports independent stereo output via the front panel outputs, features optical S/PDIF Out on the rear panel;
  • USB 3.0 based on NEC D720200F1 (PCIe x1 2.0) supporting two ports;
  • Gigabit LAN based on Realtek 8111DL (PCIe x1);
  • System monitoring based on Fintek F71889ED supporting automatic fan control in BIOS to maintain the desired temperature (40°C ~ 60°C) or the minimal rotation speed (up to 50%); theoretically supports both 3 and 4-pin fans, but the given BIOS version could only control the latter; you can also limit fan speed by 50% or 75%.

We assessed the analog output quality of the integrated audio system in the 16-bit/44kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.3 and an ESI Juli@ sound card.

Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB: +0.03, -0.04 Excellent
Noise level, dB(A): -90.3 Very Good
Dynamic range, dB(A): 90.3 Very Good
THD, %: 0.0067 Very Good
THD + noise, dB(A): -79.3 Average
IMD + noise, %: 0.011 Very Good
Channel crosstalk, dB: -90.3 Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %: 0.011 Very Good

Overall grade: Very Good. The results are typical for this codec, the quality of which is high enough for an integrated solution.



  • 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-load mode (with text editor running) and in the heavy-load 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 + DDR3-800 ~ DDR3-1600
HT bus frequency (multiplier) +  
CPU reference frequency + 190 MHz ~ 690 MHz
CPU multiplier + Cores and CPU NB
Core unlock mode -  
CPU core voltage + 0.968 V ~ 1.918 V (cores)
0.494 V ~ 1.558 V (CPU NB)
Memory voltage + 0.508 V ~ 3.725 V
Chipset voltage + 1.048 V ~ 1.651 V (Northbridge)
0.887 V ~ 1.397 V (Southbridge)

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 v1.0c dated February 5, 2010.

The BIOS provides a complete set of overclocking options as well as wide value ranges. The memory voltage range is even risky, because even 2 V, not to mention 3.7 V, can result in faster chip aging, if you use regular memory. The motherboard promptly reacts to lock-ups caused by excessive overclocking and also has a switch for those who used to overclock CPUs, increasing reference frequency "mechanically".

CPU Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition 2.8 GHz Phenom II X4 810 2.6 GHz
CPU frequency, MHz 3700 3380
CPU reference frequency (multiplier), MHz 200 (x18.5) 260 (x13)
Core/CPU NB voltage (according to BIOS), V 1.48/1.10 1.33/1.24
CPU NB frequency (multiplier), MHz 2400 (x12) 2340 (x9)
HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz 2000 (x10) 2080 (x8)
Memory frequency, MHz DDR3-1333 DDR3-1040
Notes Increase core and CPU NB multipliers Increase reference frequency, reduce CPU NB and HT bus multipliers

We could overclock a CPU with unlocked multiplier within typical limits. However, this didn't work with the standard model, so let's hope newer BIOS versions will take care of that.

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