Almost three years after the launch of their 7 series platform, AMD released their new 890 FX platform this past April. With us still running an 790FX in our AMD test bench, It’s about time we upgraded to the newest motherboard series. MSI was kind enough to send us their 890FXA-GD70 to take a closer look at. Paired up with a Phenom II Black Edition 965 and an NVidia GTX460, it should be a good combination.
Product Name: MSI 890FXA-GD70
Review Sample Provided by: MSI
Review by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
64bit AMD® Phenom II X6/X4/X3/X2, Athlon II X4/X3/X2 and Sempron CPU.
Hyper Transport Bus
HyperTransport 3.0 supporting speed up to 5200MT/s
AMD® 890FX and SB850 Chipset
Supports four unbuffered DIMM of 1.5 Volt DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600*/1800*/2133* (OC)·DRAM, 16GB Max
- 5 PCI Express 2.0 slots
- One IDE port by JMicron® JMB363
- 6 SATA III (1~6) ports by AMD® SB850
SATA III 1~6 support RAID 0, 1,·5, 10 mode by AMD® SB850
- Chipset integrated by Realtek®·ALC889
- Realtek PCI-E GbLAN controller 8111DL
IEEE1394 / FireWire
Internal I/O Connectors
- 1 x ATX 24-pin power connector
Back Panel I/O Ports
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard port
24.5cm(L) x 30.5cm(W) ATX Form Factor
9 mounting holes.
CPU (Max Support)
AM3 CPU Ready
FSB / Hyper Transport Bus
up to 5200MT/s
Max Memory (GB)
Gen2 (2x16, 2x8, 1x4)
USB 3.0 ports (Rear)
USB 2.0 ports (Rear)
Audio ports (Rear)
6+Coaxial SPDIF/Optical SPDIF
Serial ports (Rear)
Parallel ports (Rear)
1394 ports (Rear)
VGA Max Share Memory (MB)
When placed next to the packaging from the 790FX-GD70 from MSI that we used previously in our test rig, one can hardly spot a difference between the two outside of the name. The large 'G' covering the packaging stands for Gaming Series, fitting for one of MSI’s flagship models. Around back they have packed every bit of information that you could need including a nice photo of the rear I/O panel, the board specifications, and nice breakdowns of each feature. Inside you get a collection of books including a large manual and quick guide. They even include a manual for the MSI Control Center software, which shows an attention to detail that you don’t seen very much. Tucked under the literature you will find the color coded I/O panel, Flexible crossfire cable, IDE and SATA cables, and M-connectors to make installation simpler.
When compared to our old 790FX-GD70, its almost hard to spot the differences between the two boards. The large silver and blue heatsink to the left of the CPU cools both the MOSFET and Northbridge. Paired up with a heat pipe running over to the Southbridge the large heatsink should keep everything cool. The same setup was used on the 790FX, minus the blue add-on’s.
After being greeted by MSI’s boot screen, which by the way looks just like the 890FX’s packaging, I booted into the boards BIOS. Sporting a BIOS from American Megatrends, I started to take a look around.
The built in hardware monitor has a whole selection of temps, voltages from your PSU, and control of your fan speeds. Under the Green Power tab, you can choose to turn both the CPU and DDR phase control on and off, giving you the option to save power when not pushing your PC to its limits. While in here you can also control the LED lighting on the motherboard that shows you the status of the phase control. Personally I love seeing them light up as the 890FXA requires more power.
If you are interested in edging out a little more performance out of your rig you will find everything you need under the Cell Menu. They have placed your FSB and CPU ratio together with more voltage adjustments than you can imagine! Placing everything together on one page makes it a little easier to work with, although it is also a little overwhelming.
Overall I found the bios to be packed with features, in some cases more than needed. Because of that, it is also harder to navigate than competing boards from Gigabyte and EVGA (comparing to Intel boards). I would suggest you stick to the MSI Control Center if you are a BIOS novice or are looking to keep it simple.
With the Phenom II 965 BE in the 890FXA, I couldn’t leave it at its stock clocks for long. I jumped into the bios with a crazy look in my eye and wasted no time finding the CPU multiplier and bumping the clock up to a healthy 3.8 Ghz without touching any voltage. After a small bump in CPU voltage, 4.2 was running nice and prime95 was stable. Not only was overclocking with the 890FXA-GD70 simple, I was also able to do the same by using MSI’s Control Center. In fact, their Control Center has the ability to control just about anything you will need without ever booting into the bios. If that isn’t enough, you can also adjust your FSB up and down with a knob right on the motherboard. They obviously want to make it as easy as possible to help you get every last ounce of performance out of your CPU.
Our Test Rig
AMD Phenom II 965 Black Edition
Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3 Ram
Seagate 320 GB Hard Drive
Because I am sure most people who are looking at the 890FXA-GD70 will be looking to build a high end gaming rig while keeping the costs to something reasonable I pieced together a rig that fits that same theme. The 965 Black Edition is both fast and priced much cheaper than comparable CPU’s from the big blue. I dropped in our Shuttle GTX460 that we tested out just a few weeks ago in an effort to keep the overall price down as well. I originally planned on running our Mushkin 996601 DDR3 kit, but experienced incompatibility issues. This was disappointing considering that same kit worked amazing in our 790FX rig. Swapping out with a pair of Ballistix Tracer RAM from Crucial fixed the problems and I was able to continue on with testing. Speaking of, I put the setup through my normal collection of tests. Although they were impressive, I wasn’t shocked. The 890FXA-GD70 is both powerful and flexible. When paired with other great components its raging bull waiting to be let loose on unsuspecting games. I have graphed out our results below for you to see.
After living with the 890FXA-GD70 for a few weeks now I am impressed by MSI’s attention to detail and well thought out software. I found the BIOS to be a little difficult to work with, but considering all the features packed into it, it comes as no surprise. When paired with a good CPU, RAM, and video card you have the makings of an amazing build. MSI has included anything you could ask for including SATA6 and a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the I/O panel. My only complaints about the board were limited to issues running the Mushkin ram and how overwhelming the BIOS can be. Beyond that there is no reason to wait; you could be killing zombie dogs in Metro 2033 right now!