This past September AMD introduced a refresh of their FX CPUs that included a few new more power efficient CPUs along with a major pricing restructure to update the lineup. While I had the chance to test out most of the lineup there were a few that weren’t included. Recently AMD sent over one of the CPUs that I missed the FX-8320E. With the FX-8320E being a budget focused gaming CPU AMD also sent along with it a motherboard that matched its low price point and gaming focus, the 970 Gaming from MSI. Paired together you can get them for just a few dollars more than an i5-4670K with no motherboard or any of the 2011 socket CPUs. With 8 cores and a turbo clock speed of 4 GHz it should still be performer, but of course there really is only one way to find out, let’s check it out.

Product Name: AMD FX-8320E and MSI 970 Gaming Motherboard

Review Samples Provided by: AMD

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

AMD FX-8320E Specifications

x86 Piledriver Cores

8

Core Clock

Up to 3.2/4.0GHz

L2 Cache

8MB

Shared L3 Cache

8MB

Memory Support

Up to 1866MHz w/ AMP

Typical TDP

95W

Motherboard Socket

AM3+

Chipset Compatibility

990FX, 990X, 980G, 970

Unlocked CPU Multiplier

Yes

Price

$146.99

MSI 970 Gaming Motherboard Specifications

CPU

Supports  AMD®FXTM/ Phenom™ II/ Athlon™ II and Sempron™ processors for the AM3/ AM3+ socket

Hyper Transport Bus

HyperTransport 3.0 supporting speed up to 4.8GT/s

Chipset

AMD® 970 and SB950 Chipset

Main Memory

-4 x DDR3 memory slots supporting up to 32GB

-Supports DDR3 2133(OC)/ 1866/ 1600/ 1333/ 1066 MHz

-Dual channel memory architecture

Slots

2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slots

- PCI_E2 supports up to PCIe 2.0 x16 speed

- PCI_E4 supports up to PCIe 2.0 x8 speed

2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots

2 x PCI slots

Multi-GPU

Supports 2-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology*

Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology*

On-Board SATA

AMD SB950 Chipset

- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports

- Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID5 and RAID 10

USB

AMD® SB950 Chipset

- 14x USB 2.0 ports (8 ports on the back panel, 6 ports available through the internal USB 2.0 connectors)

VIA VL806 Chipset

- 4 x USB 3.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB 3.0 connector)*

* These USB 3.0 ports do not support M-Flash recovery function.

Audio

Realtek® ALC1150 Codec

LAN

Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN controller

Internal I/O Connectors

-1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector

-1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector

-6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors

-3 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports)

-1 x USB 3.0 connector

-1 x 4-pin CPU fan connector

-2 x 4-pin system fan connectors

-2 x 3-pin system fan connectors

-1 x Front panel audio connector

-2 x System panel connectors

-1 x Chassis Intrusion connector

-1 x TPM module connector

-1 x Serial port connector

-1 x S/PDIF-Out connector

-1 x Clear CMOS jumper

-1 x Slow mode booting switch

Back Panel I/O Ports

- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port

- 8 x USB 2.0 ports

- 2 x USB 3.0 ports

- 1 x Optical S/PDIF-Out connector

- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port

- 6 x OFC audio jacks

BIOS

-The motherboard BIOS provides "Plug & Play" BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.

-The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.

Dimension

12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm) ATX Form Factor

Mounting

9 mounting holes

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MSI 970 Gaming Motherboard

Like I mentioned before, AMD included the MIS 970 Gaming motherboard along with their CPU because of its low price and high feature set. I couldn’t just leave it at that though, I had to at least take a look at what you get when you buy the board. Starting with the packaging you get the standard black and red theme that all MSI gaming boards have had for the past few years. The front has a large dragon across it as well as the boards name in big letters. Around on the back MSI has included a few small photos of features as well as short write-ups on 7 of the boards features. They also included a small specification listing as well as a line drawing of the rear I/O panel to show what connections you get with the board.

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Inside, along with the board itself you get a stack of documentation, a black flexible SLI bridge, and two black SATA cables. For documentation you get a user guide, an installation guide, a door hanger, SATA tags, and a software/drive disc. 

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You also get a rear I/O panel as well of course. MSI made sure that the I/O panel matches the board with a blacked out design with red lettering and a red MSI Gaming Series logo on it. On the back of the I/O panel I was happy to find a foam rather than the metal springs that can cut up your hands and get caught on different plugs when installing the board. I have found out after getting things together many times that there is a metal tab stuck in my Ethernet plug or similar.

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With the packaging aside I could finally get a better look at the board itself. There weren’t any big surprises, the 970 Gaming has the same flat black theme with a little red trim that all MSI Gaming Series boards have had. This gives a nice clean look when installed in your typical black case. It is a full ATX motherboard with a standard CPU location so there shouldn’t be any fitment issues.

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For cooling the 970 Gaming has three heatsinks. There are two around the CPU with one on the left and the second under the CPU. The third heatsink is the chipset heatsink to the right of the PCIe slots. Obviously the chipset heatsink is low profile for clearance with longer PCIe devices. The other two are about an inch tall. They are both black with red trim on two sides and they both have a chrome dragon on the end. The taller heatsinks have more surface area with small ¼ inch wide pegs.

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Back on the rear I/O panel we have a few things going on. For starters you get a six port audio panel, five of the connections are in black with one red port. The red port is the one with the built in headphone amplifier. For USB you have a total of 10 with two of those being USB 3.0 and two (in red) that are designed with thicker gold on the connections for people who unplug and plugin their mouse and keyboard a lot (eSports and LANs).  They also included a legacy PS2 port for those who have keyboards that support it. The killer NIC is in red as well. Last but not least is a button that clears the CMOS without you having to take the side panel off and play with jumpers.

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Starting up in the left corner behind the rear I/O panel the largest of the three heatsinks takes up most of the space. MSI did manage to fit the 8-pin CPU power that space though. There is also a 4-pin PWM fan header down in between the two heatsinks. The rest of the space is taken up by the CPU socket itself. There aren’t any surprises there, AMDs sockets have been close to the same for many years now.

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Moving over to the top right of the 970 Gaming we have four DDR3 DIMMs in all black to match the flat black board. There is a 4-pin PWM fan header for the CPU just above the CPU socket and then 3-pin fan header up in the top right. It’s a little weird to me that they didn’t just go with all PWM fan headers though. The only other thing of importance in the top right corner is the 24-pin motherboard power connection. The rest of the area is oddly lacking in any other features or highlights.

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Down in the bottom right corner of the board there is a lot more going on. For starters we have another 4-pin PWM fan header making for 3 4-pins and 1 3-pin so far. Below that are six SATA3 ports, all sitting at a right angle. Down in along the bottom edge we have three USB 2.0 headers and a USB 3.0 as well. In the corner is the front panel header, the diagram for each plug is up near the SATA ports to help you know where to plug everything in.

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On the bottom left corner we have another system fan header, this one is a 3-pin. That makes the total 3 4-pins and 2 3-pins for the board. Beyond that there is a communication header and a trusted platform header as well. The entire left corner of the board is dedicated to the onboard audio card. MSI split up the PCBs and highlighted it with a resin filled gap the entire way around it to make it easir to see and to help isolate the sound card more. While this is a budget board, they did do a good job including a built in headphone amp, a cover over the sound card to help protect it from interference, and they also used Nichicon capacitors as well for the best possible audio quality. 

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For PCI slots we get one PCIe x16 slot, one PCIe x16 slot with an x8 speed, two PCIe x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots. It’s a little weird seeing PCI slots and I would prefer to see the PCI slots being used under the PCIe x16/x8 slots to leave the more usable x1 slots available even when running dual card configurations.

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Flipping the 970 Gaming around we get a better look at the flat black PCB as well as all of the hidden logos that help keep the top of the board clean looking. There are a whole bunch of screws visible on the back as well that hold down each of the heatsinks as well as the shield over the sound card. Typically most motherboard heatsinks aren’t held down with screws like this, but it should make removing them and reapplying thermal paste much easier in the future if you ever need too. 

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CPU Performance

As usual I ran the FX-8320E through our standard CPU benchmark suite to see how it performs in various situations. To start off I ran through benchmarks using Cinebench, X264 HD, and wPrime. These all test specific applications like calculating square roots in wPrime, rendering a photorealistic 3D scene in Cinebench, and encoding in X264 HD. In wPrime the results put the FX-8320E nearly on par with the i5-2500k and behind a few of AMDs most modern APUs. X264 HD was similar but with results close to the FX-8370E. Cinebench is always the most interesting benchmark to me because not only do we get to compare total CPU performance but it also does a single core benchmark that helps show how efficient each CPU is when being used by a program that doesn’t use all of your cores. Like the previous tests the FX-8320E came in just behind the FX-8370E in both tests. On the single core testing the older architecture is still showing but the difference between the 8320E and the CPU below it was substantial.

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The next two benchmarks are general benchmarks that test multiple situations and average out scores. For PCMark 8 I ran the FX-8320E through using the conventional test as well as the OpenCL benchmark as well to see how well it handles both. PCMark 8 being as realistic as it can be uses a few tests that don’t have good multithreading, this can be especially seen with the results of the 8 core 5960X. That said the FX-8320E came in just below the FX-8370E as expected in both conventional and OpenCL benchmarks. The same goes for the Passmark results as well. 

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Last but far from least I also went through our gaming focused testing. This includes four in game tests as well as 3DMark. In 3DMark the results are about the same as what we saw from the FX-8370E. In the in game testing things are a lot more even though, proving once again that when it comes to gaming the CPU isn’t as important as your video card. I think this is where the FX-8329E really shines, the performance in most of the testing is okay at best but when it comes to gaming you get as much as you need and you can save money towards your video card.

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Cooling and Power

I couldn’t do our testing without also checking out the cooling and power testing, especially with this being one of AMDs lower wattage CPUs with the E at the end and its 95 watt TDP. So how did that help its power usage? Well our test bench pulled a total of 118 watts with the CPU under load using wPrime and 83 watts at idle. This is still higher than what Intels latest CPUs are doing but a noticeable improvement over the other FX based AMD CPUs, nearly on par with the A10-6700. As for temperature performance though the FX-8320E it ran cooler than anything else tested at 41 degrees.  

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Overall and Final Verdict

After spending time with both the AMD FX-8320E and the MSI 970 Gaming I came out with a mostly positive outlook. For starters, the board is packed full of features and is selling for a great price. When you combine the board with the FX-8320E you have a combo that costs less than a lot of Intels Mid range CPUs and well below Intel’s enthusiast CPUs. What does that money get you? Well for performance things are a little lacking in CPU specific benchmarks, giving you numbers similar to the aged i5-2500k. That said when it comes to gaming performance, this is more than enough power for most games on the CPU side. You can use the money you have saved to invest even more in your video card where you will see even bigger gains.

Cooling testing showed the FX-8320E to be the coolest running CPU we have tested so you shouldn’t need to spend too much on cooling as well. Being AMD’s low wattage model it is a little disappointing to see Intel’s most recent flagship i7’s pulling less wattage, but this is the downside to running an ageing architecture.

So is this the buy for you? Well if you are looking to build a low budget gaming PC both the motherboard and CPU would be on my radar for sure. You have a relatively low investment and you still get good gaming performance. Use the rest of your money picking up the best possible video card you can get and possibly an SSD as well and you will have a nice budget build.

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Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld replied the topic: #36131 07 Jan 2015 22:48
Today I take a look at a budget CPU from AMD along with a budget gaming board from MSI. The goal of pairing these two together is to see if you can keep costs down while still getting good in game performance. In other words, is this the ideal setup for a budget gaming rig? Check it out and find out

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