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MSI 890FXA-GD65 Socket AM3 Motherboard

msi 890fxa-gd65So for MSI to follow up the success of their previous motherboards, they have recently announced an addition to the 890FX series: the new 890FXA-GD65. This new board is squarely aimed at the gamer who is looking for the ability to run CrossFire-X, or a single high-end NVIDIA based chard, but also keep a tight grip on their wallets. The 890FXA-GD65 features some of the great features of the GD70 model like core unlocking, constructed with Military Class components, and the ability overclock with ease. So lets dive into this bad boy!

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msi 890fxa-gd65

msi 890fxa-gd65So for MSI to follow up the success of their previous motherboards, they have recently announced an addition to the 890FX series: the new 890FXA-GD65. This new board is squarely aimed at the gamer who is looking for the ability to run CrossFire-X, or a single high-end NVIDIA based chard, but also keep a tight grip on their wallets. The 890FXA-GD65 features some of the great features of the GD70 model like core unlocking, constructed with Military Class components, and the ability overclock with ease. So lets dive into this bad boy!

Introduction to the MSI 890FXA-GD65 Socket AM3 Motherboard

MSI has been making a lot of waves from all their success with motherboards based on AMD’s AM3 socket. Just look at the 890GXM-G65 and the 890FXA-GD70, two motherboards that run rings around many other motherboards on the market utilizing similar chipsets. Then, with Intel’s error in the Cougar Point chipset regarding SATA-II, we are seeing more emphasis on AMD processors. Despite the fact there hasn’t been any huge change with them in quite some time (save for the 6-core Thuban in early 2010). With owning the “Best Bang for you Buck” title, if you’ve got a good thing going, there really isn’t much need AMD to change anything.

So for MSI to follow up the success of their previous motherboards, they have recently announced an addition to the 890FX series: the new 890FXA-GD65. This new board is squarely aimed at the gamer who is looking for the ability to run CrossFire-X, or a single high-end NVIDIA based chard, but also keep a tight grip on their wallets. The 890FXA-GD65 features some of the great features of the GD70 model like core unlocking, constructed with Military Class components, and the ability overclock with ease. So lets dive into this bad boy!

Specifications

• CPU 
– 64bit AMD® Phenom II X6/X4/X3/X2, Athlon II X4/X3/X2 and Sempron CPU.
Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.

• Hyper Transport Bus
– HyperTransport 3.0 supporting speed up to 5200MT/s

• Chipset
– AMD® 890FX and SB850 Chipset

• Main Memory
– Supports four unbuffered DIMM of 1.5 Volt DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600*/1800*/2133* (OC) DRAM, 16GB Max

Slots
– 2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots
– 4 PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
– 1 PCI slot, support 3.3V/ 5V PCI bus Interface.


• On-Board SATA

• 6 SATA III (1~6) ports by AMD® SB850
– Supports storage and data transfers at up to 6Gb/s

• RAID Function
– SATA III 1~6 support RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 mode by AMD® SB850

MSI Reminds You…
The RAID setup floppy disk is optional depending on the districts. You can download the files from the website to make the setup disk.


• USB 3.0

– 2 USB 3.0 ports by NEC® uPD720200F1

• Audio

• Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC892
– True Blu-ray Audio Support
– Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
– Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec


• LAN 

• Realtek PCI-E GbLAN controller 8111E
– Integrated Fast Ethernet MAC and PHY in single chip
– Supports 10Mb/s, 100Mb/s and 1000Mb/s
– Compliance with PCI-Express Bus specification v1.0a

 

• Internal I/O Connectors

– 1 x ATX 24-pin power connector
– 1 x ATX 8-pin 12V CPU power connector
– CPU x 1 / System x 4 FAN connectors
– 1 x Front panel audio connector
– 1 x Front panel connector
– 1 x Chassis intrusion switch connector
– 2 x USB 2.0 connectors
– 6 x Serial ATA III connectors
– 1 x Serial port connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x SPDIF-out  connector
– 1 x TPM module connector

Back Panel I/O Ports

– 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard port
– 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 1 x Coaxial SPDIF-out
– 1 x Optical SPDIF-out
– 8 x USB 2.0 ports
– 1 x RJ45 LAN Jack
– 2 x USB 3.0 ports (blue)
– 1 x 6 in 1 audio jack

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• Dimension

• 24.4cm(L) x 30.5cm(W) ATX Form Factor

• Mounting
– 9 mounting holes.

Closer look

The 890FXA-GD65, to no surprise, carries the same color scheme we have seen from MSI over the last year. Even though the black used for the PCB is not the pure-black of the latest Gigabyte models, the somewhat gold-tinted black that MSI uses is almost what you could call their signature color.  Accenting this color, the board is completely decked out with black and blue slots (save for the white SATA-III ports), with a simple Gun-Metal Gray colored aluminum heat sinks. An attractive board without all the colorful ports we’ve seen used on a lot of other motherboards.

Let’s begin with the slots featured on this new motherboard. MSI made very good use of all 42 PCIe lanes the 890FX chipset has to offer. The two blue full length PCIe slots both run at the maximum x16 bandwidth, no matter if you are using a single card, or dual. For comparison the Intel P67 Cougar Point when using dual video cards will default to x8/x8 or x16/x4 bandwidth, depending on the motherboard. There are also four individual x1 slots on the board as well. Since one of the PCIe x1 will become blocked if you do decide to use a dual-slot cooler equipped graphics cards, MSI outfitted the GD65 with an addition PCIe x1 above the first full length. With more and more cards finally adopting these, this still allows for the usage of a discrete sound card, while having ample room for something such as a Killer network card. However, the sole PCI slot will be blocked if you decide to run dual graphics cards. Just above the first x1 PCIe slot is a 6-pin power connector (standard PCIe) that will allow more juice to feed the slots.

With the memory controller being integrated on AMD’s CPUs (IMC for short) since the days of the first Socket 754 Athlon 64s, means that the CPU has control over the memory speed and capacity; DDR3-1333MHz natively. However, MSI has not let out those of you that choose to overclock, so the board has support for up to 2133MHz (OCed) of DDR3 in dual channel mode. A per-slot maximum of 4GB modules can be used, for a grand total of 16GB. To simplify the dual mode concept for the end user, MSI color coded the slots to reflect the separation of channels. So when installing just two ram modules insert them in the same color slots.

The SB850 South Bridge under the heatsink in the background, controls all six of the SATA III ports the motherboard has. Compared to Intel’s two ports, that’s a lot of fast storage you can have! The ports are right angle design, to not interfere with the PCIe slots. Being a fairly value-oriented motherboard you would think MSI would not utilize the SB850’s RAID support. Not the case here. The GD65 has support for RAID the forms of 0, 1, 5 and 10. Missing from this location are the buttons: power, reset and CLR CMOS. But, again, the word here is budget. Something which is also missing, but not necessarily missed, is the IDE and Floppy drive connectors.

For back panel I/O connections we have the our typical lineup.There are a total of eight USB ports; six being 2.0, two of 3.0. Audio is piped through the board via Realtek ALC892 with six 3.5mm analog, with optical and coax for the digital jacks. Gigabit LAN is also provided via a Realtek chip, the RTL-8111E. MSI may not have provided any internal buttons, they did provide a easy to access real panel CLR CMOS, should an overclock by chance go wrong.

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BIOS


Cell Menu (top) – Current System Frequencies, CPUID info sub-menus, CPU Overclocking


Cell Menu (middle) – Core Unlock expanded, DRAM Frequency and HT Settings


DIMM Frequencies – Ratios for 800, 1066, 1333 and 1600MHz, top to bottom.


Cell Menu (bottom) – Voltage Settings and Spread Spectrum


Advance DRAM Configuration – Timings, timings and more timings!

Key Features

The 890FXA-GD65 uses a total of three heatsinks to cool the main components: Phase Power MOSFETs, the 890FX chip and the SB850 South Bridge. The two largest are found on the MOSFETs and 890FX, of which the 890’s is considerably smaller. Even so, the flat heatsink is said to keep the components lower than 52°C at load. While in part it is due to the good design of the heatsinks, you can’t help but thank the fact MSI utilizes components like chokes, solid capacitors, and voltage regulating circuits (to name a few) which were originally made to fit the tight design tolerances of for military applications. These are intended to handle higher and lower temperatures, offer less voltage ripple (improved stability), run cooler, but more importantly is they will last far longer!

One of the keys (or mysteries) of the MSI 890FXA-GD65 is does it or does it not support the AM3+ Bulldozer processor that is due to be released by AMD sometime in the near future. According to rumors many of the current 800-series boards will, and do in a manner of speaking. Quite a few of the  800-series motherboards currently have already rolled out with AM3+ socket onboard; difference is an added pin to the socket. [Editor’s Note: ASUS has just officially mentioned a number of their boards which will have AM3+ CPU support provided via an updated BIOS. We suspect the same will happen with the other big players as well. Also it may be worth mentioning that while we may gain the ability to run these CPUs in our AM3 boards, the graphics processing segment of the AM3+ CPU likely won’t be able to get used, though I suspect possibly we’ll still be able to tap into it’s GPGPU abilities. Time will tell!]

MSI Live Update 5

This application allows the users to not only update their motherboard’s BIOS, but also all of the other drivers for the system and any devices connected.

MSI AutoBoot

AutoBoot allows the user to schedule when the system will automatically start up or shut down.

BIOS Code Unlocked Technology

If the extra cores on your X2 or X3 are unlockable this application will allow you to unlock them from inside Windows. As I’m sure many will agree, a UI for such things is a real nice thing to have, as currently we can be left guessing what the system is even doing.

Control Center

Control Center is the heart of the 890FXA bundled software. Here you can get all the information you will need to keep a watchful eye on the system. Be that the mainboard, CPU or memory; and from voltages, to temperatures and clock speeds.

You can also overclock the system from this application as well.

OC Genie

Don’t know how to overclock? Well no problem, because OC Genie will do it for you automatically! It will adjust the CPU’s, as well as the memory’s, clock speeds to provide optimal performance.

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Green Power

The Green Power software will adjust the active Power Phases on the motherboard to better save power and electricity. The feature relies on the CPU load to better distribute power throughout the system, and shutting down any of the phases that are not needed.

Test Hardware:
Motherboard: MSI 890FXA-GD65
Processor: AMD AM3 Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition
Ram: Patriot Sector 5 4GB Dual Channel (9-9-9-24) @ 1333MHz
Video Card: ASUS Radeon HD 5870
HDD: Hitachi 1TB
Power: Thermaltake Tough Power XT 850 (Sponsored by Thermaltake)
Case: NA
Cooling: Scythe Yasya
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit
Thermal compound: Arctic Silver 5

Overclocking the MSI 890FXA-GD65

Just like any other AM3 motherboard we test, we dial the BIOS in at 1.5v to the CPU and relaxed the timings on the memory to 9-9-9-24 @ 1333MHz. Cool n’ Quiet was disabled, as well all other CPU features that could limit a good/stable overclock.

With the 890FXA-GD65 we did not break any records, but we did obtain a better than average overclock from our trusty Black Edition 965 Phenom II. The maximum stable overclock on the GD65 was 4182MHz.

Conclusion

Our only other motherboard review from MSI was for the 890GXA-GD65, which we gave a pretty high award for due to its incredible list of features and overclocking possibilities. That motherboard alone was enough for me to think highly of MSI. The new 890FXA-GD65 is just another fine example of what MSI is capable of.

Mated with any of the AMD AM3 processors and you simply cannot go wrong! The motherboard overclocks very well for, better if you consider it’s price bracket. It was able to take our slightly outdated Quad Core Black Edition 965 to a healthy 4182MHz, from the default 3400MHz. Able to do it with a mere 1.5 volts being pumped into the processor. Also, for those with X2 and X3 based on the Deneb, you could be in for a nice surprise since the 890FXA-GD65 has the potential to unlock them for you.

It is not often I talk about the software that comes with a motherboard, but this time it is different. MSI has thrown together one of the best software packages I have ever seen. Not only do you get the overclocking and monitoring applications with their Control Center, but you get smaller discrete applications that I will find myself using. One of the handiest would be the AutoBoot app that will shut down or turn on your PC on at a predetermined time. Nice to come home and find the PC ready for you to get to work, knowing you didn’t have to waste money by keeping it powered and idling.

For $140, the MSI 890FXA-GD65 is quite a bargain. At this price you get all that we stated above, as well as very high quality components, which again were literally intended for military-class electrical components. It seems that MSI is taking reliability and stability to a whole new level. Even then, if something was to go wrong with the motherboard, MSI backs it up with a three year limited warranty.

Lastly, the talk around the town about this motherboard is if it really is compatible with the upcoming AMD Bulldozer AM3+ processor. A lot of people think this is a label mistake on MSI’s part. With as smart as they are, I am sure MSI would have fixed that before offering me a sample (not to mention letting it get to retail), knowing that I would put it in this review. So, the ability to upgrade to the next great processor is also a big plus for this board.

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ProClockers was founded in 2004, and since then we have reviewed thousands of tech products, including motherboards, CPUs, graphics cards, PC cases, cooling solutions and more. Whilst many of the original products we reviewed back then have long bit the dust, we continue working hard to provide unbiased PC hardware and tech reviews.

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