Despite being an avid computer geek my entire life I have never really had the time to get very involved with online communities. Until now of course! The real trigger here was getting a shiny new MSI motherboard plus an AMD Phenom II X6 1090T sent to me by a mate overseas. Ultimately it’s destined to be built into a gaming PC for the aforementioned mate but in the meantime I get to have a play. I have always loved reading those first look / hands on forums reviews so thought I would give it a bash. And yes, I dream of being a (highly paid) hardware reviewer who does nothing but play with the latest gear all day! I would love any feedback, plus let me know what you think of the motherboard. No doubt I went too simplified for some and waffled on too much for others. I just wrote at a level I would find enjoyable to read without getting bogged down. I also didn’t go too nuts with pictures, screenshots or excessive testing because I prefer to keep it simple and short. I have pimped this around a couple of forums so please excuse me for being a bit of an attention whore. So, the MSI 890FXA-GD70 A quick overview – Socket AM3 AMD 890FX Chipset SB850 Southbridge Five 16x PCIe slots Four DDR3 slots (max 16GB) 2x USB 3.0 ports 6x SATA 6Gbps ports CrossFire support Standard ATX form factor A lot of you are probably familiar with the earlier MSI 790FX-GD70 motherboard. I had one and loved it. MSI had finally got its act together, ditched the prissy pinks and greens and built a proper overclockers BIOS. And now we have the next version, the 890FXA-GD70. As you can see the colouring and board layout is pretty slick. The north bridge provides a massive 42 lanes of PCIe goodness, 20 more than the GX version of the board. This might seem like overkill but as video cards get faster we are getting closer and closer to saturating 8x connections. Five 16x PCIe slots can be run with dual cards at the full 16x or four cards at 8x with the final port running at 4x. You also get a PCIe 1x slot and a PCI slot for legacy devices. The RAM slots only have clips at one end, making it easier to seat and change memory with a videocard in the system. MSI ditched the traditional motherboard mounted control buttons for touch sensitive panels on the motherboard. While this is kind of cool I do miss the tactile feedback of a nice clicky button. The CPU cooler mount is also very solid and screws through the board into a steel back plate. No loosening of the CPU cooler on the way to a LAN with this setup. The AMD SB850 Southbridge brings native SATA 6Gp/s support. For most of us this is not really very useful right now as most hard drives don’t need the extra bandwidth. On the flip side a very fast SSD or a RAID setup such as the OCZ Colossus can max out the bandwidth available on a SATA 3Gbp/s connection. Either way, SATA 6Gp/s is very fast and even if you don’t use it now, it will be handy in the future. Of course you can also run your drives in RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 configurations. The MSI board also comes with a bunch of other handy features. High quality components, DrMOS power regulation, funky blue power loading LEDs, M-Flash BIOS updates plus OC Genie overclocking tools. There is also the potential ability to turn unlock extra cores on certain AMD CPUs! You get the normal lot of accessories. Manuals, driver disk, overclocking guide, I/O port cover, CrossFire bridge, USB expansion port, M-Connector adaptors, IDE Cable, two MOLEX to SATA adaptors and four SATA cables. Pretty standard fair. Benchmarking So onto some actual benchmarking. I tested the board with a Radeon 5850, 4GB of OCZ DDR3 , an OCZ SSD and an AMD Phenom II 1090T Black Edition CPU. Cooling was provided by a Cooler Master V8 air cooler. SATA 6Gp/s performance is great. I fired up HD Tach and went to town on the SSD, averaging a 216MB/s read speed while the write speed was a little slower at 194MB/s. USB 3.0 tells a similar story. I dropped a second SSD (Intel, 80GB) into an external USB 3.0 enclosure to make sure I got the best out of the connection. The results were not much slower than the SATA ports, with a 189MB/s read speed and a 176MB/s write speed. . For comparison the same setup plugged into a USB 2.0 port managed a pathetic 34MB/s. Overclocking. The X6 is known to be a decent overclocker so I was not surprised by my good results. The BIOS is straightforward and easy to use for those familiar with poking around manual controls or even anyone following an OCing tute. I played around with a few benchmarks (Cinebench, Vantage etc) but without any sort of reference machines to compare to the results did not mean a lot. I could push the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T up to about 4.4GHz before it got unstable. At 4.025GHz it seemed to content to run all day. I suspect a much higher result would be possible with better cooling but still, not bad for air cooling. OC Genie. For those who want a little extra performance without all the fiddle, MSI include an OC utility. The OC Genie may sound magical but I had mixed results, only getting a 3.8GHz OC. While it certainly can’t push a CPU as far as you can manually I did end up with a nice stable result. For the average user this is a big plus! Unlocking CPUs. The MSI motherboard has the potential to unlock extra cores from dual or quad core CPUs, turning them into quad or hex cores. Unfortunately my CPUs were not the right sort for this free upgrade so I could not test this feature out. Still, the idea of buying a cheap dual or tri core and ending up with a quad is pretty nifty. Of course you will have less cache etc but if the price is right.... So what if you actually want to buy it in Oz? A search on staticice.com reveals boards for (just) under $250. Coupled with an AMD Phenom II X6 1090T for sub $350 plus $350 Radeon 5850 and you have the basis for a quite powerful machine. Well, that was a fun little exercise. Feel free to tear me to shreds, ask questions or give me some useful feedback!