Playing with the MSI 890FXA-GD70

Discussion in 'AMD x86 CPUs and chipsets' started by sywofp, Jul 22, 2010.

  1. sywofp

    sywofp New Member

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    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

    [​IMG]

    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!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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  2. Mad Mike

    Mad Mike Member

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    Great looking board. I was just thinking of getting one as my new server board. Just a few questions, does it say whether the mobo can take ECC Ram and can it have non-video cards in the 16x PCIe slots?
     
  3. cbjaust

    cbjaust Member

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    it would be massively useful if you could set up a 5 disk raid5 array and run a couple of tests - you would have the first review of the new AMD Raid controller in the sb850...
     
  4. silentlightning

    silentlightning Member

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    me too, though im not too interested in ecc

    i was looking at getting the GA-890FXA-UD5/7 and this looks pretty much identical to the GA-890FXA-UD7 except for the 1 less sata port so i think ill be getting this as that extra pci-e slot would come in handy if i wanted to go crossfire too...
     
  5. OP
    OP
    sywofp

    sywofp New Member

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    Not entirely sure about ECC RAM.
    None of the documentation I can find seems to specify.
    And a cursory Google turns up this thread as the top result :p
    Might have to hunt around on that one and get back to you.

    But yes, you can run whatever extra non GPU expansion cards you want in the PCIe slots.
    Of course the cards need actually be PCIe devices!

    What sort of set-up you guys thinking? Media server with TV tuners?


    And unfortunately no chance of a RAID test. Unless someone wants to donate 5 drives? 512GB SSDs please!
     
  6. silentlightning

    silentlightning Member

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    thanks for the reveiw, i went and got some pricing from the local pc shop and its going to work out the same price as the GA-890FXA-UD5 and $50 less than the UD7 with the same feature set. so ill be buying it within the next couple of weeks.

    just posted the current parts up for sale so i should be able to aquire within a week
     
  7. m0n4g3

    m0n4g3 Member

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    Having played with both the UD5 and the GD70, i'd say that the GD70 is a much nicer option, mainly due to the nicer BIOS (having profiles and the sort when you start reaching the limits of your hardware and needing to reset cmos settings all the time).

    It's all down to the layout of the pcie slots and bios updates with the top-end manufacturers and this means either the CF4 (bios updates) or the GD70 (pci-e layouts) are the top contenders in my book :)

    Thanks
     
  8. crunchie

    crunchie Member

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    Nice review.

    FYI, the UD5 has profiles in bios too. I think there are 8 available slots.
     
  9. ErrorCode62

    ErrorCode62 Member

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    thanks for the review. I'd appreciate an update for the cost of the finished machine. While the board and a new AMD AM3 processor may only total $600, memory adds at least another $100 if you don't already have DDR3 memory, and you still haven't upgraded the hard drives to take advantage of the SATA 3.0. And then of course, there is the power supply, case, keyboard etc. I seriously looked at this kind of board as upgrade as an alternative to lashing out $1400 for a new PC.

    Much as I hate to admit it, I ended up upgrading my E8400 (775 pin Intel machine) by upgrading from 32-bit Vista to 64-bit Windows 7 ($180 for upgrade copy), and ordering a Q9650 ($430 delivered from Amazon US).

    Cheers,
    ErrorCode62
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2010
  10. silentlightning

    silentlightning Member

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    i purchased a 1055t a week and a half ago on the forum for $190 posted i plan on getting myself a 4gb kit at 1600Mhz CAS 8's or at the least cas 9's.

    The final build will probably look something like this:
    Windows 7 Home premium 64bit
    Mobo: MSI 890FXA-GD70
    CPU: 1055t @ 3.4Ghz -3.6Ghz
    Ram: either G.Skill or corsair at those speeds

    so all up its going to cost me about $630 and to get some of that im selling off quite a few current components (like the core parts i already had for my server which i wasn't happy with and the main parts from my main machine (x6 630, M3N78-VM, 8gb of low end DDR2) which should net me around $300 though i bought the cpu before i decided to do all this but i realised how much it would be held back by the DDR2.

    I would happily list the rest of the build but i think its going a bit too off topic especcially considering how awesome this board is

    Zach Moore
     
  11. terrastrife

    terrastrife Member

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    does the GD70 have proper turbocore control? last i read the bios was pretty crap in that regard.
     
  12. m0n4g3

    m0n4g3 Member

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    Sorry terra.... i haven't actually played with turbo boost, i'd rather all 6 cores at a given speed than some at faster speeds than the other...

    Sorry man, i can check and see if it does allow this when i'm home next (Friday-Sunday).
     
  13. silentlightning

    silentlightning Member

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    i should be able to check soon, i need to get myself some DDR3 first. I bought the motherboard this morning :p i cant wait to test it and play around with it and get some OC results, there was a sale put up last night that was shutdown because it was reposted too soon with some 8Gb(4x2gb) DDR3 2000Mhz kingston that i think would match the board very nicely so im going to wait and see how that goes as the reserve was set at only $250, though i have purchased 2gb 1333 on the forums to get me started which should be coming soon

    I have to say its a very nice board to look at close up, the colour scheme works very well and is coordinated very nicely.

    Im also happy to try out the onboard raid with my 4x 2tb samsungs that should be coming today or tomorrow and post some results which i will compare against my perc 5/i that ill be setting it up permanantly on.

    Zach Moore
     
  14. kiore

    kiore Member

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    Wow excellent looking mobo.:thumbup:
    Are those PCIE slots really double spaced? I would like to run 5 cards if possible, looks like some free space for #1 and #5 which should help with the cooling. Anyway looks like 4 cards should be good at least. A very tempting upgrade from my K9A2 plat.
     
  15. terrastrife

    terrastrife Member

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    i wish that heatpipe wasnt there.
     
  16. silentlightning

    silentlightning Member

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    how come? i think it has been placed quite nicely and wont really interfere with the system at all, what were you hoping to plan if it wasn't there?

    Ive had my system running since friday and i have to say after the initial steep learning curve (i havent done any real over clocking till now) its very nice for over clocking and such. though it was a bit hard until i pulled my perc 5/i out which increases the time it takes to get into the bios by 15-20s. so far a fairly nice 3.5Ghz @ 1.27 (what i plan on running normally) and 3.64 @ 1.288v.

    i havent pushed my ram too much yet but ive got 1660Mhz @ 7-7-7-26 @ 1.66v though im going to see if i can get that down to 6-6-6-20 at similar Mhz.
     
  17. terrastrife

    terrastrife Member

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    its not required, were paying for something not needed.
    added cost
    heat from the mosfets heat up the sb850.
    added cost
    the 890fx runs much cooler than the 890gx.
    added cost

    msi are following in gigabytes fotosteps.

    gigabite use a massive heatpipes and heatsink for the damn add on jmicron/marvell controller (1156 range)...
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2010
  18. TaroT

    TaroT Member

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    i had to reread what you said but yes i agree

    a better solution would have been dual heatsinks and dare i say even an active cooler...ahh i remember me ol dfi board with the teeny 4 million rpm fan.

    those mosfets and sb do get very very hot
     
  19. m0n4g3

    m0n4g3 Member

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    Depends on what you consider very very hot.

    Both mine are luke warm to the touch, and the PWM's + NB only get to 45C even @ 4.5ghz..... :)
     
  20. FatBoyNotSoSlim

    FatBoyNotSoSlim Member

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    Bit of a thread necro, but does the Perc5 need the pin mod to work in this board?
     

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