MSI 790GX-G65 AM3 Motherboard Reviewajmatson -
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MSI has chosen to use a brown colored PC Board, with a color scheme that is easy on the eyes. While this is not as flashy for those of you who like to show off your innards, it gets the job done and that is what counts. The MSI 790GX-G65 is a full ATX board which supports the latest AM3 processors from AMD, as well as the faster memory standard DDR3 RAM. In addition it adds some great features like instant overclocking and CrossFireX capabilities. With the included onboard graphics you are ready to go out of the box as long as you are not into hard-core gaming. On the back of the board there is the AMD retention bracket, which evenly distributes the load of the CPU heatsink protecting the critical components.
On the side of the 790GX-G65 are the back panel connections. MSI has added everything that they can think of that you might need to get the most out of your new system. Starting from the top there is a PS/2 port that can be used for both a keyboard or a mouse, an optical SPDIF port, a VGA port, a DVI port, an HDMI port, six USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, an eSATA port, one LAN port, and the six audio jacks which support 8 channel HD audio.
Just as MSI has done with the back panel they have included a wealth of expansion ports. There are two legacy PCI slots for supporting older card such as sound cards, There are also two newer PCI Express x1 slots for those migrating the older cards to the newer faster specification. Finally there are two PCI Express x16 slots for graphics. The x16 slots support up to two discrete cards in a CrossFire configuration with x8 speeds between the two. When running a single graphics card, the top slot only will run at x16 speeds. You can also run a CrossFireX configuration with the Integrated graphics and certain discrete cards in a Hybrid GPU setup.
The CPU area at first glance looks cramped. I am really concerned about how close the memory slots are to the CPU retention bracket. There are four DIMM slots which support up to 16GB of DDR3 memory. Just as a note, current AM3 processors can only support DDR3 1333MHz natively and in a single channel configuration if at 1333MHz or above. The two blue memory slots represent one channel and are also the main channel for running with only two sticks, and the pink slots are the second channel. Unlike the newer Intel X58 chipset, AMD processors and boards only support Dual Channel architecture, so no triple channel sets for us.
Along the bottom of the MSI 790GX-G65 board there are headers galore. These headers allow us to expand out system ports even further. Starting from the left are the audio headers, the CD IN header,a Firewire header, floppy port, three USB 2.0 headers, an onboard reset button, an onboard clear CMOS button, an onboard power button, a COM header, a TPM module header, the front panel headers, five SATA 3.0GBs ports, and one IDE port.
Between the two PCI Express x16 slots there is the EZ OC Switch. The EZ OC Switch allows the user to overclock the CPU Front Side Bus by arranging the dip switches in a series of positions. This allows for a no brainer overclock. However it will not tweak the memory and other parts for you to get a nice high stable overclock. To the right of the Northbridge heatsink you will see a memory chip embedded into the board. This is the Sideport memory chip which adds 128MB of DDR3 1333MHz memory for the Integrated ATI HD 3300 graphics. This onboard chip allows the video to use it as a faster frame buffer before having to dip into the shared system memory allowing you to squeeze a few frames extra versus a board without the dedicated memory.
To cool all of this hardware, MSI has placed a combination of heatsinks and heatpipes over the critical parts of the board. There is a large heatsink that cools the VRM area of the 790GX-G65 and connects to the heatsink on the Northbridge allowing transfer of heat as certain parts get hotter than the others. On the Southbridge there is a smaller heatsink, which helps keep it cool especially during overclocked running.
Now that we have seen the board in all of its glory, we can boot her up and install the drivers and programs.