MSI 890GXM-G65 Reviewjlqrb - April 29, 2010
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The MSI 890GXM-G65 is a mATX form factor motherboard that is printed on a dark brown PCB with a blue and black color scheme throughout it. The use of these colors, along with the heat-pipe sinks on the northbridge, southbridge and MOSFET, really gives the board a nice overall look. And it seems that even with the use of such heatsinks on a small form factor board, MSI still managed to keep a clean and spacious layout. This should allow ample room between installed components, with nothing being excessively cramped or overly close in the installation areas. The only exception are the two PCIe x16 slots, which could get tight when two dual-slot graphics cards are installed. As far as where everything is located on the board, MSI has used a pretty standard design. The CPU and memory area are at the top of the board with the 890GX northbridge under the CPU area and the PCI slots under that. Next to the PCI slots you have the SB850 southbridge and expansion slots, such as the SATA ports and motherboard headers. There is also one IDE port on the board and it is placed next to the main 24-pin power connector. In addition to the main power connector, you also have a 4-pin power connector that is found just above the MOSFET. With this board being based on the 890GX/SB850 chipset combination, it includes the ATI Radeon HD 4290 IGP, which is AMD's fastest IGP to date. Not only does the HD 4290 come with support for DX 10.1 and Hybrid CrossFireX, but it also has a 128MB DDR3-1333 memory-sideport to enhance performance. With the use of the HD 4290 and the mATX form factor, this board could be ideal for HTPC users.
Getting a closer look at the processor area, you can see that the board uses a black AM3 retention bracket that will hold a standard AMD heatsink onto the processor. Since this is a Socket AM3 board, it will fit any 938-pin AM3 processor, but it will not fit any previous CPUs, such as AM2+ or AM2. To power the processor area, the motherboard uses a 4+1 Phase Unit and all solid caps, allowing it to support all AM3 processors with up to 140W TDP. This means there are no limitations when it comes to processors that can be used, including AMD's fastest quad-core or hexa-core processors. Also, MSI has included its power saving technology, Active Phase Switching, which controls the power demand throughout specific areas of the motherboard, depending on the system needs. Just off to the right of the AM3 socket are four DDR3 Memory DIMM slots. These slots will support up to 16GB of DDR3 memory and are supply 1.5V by default.
For rear expansion, MSI includes just about all the 890GX chipset can offer. For video alone there are three options - a DVI-D port, VGA port and a HDMI port - all run though the 890GX chipset. You also have one mouse/keyboard connector, optical S/PDIF-Out, four USB 2.0 ports, LAN, and the rear audio panel. These alone would be enough for most users, but thanks to the on-board NEC chip, the MSI 890GXM-G56 also has support for the new USB 3.0. These new USB 3.0 ports support up to 4.8Gb/s transfer rates and are colored blue to distinguish them from the USB 2.0 ports.
With a smaller form factor than the other 890GX motherboards, the MSI 890GXM-G65 does have to reduce the amount of expansion the board can hold. This leaves us with two PCIe x16 slots that will run at a full x16 bandwidth when one graphics card is in use and at a reduced x8/x8 bandwidth when using dual graphics cards in CrossFireX. Other than the two x16 slots, you also have one PCIx x1 slot and one PCI slot. This is a decent amount of expansion for a mATX motherboard, but there is an issue - if you use dual-slot graphics cards with this board, the expansion slots below the PCIe x16 slots will be blocked. In a single dual-slot graphics card setup, only the PCIe x1 slot would be unusable, but if using CrossFireX with dual-slot coolers, both the PCIe x1 and PCI slots would be unusable. For many users, this will not be an issue, as the days of multiple PCI cards are over, but there are still users that prefer an add-on sound card or other device and this could prevent them from adding these to their system. Of course the use of a single slot graphics card would fix this, but how many high-end graphics cards can be found with a single slot cooler these days?
For additional expansion, MSI includes a host of headers found at the bottom of the motherboard. Going from left to right, you have a front panel audio header, JCD header, JSP header, four USB 2.0 headers, front panel connector, and five SATA 3.0 ports. All these are standard, but with the SB850 southbridge, AMD has been able to include the new SATA 3.0, that can reach transfer speeds of up to 6GB/s and has RAID 0/1/5/10 support. This is double the data transfer rate of the older SATA 2.0 and will increase the system's performance when paired with a SATA 3.0 hard drive. Also found at the bottom of the board, resting just between the JSP and first USB port, is MSI's Easy OC switch. This switch will automatically overclock the CPU FSB simply by moving one of the switches either up or down, with four settings to choose from. By moving the switches into one of the four preset positions, you can increase the FSB by either +10%, +15% or +20%. Since this switch makes adjustments to the FSB, other frequencies, such as the memory, will be increased along with the processor.
Lastly, we are going to have a look at the cooling solution used on the MSI 890GXM-G65. This consists of two coolers, with one being a dual-heatsink design that is connected by a single heatpipe that cools the 890GX northbridge and the MOSFET area. The other cooler is a simple, finned heatsink that sits on the SB850 southbridge. Each cooler is secured into place by screws that are mounted though the back of the motherboard. This will create a better connection between the base and the chipsets below, reducing the operating temperatures more efficiently than the standard push-pin method.