MSI 890GXM-G65 Review

jlqrb - 2010-04-08 00:37:20 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: jlqrb   
Reviewed on: April 29, 2010
Price: $124.99


The AMD 890GX chipset was released just over a month ago and since that time we here at OCC have managed to get our hands on the majority of these newly released boards, with the exception of just a few. So, to close that gap, the good folks over at MSI sent us a sample of its offering based on this chipset. As a 890GX motherboard, the MSI 890GXM-G65 does have a lot in common with the other boards we reviewed, such as native SATA 3.0 and USB 3.0 support, but it does come with one major difference - it uses the mATX form factor. This smaller size could actually be quite the silver lining for this boardm as the 890GX chipset is geared toward and offers a wide array of features for the home theater crowd. This will make it easily fit in most HTPC cases, which tend to be smaller in order to fit more discreetly in entertainment centers without taking up all the room of a conventional style PC. In our previous tests, the 890GX chipset has proven to be a worthwhile successor to the phased out 790GX, but will this smaller form factor from MSI hurt or help this versatile chipset?

Closer Look:

The MSI 890GXM-G65 comes packaged in a small white box with a large fiery "G" found on the left side. Next to this fiery letter is the name of the board and icons listing support and features, both above and below the 890GXM-G65 name. Turning the box over, you find the specifications for the board and some in-depth explanations of the motherboard's support and features.








MSI packages the inner contents of the 890GXM with the accessories on top of the motherboard and separated by a cardboard layer. The accessories that are included are one SATA cable, one IDE cable, one SATA adapter, the rear I/O, a manual, a quick install guide, and a drivers disk. This is realy light when it comes to accessories, but as the board is priced for the mainstream market, it is acceptable. Once the accessories and cardboard layer are out, you have access to the motherboard, which comes wrapped in an anti-static bag resting on a layer of protective foam padding.


Now that we have everything out of the box, we can get a closer look at the board and see what the 890GXM-G65 has to offer.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

The drivers disk that is included with the MSI 890GXM-G65 comes with all the software you will need to get the board properly set up, as well as a few extras. After you insert the disk, it will autorun into the installation menu you see below. This menu has a clean interface that makes it extremely easy to use. The options you have here are Drivers, Utility, Service Base, Product information, and Security. When you select one of these listed options, the bottom portion of the screen will reflect the choice you have made, allowing options from installing specific drivers to being linked to the MSI website for up-to-date downloads. MSI has also included a 60-day trial offer for Norton Internet Security Suite 2010 that is found under the Security tab on the far right.














Once you have made the selection to install the drivers, an ATI Catalyst Install Manager will appear and guide you though the processes. During the installation, you will have two options on how to proceed. These are either to install the drivers automatically or manually. If you choose manual, you can pick and choose from a list of specific drivers to install, where as if you choose auto, all the drivers will be automatically selected and installed for you. After the installation process starts, it will show you a progression bar on the status of the install. Once the progression bar shows 100%, you are done and will be prompted to restart your system. After the computer finishes this cycle, you are all set up and ready to go.


When the system shuts down, instead of booting back into Windows, we are going to take a look at the Award BIOS.

The BIOS used in the MSI 890GXM-G65 motherboard is a version of American Megatrends Inc., which comes with an extremely easy-to-use interface. The AMI BIOS can make simple changes, such as setting a first boot device or changing the system date and time, or more complicated changes, such as altering a processor's clock speed or setting specific timings for your memory. The changes made in the BIOS affect the overall system performance and stability.


The Main Menu:

The first screen you will see when entering the BIOS is the main menu screen. From here you can make a selection to enter a sub-menu where you can make changes to the settings of the motherboard. These options are Standard CMOS Features, Advanced BIOS Features, Integrated Peripherals, Power Management Setup, H/W Monitor, Green Power, BIOS Setting Password, Cell Menu, M-Flash, Overclocking Profle, Load Fail-Safe Defaults, Load Optimized defaults, Save & Exit Setup, and Exit Without Saving.











Standard CMOS Features:

The Standard CMOS Features is where you can locate IDE or SATA drives that are connected to the system.



Advanced BIOS Features

The Advanced BIOS Features lets you make changes such as setting the first boot device, enabling Cool&Quiet, and setting the way the first display of the board initializes. This menu will also let you make changes to the IGP, including the HD 4290's Side Port Memory, frame buffer size, and even core clock.


Integrated Peripherals/Power Management

In the Integrated Periperals page you can make changes to built-in peripherals included with the motherboard - SATA, USB, LAN, Serial ports, and others. The Power Management page allows you to handle such things as whether your PC should boot up after a power loss or what can wake it up from standby.

H/W Monitor:

The H/W Monitor page is where you can monitor system voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. Here you can also set a shut-down temperature in case the CPU, northbridge, or overall system get too hot, as well change settings to the Fan Controller.














Green Power/BIOS Setting Password

The Green Power menu is used to specify the power phase, while the BIOS Setting Password allows you to set a password for the BIOS


Cell Menu

From this page, you can configure clock frequencies and adjust voltages to different areas of the system. For processor overclocking, you can adjust the Clock Ratio and FSB frequencies. The FSB frequencies will adjust the internal clock speeds of the processor, which will also make adjustments to the memory and chipset frequencies as well. Overclocking with the CPU Ratio will only adjust the multiplier for the processor, raising the speed of the CPU, but leaving all other settings intact. For memory overclocking, you can make a simple change such as changing the Set Memory Clock, but there is also a DRAM Configuration menu that will allow you to make more in-depth changes to the memory, such as making changes to the timings. At the bottom of the menu, you will find the voltage area. This is where you can manually set voltage to different areas, such as the CPU, memory, and northbridge. Also, if you are using the latest BIOS from MSI, you will have a unlock core option in the Cell Menu. This can be used to unlock extra cores on AMD processors that have one or more cores factory-disabled. In the Cell Menu, you will also find MSI's OC Genie Lite. This option will automatically overclock you system by increasing the system's frequencies and adjust the voltage neccessary to remain stable.


M-Flash/Overclocking Profile

The M-Flash menu will allow you to easily flash your BIOS from a flash drive using a FAT or FAT32 format. The Overclocking Profile is a page where you can save your overclocked settings that can be loaded at a later time if the system becomes unstable or if the board resets to defaults.


CPU (Max Support)
Phenom II
AM3 CPU Ready
FSB / Hyper Transport Bus
up to 5200MT/s
AMD® 890GX+SB850
DDR2 Memory
DDR3 Memory
DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600*/1800*/2133*(OC)
Memory Channel
DIMM Slots
Max Memory (GB)
PCI-E Gen 2.0
Gen2 (1x16, 1x8)
USB 3.0 ports (Rear)
USB 2.0 ports (Rear)
Audio ports (Rear)
6+Optical SPDIF
Serial ports (Rear)
Parallel ports (Rear)
1394 ports (Rear)
Display Port
VGA Share Memory (MB)
Form Factor
Sideport Memory
3-way SLI
Hybrid SLI
Hybrid CrossFire
Green Power Genie



All information courtesy of MSI @


To test the performance of the MSI 890GX-G65 motherboard, I will be pushing it to the max by putting it though the OverclockersClub benchmarking programs. Some of these benchmarks, such as Apophysis and WinRAR, actively test the processing power of the system by crunching raw data, while we use the latest games to test the gaming performance. All the benchmarks will be run with the system settings at the default value of the motherboard, except for the memory, which I will set to the suggested factory timings. Once these benchmarks have concluded, we should have a good understanding of the performance level of the MSI 890GXM-G65 motherboard and how well it holds up to other boards on the market.


Test Setup:


Comparison Boards:



Overclocking the MSI 890GXM-G65 motherboard was very simple, thanks to the easy-to-use Cell Menu in the AMI BIOS. However, in the end it did not yield the results I was hoping for. I have used the same AMD Phenom II 955 on multiple motherboards and have achieved a 3.8GHz overclock on the majority of the boards used. Unfortunately, with the MSI 890GXM-G65, I was not able to reach 3.8GHz and remain completely stable. Since 3.8GHz is the average for this 955, I used it as my starting point, but with it showing errors in Prime95, I had to scale it back to a final speed of 3737MHz before full stability was achieved. This is close enough to 3800MHz, but it was a bit disappointing to not reach a speed that I have found stable on so many different motherboards. One thing to note is that this board ships with the BIOS revision 1.0 and not revision 1.2 that I used to reach 3.73GHz. I flashed the BIOS after initially only being able to increase the processor speed by 400MHz. After a little research, I found that the stock BIOS was the limiting factor when it came to overclocking and that MSI had addressed the issue with the 1.2 BIOS release. Flashing did help, but the MSI 890GXM-G65 was still not the best overclocker I have used. One other nice feature that is added with the 1.2 BIOS is an unlock CPU core option, which is found in the Cell Menu and can unlock extra cores that were disabled by AMD.






  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Office 2007
  4. POV Ray 3.7
  5. PCMark Vantage Professional
  6. Sandra XII
  7. ScienceMark 2.02
  8. Cinebench 10
  9. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. Call of Duty: World at War
  4. Fallout 3 
  5. Left 4 Dead
  6. 3DMark 06 Professional
  7. 3DMark Vantage


The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.


Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:



The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.








Lower is Better


WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds; the lower the better.








In Apophysis, the MSI board was dead even with the other AMD offerings, with each taking 30 minutes to complete the render. WinRAR was a different story though, and the MSI 890GXM-G65 was the fastest of all the tested motherboards regardless of the file size or type of compression.


Excel 2007 Big Number Crunch: This benchmark uses mathematics to perform complex calculations in Excel 2007, which puts a heavy load on the processor. The measurement is in seconds that it takes to complete the task. The benchmark is performed three times and then averaged for the final score.
















Lower is better


POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built-in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing), enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.

Higher Is Better


PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge the performance of each individual motherboard to see which board, if any, rises above the others.


In this series of benchmarks, the MSI 890GXM had very similar performance to the Asus 790FX motherboard. The MSI did win the majority of the test runs, but was just slightly edged out by 790FX board in PCMark Vantage benchmark.


SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the motherboards.














 Processor Arithmetic


Multi-Core Efficiency


Memory Bandwidth


Memory Latency


Cache and Memory


File System


Physical Disks


Power Management Efficiency


In Sandra 2009, the MSI motherboard had very similar performance to the other test boards, but was a little slow when it came to the multi-core efficiency test of the latency.


ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.















Higher is Better


CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.


Higher is Better


HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.


Higher is Better



Lower is Better


In ScienceMark, the MSI 890GXM-G65 really showed off the performance of the new 890GX chipset and managed to beat the 790FX motherboard by almost 200 points. In Cinebench, the board was again the fastest of the bunch in both the single and multi-core tests. HD Tune had the 890GX and 790FX chipsets neck and neck and in this test.


Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real-time effects and damage. This next generation first-person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft, surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this Far Cry game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.









In Far Cry 2, the MSI 890GXM-G65 and the ASUS M4A79T matched each other frame per frame all the way up to the highest resolution, were the 790FX came out the winner.


Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way, there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.













Crysis Warhead is a game that is more GPU demanding than anything, and as such, all the AMD boards performed at roughly the same level.


Activision's Call of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought CoD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a high resolution. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare the performance of these video cards.












In Call of Duty, the MSI 890GXM motherboard was again even with the 790FX chipset in all but the highest resolution. And as in Far Cry 2, the 790FX came away as the better performer for high res gaming.


Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter you are born in, is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital.












In Fallout 3, the MSI board tied the Asus in the lowest and highest resolutions, but it was at 1680x1050 that the Asus board came out ahead - but only by 1 FPS.


Left 4 Dead is a first-person shooter from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!












In Left 4 Dead, the MSI 890GXM-G65 was the fastest at 1280x1024 and tied the Asus at the other two resolutions.


3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how these boards fare. The settings we will use are listed below.













During the 3DMark06 testing, the MSI 890GXM was not the top performer, but with all the boards coming out within just a few hundred points from each other, it did not put up a bad showing.


Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.












In 3DMark Vantage, it was a battle between the MSI 890GXM and the Asus M4A79T. In the end, the 790FX Asus board came out on top, but MSI's 890GX offering was not far behind and came out ahead of all the other boards.

The MSI 890GXM-G65 is a very impressive motherboard that, even with its small size, managed to perform neck and neck with the enthusiast grade Asus M4A79T motherboard. This was true for the gaming benchmarks and number crunching benchmarks alike. During the gaming performance tests, the two boards battled it out and even though the 790FX chipset performed better in 3D applications, it was only by the smallest of margins. However, when it came to comparing the boards in number crunching benchmarks, the MSI 890GXM-G65 was the clear winner. This board, with the same settings as the Asus, rendered faster, crunched numbers quicker and, in everything but 3D performance, was ahead of the 790FX chipset. More impressive though was how it did not just out perform the 790FX chipset, but all previous AMD chipsets. Making this product absolutely ideal for users looking for a fast motherboard that does not carry the high premium of the enthusiast FX line, yet still maintains the high level of performance.

The fact that the board performs so well even with a mATX form factor gives it a much wider appeal, as it could make it ideal for use in a Home Theater PC. Not only is it small enough to fit into the smaller cases that most HTPC users prefer, but it also comes with the strong-performing ATI Raedon HD 4290 IGP that has more than enough video connectivity for any type of user, including an HDMI port that supports full HD video and audio. Along with the ATI HD 4290 the board also comes with some new goodies that were not available on previous AMD motherboards. These new features come in the form of native SATA 3.0 support through the SB850 southbridge and an on-board NEC chip that supports two USB 3.0 ports. Both of which are faster than their predecessors and add extra value to the board, as well as makes for some future proofing. With these technologies you will also get some nice additional features, such as MSI's Easy Overclocking Switch. This switch will allow you to overclock your system without even having to enter the BIOS. All you need to do is simply place the switches into one of the four preset positions and it will overclock the FSB depending on the position (+10%, +15% or +20%) for instant performance gains. Also, thanks to the high quality parts MSI uses, this is one mATX motherboard that will support all AM3 processors, including ones with a 140W TDP. This is great for users looking to use AMD's high-end quad-core processors or those that are planning on picking up the new six-core processors that have been recently released. Also, if your budget does allow for extra cores, MSI has included with thier latest BIOS release a unlock core option, which can unlock the disabled cores on a processor.

The MSI 890GXM-G65 is a great board, without a doubt, but there were a few things that held the board back from the gold. The main issue I had was that the board was not the strongest overclocker and even with the latest BIOS that was designed to improve the overclocking issue, it could still not match the majority of motherboards I have used. This is not to say that you cannot get a great overclock, because you can, it's just that you might be a few MHz shy of what some other boards might grant you.  Also, if you are a hard-core gamer and intend to use dual-slot graphics cards with this motherboard, it will block the additional expansion slots. However, since this board is mATX, I would say that support for CrossFireX is more of a pro than the blocking of the the additional slots is a con. Other than these minor gripes, I was hard pressed to find any issues with the board. With its performance in both gaming and number crunching, a price point of just $125, and the mATX form factor, it is perfect for those looking for a powerful system, especially if it's to be used in a HTPC. Making this one board that has appeal across a wide range of users and one that comes recommended to all but the most demanding overclockers.