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MSI 990FXA GD-80 Review

ccokeman    -   November 10, 2011
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Conclusion:

After having tested a pretty big cross section of MSI's Intel lineup I was looking forward to getting a crack at what they have to offer in the way of a board built to use AMD's latest "Bulldozer" processors and the 990FX/SB950 chipsets. As you might have expected from the GD-80, MSI designates this board as being the top of the food chain in MSI's AMD line up. As such, it is loaded with all of the features that the end user is looking for with USB 3.0, Multi GPU support up to 4 GPU's, support for the latest processors, OC Genie II one-touch overclocking utility, Click BIOS II uEFI BIOS, and a comprehensive software package that includes MSI's Control Center application that lets you monitor voltages and temperatures as well as having full overclocking control from within the operating system. MSI's Military Class II uses electronic components that are certified to meet MIL STD 810G. This standard puts the components through a battery of tests that include vibration, low temperature, high temperature, shock testing, temperature shock testing, humidity, and low pressure tests. Dynamic switching Super Ferrite chokes that are 10% more efficient than traditional designs, while having an increase in current capacity of 30%. Tantalum core Hi-C Caps offer 15x less current leakage and tolerate higher temperatures and what has been a standard feature for a while now the DrMOS implementation that boasts 96% power efficiency and up to 40 amps of current capacity. Couple these things with a good looking board and you have what should be a board that is ready for prime time. But is it? That's where I ran into a few issues with the board. The largest problem was the tremendous voltage droop under load while overclocking with no means to reduce the droop other than increasing the voltage to the processor. Ultimately this worked, but in the end it limited the overclocking of the AMD FX-8150 used for this test. In the past the OC Genie one-touch overclocking utility has been excellent at giving the novice user a nice boost in processor speed for the small effort of pushing a button with no overclocking knowledge needed. On their Intel boards this works without a hitch but on the AMD side of the fence it may come down to needing some more time to iron out the details with the FX-8150. When it did work I was able to get an overclock of 4.02GHz which is just short of the 4.2GHz max you get under Turbo Boost situations. Kind of a disappointment considering how well it works on the Intel side of the fence. Manually overclocking the 990FXA-GD80 proved to not be a challenge except where the voltage to the processor was concerned. I had to find that fine balance of voltage taking into consideration what the chip needed to run the numbers. 4.84GHz was about all that I could get from the 990FXA-GD80 which is about 120MHz short of what the Crosshair V would give. Even with the lower clock speed, this amounts to a significant increase in processor speed of 1.2+GHz or around 33%.

While this board from MSI is not without its challenges, there is an upside to the 990FXA-GD80 in addition to overclocking. For one it really is a good looking motherboard. The blue and silver theme that MSI is using on its latest boards just looks right. The three year warranty gives the end user some piece of mind knowing that should anything go wrong MSI has it covered for what is the usual turn time on hardware. The Military spec parts should make any reliability concerns a moot point. At $179 it is competitively priced, leaving some room for the rest of the build using either the Last gen Phenom II or AMD's Latest FX series processors. Overall the board is easy to work with and would be a good addition to any AMD build.

 

Pros:

  • Overclocking
  • Click BIOS II
  • Military grade construction
  • Bundle
  • THX Audio
  • Control Center
  • AM3+ CPU Support
  • Multi GPU support AMD and NVIDIA
  • Super Charger
  • 3TB drive support
  • 3 Year Warranty

 

Cons:

  • Large vdroop on vcore
  • OC Genie failed to work


 

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