It's been a long, hard wait for those who have wanted a
high-performance, high bandwidth AMD chipset. There is now a worthy successor to the
790FX in the AMD 890FX chipset.
Like its predecessor, the AMD 890FX chipset doesn't
compromise discrete graphics performance or bandwidth by including an integrated
graphics processor, instead you get massive amounts of PCI Express bandwidth for
multi-videocard arrangement. Of course, being an AMD chipset you're limited to
Radeon CrossfireX videocard configurations only, there is no teaming up nVidia
videocards in SLI on this board. AMD's 890FX northbridge provides 42 lanes of
PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth, more than you'll get on Intel's X58 or P55 chipsets
or on AMD's 890GX or 785GX chipsets, and without the need for bottleneck prone
front-end bridge chips.
MSI puts all of this bandwidth to good
use in its enthusiast grade 890FXA-GD70 motherboard; two videocards will run in
(x16/x16) mode or four in (x8/x8/x8/x8) mode. As videocards edge closer and
closer to saturating the PCI Express bus with data, performance enthusiasts will
need to move to higher-bandwidth chipsets that won't bottleneck and starve their
expensive GPUs. Having the extra bandwidth available today means there will be a
lot of room open for future expansions as well.
of course there's more to MSI's 890FXA-GD70 than just
PCI Express slots. It's also one of the first motherboards to combine AMD's
890GX chipset with the SB850 southbridge, so you'll be getting native SATA 6Gb/s
transfer rates for up to six devices in RAID 0, 1 5 and 10 modes.
SuperSpeed USB 3.0 also makes an appearance on the
890FXA-GD70, thanks to NEC's D720200F1 controller. There are two USB 3.0 ports
capable of 4.8Gb/s transfer rates, backed up by two lanes of dedicated PCI
Express 2.0 bandwidth (hooray, no bottlenecking!). USB 3.0 is a must-have if
you're investing in a motherboard for the future, it will be making its way into
a dizzying range of devices towards the end of 2010.
As a socket AM3-based motherboard the MSI 890FXA-GD70 is
compatible with a range of Phenom II and Athlon II chips, and in particular the
Phenom II X6 series. The board also supports features like core unlocking for
future AMD processors, that could potentially turn a four-core CPU into a
MSI has shown some impressive attention to detail with
the 890FXA-GD70, including features like the OC Genie overclock dial,
Reset/Power/clear CMOS buttons integrated right on the PCB, LED and PORT 80
feedback to let you know about the status of system peripherals and memory, and
an overall high "military-grade" build quality by using long-life components and
electrical devices usually selected for more critical missions. In PCSTATS
overclocking tests we were able to push the bus speed to a modest 240MHz,
without venturing into voltage adjustments.
With a price of around $200 CDN, ($200 USD, £130 GBP) at launch, the AMD
890FX-based MSI 890FXA-GD70 motherboard is a solid foundation for anyone looking
to build a powerful multi-videocard gaming system. This board has lots of room
for expansion and is good on the future-proofing front. Combining it with an AMD
Phenom II X6 processor and a Radeon HD 5800-series videocard as part of AMD's
Vision platform will make a system worthy for pretty much any performance
enthusiast or gamer.
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