MSI 890FXA-GD70 Review
As we've only recently reviewed the mATX 890GXM-G65, this is more of a companion piece than a standalone review. We found that the £110 G65 was a great motherboard. A pocket powerhouse. Costing substantially more (around £165) this GD70 has to offer plenty to make it worth purchasing. So does it?
To paraphrase the Simpsons Reverend Lovejoy, the short answer is no with a but, and the long answer is yes with an if.
Let's take those in order for simplicities sake. Strictly comparing to the G65, this has very similar performance. By virtue of it being a full ATX board and it certainly isn't much use as an HTPC board, especially without the on-board graphics.
If what you require from your system is to be compact, good value, and great for gaming, the G65 has you covered.
However, few people will look at a full-size high-end board just to run a single-card setup. So what do we get extra for our money with the GD70? Not a lot it seems.
We move from dip-switch based overclocking to the MSI "OC dial" method. This still has the downfall of being purely a Bus Speed increase without any accompanying adjustments to ensure overclock stability. Considering where this is positioned in MSIs AMD line-up we'd much prefer to see the OC Genie button that was so brilliant on the P55. It's like going back to burger and chips when you've eaten steak and roasts.
Speaking of stability we required quite worrying amount of voltage to get the chip stable at 4.2GHz and even then it fell over during our POV-Ray test. Worse was the fact we couldn't get our 2000MHz memory to run at anything over 1600MHz. The system wouldn't boot at all, much less BSOD. So despite us seeing one of the highest FSBs we've achieved, it appears quite finicky about what it likes and what it doesn't.
Certainly it would take more tweaking than we are capable of in our limited review time. Definitely there is potential. It's just not as easy to get to the higher echelons as some boards we've used and that's somewhat disappointing.
On the subject of slightly disappointing, two 1394 headers is curious. We will just about allow MSI to get away with an IDE socket especially as the AM3 socket has been around for a long while, but two headers for Firewire?
The good stuff is the fantastic cooling arrangement that ensures sensible temperatures without compromising either looks or usability. Six SATA 6Gbps definitely means that your storage needs will be covered long into the future. Finally the BIOS is excellent being both easy to navigate and clear about what will do what.
Although the bandwidth of the PCI Express slots is split in a slightly curious manner, they are positioned in a manner than means you're unlikely to populate them all anyway without incurring airflow issues.
So all in all it's difficult to recommend over it's little brother unless you absolutely must have an ATX board or desperately want to run QuadFire. That isn't so much a fault of this board, but how great the G65 is.
High Bus Speed
Lots of features
PCI E slots have odd bandwidth and curious spacing
Needs some tweaking to get the best overclock
OC Dial not OC Genie
Little pricey compared to its brother