MSI 890GXM-G65 Review
Being an m-ATX board, the box is surprisingly slender. In fact, as you'll see below, it's about 4 CDs big and barely higher than the board itself. Having struggled to manhandle many immense boxes it's great to see something more manageable.
The box follows the theme we saw from the P55-GD85 earlier on this year. Simple and elegant with everything well laid out and clearly visible. The flaming G is way more subtle in real life than it appears in the thumb below. Very nice.
Opening up the box we find that we're a little short of accessories. A basic IO shield, SATA cables, Molex to SATA adaptor, IDE cable, CD and... oh. One of the problems with reviewing is sometimes we get a product that's been elsewhere. Wherever the elsewhere was kept the manual. If you've wondered why some sites give downloadable PDF versions of their manuals, here is why. Bacon saving indeed.
With the plain cardboard shelf lifted and the motherboard free from the static package, we can get our first look. Stickers adorn both the PCIe and CPU sockets. Thankfully they are like post-its. Sticky but easily removable without residue. Anyone who's tried to take circular "SALE!" stickers off stuff without success will, like me, appreciate this.
Black and blue is a theme we've seen more of lately and we really like it. Very classy indeed. The layout is very good with most things exactly where we'd like them. The right hand side of the board has a few minor quibbles though, which we'll cover in a moment.
The CPU socket and surrounding area is excellent though. After a few motherboards that barely gave you room to swing a metaphorical atom, MSI have given us swathes of room around the CPU, and the heatsink on the left is low-profile whilst still being lovely to look at and good at heat dispersion. Considering this is a m-ATX board we're mighty impressed by the sense of space MSI have attained, without being sparse in features.
I'm not sure if it's a trend, but this is the second motherboard in a row I've reviewed with some weird design choices. Thankfully we've only a couple of weird things. Above the IDE port is a gap on the motherboard, but the 24-pin ATX is placed above the IDE. Neither IDE cables or main power cables are very flexible so we'd have preferred MSI to move the ATX to the spot above.
The second one is that we've got a gap next to the four SATA ports, and yet one vertical SATA behind. Makes no sense to me. Why not have a six-block of SATA ports? Finally, and especially pertinent as I was manual-less but of a problem to most, is that the front-panel connectors are neither colour-coded or labelled. This is the first motherboard we've come across that has absolutely nothing to identify which pins the power and such go on. Quite an oversight.
On the rear panel we have plenty of connection options. Besides the standard ones MSI have really gone above and beyond by providing us with a VGA, DVI and HDMI outputs for the on-board Radeon 4290. The G65 does support hybrid crossfire, but the likelihood of you having a 4200 series Radeon around are slim. There is also 128MB of independant IGP memory which will help save memory if you're using the onboard graphics for your HTPC or internet needs.
Finally we have our four expansion ports. Two PCIe which run at 16x and 8x. If you're using two cards they are 8x/8x. This is a little disappointing as I'm sure the full-size ATX variant wont have this limitation. We also have a single PCIe 1x and a old PCI slot should you require it. The CMOS clear jumper is in a slightly odd place, so careful with your fingers.
Below the PCI slot we have the OC dip switches. Definitely a blast from the past. I used to have a socket A motherboard that had dip switch overclocking. The options are 10%, 15% and a 20% increase. Or 220MHz, 230MHz and 240MHz respectively. Not too shabby, but as it doesn't adjust anything but Bus Speed we'd definitely leave them well alone.
Next to the OC switch are four USB headers giving a total of 16 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 ports for the whole board. Given that almost everything is USB, and with USB headsets, webcams, printers, iPod adaptors etc you can quickly run out, it's good to see the latest MSI supporting so many.