MSI hit the nail on the head with its 790FX, 790GX and 770 AM3 boards last year, but unfortunately failed to continue the trend with its 785G.
A new chipset provides MSI with new opportunity though. The AMD 890GX is an important chipset because of its features, such as native SATA 6Gbps – MSI adds USB 3 support on top of this. However, MSI needs to crack the core unlocking that AMD disabled, yet Asus now offers, in order to be competitive. We'll dive into those details over the next few pages.
MSI 890GXM-G65 Feature List
Support for AMD socket AM3 CPUs, including Phenom II, Athlon II and Sempron
Four DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600+MHz, 16GB Max
Two 16x PCI-Express slots (16x-1x or 8x-8x)
One 1x PCI-E slot
One PCI slot
One JMicron JMB368 supporting one IDE port
Five SATA and one eSATA 6Gbps ports supporting RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 via AMD SB850
Realtek ALC889 HD sound codec with support for Blu-ray Protected Audio Path
One Realtek RTL8111DL Gigabit Ethernet socket
Micro-ATX form factor
MSI nailed its aesthetic design a while ago, and thankfully kept it there. The black and blue scheme, with silvery heatsinks works well and is enough to differentiate the boards form those of other manufacturers.
The micro-ATX form factor is getting more and more favour for budget boards as it saves a few quid on physical materials, and up-sells the ATX format too. Despite this, MSI has still squeezed two 16x PCI-Express 2.0 connectors, which automatically set themselves to 16x-1x or 8x-8x depending on whether additional PCI-Express cards are used or not. There's not an ounce of extra space between a pair of dual-slot cards though, so make sure you have a case with decent airflow.
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The actual heatsinks are quite small, but don't be put off by that – the chips underneath don't require that much cooling. That's not to say that these heatsinks don't get warm, but they never got hot enough to cook off either. MSI has opted for some basic power hardware: despite the '140W' stamp on the VRM heatsink, there's only 4+1-phase power circuitry underneath, which will be stretched when overclocking. The board is pretty much identical to the 785GM-E65 in most other respects, and notably MSI hasn't used the DrMOS that earned its 790FX-GD70 such praise.