MSI has been on a roll recently, with its previous two motherboards to grace bit-tech's pages - the P67A-GD53 (B3) and MSI P67A-GD65 - both netting awards. The 990FXA-GD80 retails at £151 – a fair chunk more than its LGA1155 brethren, but still on the cheap side as far as other Socket AM3+ boards we've seen recently are concerned.
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The 990FXA-GD80, as its name suggests, is equipped with AMD’s latest 990FX chipset; combined with a black socket, this means that it’s compatible with AMD’s forthcoming Zambezi CPUs. The area around the CPU socket is particularly clean, and should allow even the largest of coolers to be used without any issues.
As is the case with a majority of Socket AM3+ motherboards, the first two DIMM sockets are a little too close to the CPU socket for comfort – tall memory modules should be avoided with this motherboard.
The rest of the PCB is generally well laid-out – the only exception is the 8-pin EPS12V connector, which MSI has awkwardly placed a good inch from the edge of the PCB, with a fan header right next to it for good measure.
Apart from this oddity, the fact that the six SATA 6Gbps ports are all mounted parallel to the PCB and that the 24-pin ATX connector is located at the edge of the board means that cable routeing shouldn’t be too haphazard.
As well as on-board power and reset buttons, which can be useful for out-of-the-case testing and overclocking, the GD80 is equipped with MSI’s OC Genie button, which promises super-quick overclocking. However, both this and the included MSI Control Centre overclocking program proved to be a little quirky and limited (the program could only raise the HTT up to 250MHz for starters); we kept our focus on the EFI when we started overclocking.
A POST error code readout adds to the growing list of useful overclocking tools on the GD80, and there are a healthy five fan headers on the PCB too. The GD80’s six SATA 6Gbps ports are all provided by the SB950 Southbridge, while the I/O panel has two combined 3Gbps eSATA and USB ports using a JMicron JMB362 controller.
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Two USB 3 ports and a USB 3 header located on the PCB are provided via a NEC D720200 chip. The GD80 sports MSI’s currently favoured colour scheme of a dark brown PCB with blue and silver details; the heatsinks look especially sleek. There are four 16x PCI-E slots, which support SLI and CrossFireX using up to three graphics cards.
The three primary 16x slots are well spaced. While the lane configuration is the standard affair: the first two slots offer 16 lanes of bandwidth, but if you use the third as well, the secondary and tertiary slots each provide eight lanes of bandwidth. The fourth slot offers only four PCI-E lanes, while there are also two 1x PCI-E slots and a PCI slot.
Chipset AMD 990FX
CPU support Socket AM3+ Athlon II, Phenom II, Sempron 100-series, future Socket AM3+ CPUs
Memory support 4 slots: max 32GB DDR3
Expansion slots four 16x PCI-E 2 slots (two 16x or two 16x and one 8x, one 4x), two 1x PCI-E, two PCI
Sound 8-channel HD Audio via Realtek ALC892
Networking Realtek RTL8111E Gigabit Ethernet
Overclocking HTT frequency 190– 690MHz; max voltages, CPU 2.01V, CPU NB 1.854V, chipset 1.303V, HT 1.572V, RAM 1.906V, Southbridge 1.575V
Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps, PS/2, 10 x USB 2, 4 x USB 3, 2 x FireWire, LAN, 4 x surround audio out, line in, mic, optical S/PDIF out, eSATA 3Gbps