Now that we have finished with the goodies you get with the board, let's have a look at the board itself. MSI goes for its usual black PCB with a different colour scheme to most 790i SLI boards. MSI has its own style and it's good to see. The PCB measures 24x30cm and is a 6 layer design as specified by the reference design, but that's where MSI finishes with reference specs.
The 24-pin power connector along with the MCP controlled IDE port get placed behind the four DDR3 memory slots that the board is equipped with. The 4/8 pin connector gets located behind the PS/2 towers, just above the Circu-pipe heatsink assembly.
The six SATA ports controlled by the MCP are stacked along the right hand edge of the board in line with the MCP in order to reduce the trace wires for better signal clarity. The FDD port is located right at the bottom of the board along the right and bottom edges, which puts it in a rather silly place if you want to use the FDD port, but how many of us still have 3.5" FDD drives?
The area around the CPU socket is extremely clean; MSI has moved all the larger components away from the socket to allow the install of large heatsinks. Our OCZ Vanquisher test heatsink fits on perfectly and we could remove it without any major obstructions. To supply the CPU with power, MSI has included an 8 phase voltage regulation system to keep even the hungriest of CPUs fed with power, especially when overclocking as stable voltage is the key.
The rear I/O ports are plentiful; the most noteworthy features on the back are the two eSATA ports powered by the JMicron onboard PCI-E SATA chip and the Clear CMOS button. If you need to do a CMOS reset, you don't have to open the case anymore.
Since the board has a bundled PCI-E sound card, there are no sound ports on the board at all, which may confuse some people at first.
Lastly we are down to the expansion slots. MSI has gone for a quad graphics card setup here; that's right, there are four PCI Express x16 slots on the board; two blue, one white and a yellow. The two blue slots are full x16 speed and are PCI-E 2.0 compliant running off the 790i SLI SPP.
The white slot is also full x16, but is only PCI-E 1.1 spec'd since the 790i SLI MCP is actually the 590i SLI MCP NVIDIA used on its AMD 590i SLI chipsets, and continues to use today. The last yellow slot is also run off the 790i SLI MCP, but runs at x8 speed which is intended for PhysX use or a slower quad SLI setup.
The two PCI-E x1 slots also run off the MCP and are 1.1 spec'd. If you want to use the sound card you can place it in one of these, or one of the PCI-E x16 slots. For legacy support, a single PCI slot is included.
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