MSI 990FXA-GD80 (AMD 990FX) Motherboard Review

We check out our first 990FX board post Bulldozer launch and see what ASRock and Fatal1ty are doing with the chipset.
| Oct 20, 2011 at 4:12 am CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

Introduction
VIEW GALLERY - 39 IMAGES

With our FX-8150 well and truly having done the rounds in launch coverage, it's time to see what's going on with some of the boards that we've been collecting here over the past few weeks prior to the launch of Bulldozer.

We've got boards from ASRock, ASUS and GIGABYTE, but we'll start off today by checking out the MSI offering - the 990FXA-GD80. As usual, we'll start off by checking out the package before we take a closer look at the board itself.

Once that's done we'll move into the BIOS to see what's going on before we get into the performance side of things. Normally we'd also cover overclocking, but unfortunately, like what has happened to other sites, our FX-8150 has moved to greener silicon.

We're in the process of getting another FX-8150, but we'll be tossing up later if we choose to continue overclocking the processor, as the last thing we want to do is have a second die on us. Hopefully there's just a few dud ones floating about and this isn't a problem we'll see show up more and more as time goes on.

For now, though, let's get into the package of our MSI 990FXA-GD80 and see exactly what's going on.

The Package

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Checking out the box, it's pretty typical of the GD80. We've got the front and back and as usual the front opens up to give us a larger run down on some of the main features that the motherboard offers while also giving us a closer look at it.

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Getting inside the package, we've got an absolute bucket load of paperwork to go along with our driver CD. You can see we've got a quick setup and normal manual present along with a couple more manuals explaining some of the software that's on offer.

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In the cable department we've got six SATA cables, two Molex to SATA connectors, three SLI bridges, I/O back plate and some little headers which make adding cables like USB and front panel connectors a little easier.

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Along with all that, we've got a USB 3.0 connector included in the package that can be installed at the back of your case. The added extra is pretty typical from the higher end MSI boards and we're not going to complain about more USB 3.0 ports.

The Motherboard

The Motherboard

Moving onto the board, we can see that we've got the same look we've seen from MSI for a while now with the dark black PCB and the dark blue / silver setup going on with our expansion slots and heatsinks. It's one of the better looking color schemes on the market at the moment and it's nice to see it's implemented on the latest 990FXA-GD80.

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Moving in closer, we can get a good look at what exactly is going on with the expansion side of things. We've got a single older legacy PCI slot along with two 1x PCIe slots. Finally, we've got four PCIe x16 slots, although you can see the second and last slot are wired up for x8 speed only.

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Moving to the bottom of the board, we can as usual see a fair bit going on. Starting from the left, we've got our audio header, 1394 firewire header, COM header and three buttons which allow auto overclocking via OC Genie along with a power and reset button. Next to that we've got two USB headers, our LED debug reader and our front panel headers.

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Turning the corner, we've got a single USB 3.0 header on the far left that runs off the NEC D720200 chip along with six SATA III ports that all run off the AMD SB950 chipset natively.

The Motherboard Continued

The Motherboard Continued

Moving towards the top of the board, you can see there's nothing out of the ordinary here with our main 24-Pin ATX power connector present. Above that you can see our four DIMM slots which support up to 32GB of DDR3.

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As for the speeds supported, that depends on if you're going to be making use of a Phenom chip or a new FX one. Up to 2133MHz DDR is offered via overclocking.

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Tucked up in the back corner we can see our normal 8-Pin CPU connector and around the CPU area you can see the heatsink setup that is present on the board. What's interesting is around the socket, MSI have opted for the older style full cage instead of the newer one which leaves the sides open. It's not a big deal, but it was interesting none the less.

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Finishing up with the I/O side of things, you can see from the left we've got two PS/2 connectors and next to that we have a little button which is used to clear the CMOS. Next to that we have an Optical and Coaxial out along with two eSATA / USB 2.0 combo ports at the bottom running off the JMicron JMB362 controller, two USB 2.0 ports above that and a 1394 Firewire port running off the VIA VT6315N.

Moving along again, we've got a further two USB 2.0 ports along with a gigabit networking port above that running off the Realtek RTL8111E controller, along with two USB 3.0 ports running off the NEC D720200 chip and six audio jacks running off the Realtek ALC892 Codec.

BIOS

BIOS

Since out of the box we didn't have support for the new FX line of processors, we had to throw our 1100T in and update to the latest. Originally I found myself a little disappointed with the lack of Click BIOS present, but fortunately after updating to the most recent one which supported the new FX line, we where greeted with the updated ClickBIOS II which we've said before looks great.

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When compared to the last time we saw ClickBIOS II, you're not going to see anything too new here. Instead we've got the same kind of setup present. If you're going in to do some overclocking, you'll no doubt find yourself hanging out in the OC area the most. Apart from that, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting around and finding everything you need to with the central hub always present.

Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

With a new processor in hand, we haven't got any other boards to compare our FX-8150 against at the moment. It's only going to be a matter of time, though, till we build up a database.

With that said, we have today thrown our FX-8150 and MSI 990FXA-GD80 up against two boards with two different CPUs. One is the recently looked at ASRock A75M-ITX with our A8-3850. While the board may be small, it showed us performance at stock that sat inline with boards twice its size.

The other board we've got here is the ASUS P8H67-I which comes paired with our 2600k. We've already got a fairly good idea with what's going on in terms of the performance of our FX-8150 CPU compared to these other processors, but let's take a look in our normal motherboard line-up of tests.

Before we close out, though, as already said, we'd normally also cover overclocking here, but our FX-8150 has fallen into a deep slumber which it refuses to get out of. For that reason, we'll only be testing the FX-8150 at stock today.

We did a bit of overclocking on the board that saw our FX-8150 sit in around the 4.6 - 4.7GHz mark, but unfortunately we didn't get the chance to run a full line up of tests. Normally we'd be a bit inclined to blame the motherboard for the death of our CPU, or ourselves, but there seems to be some issues with the FX-8150 as I've heard multiple people now also having a dead chip in other motherboards and it seems that it could be related to a spike in CPU voltages when overclocking.

No doubt as we find out more about it, we'll let you know, but I think for the time being we might try and avoid overclocking of the FX-8150.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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Under HyperPi we can see we've got an improvement over the FX-8150, but the new chip continues to sit a fair bit behind the popular 2600k.

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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This is the same problem we saw on our ASUS Crosshair V Formula when testing the FX-8150 for launch. We see some great performance in the L1 Cache Read, but apart from that the performance for L2 and L3 falls back while our Write performance is just way out with its L1 performance way below that of the A8-3850.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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Under PCMark 7 we can see that performance on a whole sits between the Intel i7 2600k and the A8-3850. No doubt we wish it sat closer to the 2600k, and no doubt AMD feel the same.

MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater™ video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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Encode time is strong coming in just a little behind the 2600k. We can see we've got a big improvement over the mid-range Fusion platform.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, we can see that 2.0 performance is a little behind. USB 3.0 performance on the other hand lines up just as we'd hope.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 (AMD 990FX) Motherboard Review 37 | TweakTown.com

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 (AMD 990FX) Motherboard Review 38 | TweakTown.com

Looking at SSD performance, it comes in a bit slower than our A8-3850 setup. We can see it's stronger than SATA II performance, but not quite as strong as it can be when compared to the drive on our A75 board.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 (AMD 990FX) Motherboard Review 39 | TweakTown.com

Memory performance has really improved on the new platform and we can see that here when comparing to the A8-3850, which even saw improved memory performance. It's unfortunate that this hasn't helped AMD in a lot of other areas.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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The FX-8150 offers a lot more headroom over the A8-3850 and that's why we see its strong performance at the lower resolution. As we move up the resolution table, though, it's more about the VGA card than the CPU and for that reason we see our setups are all very close.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

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Power Draw doesn't hold too much of a surprise. Comparing the 2600k and FX-8150, we can see that idle power draw is identical. When we look at load, we can see our FX-8150 comes in a bit higher.

Core Temperature

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We're not paying too much attention to the numbers here, but if the load numbers hold true, then the FX-8150 runs nice and cool. Unfortunately, with the minimum we get, we just don't know if we can rely 100% on these numbers.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

At $174.99 US the MSI 990FXA-GD80 is a real aggressively priced motherboard considering the feature set it has. The black / blue color scheme that's going on looks great and is probably one of the better looking designs going around at the moment. And on the bundle side of things we can see that MSI have included a lot with the inclusion of the extra USB 3.0 header that can be installed inside your case.

On the performance side of things the 990FXA-GD80 does perform well, but unfortunately like any AMD based motherboard that is going to come through, it's not going to be as well as its main competition.

The price is the one thing that stands out so much, and I think when we move away from the FX-8150 and look at something like the FX-6100 in conjunction with this board, you're talking about a really nice little setup that comes in at just over $300 US. Throw in an 8GB kit of RAM and then what ever video card you can afford, and you've just got a really nice little system going on.

On the overclocking side of things, we did get to around that 4.7GHz mark which we saw on the ASUS board we looked at. It's just unfortunate our FX-8150 was met with the fate it did. Like I said earlier, I'd be inclined to blame the motherboard or myself, but it seems we're seeing this FX-8150 death thing show up a little on a few different brands of motherboards and every time seems related to overclocking. Hopefully it's nothing too serious and something AMD will be able to sort out quickly.

With that all said, though, the MSI 990FXA-GD80 as I said is a really nice board and it's one worth looking at if you're interested in going down the more budget friendly AMD path.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR -

Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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