Introduction: It's time to have a look at a motherboard from MSI. For me personally, it's been a while since I've owned or dealt with anything from Microstar. I think the last time was when the netburst technology from Intel had its peak, and the hottest thing out there was a 1.8 GHz Pentium 4 processor, overclocked beyond 2.4 GHz.
But this isn't history class, and now we're dealing with AMD's latest creation, the new 790FX chipset. There are not a whole lot of motherboards using this chipset at the moment, and if we remove the ones equipped with 4 PCI-Express slots which give you the Quad CrossFire opportunity, there are probably only a couple boards out there. Actually I tried searching for reviews of this motherboard, but only came up with a couple news flashes about MSI's release of the motherboard. The reason for this might be the limited spread of AMD's new Phenom processor with 4 cores. Something the motherboard manufactures isn't too happy about.
A clever feature about the AMD AM2+ technology is the backwards compatibility for AMD's last generation of CPU's which uses the AM2 socket. This means you can use your old AM2 CPU in the AM2+ sockets and still have the Quad CrossFire option.
Specifications: The motherboard from MSI supports the Sempron, Athlon and Phenom processor series. Besides that it uses DDR2 RAM, which is very cheap at the moment. It is possibly to get 2 GB RAM for just under 300, - DKK if you know where to look on the internet. Combining this with a CPU like the Athlon 4000+ X2, you've got a relatively cheap and fast setup. However Win98/ME isn't supported because of limitations in the chipset.
Let's go trough the hardcore specifications first:
CPU AMD® Phenom/Athlon/Sempron in the Socket AM2+ package.
FSB Hypertransport 3.0 supporting speed up to 2600MHz
Chipset AMD® 790FX and SB600 Chipset
Memory Supports Dual DDR II 533/667/800/1066 4 DDRII DIMMs (240pin / 1.8V) Supports a maximum of 8GB.
Slots 2 PCI Express x16 slots (PCI Express Bus SPEC V2.0 compliant; supports CrossFire Technology) 2 light blue PCI Express x16 slots with x8 speed (PCI Express Bus SPEC V2.0 compliant; supports CrossFire Technology) When 4 PCI Express x16 slots is used, the PCIE x 16 auto will change the x16/ x0/ x16/ x0 to x8/ x8/ x8/ x8 1 PCI Express x1 slot 2 PCI slots, supports 3.3V/ 5V PCI bus Interface.
On-Board IDE 1 IDE port via AMD® SB600 Supports Ultra DMA 66/100/133 mode Supports PIO, Bus Master operation mode Up to 2 IDE units
On-Board SATA 4 SATA II (1~4) ports by AMD® SB600 2 SATA II (5~6) ports by Promise® T3, supports SAS ready devices, for storage units only! 2 eSATA ports by Promise® T3, for storage units only! Supports data transfers of up to 300 MB/s
RAID Function SATA II 1~4 support RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 mode via AMD® SB600 SATA II 5~6 & 2 eSATA ports supports RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 mode via Promise® T3
LAN Realtek PCI-E GbLAN controller 8111B Integrated Fast Ethernet MAC and PHY in single chip Supports 10Mb/s, 100Mb/s and 1000Mb/s compatible med PCI-Express Bus specification v1.0a
IEEE1394 Chipset integrated by VIA® VT6308P Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps
Internal I/O Connectors ATX 24-pin power connector ATX 4-pin 12V CPU power connector ATX 4-pin VGA power connector CPU / System x 4 FAN connectors CD-in connector Front panel audio connector Front panel connector 3 x USB 2.0 connector support additional 6 ports 1 x Floppy disk drive connector 6 x Serial ATA II connectors 1 x ATA133 HD connectors 1 x SPDIF-out header 1 x IEEE1394 connector support additional 1 ports (optional) 1 x Serial port header (optional) 1 x VoIP card header (optional)
Back Panel I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard 1 x PS/2 mouse 1 x Optical SPDIF out 1 x IEEE1394 Port (optional) 1 x 6 in 1 audio jack 4 x USB 2.0 ports 1 x RJ45 LAN jack 2 x eSATA ports
Dimension 30.5cm(L) x 24.5cm(W) ATX Form Factor
Mounting 9 mounting holes
You won't be missing anything with the MSI Platinum version. You can be sure they've paid attention to details and all the usual extra features. It' almost a standard that you get 2 raid controllers. One is the Southbridge with 4 SATAII ports offers both raid 0 and 1. Silicon Image is usually on the boards as an extra controller, but not this time. MSI has chosen Promise to deliver the feature for this motherboard, which is a very reasonable choice.
Lot's of USB ports is fitted too. All external units from keyboards to speakers and cameras uses the USB ports and they're quickly outnumbered. On this motherboard you get 10 ports, but only 4 at the backpanel. For the extra 6 you need a case with lots of extra connections.