The 990FX launch is something of a disappointment in ways. There is no new technology in the base design, but it does pave the way for something more exciting; the eventual appearance of Bulldozer. These boards will build the foundation for future Bulldozer machines. We also see the motherboard guys working hard to make unique products with new thinking and new features that they bundle into their products outside of the base chipset. While AMD did not play a significant part in this launch, they are the marketing force behind it to make sure that we see proper compatibility with the upcoming Bulldozer parts, and customer education in figuring out that if they buy a Bulldozer then for everything to work as advertised they need a AMD 900 series based motherboard.
For an AMD based board, there is a decent amount of space around the CPU. I think the VRMs are sorta pretty in this picture.
As far as I was concerned, the Asus board is the show stealer here. It was consistent in terms of performance, it had a much more aggressive auto overclock, and its overall overclocking prowess is simply outstanding. The UEFI BIOS is very clean, informative, and easy to use. I had no issues with any board level components, and the ASMedia USB 3.0 controller was slightly faster than the rest. The board design and layout is very good, and I had no problems with DIMM clearance with the larger fan and heatsink I used during testing. DIMM slots were closer to the CPU socket than many would like, but it should not affect the majority of customers out there.
The only real issue I had with the board was the bundle that it came with. This is a minor issue, but it would have been nice for Asus to throw in another USB 3.0 bracket so users can actually use all four USB 3.0 ports supported on the board. Documentation was good, and the AI Suite II was really tremendous to work with. Rarely have I seen a board this polished right off the bat. I really enjoyed working with the SABERTOOTH 990FX, and it was a fantastic performer and ultimately very stable.
The MSI 990FXA-GD80 was not nearly as trouble free as the Asus board. First off the CD did not include the THX functionality, and the link for it on their site was not active yet. Second, the Gig-E controller would literally lock up the machine for about 15 to 20 seconds when getting an IP address. Supposedly a few other reviewers have had some Gig-E issues of their own, so it is hard to say if this is a BIOS/Firmware problem, or MSI just had a batch of bad chips. Overclocking was again disappointing. The UEFI BIOS implementation drove me up the wall with its constant pauses and flickering mouse cursor. It was simply not a friendly environment to work in for any length of time. Control Center needs a lot of work, which leaves me scratching my head. MSI made a big splash with its excellent Afterburner program for graphics cards. Why can’t they do the same for their motherboards? In my latest video card reviews from MSI, the hardware was pretty awesome and scored very highly. It just seems strange to me that the very same company is putting out some rather mundane parts on the motherboard side.
Note the black bar/heatsink on the other side. There are some VRM components mounted back here to save space on the top. Nicely played Asus…
That being said, the board is not a bad board at all. During regular use it was stable, and it performed right where it was expected to. It has all of the features that a user could want, plus the extras provided in the bundle the such as the THX functionality are big plusses. My overall impression is that the board still has some work to be done on it. While the hardware seems fairly intact, the handful of issues I had makes it seem like the software/firmware side is more to blame. The board just isn’t quite fully baked, and MSI is scrambling to make these fixes before the board gets released to the public. Hopefully I can update with the potential fixes that are in the pipeline.
For now, it is nice to see that AMD has finally released the official chipsets and boards that will support Bulldozer. Asus took a big lead here with their SABERTOOTH product, but historically speaking MSI is not all that far behind. A few BIOS fixes and perhaps a revision, and we have a competitive part from MSI that actually costs $10 less than the rather lean and sparse TUF product.
Asus SABERTOOTH 990FX Silver Award Winner
Pretty good writeup, the “I’m
Pretty good writeup, the “I’m bored” comments were kind of unwanted, but I wanted to ask something and I am not sure if you noticed it or I missed it when reading.
The MSI board allows the PCI-E x1 slot to be used in addition to dual gpu setups, while the ASUS board covers the PCI-E x1 slot no matter what.
You could use the extra x16 slots if need be, but wouldn’t that cut down the PCI-E x16/x16 bandwidth?
That alone sways what board to get for me, despite the asus board being better. I need a PCI-E x1 slot for wireless, here’s to hoping MSI fixes the bios and other issues quickly.
EDIT: The asus board only has 6 slots, which is kind of odd.
Generally speaking, and you
Generally speaking, and you would have to consult the individual manufactures user manual for the specifics. But particularly on the older (same?) 890FX boards, specifically the MSI890FXA, there are only two true electrically x16 slots.
When running in a x16/x16 configuration, one of the slots is disabled (if memory serves it was the lower most slot), and the middle “x16 size” slot, which is physically only x8 electrically, would only being allowed x4 bandwidth.
Now, if you populate the lower most “disabled” slot (x8 electrically), it will be given x8 bandwidth, and the above true x16 slot would be reduced to a x8 as well, as the lanes on those slots are split. Which is why in a true x16/x16 configuration, it is effectively disabled.
So it is completely dependent on how the manufactures split the lanes on the board, and what slots share those lanes when split. And MOST (not all) manufactures usually give a comprehensive slot population chart to explain how it will work. But on average with a x16/x16 configuration, there will always be one remaining x4 electrically, x16 physically slot.
Usage of the slots and add in
Usage of the slots and add in cards is obviously going to differ by individual. The MSI board does give slightly more flexibility in that you can use both the PCI slot and 1x PCI-E slot even when in Crossfire or SLI. So yeah, their layout is better overall than the Asus board. Then again the DIMM slots on the MSI board are physically closer to the socket by a decent amount, which is going to cause headaches for some folks.
But in terms of a better overall board in testing, Asus has the edge here.
Agreed, definitely wooped
Agreed, definitely wooped them. Hopefully september when the fx is out (rumor) and by then the MSI big bang conquerer/AMD board is out, with something that isn’t this bad.
Unless you must have a 1x
Unless you must have a 1x PCI-E slot I see no reason to buy the MSI board over the Asus one unless there is a large discrepancy in price.
I have nothing against MSI, heck my backup PC uses a P55-GD65 and a MSI 4870×2 which I’m using to type this message, but I was sorely disappointed by the 990FXA-GD80 given the stellar performance of the 890FXA-GD65.
I need one for wireless, so
I need one for wireless, so yes, I need one. I am working on trying a powerline setup, but the power in my house isn’t the best.
I just don’t get why they leave off a slot. The heatsink blocks it, but why not go up with the heatsink, not like anything is going right there.
FYI, MSI Bought(?)
FYI, MSI Bought(?) Afterburner’s from guru3d’s RivaTuner. A good utility like that, working for all boards would be welcome.
Hmm I purchased this board
Hmm I purchased this board and really am not a fan of the BIOS but reading MSI forums it looks like this should be resolved relatively soon.
Overall, the board is working solid and while it may not be perfect, it is not “bad” to the point of not wanting to own one.
I think a lot of the issues
I think a lot of the issues with the board are related to the BIOS in one way or another. ClickBIOS II is supposed to be a major upgrade, and should feel a whole lot faster than the current one. I would imagine that overclocking the HTT bus will also show improvements, as well as the random network issues that have been reported for this board by a handful of reviewers.
Glad you are having a good experience with your board though. You are right, it is far from being a bad board, but it just didn’t quite match the level of its predecessors and competition.
I bought the Sabertooth last
I bought the Sabertooth last week.
But I have a problem with AI Suite II. It won’t start, generating an APPCRASH on my Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 (x64).
I tried to uninstall it, but it leaves a bunch of entries in registry and two related services still running…
Did you run the installer
Did you run the installer from the CD, or download it from the Asus website? I have found that often it is preferable to download that version, as sometimes the ones on the CD are more than a little old and could have poor support with new products. This is something of an issue with most motherboard manufacturers.