MSI 990FXA-GD80 Continued and Test Setup
Just as Asus, MSI has gone to a UEFI BIOS in this board. Unlike Asus, MSI has some real issues with their “Click BIOS” functionality. The BIOS looks much the same as previous AMI powered boards, but with the added bonus of a mouse cursor! Too bad the functionality of the mouse is very limited. There seems to be a lot of overhead, because the BIOS is not responsive at all. There were many times that while adjusting certain settings, the board would seemingly stop responding. I would wait a few seconds and then I could make the changes I needed to. This is not a deal breaker, but it certainly is an annoyance. Their BIOS implementation is just not very polished. Especially when compared to what Asus offers.
Just pretend it is using HDR for rendering.
After installation and setup, I did my best to get a good feel for the board. Overall the performance is right where it is supposed to be in terms of benchmarks. But from a usability perspective, this feels like a product that is not quite ready for prime time. The Control Center software is an improvement from what I had seen with previous boards, but it is still unwieldy and poorly laid out. It is not always easy to find the settings or monitors. Some of the settings changes work, but others do not. There is an entire page dedicated to OC Genie II, but no way to actually activate it from there. The software was disappointing to say the least.
The layout is clean and very usable.
If there was one strength this board has over its competitor, it is the bundle. Every SLI cable that one would need to run either a Quad GPU setup, or triple SLI, is included in the box. It is packed full of SATA cables, manuals, quick start guides, driver CDs, backplates, etc. What is most impressive is the inclusion of a real USB 3.0 backplate. If a user has a case which does not feature front USB 3.0 connectivity, then those extra USB 3.0 headers will be wasted. MSI gives you the option of using this optional part to get full use of all four USB ports. It is a simple addition to the package, but one that Asus did not feel was necessary for their product. Considering that the SABERTOOTH is $10 more expensive than the GD80, I disagree with Asus’ choice of not including this particular piece.
I had received the boards just a few days before the 990FX launch, so I was unable to dig into them as deeply as I typically do. I still spent quite a bit of time with each board, and used them extensively in both benchmarking and non-benchmarking sessions.
We do not yet have Bulldozer based CPUs to test with, as they will be coming out much later this summer. AM3+ motherboards are compatible with older AM3 processors, so I tested with the tried and true Phenom II X6 1090T. All power saving settings were enabled as well as Turbo mode support. Both boards supported that mode without issue in my testing. Apparently, when increasing or adjusting DDR-3 memory to 1600 MHz levels with the MSI board, there is an issue of Turbo not working correctly. This should be fixed in a new BIOS revision before these boards ship to customers.
SLI. It works. After being essentially absent from the AMD platform for the past year, it makes its return in time for Bulldozer. Somewhat fitting, since AMD had the first SLI boards and support when it was introduced with the GeForce 6800 series.
I did not have time to test SLI performance and scaling, but I was able to get SLI to work with beta NVIDIA drivers that were given to us just for this occasion. The cards were recognized, and I enabled SLI without an issue. Quick 3D Mark runs proved that SLI was in fact working and scaling as expected.
Memory was set to DDR-3 1333 speeds and reasonable timings, as the memory controller at the stock 2 GHz clock on the Phenom II does not show any real performance improvement by going at a higher speed. Once the northbridge portion of the CPU is clocked up to 2.4 GHz and 2.6 GHz, we then see the unit able to utilize the extra bandwidth provided by the faster memory speeds. Since Bulldozer supports up to 6.4 GTPS speeds, we can assume that we will see a maximum speed of 3.2 GHz on the northbridge portion of these chips at the very top end. This also explains why DDR-3 1866 speeds are officially supported. In other words, we should see much better memory performance and utilization from Bulldozer this summer as compared to the Phenom II processors.
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T
AMD Radeon HD 5870 Video Card
2 x 2GB OCZ DDR-3 1600 Platinum @ 1333 MHz and 126.96.36.199 timings
2 x Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200 SATA 6G Drives
Corsair TX750W Power Supply
Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
Catalyst 11.3a driver
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.