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MSI 890FX-GD70 - Layout, Expansion and Connectivity
Board layout on the 890FX-GD70 is good, though the two-character LED readout panel will be obscured if you install an all-out CrossFire setup. MSI has thankfully gone for RAM slots with only a single clip on one side (similar to those used by Asus for a while now), making it easier to install and remove memory. The 890FX-GD70 supports DDR3 up to 2,133Mhz, which is behind Asus but ahead of most of the pack. Memory slots are logically colour-coded though not staggered.
Below the memory slots we find six angled SATA 6Gb/s ports, which is pretty much standard - though ASRock managed eight on its 890FX Deluxe3. Though only the fastest SSDs will push beyond what SATA 3Gb/s (also known as SATA II) can provide, they will only get faster and the newer standard provides a good amount of future proofing.
A seventh onboard 'last generation' SATA port is provided by a separate jMicron controller, which also facilitates the powered eSATA and EIDE ports. This might be useful for connecting an optical drive, but to be honest we wish MSI had chosen to go with a second eSATA port, that being the most common high-speed transfer standard until USB 3.0 gathers momentum. Though EIDE is on board, thankfully there's no sign of a floppy drive connector.
When it comes to expansion card slots, you're spoilt for choice as MSI provides a PCIe 1x and regular PCI slot (both coloured black) in addition to the aforementioned five PCIe x16 slots. Since they are fed 36 lanes of bandwidth, you can get two cards running at full x16 speed or four cards at up to 8x. The fifth slot is limited to 4x and will be obscured by the second graphics card, and we wonder why it's even there as its potential is very limited.
One other thing to keep in mind when running Quad CrossFire with four physical cards (you can also run it using two dual-chip cards such as the Radeon HD 5970) is that the motherboard's three USB 2.0 and two FireWire (IEEE 1934) headers will also be obscured, not to mention the touch-sensitive power, reset, overclocking and Green Power buttons. These are all perfectly sensitive by the way, but can be difficult to spot as they're physically indistinguishable from the rest of the motherboard and not backlit - their blue LEDs only light up if you touch them.
Wrapping up the connections and features is the rear I/O panel, which is stuffed with goodies. For data and peripherals there is a pair of PS2 ports, six USB 2.0 ports (one of which doubles as powered eSATA) and of course two USB 3.0 ports in their blue livery. Audio outputs come in the form of six analogue 3.5mm jacks and both co-axial and optical digital outputs. Dual Gigabit Ethernet is becoming increasingly rare, but is (arguably) still a desirable feature. The ClearCMOS switch is tiny and recessed making it difficult to press, but at least you'll never accidentally wipe your BIOS settings while trying to plug in a cable round your PC's back.