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MSI is taking a scattergun approach with its AMD 790GX chipset based motherboards with basic, mid-range, and high-end model all on offer. However, it's the mid-range DKA790GX that is the focus of our attention today.
It has dual graphics slots that support CrossFireX and also features a funky cooling system called Circu-Pipe Lite, which certainly catches the eye. On a more technical note there’s the model code with that leading D which is a reference to the DrMOS power regulation system. This is the integrated voltage regulator module that we saw on the P45 Platinum. However this is the first time the DrMOS system has been used on an AMD motherboard.
The idea is that DrMOS combines a control circuit and two MOSFETs into a single chip, which reduces the number of components on the motherboard but more importantly it reduces power consumption and waste heat, which has the potential to enable extreme overclocking.
We enjoyed great success overclocking our Phenom X4 9850 to 3.1GHz on the Foxconn A7DA-S so the prospect of extra overclocking tools on the same 790GX chipset looks like an intriguing proposition.
The ports on the IO panel of the DKA790GX deliver a healthy list of options that should satisfy both the media centre and gaming markets. There’s a single PS/2 port that is purple in colour but despite appearances it can be used either for a mouse or keyboard, which is a nice touch. Then we have six USB ports in wide-spaced pairs, six analogue mini jacks and optical S/PDIF for the 7.1 audio, one eSATA port, Gigabit LAN and the outputs for the integrated Radeon HD 3300 graphics.
There are three output options, which consist of an HDMI, DVI-D and VGA, so there's plenty of choice. However we would prefer to see a DVI-I port instead. The ability to add a DVI-to-VGA adapter and run two identical analogue displays would appeal to those with older monitors. You can, of course, run two digital connections simultaneously though, which is probably the most likely occurrence nowadays.
If you buy the top-of-the-line DKA790GX Platinum you also get a single Firewire port but the controller chip is missing from the DKA790GX so you don’t even have the option of connecting a port to a header on the board. We don't approve. Making up for this slightly, in addition to the six USB 2.0 ports on the IO panel there are two more USB ports on a bracket and headers for another four ports so at least you've plenty of alternative connections.
The single eSATA port is controlled by the SB750 Southbridge so there are only five SATA ports on the board.
The layout of the board is generally good as the main components are in the proper locations. Both of the power connectors are placed at the edges of the board, the IDE connector is laid down as are four of the five SATA connectors. The fifth SATA stands upright which is a shame as it spoils the full house of plaudits. One oddity is that MSI has located the CPU fan connector close to the Southbridge at the end of the memory slots where it is hard up against the main graphics card.