This MSI 770-C45 motherboard gives us a chance to use our MSI decoder chart to work out what level of specification you get for a price that is just below £53. While the 770 chipset supports Phenom II, it doesn't have an integrated graphics core, unlike 780G and 790GX, so you'll be glad to hear that it does at least pack a PCI Express2.0 graphics slot.
It's the C45 suffix that starts the alarms bells ringing as the C stands for Classic, the 4 is the equivalent of the old MSI Gold name and the 5 means it has a basic specification. Classic, Gold and Basic are three different ways of saying the same thing: that you get the bare minimum in the way of features on this model.
MSI has chosen to manufacture the 770-C45 with dimensions that are only slightly smaller than a full sized ATX motherboard at 305mm x 210mm, rather than 305mm x 244mm. As the 770 chipset only supports a single graphics card you don't get the option of CrossFire and this means that there is plenty of room for the expansion slots. In addition to the single PCI Express x16 graphics slot there are two PCI Express x1 slots and three PCI slots and it is something of a mystery what we are supposed to do with this largesse.
Likewise, the integrated Realtek ALC888S audio is rather basic as it does not support a digital connection, so you only get six analogue mini jacks on the I/O panel. On the other hand it supports HD Audio in Windows Vista so the audio is perfectly serviceable for most desktop PCs, though you might choose to install a sound card. That's one slot spoken for.
AMD's SB710 Southbridge supports SATA RAID and there are six SATA connectors, as well as one ATA133 connector and a floppy drive connector, so it seems unlikely you will want to install a RAID card on the 770-C45. It's a similar story with the Gigabit Ethernet, which does a decent job so you are unlikely to install a PCI network card.
The only part of the specification that can be said to be lacking is the absence of a Firewire port. Camcorder enthusiasts may be grateful that they have the option of adding a Firewire card, but honestly we're scratching around here and have no idea why MSI didn't bite the bullet and build the 770-C45 as a Micro-ATX motherboard.
Another look at our MSI decoder chart tells us that this change would make it the model code 770M-C45.
One area that could be considered marginal is the six USB ports on the I/O panel, but MSI does include headers for six more ports that are ideal if you have USB ports on your case.
The headers arrayed across the foot of the board are labelled with tiny letters, but they are not colour coded, so you'd be wise to spend a good few minutes checking and rechecking your connections.