The layout of the board is very good, which is exactly what we expect from MSI. We’ve mentioned that the chipset coolers look good but perhaps more important is that they’re low profile so are don’t interfere with anything else. Across the foot of the board are headers for a second Firewire port and up to six more USB ports although there are no brackets in the package. In the corner are three illuminated micro buttons for Power, Reset and Clear CMOS.
The power connectors are located at the edge of the board and four of the five SATA connectors are laid down for ease of connection. The SB750 Southbridge supports six SATA connections and the sixth port is an eSATA on the I/O panel that also doubles up as a USB port.
The lower half of the board is dominated by the pair of PCI Express slots that can be used in conjunction with the integrated HD 3300 graphics in Hybrid CrossFire. MSI has included a 128MB memory chip that supports the integrated graphics which is a feature that AMD calls SidePort. No doubt this is the reason why the MSI is able to run 3DMark Vantage on integrated graphics where the Asus M4A78T-E and a Biostar that we have recently used both consistently crashed during the benchmark. Although the MSI can complete 3DMark Vantage we’re none too sure how useful the score of 407 marks will prove for gamers. That’s a touch cruel of us as the 790GX is very good as far as integrated graphics go and the ATi is utterly capable when it comes to running the Windows Vista desktop and decoding HD movies.
MSI points out that the ALC889 chip supports stereo 24-bit/192KHz or 5.1 24-bit/96KHz audio and is therefore able to properly support Blu-ray movie playback. The graphics outputs consist of HDMI, DVI and VGA so you can watch movies on an HD telly with consummate ease, should you so choose.
Our first step in testing the 790GX-G65 was to use the M-Flash in the BIOS to run an update from a USB key. The process was as quick and easy as it is to update an Asus or Gigabyte and that’s the highest praise that we can offer.
The BIOS contains all of the usual features with the addition of an extra tweak. When you’re overclocking there is a process of trial and error to find out which base clock or front side bus setting will work with your processor on the voltage settings that you have chosen. MSI has introduced a feature in the BIOS called Auto OverClock that is disabled by default. Once it is enabled and the changes have been saved the system restarts in the usual way. Enter the BIOS set-up again and you will find that the BIOS has magically set the maximum clock speed. That’s the theory and the 790GX-G65 reckoned that our Phenom II X4 810 which usually runs at 13 x 200MHz = 2.6GHz would be capable of 9 x 349MHz = 3.14GHz. This is very similar to the speed we achieved manually, which was 13 x 240MHz = 3.12GHz, so we reckon that Auto OverClock has the potential to save a fair amount of time and hassle.
We should point out that we were able to overclock further with the Asus M4A78T-E but we doubt that anyone considering a motherboard with integrated graphics will be desperately worried about squeezing every last Megahertz from their hardware.
MSI has given its motherboards a makeover and the 790GX-G65 shows this new direction has great promise. It’s a neat 790GX motherboard and the BIOS has been developed in an intelligent manner that adds some useful features.