Today, we have in our lab the MSI 990FXA-GD65 that comes with the new AM3+ socket built for Bulldozer. We had the opportunity to test this new product under air and extreme cooling using LN2, and we must say that the results were much better that what we were expecting from this mobo. Before checking out the test procedure, let’s see what comes in the package.
As you can see in the picture, this new motherboard comes with all the necessary for building up a good high end rig. This is the package components list:
- Motherboard MSI 990FXA-GD65
- User’s Manual
- Quick Installation Guide
- CD Drivers
- 2xSATA to molex power converter
- 4xSATA cables with 90º degree angle in one side
Now, we can move on to the main component, the motherboard himself.
- AM3 (AM3b)+ socket
- 990FX + SB950 Chipset
- DDR3 2133MHz O.C.
- 32GB RAM in dual channel configuration
- 2XPCI-E x16 supporting SLI and Crossfire
- 6xSATA ports 6Gb/s that support RAID 0/1/5/10
- 1xLAN 10/100/1000
Now that we know the characteristics of this mobo, we can start with a closer look to the PCB.
The PCB isn’t something spectacular and the colors tends to be in the latest dark blue and black tones adopted by MSI since the P55 series. Built with the AM3+ socket around the AMD990FX chipset, we can see the PCI-E x16 lines to the right of the mobo in which you can install two GTX 580 or HD 6990 but without the option of use the PCI-E x1 lines between the PCI-E x16 lanes for audio, LAN or wireless cards.
We can see the NB, SB and phase power heatsink perhaps that is a ten (10) phase power motherboard, using DrMOS as usual for MSI. Build with solid and tantalum capacitors, than help to get a much better motherboard and more stable overclocks. The mobo have an additional PCI-E six pins power connector next to the 1st PCI-E x1 line.
The phase power, North bridge and south bridge are equipped with a good heatspreader, very similar to his big sister, the MSI 990FXA-GD80 but in this last one is a little better due to the continuous heatsink between north bridge and south bridge. We can see the “Military Class” indication in the heatsink’s power phase; those components are built for performance, stability and durability and are very commune in MSI Marketin material. For end user that should represent a proof of the high quality components used.
On the back panel we can find the following: A single PS/2 port for keyboard or mouse, eight (8) USB 2.0 ports and two (2) USB 3.0 ports colored blue, one (1) clear CMOS button than help a lot when you are overclocking, one (1) S/PDIF coaxial out, one (1) S/PDIF optical out and finally a single LAN port 10/100/1000.
At the other side, we can find the RAM slots that support DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600/1866*/2133*(OC) and the twenty pins main power connector. Next to the RAM slots, we can find eight (8) blue LEDs in line that let us know the phase power number than the CPU is using in that moment.
We want make a little suggestion here that maybe works for all manufacturers. The main power connector, the eight pin connector and the PCI-E connector are very far one of the other and that is a pain for cable management, even, outside of the case. The main reason is about the trace on the mainboard to drive the power to the necessary part, that give modders a good way to imagine how to route and hide the cables.
What about the BIOS?
We have some good options for overclock, profiles to save time and avoid “re-enter” settings and friendly options for those that want to enter the amazing overclocking world. We will make a little trip around the BIOS prior to move to the overclocking results on air and LN2.
As we can see, the overclocking tab given us a lot of options for overclock, the multiplier is limited to x31.5, even, with our 1090T BE, so, we had to use the FSB to go higher. We think that this limitation is due to the BIOS version, since we use the mobo with the default BIOS that arrive to our hands. Exist a lot of options for change CPU, NB, HT and RAM frequency as well as the voltage, we can modify the RAM timings and adjust the PCI-E frequency for gain a little stability and performance. Something that liked us was the voltage range changes that give us three (3) digits away from the point for adjust voltage.
At the end of the overclocking tab we can see more options; one of those was “Overclocking profiles” in which you can save, rename and load the settings of your overclock for future use, saving time and effort re-entering settings when you overclock. Among those options, we also can find the “Cool’n’Quiet” that is turned off for extreme overclock.
Now that we know the BIOS and its features, we can move on to the better part: The overclocking .
At this stage we used two CPUs, an Athlon II X4 635 clocked at 2.9GHz not BE and a Phenom II X6 1090T BE clocked at 3.2GHz. We can’t get a good air cooler at the review’s moment, for that reason we had to use the stock cooler that comes with the CPU. We won’t focus on full stability, just the enough for run SuperPi 1M, with that said, we can go from 200MHz in FSB to 235MHz for a 34087.8MHz in CPU with 28ºC and 42ºC while SuperPi 1M was running. The voltage was 1.320V with a vdrop ~0.008V, a good voltage and good temps for stock cooler. We hope get a better cooler for run this test again and compare it with higher clock on CPU.
For the extreme cooling and overclock we used a Phenom II X6 1090T BE clocked at 3.2GHz with unlock multiplier.
The phase power was a little complicated to insulate, the capacitor and the hetasink of those phase power are very close and fingers doesn’t fit there easily. We took our time here for avoid early dead of components, move on now to the results on this part.
We jumped to 5GHz usig 1.6V in BIOS a very good voltage if we keep in mind that under normal conditions the 1.6V only can hit the 4.6GHz non stable for any benchmark, only for validation. After validate the 5GHz, we set the BIOS at ~1.77V and our CPU and motherboard boot up and long on without problems at 6GHz, at this point we was very happy, honestly we only was waiting 5.5GHz or 5.7GHz as max for this CPU.
Validated the 6GHz, we return to the mobo and the multiplier was changed to x31.5, F10, boot up and long on without problems. After installing MSI Control Center that comes with an easy user’s interface, our max overclock validated was 6520.8MHz using x31.5 on multiplier and 207.1MHz on FSB with 1.90V on BIOS but with a vdrop of 0.06V.
We also hit the 6.6GHz, but not enough stable for validate and run SuperPI, wPrime or PiFast. For the stable speeds we ran 2D test SuperPI @ 6.2GHz and wPrime @ 6.3GHz without problems and getting excellent results.
We stop our test here for two main reasons:
- We don’t want kill the motherboard, the CPU or in the worst case, both of them.
- We thought that this CPU can’t go more high without much more voltage.
The last words, we have a little resume of some nice features and other things that should be better on this motherboard.
What do we like ?
- Excellent voltage regulation
- Very good temps and components, you can touch the heatsink of NB and SB without problems
- Enough space for install SLI or Crossfire with high size GPUs
- LEDs indicator next to the RAM, good way to know if the settings works or not
- Excellent voltage range change in BIOS, three digits at the right of the point is very good.
What can be better?
- The clear CMOS button, a good button that help a lot but we only saw that button in the back side at the moment of start to write this review and not in the overclocking moment. A little more bigger and with better identification can help
- The twenty four (24) pins, eight (8) pins and extra six (6) pins connector power position, change the design is more complicated but also is complicated when you do extreme overclocking or want a good cable management in your case.
We want to thanks MSI for the opportunity to test this new product that surprised us for his quality, stability and performance. We also want say thanks to Campus Party Colombia 2011, OC Nation team and all the people that help us in this review. We hope see you in next review.