The MSI 790GX-G65 Motherboard


AMD's Phenom II has made it fashionable to sport AMD CPUs in the enthusiast market once again. Phenom II is currently split across two nearly identical sockets, AM2+ and AM3. Today we've got MSI's 790GX-G65 motherboard, one of two AM3 motherboards they currently manufacture. The 790GX-G65 motherboard is a mid-range motherboard that shares some of the overclocking features of the more expensive MSI 790GX GD70 while maintaining a much lower price. Today we'll show how a board with a modest price can still be successful at stock and overclocked speeds.


MSI 790GX G65 Motherboard with HD 4870x2 and Corsair Dominator GT

 

The 790GX + SB750 chipset that the 790GX-G65 is based upon is a familiar face with dozens of boards utilizing this chipset with AM2+ and AM3 sockets. Unlike motherboards of yore, the 790GX chipset has much less work cut out for it as the memory controller is integrated into the CPU. However, unlike past motherboards, the 790GX northbridge features an integrated HD3300 graphical processor with 128MB of DDR3 for superb onboard video performance and smooth high-definition video playback.

A buyer must be very careful with AMD's current lineup of CPUs. Since the 790GX-G65 uses an AM3 socket, only AM3 Phenom II CPUs will physically fit in the socket and function properly. Currently, only the AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition, Phenom II X3 710, and Phenom II X4 810 will function in this motherboard. Don't worry though, there are many upcoming AM3 CPUs and this board will support them all as it can support up to 140w CPUs. Below is a short chart highlighting the major features of the 790GX-G65. For additional board specifications and support, please visit MSI's 790GX-G65 support page.

CPU

Chipset

Graphics

Memory

Expansion Slot

Storage

Audio

Rear Panel I/O

Internal I/O

Form Factor

Warranty

Board Images

MSI 790GX G65 Motherboard Overview

The motherboard itself isn't very flashy but it is quite functional. In this overview image you can see the general layout of the board, clean and clear to me.

MSI 790GX G65 Motherboard Overview

The CPU socket is simple with a 5 phase PWM common on 790GX motherboards. Only a single 4-pin P4 connector is required for this motherboard, something I found odd given the trend towards using the 8-pin EPS connector. Please disregard the green clay, it is residue from my insulation for the overclocking segment.

MSI 790GX G65 DIMM Slots

The DDR3 slots are driven by a single phase PWM circuit. Near the edge of the board by the DIMM retention tabs are 5 status LEDs that indicate board functionality during boot.

MSI 790GX G65 Southbridge

The southbrige section of the board is rather sparse with 5 SATA II connectors and convenient power, reset, and CMOS buttons. There are also a slew of USB and 1394a headers if you need additional connectivity.

MSI 790GX G65 PCIe expansion slots

Even with two 2-slot GPUs you will still have access to a PCIe 1x and PCI slot. I can't imagine many users having card placement issues with this standard setup.

MSI 790GX G65 IO ports

This board has a cornucopia of options along it's I/O area. You get an optical SPDIF-out port, a PS/2 port, VGA, DVI, and HDMI video output, 6 USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, RJ-45 gigabit ethernet port, and 6 customizable audio ports.

BIOS Configuration

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Date and Time

To kick things off, your standard BIOS date and time configuration.

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Advanced BIOS

Here you can configure the boot sequence and adjust various settings that affect the boot sequence.

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Integrated Devices

Here you can adjust the integrated peripherals and through submenus adjust the various I/O devices and the hard-drive controller.

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Power

Under power management you can dictate how the power button functions and configure devices to awaken the board.

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Hardware Monitor

The hardware monitor provides vital statistics on important values like vCORE and the cpu temperature.

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Cell Menu

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Cell Menu

The Cell Menu contains all the overclocking settings. Here you can adjust the CPU and northbridge multipliers, set the HTT link speed and multiplier, adjust the memory divider and timings, and configure all the system voltages. My only issue with this board BIOS would be in the voltage section.

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Cell Menu Memory Tweak

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Cell Menu Memory Tweak

Within the DRAM configuration you can adjust the memory timings and memory drive strengths. Tweaking drive strengths can help stabilize overclocks. I feel this section could have been handled cleaner, in its current arrangement you are assaulted with a page of memory settings.

MSI 790GX G65 BIOS Save Load

Here you can save 4 BIOS profiles. I use these to quickly switch between stock and overclocked profiles or save a profile for when I crash the system.

MSI 790GX G65 M-Flash

In the rare case that you need to flash the board BIOS, MSI has included M-Flash. M-Flash will let you flash the BIOS from a flash-drive while in BIOS.

Test Setup

MSI 790GX G65 Motherboard with HD 4870x2 and Corsair Dominator GT

Today we used our Phenom II testbed with the AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition processor. With the 790GX-G65 the memory was run at DDR3-1600 7-7-7-21-32 as the CPU doesn't feature a DDR3-1866 divider. With the 790GP-DS4H motherboard the memory was run at DDR2-800 4-4-4-16-28. Vista Ultimate x64 with SP1 was used along with the latest revisions of all our test applications.

For the extreme overclocking, my two stage cascade was utilized. The cascade compresses ethylene and evaporates it at -95 Celsius. To prevent board damage from condensation the board was insulated with modeling clay following this guide.

AMD Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

AMD Phenom II X3 720

Motherboard

MSI 790GX-G65

Memory

Corsair 2x2GB DDR3-1866C7 Dominator GT

Video Card

PaLiT HD 4870x2

Hard Drive

Seagate 7200.10 320GB

Cooling

Scythe Ninja RevB

Power Supply

Corsair HX1000

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate

Test Results



MSI 790GX G65 Test Results

There was no surprise here, the MSI 790GX-G65 edged out the Gigabyte 790GP-DS4H in nearly every test with sheer bandwidth muscle. All the CPU intensive tests jumped in score but the 3D tests did not improve at much. At these CPU speeds, the CPU is the system bottleneck so with ~3.5GHz CPU speeds the difference between DDR2 and DDR3 would be more pronounced.

Overclocking Results

I originally tested this motherboard using liquid nitrogen but ran into a myriad of problems. AMD's Phenom II gained a lot of acclaim due to its ability to run at -196 Celsius and colder. However, not all AM2+ and AM3 motherboards are capable of operating at these temperatures. I'm not certain if a BIOS fix will work but this board locks up at -137 Celsius, every single time. So, instead of wasting liquid nitrogen I swapped over to my cascade and found the board to be incredibly stable under the cascade.

2 stage cascade
Please disregard the cascade, it is currently undergoing tuning and is unfinished.

MSI 790GX G65 Overclocking Super Pi 32M at 5.2GHz
Click for full image

This is currently the fastest result for Super Pi 32M with the AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition, shaving a full minute off the previous fastest time. On aircooling this board performed like every other AM2+/AM3 board I've worked with, with 1.4v the CPU maxes at 3.8GHz with multiplier overclocking and maxes at 264MHz HT.

Editor's Note:  This is the same exact motherboard that Chris used to win second place in the Toms Hardware AMD Virtual Overclocking Contest! This is a great overclocking board as you can tell!

Conclusion

AMD's 790GX + SB750 platform makes for a great HTPC gaming platform while also offering enough flexibility to function as a full-blown gaming platform and even an extreme benchmarking platform. MSI's 790GX-G65 pulls all three roles off effectively for a paltry $129.99. In nearly all of our tests the AM3 platform pulled ahead of the AM2+ platform with a modest margin, so the performance improvement is there. The average DDR2 2x2GB kit price is currently hovering around $35 to $40 per kit while DDR3 2x2GB kits are hovering around $60 to $70, so you are looking at a ~$30 price margin between the two. It is a tough call if the performance margin were worth $30, but in my eyes adopting the DDR3 standard will insure access to future CPUs and open the door for more performance down the road.

In North America, MSI has a 3 year warranty covering their motherboards. Over the three weeks I've had this board I tested it extensively for a week and spent another week benchmarking under the cascade with the board routinely being soaked in moisture. I've had a lot of trouble finding AM2+ and AM3 motherboards that can handle this amount of abuse so I was surprised with how the board kept coming back for more.


MSI 790GX G65 Motherboard with HD 4870x2 and Corsair Dominator GT

 

So, as long as you haven't got unrealistic expectations of this board, I confidently believe it is a great board for 95% of consumers. Only extreme enthusiasts may require some of the features provided in the GD70 and will want to give the 790GX-G65 a pass. If you are looking for a solid board to enter the AM3 market, the 790GX-G65 would be a great option.

With a price tag of just $129.99 plus shipping the MSI 790GX-G65 motherboard is hard to pass up as it is affordable, stable and fast enough to get second place in the Toms Hardware AMD Virtual Overclocking Contest! With those credentials it only makes sense to give the MSI 790GX-G65 motherboard the Editor's Choice Award!

Legit Reviews Editor's Choice Award

Legit Bottom Line: MSI balances performance and price perfectly with this entry-level AM3 motherboard that won't break the bank.