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.
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.
- Socket AM3 socket for AMD Phenom II processors
- High-performance HyperTransport 3.0 CPU Interface
- Support transfer rate up to 5200 mega-transfers per second
- Note: This board supports CPU up to 140W TDP only; you can refer to AMD website to check your CPU.
- North Bridge: AMD 790GX
- South Bridge: AMD SB750
- Integrated HD3300 DirectX 10 graphics processor
- 128MB of DDR3-1333 for enhanced graphics
- Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
- 4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 16GB
- Support DDR3 up to DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600
- 2 x PCI Express Gen 2.0 x16 slots(1x16, 1x8)
- 2 x PCI Express x1 slots
- 2 x PCI slots
- Support by AMD SB750
- 5 x Serial ATAII 3.0Gb/s devices
- RAID 0/1/5/10/JBOD
- 2 x IDE Ultra DMA 66/100/133
- 1 x eSATA
- Realtek ALC889 8-channel audio CODEC
- Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
Rear Panel I/O
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard or PS/2 mouse connector
- 1 x D-sub(VGA)
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x RJ45 LAN connector
- 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
- 6 x Audio port (Line-in,4x Line-out, Mic_in)
- 1 x eSATA
- 6 x USB ports
- 1 x FireWire 800
- 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
- 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power Connector
- 1 x 4-pin CPU_FAN connector
- 3 x 3-pin SYS_FAN connector
- 1 x Power on button
- 1 x Reset button
- 1 x IDE connector
- 1 x Speaker header
- 1 x Front panel switch/LED header
- 1 x Front panel audio header
- 1 x SPDIF out header
- 5 x Serial ATA 3Gb/s connectors
- 3 x USB 2.0 headers supporting 6 additional ports
- 1 x IEEE1394 header supports 1 additional port
- ATX Size, 305mm*244mm
- 9 mounting holes
- 36 months on parts
- 24 months for parts and labor
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
AMD Phenom II X3 720
Corsair 2x2GB DDR3-1866C7 Dominator GT
PaLiT HD 4870x2
Seagate 7200.10 320GB
Scythe Ninja RevB
Windows Vista Ultimate
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 ResultsI 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.
Please disregard the cascade, it is currently undergoing tuning and is unfinished.
Click for full image
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!
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.
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 Bottom Line: MSI balances performance and price perfectly with this entry-level AM3 motherboard that won't break the bank.