MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Review - AMD 990FX Chipset

MSI 990FXA-GD80 AMD 990FX Motherboard Performance Review

AMD systems have always been known for their price to performance ratios. Unlike Intel who sells their top processors for more than a thousand bucks, AMD's flagship processor retails for under three hundred bucks. The drawback to AMD systems was that you could only run Crossfire. Don't get me wrong there is absolutely nothing wrong with Crossfire, in fact I have been running a pair of Radeon HD 5870's in Crossfire for about a year now. The problem was lack of options if you wanted a dual GPU system. If you wanted to run a pair of NVIDIA GPU's in SLI you were S.O.L.!

Today though, that is all changing with the launch of the new AMD 990FX chipset! With the new AMD 990FX chipset we will be able to run NVIDIA's SLI technology in all of it's glory! While the addition of NVIDIA SLI may be an important one, it's by no means the only one.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 AMD 990FX AM3+ Changes

The AMD 990FX chipset also brings along a new socket, the AM3+. The new AM3+ socket is completely backwards compatible at this time with the previous generation AM3 processors. As will the new AMD AM3+ processors work in the previous generation AM3 sockets (a BIOS flash is likely needed). One of the advantages of the new AMD AM3+ socket is an update to the HyperTransport. The previous AM3 boards used HyperTransport version 3.0 which chugged along at 5200 MT/s. The new AMD AM3+ socket has been updated to HyperTransport 3.1 which is a bit faster at 6.4GT/s. If you are looking to maximize the potential of the new AMD Bulldozer 8-core CPUs running a board like the MSI 990FXA-GD80 AMD 990FX AM3+ will give you the best performance.

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 is going to be the first of what promises to be many AMD 990FX motherboards that will be coming across our bench. Due to the lack of Bulldozer chips out there right now (since they haven't launched) we won't be able to take full advantage of the AM3+ socket just yet. Though we will be able to play with the ability of NVIDIA SLI on an AMD system with out the use of hacked drivers. 

MSI 990FXA-GD80 AMD 990FX AM3+ Changes

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 has a number of features that make it the board that it is. Click BIOS, Military Class II components, OC Genie II, and Instant OC from within Windows are all great features of the MSI 990FXA-GD80.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Specifications

MSI 990FXA-GD80 AMD 990FX AM3+ Specifications

Taking a look at the Specifications slide for MSI, we can take note of a couple of key features. The first feature to really take note of is in the processors. The MSI 990FXA-GD80 supports all of the processors that we have come to love from AMD, the Phenom II, Athlon II, and Sempron series that are all in the AM3 Series of chips. Also included in the processor support is the new AMD FX series of chips. What we know about the new FX chips is limited at this point, but we do know that AMD is bringing out some 8-core processors! Once we get details on the new Bulldozer processors we'll be sure to share it with you! The chipset on the MSI 990FXA-GD80 is the new AMD 990FX + SB950 which will support six SATA III 6Gb/s ports with RAID support. Of course since the new AMD 990FX chip supports NVIDIA SLI technology, MSI has made sure to implement it on their flagship board!

There are several more technologies of the MSI 990FXA-GD80 that we are going to be looking at today. So be sure to join us as we continue our tour on the next page where we look at the retail packaging and bundle!

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 retail packaging is has a nice eye-catching look to it. There is a few key selling points of the 990FXA-GD80 on the front of the packaging such as the Military Class II components, and the OC Genie II though for the most part it still has a clean look to it.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

MSI was able to keep the front of the retail packaging clean by letting the top of the box open up to reveal many more of the features.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

The inside of the flap shows off the U3/S6 technology which refers to the Super Speed USB 3.0 and SATA III 6Gb/s, Click BIOS, Super Charger for mobile devices, and the THX Tru Studio Pro.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

The back of the retail packaging for the MSI 990FXA-GD80 covers the Military Class II technology, OC Genie II, and several other features of the MSI 990FXA-GD80.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

Opening up the packaging for the MSI 990FXA-GD80 we are presented with a sheet for BIOS Setup.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

Removing the paperwork we are first presented with, we can see everything that accompanies the MSI 990FXA-GD80. Included with the MSI 990FXA-GD80 is three SLI bridges of varying lengths, I.O shield, six black and white SATA cables, manuals, driver disc, a couple of 4pin Molex to SATA power adapters, and a USB 3.0 expansion bracket.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

Removing the MSI 990FXA-GD80 bundle and the cardboard separating the bundle from the motherboard itself we can get our first view of the MSI 990FXA-GD80. Not very exciting inside the anti-static bag is it? Follow me to the next page and we'll take it out of the bag and take a much closer look.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Layout

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Layout

The look and color scheme of a motherboard have never been a selling point to me, it's always about the performance. With that being said, I have always liked the look of the MSI motherboards.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Layout

One of the first things that we noticed about the MSI 990FXA-GD80 is the black socket. This indicates that it is the new AM3+ socket. Taking a look at the DIMM slots of the MSI 990FXA-GD80 they will support up to 32GB of DDR3 memory in dual channel mode with speeds up to 2133MHz (OC).

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Layout

Taking a look at the six SATA ports, they are all SATA III 6Gb/s controlled by the AMD SB950 chipset. Next to the SATA III ports is an internal Super Speed USB 3.0 header. This is the first time that I have seen a USB 3.0 header running parallel to the motherboard. I like that fact! It will make running the front panel USB 3.0 cable much easier and much cleaner! In this corner we also have all of the headers for the front panel, trusted platform module, P.O.S.T. Code LED, and a pair of USB 2.0 internal headers. Below the MSI heatsink is where you will find the AMD SB950 chipset.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Layout

Swinging the MSI 990FXA-GD80 motherboard around we can take a look at the onboard buttons just past the last USB 2.0 header. The onboard buttons include power, reset, and the OC Genie II button. Beyond the OC Genie II button is the header for the Com port, IEEE1394a (firewire), and the front panel audio. Working our way up the left side of the image, we have the THX TruStudio Pro Audio, Fintek F71889 I/O controller, and the NEC D720200F1 Super Speed USB 3.0 controller chip.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Layout

Taking a look at the final corner of the MSI 990FXA-GD80 we can spot the 8-pin CPU power, and the massive heatsink to keep the PWM's nice and cool during those long nights of Fragging your friends.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Layout

The I/O panel of the MSI 990FXA-GD80 has all of the usual suspects you would find on the back of an enthusiast level motherboard. There are PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports,  both optical and coaxial SPDIF connectors, eSATA, Firewire, USB 2.0, Super Speed USB 3.0, the typical six audio jacks, and the ever so handy CMOS reset button!

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard System Click BIOS

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

This is the page that the MSI 990FXA-GD80 will first present you with when you fire up the system and head into the MSI click BIOS. The MSI Click BIOS are remarkably similar to the traditional BIOS we are accustomed to, but you can use your mouse to navigate through the BIOS if you choose to.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

The Advanced tab of the MSI Click BIOS on the MSI 990FXA-GD80 gives you access to the pages for the Integrated Peripherals, USb Configuration, Hardware monitor and several others.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

The Hardware Monitor page allows you to check fan speed, and temperatures of the system.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

Here we can enable/disable and configure the onboard devices sugh as the audio, and network interface card. We can also set up the SATA modes between IDE, AHCI and RAID.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 has plenty of overclocking potential. You can crank the FSB up to 690MHz and a multiplier of 32.5. Not that those would work together, it would be nice though. The CPU-NB ratio can be set to a multiplier of 20 and the HT Link Speed and be set to 13.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

Should be more than enough voltages for 99% of the overclockers out there!

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 will allow you to store six different overclocking profiles!

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

This particular page of the 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS will show you the CPU specifications.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

Here we can see the CPU technology support page.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

If you happen to not know the specifics of the memory you are using, you can check them from with in the MSI 990FXA-GD80 BIOS with the Memory Z feature of the board.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

Here is the CPU features.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

The M-Flash page will let us flash the BIOS or save the current BIOS to a storage device.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

Here we can set the security of the MSI 990FXA-GD80 with different levels of passwords for the system.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 has several Green Power features that can be set up on the "Green Power" Page.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

Here we can set the boot order and drive priorities.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Click BIOS

And last but not least we can save our changes or discard them.

The Legit Reviews Test System

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit with all the latest updates installed. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. The Corsair Vengeance memory modules were run in Dual-channel mode at 1600MHz with 9-9-9-24-2t timings. The XFX Radeon HD 6950 graphics cards were run with 11.5B CATALYST suite drivers and the MSI N560GTX-Ti HAWX graphics cards were running Forceware drivers 275.36. The AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition processor was running at the default clock of 3.3GHz with turbo enabled. The MSI 990FXA-GD80 Pro was running the latest BIOS.

AMD 990FX Test System

 Processor  AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition
 Live Pricing
 Motherboard  MSI 990FXA-GD80
 
 Memory  8gb Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9  Live Pricing
 Hard Drive  Kingston SSDNow 96GB SSD  Live Pricing
 Video Card  XFX Radeon HD 6950  Live Pricing
 CPU cooler  Corsair A70  Live Pricing
 Chassis  None - Open Bench  
 Power Supply  Corsair TX750   Live Pricing

AMD 890FX Test System

 Processor  AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition  Live Pricing
 Motherboard  ASRock 890FX Deluxe4  
 Memory  8gb Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9  Live Pricing
 Hard Drive  Kingston SSDNow 96GB SSD  Live Pricing
 Video Card  XFX Radeon HD 6950  Live Pricing
 CPU cooler  Corsair A70  Live Pricing
 Chassis  None - Open Bench  
 Power Supply  Corsair TX750   Live Pricing

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard Test Bench

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard System Settings

SiSoft Sandra 2011 sp2 Memory Bandwidth

SiSoftware Sandra 2011c Memory Bandwidth

A year ago, SiSoftware released Sandra 2010 with full support for Windows 7; in the 18 months since the launch of Windows 7, more than ever before we have seen the line blur between PC and entertainment hubs. Two months ago we released a Blu-Ray benchmark, now we have added a brand-new Media Transcoding benchmark using the new Media Foundation of Windows 7. We have also added yet another benchmark (GPGPU Cryptography) which allows direct comparison of CPU performance (using crypto instruction sets) and GPGPU performance.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 SiSoftware Sandra 2011c Memory Bandwidth Results

Benchmark Results: The MSI 990FXA-GD80 memory bandwidth performance was able to out perform the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 motherboard by 4.5% in the SiSoftware Sandra 2011 Sp2 memory bandwidth performance benchmark.

NVIDIA SLI Performance Scaling

MSI N560GTX-Ti HAWX

Now that the AMD 990FX chipset supports NVIDIA SLI, we decided to update the NVIDIA graphics cards for our SLI testing. In order to do this we contacted our friends over at MSI and they were kind enough to send over a pair of their NVIDIA GeForce N560GTX-Ti HAWX edition graphics cards.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard NVIDIA SLI Scaling in Aliens Vs. Predator

For a first run out with NVIDIA SLI Technology the MSI 990FXA-GD80 we are seeing some great number. In Aliens Vs. Predator at 1280x1024 a single MSI N560GTX-TI HAWX was able to average 50.6 frames per second. Tossing in the second MSI card we were able to jump up to 95.6 frames per second for an 88.9% increase in performance. Increasing the resolution to 1920x1080 a single card averaged 36.9 frames per second while running two of them in SLI averaged 70.4 frames per second. that's a 90.8% increase in performance.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard NVIDIA SLI Scaling in Total War: Shogun 2

Total War: Shogun to didn't scale as well at 1280x1024 as it did at 1920x1080. At 1280x1024 we saw a gain of 27.1%. Cranking up the resolution to 1920x1080 we saw a gain of 54.2% which is much more impressive.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard NVIDIA SLI Scaling in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 only saw a gain of 12.4% at 1280x1024 in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. That number more than doubled though when we cranked up the resolution to 1920x1080 as we saw a gain of 27.2%..

The performance we saw with the NVIDIA SLI scaling today wasn't what I had hoped to see. I would have liked to see a little better scaling than we did. I would most likely attribute this to drivers. These are the first drivers that support SLI on an AMD platform and will likely take a few driver revisions to work out a few kinks.

AMD CrossFireX Scaling Performance

XFX Radeon HD 6950 2GB Graphics Card

As with the previous page where we tested the NVIDIA SLI scaling between the chipsets, we want to do the same for the AMD CrossfireX. When we decided to run this series of tests, we were able to get in touch with our friends over at XFX and they kindly sent over a pair of XFX Radeon HD 6950's.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard AMD CrossFireX Scaling in Aliens Vs. Predator

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 held nothing back in Aliens Vs. Predator. At 1280x1024 we saw a gain of 99.6%. At 1920x1080 we saw a gain of 98.5%. The performance difference between the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 and the MSI 990FXA-GD80 is virtually non-existent.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard AMD CrossFireX Scaling Total War: Shogun 2

Our Crossfire Results in Total War: Shogun 2 are looking much more promising than they did for SLI. At 1280x1024 the MSI 990FXA-GD80 saw a performance increase of 82.4% compared to the 79.6% of the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4. At 1920x1080 the MSI 990FXA-GD80 saw increase from 34.03 frames per second with a single XFX Radeon HD 6950 to 67.58 frames per second with a pair of them running in Crossfire for a gain of 98.6%!

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard AMD CrossFireX Scaling in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

In S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat the gains we saw between a single XFX Radeon HD 6950 and a pair of them in Crossfire weren't all that impressive. At 1280x1024 we jumped from 102.4 frames per second to 118.2 in Crossfire. That is a gain of only 15.4%. At 1920x1080 the gains were better. We started out at 73.2 frames per second with a single card and jumped to 93.5 frames per second in Crossfire. That's a gain of 27.7% which is nearly double the gain that we saw at the lower resolution..

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Synthetic Benchmark

3DMark 11 Screenshot

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

3DMark 11 Settings

Since Futuremark is releasing 3DMark11 today we decided to run the benchmark at both performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 3DMark11 Extreme Preset Benchmark Results

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard 3DMark 11 Extreme Benchamrk Results

MSI 990FXA-GD80 3DMark11 Performance Preset Benchmark Results

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboard 3DMark 11 Performance Benchamrk Results

Benchmark results: There is very little difference between the two boards in Futuremark 3DMark11. The Extreme preset shows only 2 points difference in the overall scores with the MSI 990FXA-GD80 taking the top spot with 1584 3DMarks. The Performance preset shows a 12 point difference with the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 in the lead. Though the MSI 990FXA-GD80 had a higher graphics score.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer

RightMark Audio Analyzer

The RightMark Audio Analyzer suite is designed for testing quality of analog and digital paths of any audio devices, be it a sound card, an MP3 player, a consumer CD/DVD player or an acoustic set. The results are obtained by playing and recording test signals passed through the tested audio path by means of frequency analysis algorithms. The latest version of RightMark Audio Analyzer can be found here.

RightMark Audio Analyzer Results

Rightmark Audio Analyzer Comparison Chart

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Audio Performance

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 sounded great while I was playing with it. Though according to Rightmark Audio Analyzer it was rated as "good", while the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 has a rating of "Very Good".

Network Throughput Testing

NTttcp Tool

The Gigabit PCIe Ethernet controllers vary on each board, so it will be interesting to see what the performance is on all the boards. Each of the boards uses a different Gigabit Controller. Let's take a look at what controller is on each of the boards.

To test the Gigabit PCIe Ethernet controllers we used the NTttcp tool to test Ethernet Throughput and the CPU utilization of the various Ethernet controllers used on the AMD Motherboards. To do this properly we set up one machine as the server: in this test an Intel Core i7 970 system with an MSI Big Bang XPower motherboard acted as our Gigabit LAN server.

On the server side, we used the following Command Line for Gigabit PCIe Ethernet Testing:

Ntttcpr -m 4,0,<Client IP> -a 4 -l 256000 -n 30000

On the client side (the motherboard being tested), we used the following Command Line:

Ntttcps -m 4,0,<Server IP> -a 4 -l 256000 -n 30000

At the conclusion of each test we recorded the throughput and CPU utilization figures from the client screen as that is the system being tested.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Network Throughput

Benchmark Results: Total throughput of the MSI 990FXA-GD80 and the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 were only 1MB/s apart. This is expected since they both use the Realtek 8111E Gigabit LAN Controller. The CPU usage of the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 was higher than the MSI 990FXA-GD80 by 3.5% though.

SATA III 6Gbps Performance Testing

HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives (ZIP/JAZZ), flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device possible.

HD Tach

The SATA6 Testing was done using Crucial RealSSD C300 256Gb SATA6 SSD drive.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 HD Tach SATA3 Performance Results

Benchmark Results: The MSI 990FXA-GD80 didn't do so hot in our SATA III testing. The average read in HD Tach was only 195.07MB/s while the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 averaged 241.73MB/s. The average write speeds were a much closer margin with only ~12MB/s seperating the two boards.

HD Tune Pro 4.01 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

HD Tune

HD Tune

MSI 990FXA-GD80 HD Tune SATA3 Performance Results

Benchmark Results: HD Tune tells us a similar story to what we saw above in HD Tach. The ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 was ~37MB/s faster in the Average read than the MSI 990FXA-GD80 and had a ~19MB/s faster average write speed.

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance Testing

HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives (ZIP/JAZZ), flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device possible.

HD Tach

Testing of the USB3 was done using the SUNBEAMTECH Airbox USB3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure. The drive used was a Crucial Technology RealSSD C300 SSD.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 USB3 HD Tach Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The MSI 9909FXA-GD80 was able to take the lead in HD Tach when we tested the Super Speed USB 3.0. The average read of the MSI 990FXA-GD80 was 106.53MB/s while the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 was limited to 94.5MB/s. The average write of the two boards was a similar story, the MSI 990FXA-GD80 was 104.37MB/s while the ASrock was limited to 95.43MB/s.

HD Tune Pro 4.01 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

HD Tune

HD Tune

Our testing of the USB 3.0 performance was done using the SUNBEAMTECH Airbox USB3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure. The drive used was a Crucial Technology RealSSD C300 SSD.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 USB3 HD Tune Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The Margins we saw in HD Tach are nearly identical to what we saw in HD Tune. The MSI 990FXA-GD80 was ~12MB/s faster in the average read and ~10MB/s faster in the average write!

MSI 990FXA-GD80 System Power Consumption

CPU Power Consumption

Since power consumption is a big deal these days, we ran some simple power consumption tests on our test beds. The systems ran with the power supplies, case fans, video cards and hard drives. To measure idle usage, we ran the system at idle for one hour on the desktop with no screen saver and took the measurement. For load measurements, Prime95's in-place large FFT's were run on all cores to make sure each and every processor was at 100% load for maximum power consumption and heat. Curious about real world scenarios, we decided to drop Furmark and ran 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and took the maximum power consumption during the first GPU test.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 System Power Consumption

Benchmark Results: The only area of power consumption that shows a hefty difference is when we loaded the CPU up with Prime95 Large FFT's. The MSI 990FXA-GD80 maxed out at 244 Watts at the wall while the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 pulled only 228 Watts. If you run Prime95 you will likely never top the load that is put on to the processor during the stability tests that it provides. When we fired up Futuremarks 3DMark11 to simulate a gaming power consumption we saw only 9 watts separating the two boards with the MSI 990FXA-GD80 pulling slightly more power at the wall.

Overclocking the MSI 990FXA-GD80

Overclocking greatly varies due to what hardware is being used and who is doing the overclocking. Always remember that no two pieces of hardware will perform the same, so our results will differ from what you might be able to get.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 AMD 990FX AM3+ CPUz

The AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition processor uses a 200MHz bus speed and a 16.5 multiplier to achieve the final clock speed of 3300MHz. Because this is a Black Edition Processor we will be able to increase the processor multiplier for our overclocking endeavor with the MSI 990FXA-GD80.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 AMD 990FX AM3+ CPUz

One of the features of the MSI 990FXA-GD80 is the OC Genie II. The OC Genie II is a one touch solution to overclock you system processor and unlock any potential "extra" cores. Since we are already running with a AMD Phenom II X6 1100T there is no potential to unlock some extra cores. Though the ability to overclock the system is definitely there! Shut the MSI 990FXA-GD80 down, depress the OC Genie II button, and fire the board back up, and we are done with that. The results aren't that spectacular, though it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. The OC Genie II brought the Phenom II X6 1100T from 3300MHz to 3547.7MHz. It is only a boost of ~250MHz but I can understand them playing on the conservative side. If wouldn't look real good if the OC Genie II made processors go poof!

MSI 990FXA-GD80 AMD 990FX AM3+ CPUz

We obviously weren't going to leave our overclocking session with out seeing how far we can push our Phenom II X6 1100T. After a little bit of time we were able to increase the multiplier to 21 and increase the clock speed to 205MHz. This gave us a final speed of 4305MHz for the Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition Processor. It was surprisingly easy to hit this speed with the MSI 990FXA-GD80!

MSI 990FXA-DG80 Final Thoughts and Conclusion

AMD released the 900-series of chipsets this morning at Computex 2011 to show the world that they are preparing for the upcoming released of the AM3+ processors by releasing platforms with the new AM3+ socket. This is an evolutionary change or progression of the socket AM3 infrastructure, which means that this new socket will be backward  compatible with existing AM3 processors. This is great news for existing AMD customers as you can upgrade your motherboard today well in advance of the Zambezi processors. So, the most important point of this entire launch is that the AMD 9-series of chipsets fully supports upcoming 8-Core AMD CPU's thanks to the AM3+ socket. The socket change was needed since HyperTransport has been upgraded from version 3.0 to 3.1 as AMD needs to support 6.4GT/s for their new processor design. You always want to build on the platform that supports the next generation of products and this is it.

The other main feature for AMD 9-series is the ability for motherboard partners to purchase NVIDIA SLI licenses for these boards.  Since nothing 'new' has been done to chipset itself it would appear that NVIDIA has had a change of heart or the company simply wants more revenue. This is good news for everyone as many enthusiasts and gamers do use NVIDIA products and might have frowned on building an AMD system since you couldn't run multi-GPU configurations on the AMD 8-series for example. With the new 9-series of boards you have that ability and that is something that might compel gamers to look back at AMD platforms. The only negative here is that the boards will cost a little more as the board companies are going to have to pay NVIDIA for the licensing rights and the ability to put that NVIDIA SLI logo on their box.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 Specifications

The MSI 990FXA-GD80 motherboard that we looked at today proved to be a very solid platform when using the AMD Phenom II X6 1100T processor. We don't have any Zambezi processors yet, so we were unable to try out the Bulldozer architecture on this new platform. The whole point of this new chipset series is for the upcoming octo-core monsters by AMD, but sadly that will have to wait for another day.  The AMD 990FX performed on par with the 890FX chipset and that is exactly what we expected to see today as there really is no difference between the two.

AMD 990FX NVIDIA SLI

AMD is going to cringe when reading this paragraph, but the highlight of this article was the fact that we were able to get NVIDIA SLI up and running on the MSI 990FXA-GD80 motherboard. This is the first time in years that we have run SLI on an AMD platform and it felt really going having the ability to run both AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI. Gamers no longer have to build their PC around what video card configuration that they wanted as no they can pick the latest Intel or AMD chipset and know that both GeForce and Radeon HD graphics will work just fine. The MSI 990FXA-GD80 supports up to 3-way NVIDIA SLI and 4-way CrossFireX.

AMD 990FX NVIDIA SLI

MSI has also continued to improve the components that they use on motherboards as well as update the software that is included with every motherboard purchase. On the MSI 8-series of boards you needed OC Genie & Unlock CPU Core software to get the most out of it and now all that has been rolled into a single piece of software called OC Genie II. MSI claims that you can overclock and unlock CPU cores (on certain processors) in just one second thanks to the OC Genie button found on the motherboard. With a processor like the AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition you can press this button and the motherboard will automatically unlock a CPU Core and overclock it. Overclocking has almost gotten too easy as now anyone really can do it! 

The performance of AMD 990FX chipset was on par with the AMD 890FX chipset that we compared it against. In benchmarks like 3DMark 11 & Sandra  we found no significant differences in performance between the two platforms. The same proved true in gaming performance when we tested games like Shogun 2, Alien versus Predator and Stalker. Since there are no architectural changes between the two chipsets we didn't expect to see any differences and that was proven true by doing the testing. This makes for a ho-hum chipset launch, but like we've said a million times this chipset series is about supporting upcoming processors and that is it.

When we took advantage of the OC Genie II technology, the speed boost given to the already fast Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition processor was only ~250MHz. While it's not a huge boost, who am I to complain about free performance. If you aren't familiar with overclocking or are hesitant to head into to the MSI 990FXA-GD80 system BIOS the OC Genie II is a great feature to speed up your system. If you are an avid overclocker, you most likely will never touch the OC Genie II except to possibly unlock some "extra" cores on your dual or triple core CPU. After we took advantage of the OC Genie II technology we wanted to push the 1100T BE processor and see how far we could take it on the MSI 990FXA-GD80. We were happy to see that we were able to bring the Phenom II X6 1100T BE processor from 3.3GHz to 4.3GHz on the MSI 990FXA-GD80 by manually overclocking, which is where we have reached before with this exact processor. So, when it comes to general chipset performance and what you can expect to reach when you overclock nothing has changed from the AMD 8-series to the 9-series of chipsets.

 MSI Mainboard
 AMD Chipset MSRP
 890FXA-GD65  890FX  $149 ($129 After Rebate)
 990FXA-GD65  990FX  $179
 890FXA-GD70  890FX  $199 ($174 After Rebate)
 990FXA-GD80  990FX  $199

When it comes to pricing the MSI 990FXA-GD80 has an MSRP of $199 and the 990FXA-GD65 is $179. As always, AMD motherboards are fairly priced for the feature sets offered and AMD continues to have a very compiling price versus performance standing. The MSI 890FXA-GD70 is the previous flagship motherboard for MSI and it has an MSRP of $199, but can be found today for for $174 after rebates.  The MSI 990FX and 890FX boards might have the same MSRP, but the choice between the two is crystal clear in terms of future CPU support. If you don't care about upcoming AM3+ processors then the 890FX will offer the same performance as an 990FX and will offer the best bang for your buck due to rebates.  Our suggestion is to go with the AMD 990FX chipset in order to have a platform that supports octo-core CPUs!

Legit Bottom Line: The MSI 990FXA-GD80 motherboard proved to be a solid performing platform, but it really needs AMD's upcoming Zambezi processors to really show what it can do and those aren't out yet!