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MSI 790FX-GD70 AM3 Motherboard Review

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lemonlime

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msi_gd70_msilogo.jpg



MSI 790FX-GD70 AM3 Motherboard Review



Manufacturer's Part Number: 790FX-GD70
Price: Approximately $200 CDN or Click here to compare prices.
Manufacturer's Product Page: MSI 790FX-GD70 Product Page.
Warranty: 3 years limited warranty



Wow, another AMD motherboard review at Hardware Canucks? You bet. With the great performance-to-dollar ratio that AMD’s new Phenom II has brought to the table, there has been a huge resurgence of interest in AMD products. Even the enthusiast crowd has taken a second look at AMD’s Phenom II thanks to its great overclocking headroom and AMD’s tweaker-friendly “Black Edition” processors.

Today we’re going to be taking a look at one of MSI’s higher-end socket AM3 motherboards; the 790FX-GD70. Unlike many of the mainstream 790GX platform offerings, the GD70 employ’s AMD’s top-end, enthusiast offering; the 790FX/SB750 chipset combo. Although the 790FX is a discrete graphics solution and doesn’t include AMD’s very capable HD 3300 integrated graphics processor, it gets quite an army of PCI-Express lanes in exchange. MSI has certainly taken advantage of these available lanes and implemented – yes you heard it right – four PCI-E slots for Quad-Crossfire-X support. Although Quad-Crossfire is a pretty ludicrous proposition even for hardcore gamers, we’ve most certainly got the attention of our Folding@Home community, haven’t we?

When it comes to features, the GD70 is a “well equipped” board. Aside from the four full-length PCI-E slots, it also features eight SATA ports, dual-gigabit LAN ports, E-SATA, Firewire and an elaborate passive cooling solution. The GD70 also has some very “green” features under its belt, like the “Active Phase Switching” feature that allows its voltage regulation phases to be cut down when not required to conserve electricity.

Targeted toward the AMD enthusiast community, MSI has included a very flexible BIOS with the GD70, very numerous and generous voltage adjustments, onboard switches, labelled voltage read-points and even a dial for increasing reference clocks on the fly. To put it plainly, the GD70 looks like one impressive AM3 board on paper.

Let’s see if it lives up to its paper hype in the HWC labs!

Editor's Note: All Canadian RMAs of MSI boards are processed through MSI's facility in Ontario. This should mean quick turn-around time and no worries about customs charges.

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lemonlime

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Specifications

Specifications

We won’t get into too much technical detail about the 790FX chipset, as it’s certainly not a new platform. It was released way back in 2007, and not a whole lot has changed with the introduction of AMD’s AM3 processor line-up. The only significant change between the AM2+ Phenom II processors – like the 940BE – and the most recent AM3 models is their onboard DDR3 memory controllers. Since the memory controller resides on the CPU itself, there is really no need for any modification to the chipset. They continue to interface with the CPU using the same Hyper Transport 3.0 BUS and are still made using the same low-power 65nm process. Board makers simply keep the “guts” of the board intact and simply add the required DDR3 circuitry and components.

Perhaps the best and most distinguishing features of the 790FX in comparison to other 700 series chipsets is the abundance of PCI-Express lanes on tap. The grand total is no fewer than 42 version 2.0 lanes to be exact. Thirty two of these lanes are reserved for graphics and can be split in a number of different ways. A board with four slots - like the GD70 - can operate in 16x/16x mode with two cards or further split the lanes down for 8x/8x/8x/8x operation. Given that an 8x second generation PCI-E slot is plenty of bandwidth for the majority of video cards out there, a whole lot of video power can theoretically be packed onto a 790FX board. The remaining six lanes are each split into individual 1x lanes and can be used for various onboard components as well as 1x expansion slots.

Along with the potent 790FX can be found AMD’s newer SB750 southbridge, which supports six SATA II ports, AHCI, four RAID modes, up to twelve USB 2.0 ports, and one legacy parallel ATA channel. This southbridge also features “Advanced Clock Control”, which – among other things - allows the unlocking of disabled cores on some Phenom II X2 and X3 processors. We’ll be trying our luck at unlocking a new X2 550 processor a bit later on in the review for anyone interested in this wonderful undocumented feature.

Below are the MSI 790FX-GD70 specifications taken from the MSI website:

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lemonlime

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Package and Accessories

Package and Accessories

Let’s take a quick look at the box and accessories included with the MSI 790FX-GD70.

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Unlike many of MSI’s competitors, they opted to keep the GD70 box fairly simple. It’s overall light color theme is much more reserved than some of the glossy and holographic type boxes that we’ve seen from other companies. Given the motherboard’s dark appearance and blue slots, it is almost as if we’re looking at the wrong box. But, none the less, we’re taking about a box here. It’s what's inside that counts!

Some of the key features are included on the front of the box, but a much more detailed overview can be found on the back.

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The motherboard itself can be found within an anti-static bag at the bottom of the box. A fairly thick piece of black foam padding protects the motherboard from the bottom and a shaped piece of cardboard allows the accessories to sit above without damaging the board. The box is also fairly thick, which helps to ensure that undue pressure is not put on the board. Overall, we feel that there is an acceptable degree of protection offered with the GD70 packaging.

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Once we cracked the box open, we were greeted by a fairly decent set of accessories for a higher end motherboard. Here is a breakdown of the included accessories:

  • 1x Floppy Cable
  • 1x IDE Cable
  • 4x SATA Cables
  • Rear I/O Panel
  • 2x Crossfire Bridges
  • 2x Molex to SATA Power Cables
  • 1x Rear USB expansion bracket
  • Various quick header connectors (USB, Front Panel etc)
  • Quick installation guides, full printed manual and software CDs

Although there is nothing terribly exciting in the accessory package, we were pleased to see four SATA cables included, as well as the handy quick-connectors for the case front panel leads. MSI also includes quick-connectors for USB, sound and 1397, but it is unlikely that anyone would need to use them as most new cases already include one-piece connectors for these headers. It was nice of MSI to throw them in regardless.

On the documentation front, MSI certainly does not disappoint. Included are several quick-start guides, including a large unfolding poster-style diagram of the board and its various connectors. The printed user manual is also nice and detailed with plenty of diagrams included.

Two software discs are included with the GD70. We’ll get more into detail about the included utilities and software in the upcoming “Included Software” section.
 
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lemonlime

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A Closer Look at the MSI 790FX-GD70

A Closer Look at the MSI 790FX-GD70

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At first glance, the overall layout of the GD70 is very good. The ATX power connector, SATA ports and the IDE connector are all located at the edge of the motherboard, which is ideal. Both the six black SATA ports and IDE connectors are also mounted for 90 connections to ensure that long video cards do not obstruct them. The two additional blue SATA ports located near the sourthbridge heatsink may not be accessible depending on the PCIE-16x slots used, but this is not a big deal given that there are six additional ports at the edge of the board. The floppy connector is located in perhaps the worst possible location at the bottom left of the board, but given how popular floppies are nowadays, this is a forgivable offense. In many ways it is surprising to find these connectors on boards at all.

From a expansion slot perspective, see a jaw-dropping four PCI-E 16x slots, each double spaced. The prospect of having two video cards installed in a system often complicates the layout, but four makes obstructions almost unavoidable. We’ll take a much closer look at the video card layout of the GD70 in the “Hardware Installation” section of the review.

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Moving on toward the top half of the board, we see the standard +12V CPU power plug location at the top-left of the board and both the CPU socket and DDR3 slots in the expected and fairly standard locations. In regards to clearance, there appears to be a fair amount of space around the socket but we’ll take a closer look at a tower heatsink install during the “Hardware Installation” section of the review.

MSI has provided a fairly large aluminum heatsink on the GD70. Unlike most boards that simply put a thin heatsink strip over the MOSFETS, MSI took advantage of the 790FX chipset location and simply extended one large heatsink over both the MOSFETS and the chipset.

The GD70 features a 4+1 phase VRM power design consisting of heatsink-cooled MOSFETs and high-quality sealed and shielded chokes. The capacitors used throughout the GD70 are high-quality solid capacitors from Nippon Chemicon. Like most “+1 phase” AM2+/AM3 boards, the additional phase is dedicated to the integrated memory/HT controller. In English, the 790FX-GD70 officially supports 140W CPUs, and shouldn’t have any difficulty handling heavily overclocked Phenom IIs.

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Farther to the right, we have the usual non-alternating dual-channel memory slots, which support a total of 16GB of system memory. MSI has outfitted the GD70 with dual-phase power design for the memory, which is certainly nice to see. Most boards utilize only a single phase for the memory, and this should equate to a more stable delivery of power to the modules. Just like the CPU power, the “Phase Switching” feature allows one of the two phases to be shut-down to conserve electricity.

At the edge of the motherboard, there is nicely located 24-pin ATX power connector.

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One of the coolest features that the GD70 brings to the table is the “OC Drive” dial. Quite simply, turn to increase the base clock frequency. The little square button to the right of the dial is the “safety” and must be pressed before adjustments can be made. Each click of the dial is the equivilant of 1MHz added to the base clock frequency of the system. This increment can be increased or decreased in the BIOS. One of the best things about this dial is that it requires no special software on the system. Simply turn and tweak! We’ll take a closer look at the “OC Dial” and will actually be putting it to use in the “Overclocking” section of this review.

Another interesting button that can be found at the bottom of the board is labeled “Green Power”. Activation of this switch causes the board to switch to a lower power mode by cutting some of the VRM phases on both the CPU and memory.

Like some of MSI’s other higher end AMD offerings, on-board power, reset and clear-CMOS buttons are also conveniently located at the bottom of the board. These are especially handy when running the board in a case-less environment. Another nice touch is a small on-board HDD activity LED just above the switches. This light is often overlooked but can be very handy when using quiet hard drives.

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As mentioned earlier, the single IDE port and the six SATA ports controlled by the SB750 are present at the edge of the board at a 90 degree angle. This orientation is especially useful when using longer 10.5 inch video cards, and even more important with a board supporting four of them, like the GD70. The two blue SATA connectors farther behind on the board are controlled by the onboard JMicron controller, and likely wouldn’t be used unless the black SB750 ports were all occupied. Generally speaking, chipset based SATA/RAID controllers are typically a little quicker than onboard supplementary controllers found on higher end boards. None the less, it’s nice to have those extra ports should they be required.

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We have no doubt in our minds that quite a few Folding@Home enthusiasts have eyed this board at one time or another due to its four full-size PCI-E slots. AMD’s enthusiast 790FX chipset is especially generous when it comes to PCI-Express lanes. Owners of the GD70 can take advantage of 16X/16X crossfire, or fill up all slots for a still very capable 8X/8X/8X/8X crossfire mode. Regardless of your configuration, buyers will be pleased to hear that none of the slots will need to operate in a degraded 4X mode like they sometimes are with 790GX series boards. Most modern graphics cards will not suffer much – if any – performance degradation when placed in an 8X slot. In our experience, 8X slots provide plenty of bandwidth when it comes to folding as well.

A single 1X PCI-E slot sits between the first two full length slots, as well as a pair of legacy PCI slots between the other couple of full-length slots. Another great benefit of having all of these PCI-E video card slots in the board is their backward compatibility with other PCI-E 1X and 4X and 8X cards. If you are not planning to stack the GD70 full of video cards, you could easily install your favourite PCI-E raid or sound card in one of the other full-length slots.

With seven expansion slots crammed into the GD70, there was bound to be at least a layout conflict or two. We’ll be getting into more detail in the “Hardware Installation” section, but should definitely call out that most cases only support a total of seven expansion cards. This may sound like a perfect match, but one must remember that dual-slot video cards occupy two slots and the bottom-most slot on the GD70 will not allow dual-slot cards in the majority of cases out there. Running the board in a case-less benchmarking environment makes this a pretty moot point, but if you were keen on cramming quad-crossfire 4890s in your case, you may have a challenge or two.

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Another nifty feature in the GD70 is the two-digit POST code display just to the right of the slots. Although this is a feature most will never need to refer to, it can definitely come in handy when trying to diagnose POST issues. A listing of various codes can be found in the user’s guide, and as an added bonus, the display reads the CPU temperature once POST has completed. We should note that BIOS revision 1.3 or newer is required to display the CPU temperature on the display.
 
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lemonlime

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A Closer Look at the MSI 790FX-GD70 pg.2

A Closer Look at the MSI 790FX-GD70 pg.2

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The GD70’s passive cooling system does not stop at oversize 790FX/MOSFET heatsink. An attractive dark-nickel plated heatpipe protrudes from the bottom of the heatsink to a small, flat heatsink covering the SB750 southbridge. The heatpipe appears to make good contact with both heatsinks. A nice polished “msi” logo is visible on the southbridge heatsink and overall, we must say that the GD70 cooler is a nice looking piece of aluminum.

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Starting from left to right, we have the Realtek ALC889 7.1+2-channel High Definition Audio CODEC, which is a pretty full-featured CODEC appropriate given the GD70’s price tag. To the right we have a pair of gigabit LAN controllers, which run on the PCI-Express bus. Both are Realtek RTL8111DL models. Realtek
Realtek

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Moving on, we see that MSI opted to use a Fintek F71889F I/O controller rather than the common ITE based controllers. This controller is responsible for hardware monitoring, fan speed management and other related tasks. We were able to confirm that 3rd party applications such as “Hardware Monitor” by CPUID do indeed recognize this I/O controller without an issue.

Close to the two blue SATA ports, we also find a JMicron JMB322 storage controller. As mentioned earlier, the two blue ports are controlled by this onboard controller as opposed to the SB750 chipset. The E-SATA port found on the rear I/O Panel is also controlled by the JMB322 while IDE control is left up to the SB750 southbridge.

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The rear panel looks pretty typical for a higher end board, with both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, E-SATA port and 1397 firewire. Dual gigabit Ethernet ports and no fewer than seven USB 2.0 ports are also present on the rear I/O panel. Those who are big fans of their old Microsoft Natural keyboards and refuse to upgrade will be pleased to find both PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports on the GD70.

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At the rear of the GD70, we find a pretty standard – albeit cheaper plastic type – AMD backplate. This is good news for those wishing to use aftermarket heatsinks. The socket area is clear and free of protruding pins that may cause issues as well. Although the plastic backplate gets the job done, we can’t help but wish that MSI included the standard insulated metal backplate found on many higher end boards. It simply provides better support than the plastic type and given the higher price of the GD70, we would have expected to see it included.

One great higher quality feature that helps to make up for the plastic backplate is the screw-and-washer mounting system for the board heatsinks. We can’t tell you how much it drives us nuts when heavy duty cooling systems use plastic spring-loaded push-pin mounts. The scews not only provide a much better mount, but they are also so much easier to remove if you plan to install some heavy-duty aftermarket cooling.
 
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lemonlime

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation

In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether the motherboard has adequate clearance levels in all critical areas.

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We’re happy to report that we didn’t encounter any major “show stopping” issues when installing our large Noctua NH-U12P tower heatsink on the 790FX-GD70. As with most AM2/AM3 boards, the memory slots are a tad too close to the CPU socket. Very large memory modules like Corsair’s “Dominator Series” or the OCZ “Reaper” series may have clearance issues if you populate the DIMM slot closest to the CPU. Thankfully all standard profile memory heat spreaders will not have an issue with the GD70. As a work around, the fan could be mounted slightly higher up the heatsink for additional clearance.

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Other areas surrounding the CPU socket remain nice and open. Even the large 790FX/MOSFET heatsink keeps low enough to avoid both the heatsink and any optional fans installed on the reverse side of the NH-U12P.

The only immediate yellow flag that we saw go up is the close proximity of the first PCI-E 16X slot to the CPU socket and memory modules. To MSI’s credit, seven expansion slots makes this somewhat unavoidable. Thankfully there is about an inch of clearance between the heatsink and the slot, and several millimeters between the DIMM slots and the slot. This definitely won’t prohibit the installation of a card in this slot, but it’s a tight fit regardless. We’ll throw a few video cards into the GD70 shortly to illustrate our point.

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Both the 24-pin ATX connector and 8-pin CPU power connector are ideally located, and there are no issues accessing either of them. Some may argue that the upper left corner is never ideal for the CPU power connector, but it’s become somewhat industry standard due to its close proximity to the CPU power regulation components. Thankfully, most modern PSUs have long enough leads to reach this area, even when mounted at the bottom of the case.

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Anyone interested in dual crossfire-X with mixed SLI enhanced Phys-X?
In all seriousness, it quickly becomes evident just how much of a premium the real-estate is at on the lower half of the GD70. Even with several single-slot cards installed, the board becomes very crowded.

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As mentioned earlier, the top slot is very close to the memory modules and both the CPU heatsink and the 790FX/MOSFET heatsink. Although it is close, there were no clearance issues.

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With the first two slots occupied, you can expect to block one of the fan headers, and with dual-slot cards, you can also count on those two JMB322 coontroled SATA ports to go away. It may still be possible to use them with 90 degree SATA cables, but it will be tight none the less. Thankfully, the black SB750 controlled SATA ports at the edge of the board remain usable regardless of the video card configuration.

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The fourth slot is definitely the most intrusive. Even with just a single slot card in this slot, most of the USB and sound headers are blocked, along with most of the convenience switches and the “OC Dial” as well. With a dual slot card in this spot, the switches become completely blocked. Although the USB, 1397 and sound headers will be under the motherboard, there is still a possibility of getting them connected prior to installing the video card. It all depends how “tall” the connectors themselves are, and how flexible the wiring is.

We can’t really fault MSI for these clearance challenges as layout problems are totally unavoidable with 4-slot boards. Overall, we’re quite pleased with the GD70’s intelligent layout and believe that few buyers will run into snags.

Let’s move on and see what sorts of included software come along with the GD70.
 
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lemonlime

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Included Software

Included Software

Now that we have the motherboard unpacked and installed, let’s take a look at some of the software utilities that MSI has included with the 790FX-GD70.

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The driver and utility disc auto-launches a simple menu system reminiscent of that included with ASUS products. All of the essentials are included as far as drivers are concerned, including Audio, Chipset and Network drivers. Several MSI utilities are included, that we’ll outline below as well as AMD’s popular new “Overdrive” application.
MSI took the opportunity to market some of their other products in the “Product Information” and offers a 60-day free trial of Norton Internet Security 2009.

GreenPower Center

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One very interesting and powerful application included with the GD70 is MSI’s GreenPower Center. Put simply, it is a monitoring and power management control application. The application is essentially two components: System information and GreenPower control. The “System Info” tab provides basic information like basic motherboard, CPU, VGA and Memory specifications. Detailed PCI BUS assignments can also be found in this area.

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The second “GreenPower” section of the application is very interesting. There are two power control modes available: Basic and Advanced. Under the basic control page, there are essentially three power profiles that can be selected to optimize board power consumption. The first “Default” profile is basically profile that does not attempt to conserve any electricity via the GD70’s “APS” or “Active Phase Switching” features. The other two, “Optimize” and “Max Power Savings” appear to be just about identical as far as their behavior. Upon activating either of them, we noticed several of the board’s LEDs go out – indicating reduced number of power phases - as well as a greatly reduced CPU fan speed. At times of heavy load, the board will reengage the disabled power phases. Buyers can keep an eye on actual amounts of electricity conserved based upon statistics reported by the application as well.

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In the “Advanced” GreenPower menu, greater control is granted, and each of the profiles can be modified individually. Parameters like number of CPU and memory power phases can be selected as well as several voltages. Buyers not fond of bright blue LEDs on their motherboard can also disable them or change their behavior within the application.
Overall, we found the GreenPower Center application to be very handy and pretty powerful. We should also mention that we had nothing but trouble with the version of this application that was included on the Driver CD. Numerous non-descriptive error dialog boxes would shoot up randomly and some of the system information was just flat out wrong. As soon as we upgraded to the latest version on MSI’s website, the application worked perfectly and was very stable.

Overclocking Center

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Another nifty application included is MSI’s “Overclocking Center”, which works a lot like a trimmed down version of AMD’s Overdrive. Aside from the same basic system information that we saw in the “GreenPower Center” tool, the application allows various different overclocking and voltage profiles to be specified. Simply configure the profiles using the “Advance” tab, and then launch them by clicking “Load”. Although the program isn’t terribly attractive in our opinion, it certainly couldn’t be any easier to tweak your system within Windows.

MSI Live Update 3

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Another included feature that may not be quite as interesting to enthusiasts is MSI’s “Live Update 3”. As the name suggests, “Live Update” simply sits in the background and periodically checks for updates of MSI’s utilities, BIOS revisions and drivers. The tool works as advertised, although we were disappointed that it didn’t find the latest versions of “GreenPower Center” and “Overclocking Center”. We had to manually download them from MSI’s website. Overall, this is a good tool for novice users who prefer a “Windows Update” kind of interface rather than having to search out drivers and utilities manually.
 
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lemonlime

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown

The MSI 790FX-GD70 ships with the first “official” BIOS revision, version 1.0. Since the GD70’s official release, there have been two official releases, a 1.2 and 1.3. Most of the changes appeared to be simple CPU microcode additions and other minor changes. We should note that our X2 550 processor was not recognized by the 1.0 BIOS revision, but did boot up without issue. It simply reported the processor as “AMD Model Unknown”. Version 1.3 corrects this issue.

Several beta BIOS revisions were released since the 1.3 final release, and we’re going to be taking a look at the latest 1.5b1 for the purposes of this review. Almost all of the options within the BIOS are the same as the original 1.0 release, but you’ll see why we chose this particular BIOS revision in the “AMD Deneb Core Unlocking” section of the review.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the GD70 BIOS.

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Upon first bootup, we were greeted by a colorful full-screen logo display that can be disabled within the BIOS if so desired. Hitting the expected “Delete” key brings us to the very familiar AMI BIOS interface. The layout and overall navigation of the BIOS should be nothing foreign for the majority of PC builders and tweakers out there. We won’t waste any time going through the generic “Standard CMOS Features” and other basic menus. Let’s get straight to the goods, the “Cell Menu”

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The “Cell Menu” is where the magic happens, and the GD70 has no shortage of magic. A very full-featured “tweaker-friendly” spread of options can be found in the “Cell Menu” including no fewer than 13 individual voltage adjustments and all of the essential frequency and multiplier adjustments. Voltages can be changed in very small increments and some as small as 0.01V, such as with “DRAM Voltage”. Plenty of voltage adjustment headroom is provided and certainly enough to cause some serious damage if used carelessly. Some of the maximum values are provided below:

  • CPU VDD Voltage: 1.55
  • CPU-NB VDD Voltage: 1.55
  • CPU Voltage (Offset): 2.18
  • CPU-NB Voltage (Offset): 1.93
  • CPU PLL Voltage: 3.132
  • CPU DDR-PHY Voltage: 1.830
  • DRAM Voltage: 2.4V
  • DRAM Vref Voltage: 1.167
  • NB Voltage (790FX): 1.730
  • SB Voltage (SB750): 1.83

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There is certainly no shortage of DRAM timing adjustments either. Everything from “CAS Latency” to a whole slew of “Drive Strength” options can be specified. Most buyers will have no desire to tinker beyond the usual CAS-tRCD-tRP-tRAS settings that usually need to be set with higher end DDR3, but its nice to know the other options are there for maximum memory tuning performance.

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Aside from timings, MSI allows 800MHz, 1066MHz, 1333MHz as well as the not officially supported 1600MHz memory ratios to be used.

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Another nice feature that the old DFI LanParty boards were famous for is BIOS setting “Save Profiles”. MSI calls this feature “User Settings” but there are four different banks of settings that can be saved and recalled. This is especially useful if you’d like to save a known good overclocking configuration before pushing the system farther.

msi_gd70_bios12_sm.jpg
msi_gd70_bios13_sm.jpg

Click on image to enlarge

On the system monitoring front, the GD70 is a bit light when it comes to temperature and voltage readings. Only CPU and “System” temperature are reported in the BIOS, but all of the fan headers are RPM monitored.

In the “Green Power” menu, we have some very interesting power measurements. Actual amperage readings are taken from the CPU core, CPU northbridge and even the efficiency of the board. Individual power phases as well as the motherboard LEDs can be controlled from this menu as well.

msi_gd70_bios14_sm.jpg

Click on image to enlarge

We were very pleased by MSI’s implementation of “M-Flash”. Put simply, M-Flash allows very easy BIOS flashing from within the BIOS and supports any standard USB mass storage device. You can even browse the file system to find your BIOS files, which is great as remembering those complex file names and extensions can be an annoyance. We flashed to several BIOS revisions using a simple USB stick, and couldn’t be more pleased with the process. If only all boards made it this easy.
 
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lemonlime

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Test Setup and Methodologies

Test Setup and Methodologies

AMD Testing Configuration:

  • AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition (3.1GHz) – 0922APMW Stepping
  • Noctua NH-U12P Heatsink with 1600RPM Scythe S-FLEX
  • MSI 790FX-GD70 Motherboard (790FX+SB750)
  • 2x2048 OCZ Platinum “Low Voltage” DDR3, 1600MHz @ 7-7-7 rated
  • Western Digital 320GB SATA2 Hard Drive (WD3200AAKS, 7200RPM)
  • Palit Nvidia GTX260 (896MB, 192SP)
  • Corsair TX750 Power Supply
  • Pioneer Optical Drive

msi_gd70_phenom.jpg

OS/Driver Configuration:

For our testing today, we’ll be using Windows Vista Ultimate x64 Edition. Although Vista brings some interesting performance enhancing features to the table – like SuperFetch for example – these features can cause inconsistencies in benchmark results. Some reviewers prefer to 'train' their systems to make the most of these features, but we have disabled them to ensure a higher degree of predictability. Other 'scheduled' or unnecessary background tasks have also been disabled (as listed below).

OS: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit), Service Pack 1
Nvidia Drivers: 186.18
OS Disabled Features: “SuperFetch”, “Windows Search” service, Windows Defender, Windows Sidebar, Scheduled Defragmentation, System Restore Services and UAC.
OS Performance Features Enabled: “High Performance” power management profile is enabled (except for power consumption testing). This prevents the system from reducing CPU frequency at the operating system level and also prevents HDD spin-down and other events that may impact benchmark results.

Without further ado, let’s see how this thing overclocks!
 
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