|MSI A75MA-G55 AMD FM1 Llano Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Hank Tolman|
|Sunday, 11 September 2011|
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MSI A75MA-G55 Detailed Features
The MSI A75MA-G55 Motherboard, like all of the new A55 and A75 motherboards, will sport the FM1 socket. The FM1 is a 905-pin socket, a little smaller than previous generation processors and also smaller than the bulldozer processors will be. Because of the different socket size, the older AM3 processors obviously won't fit the FM1 motherboards. They will fit in the 990FX chipset, however. Still, the FM1 socket uses the same size heatsinks as the AM2, AM2+, AM3, and AM3+ sockets. That's outstanding, especially for aftermarket heatsink manufacturers who won't have to change a thing to accommodate the new socket.
The MSI A75MA-G55 Motherboard supports up to 32GB of DDR3 RAM in its four DIMM slots. The A75 chipset supports RAM speeds of up to 1866MHz. This a significant increase as Intel's Sandy Bridge only supports RAM speeds up to 1333MHz. That being said, the technical specifications for the MSI A75MA-G55 Motherboard have 1866MHz listed as overclocked only. The default voltage for the RAM is 1.5V. The color scheme for the DIMM slots on the A75MA-G55 motherboard uses alternating blue and black slots. For dual-channel memory, you'll want to use both slots of the same color.
As you know, the FM1 socket APUs come with a decently powerful GPU on-die, as compared with current alternatives. With that in mind, the PCI expansion on the A75MA-G55 motherboard offers quite a bit. There are a total of two PCIe 2.0 slots. The first one runs on a full 16 lanes. The second one, however, runs at x4. While some motherboards may offer the ability to divert PCIe lanes with multiple cards and make it x8/x8, the MSI A75MA-G55 does not. These slots are stuck at x16/x4. Still, you can pair a discrete GPU in CrossFire with the integrated GPU. This is something we haven't seen before the A75 chipset from an on-die graphics solution.
The MSI A75MA-G55 motherboard doesn't go overboard on the USB headers, and in a way, I appreciate that. Mid-board there are just two USB 2.0 headers and a single USB 3.0 header, for which MSI provides you with an expansion port. While this is nice because it is unlikely that you will find a case that has more than four USB ports, it also doesn't take full advantage of the A75 chipset, which supports a total of 12 USB 2.0 ports. Another two headers would fit, but they are probably unnecessary. I know I'd never use all of them. That the A75 chipset supports native USB 3.0 at all is a step in the right direction.
MSI uses a few different third-party controllers to increase the functionality of the A75MA-G55 motherboard. We mentioned a couple of them, the Realtek ALC887 Audio Codec and the Realtek RTL8111E Gigabit Ethernet controller. Both are fairly standard across the board.
Another important feature of the MSI A75MA-G55 Motherboard is the SATA ports. There are six of them on the motherboard and each and every one of them is a SATA 6Gb/s port. Since the ports are backwards compatible with SATA 3Gb/s drives, I see no reason not to make them all support the faster speeds. The really cool part about that is that they are all natively driven off the A75 chipset. The Sandy Bridge chipset only natively supports two SATA 6Gb/s ports.
Before moving on, I want to take a look at some of the software based features included with the MSI A75MA-G55 motherboard. For overclocking enthusiasts, the A75MA-G55 motherboard comes with OC Genie II, MSI's overclocking tool. The tool is pretty useful. It automatically overclocked the voltage and CPU settings to the same level that I found to be most stable through manual adjustments. I didn't spend a whole lot of time manually tuning the components, but I was impressed by OC Genie II's overclocking ability nonetheless.
Another feature I found extremely useful was i-Charger. I wonder today who doesn't have a mobile device or some other gadget that can be charged by a USB port. The problem is, it's usually much more effective to plug it into the wall, especially if you intend to use it while you charge it. USB ports don't push a lot of power, so the devices may end up still draining battery life while you are using them, even if they are plugged in. MSI's i-Charger intends to change that. It detects when a charging device is plugged into the USB port and increases the amount of power sent to the port to facilitate faster charging. MSI isn't the only motherboard manufacturer implementing changes such as this, ASUS has a similar solution called USB Charger+.
MSI includes their graphics overclocking tool, Afterburner, on the utilities disc as well. Afterburner does a good job of automatically overclocking a GPU or allowing you to tune it manually. Paired with the A75 chipset's ability to add a second Radeon HD 6000 series card and connect it in CrossFire with the on-die GPU, MSI Afterburner offers easy overclocking and tuning and can yield some good performance increases.
Finally, MSI has included an innovating piece of software unlike anything I have seen yet from competitors. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, I just haven't seen it yet. I'm talking about the Winki 3 OS. This tiny, linux-based OS offers a free alternative to users that don't use their PC for much more than web-browsing and document creation. It comes ready with OpenOffice.org as an alternative to Microsoft Office. It's web-based and offers internet surfing, e-mail, instant messaging, etc. It even has a skype application built in. Winki supports wired and wireless networking options, so you can connect it immediately and start surfing. I must admit that I am quite impressed with this ChromeOS-esque interpretation on making the operating system free. It doesn't offer a lot of functionality, but for someone that doesn't require a lot, it saves a few hundred dollars by eliminating the need to by Windows and Office.