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Written by David Ramsey   
Thursday, 20 October 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ Motherboard
990FXA-GD80 Specifications
The AMD 990FX Chipset
Closer Look: MSI AM3 Motherboard
990FXA-GD80 Detailed Features
Motherboard Testing Methodology
AIDA64 Extreme Edition Tests
PCMark Vantage Tests
CINEBENCH R11.5 Benchmarks
CPU-Dependent 3D Gaming
PassMark PerformanceTest
Media Encoding Benchmarks
SPECviewperf 11 Tests
SPECapc Lightwave
Blender and POV-Ray
AM3 Motherboard Final Thoughts
MSI 990FXA-GD80 Conclusion

Motherboard Testing Methodology

AMD got their 9-series chipsets out months before the Bulldozer processors that were their reason for existing, so vendors have had some time to tweak things...for Phenom II and lower processors, that is. Like most other vendors, MSI introduced a BIOS ugprade when the Bulldozer chips actually became available, and I updated the board before beginning any tests.

For comparison purposes I used an ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard (supplied by AMD with their review FX-8150 Bulldozer CPUs), as well as an ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard running an Intel Core i5 2500K processor. I also threw in a previous-generation AMD Phenom II X6 1100T. All test systems used the same memory, video card, and hard drive. The memory frequency was set to the maximum officially supported by each system: 1333MHz for the Intel system and 1866MHz for the two AMD systems.

For overclocking, I simply increased the FX-8150 base multiplier and tweaked the voltage until I reached the highest setting at which the system could complete the SPECapc Lightwave benchmark. I've found this to be the best predictor of system stability: overclocks that will run under other stress tests for hours will crash in minutes under SPECapc Lightwave. In my test of the FX-8150 CPU, I only overclocked the ASUS motherboard, since that was what AMD had supplied. I was able to reach a stable 4.8GHz, but with the MSI board I could only get to 4.6GHz. 4.7GHz would run for quite a while before crashing, and 4.8 frequently wouldn't complete a boot into Windows 7, even when I raised the CPU voltage to 1.5 volts. This is a little surprising since pure multiplier overclocking isolates most of the other board components (i.e. it doesn't depend on the chipset or RAM or anything else to be able to overclock as well). I suspect the problem might be in the power circuitry: although the MSI board does have an 8-phase power system, it lacks the fine adjustments (load-line calibration and such) that the ASUS board has. The ASUS board also has an extra 4-pin EPS-12V connector in addition to its 8-pin connector, both of which I used in my ASUS overclocking tests and which might have afforded it an advantage.

So here's the test lineup followed in all the charts:

  • Intel 2500K, stock clock
  • AMD Phenom II X6 1100T in ASUS Crosshair V Formula, stock clock
  • AMD FX-8150 in ASUS Crosshair V Formula, stock clock
  • AMD FX-8150 in MSI 990FXA-GD80, stock clock
  • AMD FX-8150 in ASUS Crosshair V Formula, overclocked to 4.8GHz
  • AMD FX-8150 in MSI 990FXA-GD80, overclocked to 4.6GHz

Intel Z68 Test Platform

  • Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V Pro with BIOS 0706
  • Processor: 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo) Intel Core i5-2500K
  • System Memory: G. Skill F3-17066CL7D-4GBPIS DDR3-1333 (9-9-9-24)
  • Primary Drive: Western Digital VelociRaptor 300G
  • Graphics Adapter: AMD Radeon 6850
  • CPU cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 612 PWM

AMD 990FX Test Platforms

  • Motherboard: MSI 990FXA-GD80 with BIOS E7640AMS V11.5 and ASUS Crosshair V Formula with BIOS 0083
  • Processor: 3.6GHz AMD FX-8150 "Bulldozer", 3.3GHz AMD Phenom II 1100T "Thuban" (1100T in ASUS MB)
  • FX-8150 overclock: 4.8GHz max from base multiplier for ASUS, 4.6GHz from base multiplier with MSI
  • System Memory: G. Skill F3-17066CL7D-4GBPIS DDR3-1866 (9-9-9-24) for FX-8150, DDR3-1333 (9-9-9-24) for 1100T
  • Primary Drive: Western Digital VelociRaptor 300G
  • Graphics Adapter: AMD Radeon 6850
  • CPU cooler: Thermalright Silver Arrow

Benchmark Applications

  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition v1.85.1600
  • Futuremark PCMark Vantage v1.0.2.0 64-Bit
    • TV and Movies
    • Gaming
    • Music
  • Maxon CINEBENCH R11.5 64-Bit
  • Street Fighter IV benchmark
  • PassMark PerformanceTest 7.0b1021
  • x264Bench HD 3.0, including AMD-supplied variants using new FX instructions
  • SPECviewperf-11:
    • Lightwave 9.6
    • Autodesk Maya 2009
    • Siemens Teamcenter Visualization Mockup
  • SPECapc LightWave 3D v9.6
  • Handbrake 0.95 video transcoding
  • Blender 3D rendering
  • POV-Ray 3D rendering



# RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardChris 2011-10-20 22:42
It's odd. Why is there any performance gain at this clock-speed?

Hmm. Does this board do that much better? Perhaps the higher end MSI boards are worth taking a look at.
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# RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardAdam 2011-10-21 16:58
"PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports. C'mon, it's 2011!"

Tell that to RTS/MMO gamers!

I find all this Military spec rubbish fairly annoying, can see that it has at least an element of truth behind it, but it's still grade A marketing bollocks.
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# RE: RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardDavid Ramsey 2011-10-21 17:04
I prefer FPS to RTS/MMO, but I still find it hard to believe that anyone needs more than 6-key rollover...
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# RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardRed1776 2011-10-22 01:28
Nice review as usual Mr Ramsey,
I was one of 'them' who rolled the dice and invested in the BD platform a few months ago with a 990-UD7 and have a tin can of 8150 myself. I am hearing the "no BIOS" howl from the owners of the supposedly backwards compatible 890 crowd. are you suspecting as I am that the same power stability you ran into here is what the holdup is with the 890 chipset boards? One of the stated differences between the 990's and the 890's is supposedly a beefier VRM. and they need it...I think the lights on my block dim when I load it up.
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# RE: RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardDavid Ramsey 2011-10-22 21:26
I am tempted to try the FX-8150 in an 890FX board to see if it would work at all...
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# RE: RE: RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardGripless 2012-02-10 13:07
Did that work out? i had a 890FX board and was curious, but i ended up getting the MSI board on this review. I thought it might actually work but never had a chance to try it.
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# RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardRed1776 2011-10-23 01:37
Apparently they function with absolutely no controls. multi/HT/voltage/ref clock...nothing
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# Bulldozer.........Christopher Fields 2011-10-26 22:02
zzzZZZZZzzzzz........Bulldozer.......(Rolls over and falls back asleep until AMD pulls a rabbit out of their hat, now that would be more impressive than.......Bulldozer)
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# RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardPeter 2011-10-27 08:18
What the hell is wrong with PS/2. Sure, it's old, but there are still many PS/2 mice and keyboard around. Not to mention that PS/2 is still actually better for keyboards (not for mice though).
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# RE: RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardPeter 2011-10-27 08:19
Pardon me. The first . is a ?
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# Performance Marketing ProfessionalJim Berry 2011-12-02 10:25
I run this board with an AMD 1100t BE, XFX 6950, and 8gb dual channel ram. At the preset 3300 mhz on the processor, it seemed to be running a bit hard ,judging from the processor fan speed. CPU temp ran about 101F in normal operation.
I turned the processor up to 3700 mhz and the vid card to 835 mhz and it now runs around 83F under normal load and rarely goes over 101F when I game. I run the vid card @ 840 mhz when gaming.
That seems to be the sweet spot for this setup. Cool and quiet.
Thanks for your time!
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# RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardSteve 2012-02-08 20:13
Very impressed with the testing and benchmarking. Am using this board with the 8150 running @ 3.8Gigs. I agree with the comments about the BIOS as well. As far as the PS2...Either I have a defective USB keyboard or a PS2 Keyboard is required to enter BIOS. Actually RMA'd the 1st board because it was bringing me to a boot menu (even though I had only 1 OS) instead of the BIOS. The 2nd board did exactly the same thing till I used a PS2 Keyboard. Am using the same USB keyboard on my Biostar TA-990FXE and I can get into the BIOS. Another unanswered question. Yes I was hitting DEL on the MSI 990FXA-GD80. Strange.
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# RE: RE: MSI 990FXA-GD80 AM3+ MotherboardDavid Ramsey 2012-02-08 20:42
That's weird. I only use USB keyboards (in most cases, through a KVM switch) and didn't have any problem getting into the BIOS.
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