The MSI 890GXM-G65 is a socket AM3 board supporting all the latest AMD processors including quad core Athlon-II and Phenom-II chips. Unlike many microATX boards which are limited in CPU selection, the 890GXM-G65 has a 140W power handling capacity, and also offers Active Phase Switching for greater power savings. Voltage regulation modules, northbridge and southbridge chips are all covered by heatsinks, the main two connected via heatpipe for more efficient thermal dispersion. As we can see from the under side of the board, the heatsinks are all held in place with spring-loaded screws instead of the typical pushpins or clips. This results in a more solid mounting and better seat pressure which should translate into cooler operating temperatures. The socket backing plate is also made of metal instead of the usual plastic, which gives additional support for mounting heavy aftermarket coolers and prevents bending the motherboard under high tension attachments.
Like many enthusiast boards, the 890GXM-G65 uses all solid capacitors for longer life and better power handling. Four 240pin dual-channel DDR3 slots are available supporting up to 16Gb of total memory. A single 40pin legacy IDE connector handles up to two devices courtesy of a JMicron JMB368 controller, and the new AMD SB850 offers five 6Gb/s SATA 3.0 connections supporting RAID0/1/5/10. Four USB 2.0 headers allow up to eight devices through a front panel or other external cabling. There is also a header for legacy parallel port connections.
MSI incorporates an "Easy OC Switch" onto the 890GXM-G65, a pair of dip switches that allows users to select from four settings, normal, +10%, +15% or +20% "FSB" speed. There are also headers for chassis intrusion detection, CD audio and front panel audio connections. Due to the microATX board size, only four expansion slots are available, one PCI, one PCIE 1X, one PCIE 8X and one PCIE 16X. When using the two PCIE 2.0 slots in CrossFire, the 16X slot drops back to 8X due to the limitation on number of available lanes. Also because of the small footprint only a single slot separates the two, which could create cooling issues with higher end, double-slot video cards.
The rear panel connectors consist of a single PS2 port for keyboard or mouse, SPDIF optical, VGA, DVI and HDMI video, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, one eSATA 3.0 6Gb/s, Gigabit LAN and 6-in-1 audio jacks. The 3.0 eSATA and USB ports are differentiated by a blue colored insert. A header for a legacy COM port connection is tucked in behind the rear jacks, along with a 4pin +12V CPU power connector. At the corner of the CPU socket there are four tiny LEDs that indicate the CPU power status, from single up to quad phase enabled.
Next let's look at installation and setup.