DIMM slot design deserves special credit thanks to a design which means you only need to clip them in on the top, away from the restrictive area of a graphics card PCB. I really thought this was a fantastic design decision as I hate trying to remove memory inside a chassis when a graphics card is fitted. Our Silverstone Raven 2 makes it slightly easier, but its still fiddly.
MSI add touch sensitive, internal power and reset buttons to make life easier for an overclocker. MSI have also encorporated an “OC Dial” button feature which helps with hardware specific overclocking adjustments without requiring a full reboot.
The board receives 4+1 phase power from energy efficient DRMOS VRMs with additional power smoothing applied courtesy of the low profile, high capacitance capacitors which are located between the VRMS and socket. Unfortunately these capacitors are only used around the CPU socket as the rest of the board features standard high quality aluminium capped capacitors with standard MOSFET's.
The memory receives a further two power phases as does the SB850 Southbridge. Interestingly MSI have included blue tinged Light Emitting Diodes to give an indication of how many phases are currently in operation. If the lights annoy you can turn them off in the BIOS or with MSI windows software. Strangely the board has not utilised the voltage readout points that were a popular inclusion on previous MSI motherboards.
The 890FX north bridge iscooled by an oversized single heatsink which is connected to the Southbridge heatsink by a single heatpipe design. We found in operation that this gets very hot and we would recommend some chassis fans in the area to help actively cool the construction.
MSI claim to be supplying “military grade” solid capacitors with a claimed 10 year lifespan at full load. Icy Choke ferrite core chokes are also claimed to run 20c cooler than traditionally designed units.
On the rear we are presented with eight USB ports, two of which are USB 3 and one is doubled up to provide a powered eSATA connector – an additional I always like to see, even if it is not the most popular interface. I was pleased to see two Gigabit Lan connections as some ‘enthusiast grade' boards we have looked at recently have only been equipped with one. There are also connectors for PS/2 keyboard and mouse and six 3.5 mm stereo connectors for HD audio. Lastly there is a clear CMOS button between the S/PDIF and PS2 ports.