It’s almost impossible to drop a processor into MSI’s 890FXA-GD70 motherboard without overclocking it. The reason has nothing to do with MSI not letting you run a chip at stock speeds—it does—but the temptation to goose your processor presents itself at every turn. If you’re poking around the BIOS, you need only enable the OC Genie Light option for a free speed boost. Alternately, you can turn a knob on the motherboard to make front-side-bus adjustments on the fly. And yet a third way to overclock is to fire up the included Control Center software and start moving sliders, or press the OC Genie button and be done with it. Using the latter option, we were prompted to restart our test bed, at which point the MSI board cranked our Phenom II X4 955BE up from 3.2GHz to a stable 3.68GHz. Not bad.
We fell in love with the MSI 890FXA-GD70's touch-sensitive buttons at, well, first touch.
MSI includes five PCI-E x16 ports on its 890FXA-GD70, two of which operate in full x16 mode when running two videocards in a CrossFireX configuration. A standard PCI port resides toward the bottom, while a single PCI-E x1 port sits near the top. You’ll lose this when installing a two-slot graphics card, which we prefer over losing a full length PCI-E port.
We like that MSI positioned the six forward-facing SATA 6 ports slightly lower than most other boards. This keeps them out of the way of overhanging videocards, though you might have trouble reaching those top-mounted optical drives in a lumbering full-tower chassis.
Like Asus’s Crosshair IV Formula, MSI’s board comes with a plastic connector for the front panel, and both boards sport no-snag RAM slots. But we give the slight edge to MSI for the additional PCI-E slot, extra GbE LAN port, touch-sensitive buttons, and IDE port. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s less expensive.