The Cell Menu is the key page for all of the performance tweaks for the chipset, CPU and memory. If your CPU is unlocked, as would be the case with AMD's Black Edition chips, you can edit the ratio. The manual doesn't make mention of it, but with the BIOS we've flashed on to the board during the test process, there is now an option to enable the TLB fix we mentioned earlier.
MSI's D.O.T.3 has 3 steps to overclock the CPU and PCIE. Depending on CPU load, the system will dynamically overclock itself. The settings are not terribly aggressive, thus keeping the system stable, but you can still manually overclock or use AMD's Overdrive utility. The Overdrive tool included on the Vista driver CD did not work with our system and we had to download a newer one, but the XP version MSI includes works fine.
The Advanced DRAM Configuration page allows the user to make memory adjustments which will vary depending on the quality of the memory being used. By default, the timings are set to automatic, but setting them to manual will allow the various options shown above.
The User Settings page is quite handy for those of you who like to live on the edge. When overclocking, nothing is really more frustrating than having to redo all your BIOS settings whenever the CMOS is reset. You can store profiles here and after a BIOS reset, you can reload your settings by coming to this page, provided you save some valid settings. You'll still need to configure the time and date, but everything else will load according to your last save.
The MSI K9A2 Platinum AMD 790FX Motherboard will be equipped with an AMD X2 5000+ for legacy testing, as well as the AMD Phenom 9600 Black. A Seagate Barracuda 1TB will handle the storage duties and a GeForce 8800GTX running ForceWare Release 169 for our video needs. Windows Vista Ultimate is the OS of choice, fully patched up to the time of testing. 2 x 1024MB of Corsair's DDR2 Dominator was set to 800MHz, configured in Dual Channel mode for testing.
The comparison motherboards will be a MSI's AMD 690G based board and Foxconn's Nvidia 590 SLI based board. Both boards were equipped with the same hardware, though limited to the X2 5000+. All processors were ran at stock speed.
The software used is as follows:
- A good indicator of CPU/Motherboard performance is version 4.2, by Xavier Gourdon. We used a computation of 10000000 digits of Pi, Chudnovsky method, 1024 K FFT, and no disk memory. Note that lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.
- CDex v170b2 was used to convert a 440.5MB Wav file to a 320kbs MP3. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.
- We used an Animatrix file, titled , and a WAV created from VirtualDub. The movie was then converted it into a DVD compliant MPEG-2 file with a bitrate of 5000. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.
DVD Shrink - We ripped the War of the Worlds bonus feature off the disk at 100% and compressed the file from the hard drive to 70%. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.
- Photoshop is perhaps the defacto standard when it comes to photo editing tools. Given that it is so popular, we incorporated DriverHeaven's latest test into our review process. Lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars @ 640x480 and Crysis @ 800x600 at LQ Settings - While higher resolutions tax the video card, lower resolutions rely on CPU and subsystem speed. Higher scores are better. We used Guru3D's Crysis benchmark tool and the for ETQW.
All benchmarks will be run a total of three times with the average scores being displayed. Any system tweaks and ram timings were configured to the best possible for each platform. Despite the slight differences between the motherboards, we matched the tweaks as close as possible. The drivers otherwise were identical.
The 790FX board surpasses the 690G by a slight margin and is barely edged out by the 590 SLI.
The MSI K9A2 is the fastest board here by a couple seconds using the X2 5000+. It's even faster than the 9600 Black.