Pros: Pointy clicky UEFI bios settings. OC genie. Nice looking motherboard. Milspec power handling components.
Cons: It won't wash and wax my car.
I have been building computers for myself and some relatives for going on 20 years since the advent of the IBM style PC. I have with the exception of a laptop never bought an off the shelf computer.
Let me state right off the bat that I'm an MSI fan. I have had MSI products that have lasted many many years for me and some of them are still running.
I am also an AMD fan and won't even consider an Intel cpu. My last setup was an AM2+ ECS GF8200a with an Athlon X2 at 2.7Ghz., 6 gig of memory and an EVGA GT-240.
So this year I decided that since I didn't have to spend my tax return on other things I'd upgrade everything except my 2003 brushed aluminum Lian Li PC-68 case although
I'm still debating getting a Cooler Master HAF XB.
When it was time to shop for a new motherboard and memory. I spent a few weeks comparison shopping and I was a hairs breadth away from buying a Gigabyte
GA-990FXA-UD5 when Newegg ran a promo for the MSI 990FXA-GD80V2 with 8Gigs of memory Free for $164. So being an MSI guy I went for it. Only issue I had with the deal was
the memory was on 1 stick and it was 10-10-10-30 timings. G-Skill ripjaw so at least it's a decent brand of memory. No dual channel for you for now.
The included extras in the box are also a plus. 6 sata cables. 3 Nvidia SLI connectors 2 short and one long, but no ATI crossfire connector, strange. One 2 port USB 3.0 slot bracket with cable that plugs into the front panel USB 3.0 header. 1 molex to dual sata power connectors.
I think for the price that the MSI 990FXA-GD80V2 is a beautiful motherboard both in looks and in functionality. MSI claims that they used milspec components on the board for power handling. I cannot verify this though I doubt they'd make that claim if they had not done so. The motherboard has the latest graphical UEFI point and click bios MSI offers. The board also has a unique feature called the OC-Genie. It's a button located on the edge of the board after the last card slot that MSI claims can automatically detect the best and most stable overclocking settings for your supported CPU and memory. So I decided to give the OC-Genie a shot after I was done installing everything and it boosted my Athlon II x4 3Ghz propus core to 3.375 Ghz without having to do anything else. This is a very handy feature for those people who do not want to have to research all the settings to do the overclocking manually. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to squeeze another hundred or so Mhz out of it once I research all the settings and let me tell you there are settings for just about everything. Far to many to list here. I give a big thumbs up to OC-Genie for ease of use.
The board also features Realtek HD audio with 7.1 surround capability with both analog and spdif coax and optical connectors. The back panel along with the aforementioned audio ports has a 1 gigabit lan ethernet connection. 2 USB 3.0 ports, 4 USB 2.0 ports and 2 eSata+ USB 2.0 combo ports and one 1394 firewire port as well as PS2 keyboard and mouse ports. There is also a handy recessed bios reset button located next to the PS2 ports. It is recessed so it cannot be accidentally pressed so you must use a pencil or pen to press it. I think that this feature should have been inside the case. Although I can see it's usefulness the danger of having a bios reset button that can be accidentally pressed via a freak occurrence led me to put a piece of tape over the hole in the back panel.
The hardware install was pretty much a snap I yanked my old motherboard out of my case and in about an hour and a half and had the MSI board up and running. As I had been running Windows 7 pro install on another motherboard I was a little worried things might not work out. So the last half hour was trying to figure out why windows 7 refused to boot to anything but the blue screen of instant death. Why? I forgot to enable AHCI sata in the bios. One big Facepalm for that oversight. Once I had Windows configured and all the drivers loaded I then ran prime95 torture test in the overclocked state, via the OC-Genie, for 6 hours while I was sleeping. No hiccups and no errors. Oh and Windows 7 did require that I reactivate after the install.
On the board there are connections for 4 fully controllable sys_fans, 2 USB 2.0 headers, one USB 3.0 header, 6 sata III drive connectors a firewire header a front panel audio and mic header, on board power and reset buttons plus the OC-Genie button oh yes and of course your CPU cooling fan connector. Other note worthy features on the board are 2 handy debug LED display panels that show what the system is doing at power up/boot via 2 digit boot codes and two rows of mini led's that let you know what power phase modes the CPU and NB are in. The mini LED's for power phase can be shut off in bios if your that power consumption conscious. There are 2 PCI express X1 slots, 1 legacy PCI slot, and 4 x16 slots. I don't know for the life of me why they call them all x16 slots as the way MSI claims to reconfigure them based on use only 2 of them can be run at x16 at any given time. The board has 4 DDR 3 memory slots arranged in 2 dual channel sets with a max memory of 32 gigabytes.
The DVD that comes with the motherboard is chock full of useful utilities and programs and has it's own 80 page paper manual. It of course has all the drivers for the motherboard. Another handy feature is a bootable live Linux install right on the DVD. I gave it a try and it was nicely done and fairly useable for a few tasks like internet surfing. On the down side the DVD also comes with a bunch of bloat ware. But you can choose not to install it. There is also a hard disk backup, partition imaging and restore program. If you buy this board I highly recommend you install MSI's live update. It can automatically scan your system for updated MSI drivers and bios and install them if you so wish it.
Despite MSI's past problems with recent AMD chipsets the 990FXA-GD80V2 seems quite stable and has many many features that make it a unique and usable overclocking motherboard. I only gave it four stars for a few small non serious reasons. 1. The lack of a crossfire bridge circuit. 2. The DVD if booted from supposedly has the option to boot through to your hard drive and it fails at that. 3. Why did they call their linux install Winki? 4. The rear speakers in my quadrophonic setup is overbalanced to the right and there does not seem to be a setting for this but that's Realteks fault and not MSI's. None of those are show stoppers. For the $164 dollars I paid for it I consider it a good buy.