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MSI 970 Gaming AM3+ Motherboard Review

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Overclocking 970 Gaming

One of the reasons enthusiasts like AMD CPUs is that they retain all of the old-school overclocking mechanisms, and provide a variety of relatively inexpensive, unlocked CPUs. Intel has locked things down hard: deriving system clocks from the base clock means that overclocking via increasing the base clock more than 2-4mHz will probably crash your system; base clock multipliers are locked on all CPUs, and turbo clock multipliers are only unlocked on the more expensive “K”-series processors.

The CPUs I had to test with this board were the FX-8320E and the FX-9590, representing the current bottom and top of AMD’s FX 8-core processor range: the FX-8320E is a “low power” (TDP 95 watts) variant of the standard FX-8320; while the FX-9590 is AMD’s 220 watt(!) monster.

With the FX-8320E, I initially began with increasing the turbo clock multiplier, but quickly ran into odd benchmark results: scores would vary widely and were often lower than the scores achieved at stock settings! I finally noticed that the system was throttling the CPU dramatically, dropping the clock to as low as 1.4gHz in the middle of a benchmark run. Since I was using a Corsair H110 water cooling system and CPU temperatures were well in check, I’m guessing this behavior is AMD’s attempt to try to keep the CPU inside of its specified 95 watt power envelope.

Invoking the board’s OC Genie auto-overclocking mechanism disabled the turbo feature entirely, and set the base clock multiplier to 20x for a final frequency of 4gHz. Oddly, OC Genie also disabled the XMP profile of the DDR3-2133 memory I was using, setting the memory frequency to the base of 1333mHz.

cpuid

The best overclocking procedure for this CPU is obviously increasing the base clock, so that’s what I went with. After some tweaking– there’s nothing more annoying than an overclock crashing the system after an hour of benchmarking– I settled on a 22.5x multiplier for a frequency of 4.5gHz, fed with a CPU voltage of 1.448 as set in the BIOS (but displayed as 1.432V by AIDA62‘s CPUID feature as shown above.) CPU temperatures stayed at 53 degrees Celsius or below.

MSI and AMD sure don’t agree on what this board is capable of. As I noted before, AMD says the 970 chipset can’t support multi-GPU systems, while MSI says it can (and in fact does, as you’ll see in our review of the AMD FX-8320E CPU here). But while MSI says this motherboard doesn’t support the 220-watt CPUs like the FX-9590, AMD says that it in fact does, so I tested with this CPU as well, and the performance results are included in the next section.

The scores I recorded for the FX-9590 equal and in some cases beat the scores recorded in our performance review of the FX-9590, which you can read here. However, the heat sinks over the motherboard’s power section got really hot, and I did see some indication of some minor throttling, so if you plan to use a 220-watt AMD CPU, I’d recommend you get a board designed for it.

So how was the performance? Let’s see in the next section.


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