Which 990FX Board Should You Buy?
If value were simply a comparison of performance per dollar, MSI would walk away a clear winner by providing the cheapest board in this round-up. This is a story about enthusiast-class motherboards, though, and for $10 more, an enthusiast can get a motherboard with fully-functional overclocking controls today. We realize that further development could put MSI on top in the near future, but the 990FXA-GD80 has yet to prove itself in this regard. The board could be a top value to anyone who doesn’t overclock, but the enhanced capabilities of its competitors are worth far more than the $10 price difference to us.
ASRock arguably provides the most features for the money, yet one of the features missing is three-way SLI capability. Past experience also dissuades us from using its x4 slot to enable three-way CrossFireX. Added Ethernet and USB 3.0 ports surely make the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional a top pick for anyone who desires neither overclocking nor three-way graphics configurations, but a true enthusiast product should really offer both.
Furthering the cause for added features, ECS’ A990FXM-A includes both three-way SLI and dual gigabit Ethernet controllers. ECS even adds a Bluetooth transceiver, all for a petty $50 over competing models from Asus and ASRock. While its biggest problem is an underdeveloped firmware that doesn’t properly support overclocking AMD’s new FX processors, the most nagging layout issue is its inability to accommodate many graphics card models once front-panel USB 3.0 is connected. The A990FXM-A is attractive, yet troublesome in so many ways that we’re left perplexed, and that’s not a feeling we’d want to pay an extra $50 for.
With six graphics card slots, eight internal SATA 6Gb/s ports and eSATA 6Gb/s, Gigabyte’s 990FXA-UD7 is almost in a league of its own. It even costs $10 less than the otherwise-featured ECS competitor, while offering four-way SLI. We believe four-way SLI is a killer feature, though not many builders use it.
The problem is that using four-way SLI in the 990FXA-UD7 prevents the use of its USB 3.0 front-panel header. We can’t even add a third-party USB 3.0 controller card to gain another header in this configuration, since all the slots are full. And we are beginning to think that front-panel USB 3.0 is yet another killer feature.
In the end it’s the top overclockers that get our attention. A low price and great firmware put Asus $190 Sabertooth 990FX side-by-side with Gigabyte’s $230 quad-SLI 990FXA-UD7. Our inability to overlook Gigabyte’s poor USB 3.0 front panel header placement makes it far easier for us to choose the cheaper Asus model for our own systems.