TODO alt text

MSI 880GMA-E45 review

This microATX board has all the features and performance you'll ever need in real terms

Our Verdict

For

  • Good feature set
  • SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0
  • Overclocks well for a microATX board

Against

  • Limited expansion

Are you ever likely to run two AMD video cards in multi- GPU CrossFire mode or use a second graphics card as a physics or GPGPU accelerator? The honest answer is: it's unlikely.

What you probably don't need, in other words, is a full sized ATX mobo with a silly number of PCI-e slots. A micro-ATX board with a single graphics slot and some enthusiast-friendly features will get the job done just fine. Enter, MSI's 880GMA-E45.

Powered by AMD's middling 880G chipset, it's bang up to date and offers enough power features to keep most enthusiasts happy. And all in an extremely compact and reasonably cost effective package.

Bandwidth wise, there's bags thanks to MSI's decision to go with the more powerful SB850 southbridge and its six port's worth of SATA 6Gbps. Next up is Gigabit Ethernet, a couple of USB 3.0 sockets and official support for DDR3 memory up to 1,333MHz.

This board may be a bit puny. But when it comes to lugging data around, it's well equipped for heavy lifting.

Like most current AM3 boards, it's ready to roll with AMD's latest six-core chips, too. Overclockers will also appreciate MSI's so-called "Military Class" components, including solid core aluminium capacitors.

Less promising is the apologetic-looking heat sink covering the northbridge chip and the absence of any cooling at all for the MOSFETs. As for graphics, you get an integrated Radeon HD 4250 core with 40 shaders but no sideport memory.

As ever, the prospect here is a combination of feeble 3D performance and solid 2D features. DVI and HDMI cover the digital connectivity, while a VGA port caters for analogue Luddites.

Genie in the BIOS

However, pop into the 880GMA-E45's BIOS menu and things get interesting. For starters, MSI's familiar overclocking Cell Menu provides all the clock, voltage and timing options you'll ever need.

If you don't want to get your hands dirty, the OC Genie feature claims to do the job for you. The final feature of note is MSI's Unlock CPU, allowing you to expose those naughty hidden cores in certain AMD Athlon and Phenom CPUs. Promising stuff all round and we're happy to report that it translates into solid real-world performance.

The SATA 6Gbps ports do their big bandwidth act, topping out at 375MB/s with our Crucial test SSD. Application performance and gaming grunt using a discrete graphics card are likewise up there with the best.

In the overclocking stakes, the 880GMA-E45 puts in a very respectable performance: 300MHz on the bus is a 50 per cent overclock and as much as you'll ever need. Even better, the OC Genie function breaks with form and produces decent results, ramping up our 3.2GHz Phenom II X4 test chip to 3.65GHz.

If you're looking for downsides, there aren't many. The memoryless integrated GPU is about 25 per cent slower than similar solutions with 128MB of Sideport Memory. You also miss out on a few frills including physical onboard switches for power, reset and indeed the OC Genie feature.

More critical, for home theatre buffs at least, is the absence of digital audio out via S/PDIF. Arguably, however, the provision of digital audio via HDMI makes that a moot point.

Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview

Tech Specs

Product TypeDesktop Motherboard
Chipset ManufacturerAMD
Chipset Model880G
Multi GPU SupportedCrossFireX
Onboard VideoOn-board Video Chipset
Number of PCI Express x16 Slots1
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Processor SocketSocket AM3 PGA-941
Brand NameMSI
Form FactorMicro ATX
Processor SupportedAthlon II X2, Athlon II X3, Athlon II X4, Phenom II X2, Phenom II X3, Phenom II X4, Phenom II X6, Phenom II, Athlon II, Sempron
Total Processor Supported1
Maximum Memory16 GB
64-bit ProcessingYes
Number of Memory Slots4
Number of PCI Slots1
Graphics Controller Memory512 MB
Audio Channels7.1
Gigabit EthernetYes
Number of IDE Interfaces1
Number of SATA Interfaces6
HyperTransport Speed2600 MHz
RAID SupportedYes
Number of Total Expansion Slots4
HDMIYes
DVIYes
Network (RJ-45)Yes
Total Number of USB Ports6
Number of USB 3.0 Ports2
PS/2 PortYes
Number of PS/2 Ports2
Total Number of Onboard USB Ports4
Total Number of PCI Express Slots3
Processor TechnologyHyperTransport Technology
Width244 mm
Depth237 mm
ManufacturerMicro-Star International Co., Ltd
Product Model880GMA-E45
Product Name880GMA-E45 Desktop Motherboard
Controller TypeSerial ATA/600, Ultra ATA/133 (ATA-7)
Manufacturer Part Number880GMA-E45
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.msicomputer.com
Marketing Information

The 880GMA-E45/ 785GMA-E45/880GMU-E35/ 785GMU-E35 Series mainboards are based on AMD 880G/ 785G & SB810/ SB850 chipsets for optimal system efficiency. Designed to fit the advanced AMD processor in AM3 package processor, the 880GMA-E45/ 785GMA-E45/ 880GMU-E35/ 785GMU-E35 Series deliver a high performance and professional desktop platform solution.

Limited Warranty3 Year