Amd 970 chipset review: MSI 970 Gaming Motherboard Review: Undercutting AM3+ at $100

MSI 970 Gaming Motherboard Review: Undercutting AM3+ at $100

by Ian Cutresson January 22, 2015 10:00 AM EST

  • Posted in
  • Motherboards
  • AMD
  • MSI
  • Vishera
  • AM3+



MSI 970 Gaming OverviewBIOS and SoftwareIn The Box, Test Setup and OverclockingSystem PerformanceCPU Performance1080p Gaming Performance on GTX 770MSI 970 Gaming Conclusions

Despite the age of AMD’s Vishera CPU architecture, we recently saw the release of two new lower powered 95W quad-module processors. The lower of the two, the FX-8320E, was earmarked for AMDs 970 platform due to the price point and target market of single GPU users. With the processor which AMD recently sampled, AMD also provided the MSI 970 Gaming motherboard which is the focus of today’s review.

As AMDs latest processor iterations have focused on the APU line, the older Vishera based FX CPUs still represent the peak of performance from the Red Team. This results in a constant iteration of systems built on the forums as well as system integrators having to innovate in their builds for sale. The MSI 970 Gaming has taken a number of users by surprise and has proved to be popular due to its low price point, styling and gaming focus on a single GPU system. Again, due to the age of the platform, only a few of the motherboard manufacturers have focused on AM3+ a second time around, and usually at 990FX — this is also due to the 220W requirement of the FX-9000 series processors. This allows boards like the 970 Gaming to come in and potentially undercut the market by removing that 220W support.

The 970 platform differs from the 990FX and the 990X by offering fewer PCIe lanes for GPUs, a lower TDP chipset and a slightly slower HyperTransport 3.0 linkage.  All are still limited to PCIe 2. 0, but 970 focuses on a single PCIe x16 slot accompanied by a PCIe 2.0 x4 slot for add in cards. With some engineering, it would seem that the 970 chipset is capable of x8/x8 arrangements for SLI/Crossfire as well.

AMD 900 Series Chipset Comparison
  990FX 990X 970
Code Name RD990 RD980 RX980
Released Q2 2011 Q2 2011 Q2 2011
Fab (nm) 65 65 65
IGP No No No
CrossFire x16 + x16
x8 + x8 + x8 + x8
x8 + x8 x16 + x4
x8 + x8 + x4
SLI x16 + x16
x16 + x8 + x8
x8 + x8 + x8 + x8
x8 + x8 x8 + x8
TDP 19.6W 14W 13. 6W
PCIe Four PCIe 2.0 slots Two PCIe 2.0 slots One PCIe 2.0 x16 slot
HyperTransport (MHz) 2600 2600 2400

The price of the components matter in this segment, and given the comparison to 990FX, we would expect AMD to sell 970 at a lower rate. This is partially offset by bulk sales, and one can argue whether 990FX sells more than 970.

MSI 970 Gaming Overview

During 2013 and 2014 MSI embarked on a new redesign of their motherboard portfolio, focusing on branding and presentation, rather than unique feats of engineering. The upshot is that is worked, spurred on by the resurgence of reasonably priced PC Gaming and by providing an experience and a story with a product that looks better than most. When taking the 970 Gaming out of the box, the first remark was towards the relatively clean nature of the PCB. There are fewer obvious traces due to the PCB coating and the lack of SMT placement boxes for each IC gives it a more fluid presentation. Users can argue if red and black are the best colors to choose, but at least the underlying aesthetic feels polished which is somewhat of a surprise at the $100 price point.

In terms of feature set, the 970 Gaming gives an Atheros Killer E2205 network topology with bundled software for data packet prioritization, gaming ports to support 1000Hz devices under XP, and an upgraded Realtek ALC1150 audio solution with Sound Blaster Cinema support. A PS2 port and PCI slots are bundled to improve potential use range and the eight USB 3.0 ports on the board come from VIA controllers.

Our only real recent data point for AM3+ motherboards is the 990FX Extreme9 we reviewed back in August with the FX-9590. This represented the high end of the spectrum, capable of 220W+ processors, and is an unfair comparison. But in contrast to the potential bells and whistles of the Extreme9, the 970 Gaming is great for pick up and play gaming.

One argument on design is that if possible MSI might have explored a micro version, but the biggest orange flag is more from the platform itself due to a lack of longevity. Our benchmarks show a good chase for gaming frame rates with high end cards, but it will never get closer under AMDs 970 and FX line without a fresh CPU architecture injection.

Visual Inspection

The first thing to note when removing the motherboard from the box is the styling. The socket area is clean from almost all the white SMT boxes, and the traces are near impossible to see. The heatsinks for the power delivery and 970 chipset are obviously designed for airflow but keep the design rigid with straight lines and nothing too imposing. The South Bridge heatsink is MSI’s gaming heatsink, just in case you were not sure which motherboard range you purchased.

AMD sockets are still quite big, and AM3+ is no exception. However due to the chipset being external to the CPU, there is ample space for all sorts of CPU coolers here as the first GPU slot is more than half-way down the motherboard. MSI’s power delivery uses an 8-phase SFC implementation, with memory support at two DIMMs per channel. The DIMM slots are single sided, meaning that users should double check that the memory is firmly in place. For fan control around the socket area we get three fan headers in the immediate vicinity, another one at a stretch and a final fifth at the bottom of the board. The CPU fan header is a four-pin above the socket, with the other two in easy reach being a 3-pin at the top right and a four-pin below the power delivery. We get another 4-pin just above the SATA ports and a final 3-pin at the bottom.

At $100 it is quite clear that any features on this motherboard are going to be aimed at gaming only, so MSI avoids adding in power/reset buttons as well as a two-digit debug which we might see on more expensive models. MSI also eschews the OC Genie button on this board, which is a shame as a basic OC would help this platform in general. Providing a lookup table of overclocks takes time for each CPU range to be considered, and perhaps it is not worth the time on the 970 chipset.

For SATA connectivity the SB950 south bridge gives six SATA 6 Gbps ports, all RAID 0/1/5/10 capable. When the 900 series chipset launched in 2012, this was cutting edge and ahead of team blue on their products at the time. Now the playing field is more or less even.

For the PCIe configuration, the 970 chipset only allows 22 PCIe 2.0 lanes from it. This is split for a PCIe 2.0 x16/x8 slot, a PCIe 2.0 x4/x8 slot and two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. The south bridge also offers some PCIe lanes, which in this case are directed to the two VLI controllers onboard for a total of four USB 3.0 ports and the Killer E2205 network port on the rear panel. To top it off, there is two PCI ports as well.

At the bottom of the board we get a COM header, a TPM header, the internal USB 3.0 header, three USB 2.0 headers and the front panel ports. The left hand side of the board gives MSI’s Audio Boost topology which hides a upgraded Realtek ALC1150 codec underneath with additional filter caps, PCB separation, EMI shielding and gold plated audio ports all with the aim of increasing audio quality.

Because some gamers still prefer PS/2 keyboards, MSI includes a combination PS/2 port here. We also get a pair of MSI Gaming Mouse ports which offer a 1000 Hz polling rate to operating systems like Windows XP that might not support it. On the rear panel we also get a SPDIF output, six more USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, the Atheros Killer E2205 network port and the gold-plated audio jacks from the Realtek ALC1150.

Board Features

MSI 970 Gaming
Price US (Newegg)
Size ATX
CPU Interface AM3+
Chipset AMD 970 + SB950
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-2133 MHz
Video Outputs None
Network Connectivity Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2205
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC1150 via Audio Boost
Expansion Slots 1 x PCIe 2. 0 x16/x8
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4/x8
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
2 x PCI
Onboard Storage 6 x SATA 6 Gbps, RAID 0/1/5/10
USB 3.0 2 x USB 3.0 Rear Panel (VIA)
1 x USB 3.0 Header (VIA)
Onboard 6 x SATA 6 Gbps
3 x USB 2.0 Headers
1 x USB 3.0 Header
5 x Fan Headers
Front Panel Audio Header
Front Panel Header
TPM Header
COM Port Header
Slow Mode Switch
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX
1 x 8-pin CPU
Fan Headers 1 x CPU (4-pin)
2 x SYS (4-pin)
2 x SYS (3-pin)
IO Panel PS/2 Combination Port
8 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0
Optical SPDIF-Out
Killer Network Port
Audio Jacks
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

At this point of motherboard development, the Killer network chip is essentially a slightly less expensive solution than the Intel + cFos setup, but affords companies like MSI an additional marketing angle. One of my main criticisms of MSI is that they offer relatively little in terms of unique engineering that other manufacturers would have trouble getting to grips with. While I was unlikely to see anything new on a $100 gaming board, features like the Killer NIC are very easily copied when you only have to buy the chip.

BIOS and Software
MSI 970 Gaming OverviewBIOS and SoftwareIn The Box, Test Setup and OverclockingSystem PerformanceCPU Performance1080p Gaming Performance on GTX 770MSI 970 Gaming Conclusions


MSI 970 Gaming Review |

Written by

Antony Leather

August 21, 2014 | 08:24

Tags: #atx #best-amd-motherboard #phenom

Companies: #msi

1 — MSI 970 Gaming Review 2 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Test Setup3 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Image Editing and Video Encoding4 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Multi-tasking and Overall Performance5 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Gaming and Audio Performance6 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — SATA 6Gbps Performance and Power7 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Overclocking and EFI8 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Performance Analysis and Conclusion

MSI 970 Gaming Review

Manufacturer: MSI
UK:£69. 56 (inc VAT)
US:$99.99 (ex Tax)

click to enlarge

We haven’t looked at a non APU-based AMD motherboard for quite a while, for the simple reason that our focus, and that of much of the enthusiast community, has been with Intel CPUs.

However, we won’t start any long debates here, other than to say that at the budget end of the spectrum, AMD does make for viable options. This is especially true if you need plenty of threads as CPU’s such as the FX-8350 can have an edge over many of Intel’s similarly-priced offerings despite AMD’s lack of IPC grunt.

Today we’re looking at MSI’s move to transition its popular Gaming motherboard brand to AMD’s 970 chipset, with a fairly low price tag to match.

The 970 Gaming isn’t going to win over those on super-tight budgets, where the sub-£50 AM3+ motherboards are still king. However, if you don’t mind spending another £20 or so, the extras on offer are very tempting indeed, so keep reading.

For starters, considering the 970 Gaming retails for around £70, it’s actually better-looking than some Intel boards that cost £50 more, even if it is a little spartan, with the red and black heatsinks matching the colour scheme of the EFI and the Gaming brand in general. There’s oodles of space around the CPU socket for large CPU coolers, although low profile models may still struggle not to interfere with the large VRM heatsink. The layout on the whole is good too, with all the main connectors located at the edge of the PCB, although a couple of fan headers do find their way in to the centre, which will inevitably lead to some awkward cable tidying.

Click to enlarge

There are a few features to note, but for the most part the PCB is sparce with nothing by way of overclocking tools such as buttons or LED readouts but to find these on any sub £100 motherboard is a rare thing. What is included is a beefed up audio spec, with an isolated area of PCB

Click to enlarge

On plugging cables in, though, we found one annoying issue, which is that the 8-pin EPS 12V connector sits very close to the large VRM heatsink and unfortunately, MSI has opted to have the release latch situated on the heatsink side. This makes it extremely difficult to remove the cable and we actually had to use a screwdriver to get it free.

Click to enlarge


  • Chipset AMD 970
  • Form factor ATX
  • CPU support AMD Socket AM3+ (Athlon/ Phenom)
  • Memory support Dual-channel, 4 slots, max 32GB
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1150
  • NetworkingKiller E2205
  • Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps, 4 x USB 3.0 (2 via header), 14 x USB 2.0 ( 6 x via header), 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out
  • Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
  • Extras None

1 — MSI 970 Gaming Review 2 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Test Setup3 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Image Editing and Video Encoding4 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Multi-tasking and Overall Performance5 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Gaming and Audio Performance6 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — SATA 6Gbps Performance and Power7 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Overclocking and EFI8 — MSI 970 Gaming Review — Performance Analysis and Conclusion

Review and testing of the Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3P motherboard based on the AMD 970 + SB950 chipset

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • Packing and contents
  • Board design and features
    • General view, cooling system
    • Processor and memory power subsystem
    • Connectors and optional controllers
  • Specifications
  • BIOS Setup 9 Capabilities0006
  • Test stand
  • Monitoring and proprietary software
  • AMD Overdrive
  • Audio path test
  • Small test of SATA and USB
  • Voltage Accuracy and Operation LoadLine Calibration
  • Acceleration
  • Conclusion


Socket AM3 looks a little strange these days. Yes, he survived the cosmetic surgery, adding a plus sign to the name, but age is not subject to even the most experienced and skilled plastic surgeons. 9February 2009 is the release date of this socket. Five years have passed since then. He managed what was considered incredible: to live on the market longer than Socket A (462).

Socket A appeared at the end of 1999, and the last in this version were the processors of the Sempron family, released in the summer of 2004. It is significant that in fact these were not new solutions, but the same Athlon XP, just renamed. What percentage of current readers will remember the code names for these models: Thoroughbred, Thorton and Barton?

In the summer of 2005, a photo appeared on the net from one of AMD’s factories (oh yes, it still had its own production facilities at that time), where employees held a small informal ceremony to celebrate the packaging of the last processor in this construct. At the same time, for a fair period of time, Socket 754 and Socket 940 (and then Socket 939) existed in parallel with Socket A. It was them that he was gradually forced out into the budget segment, then ceasing to occupy at least any significant market share.

But there is no replacement for Socket AM3, and so far it is not expected. Moreover, even the original 45 nm processors of the K10.5 generation are still manufactured and sold in stores. And this despite the fact that they were already replaced by Bulldozer, and then Vishera, bringing eight cores to the desktop segment, even as part of peculiar modules (a kind of another evolution). Another subtle humor is that while the AM3+ is old, it’s still marketed as a flagship by AMD. At the same time, the living segment of the APU regularly receives new sets of system logic, the processor sockets themselves are replaced one after another along with the generations of the CPU, but APUs still continue to be held by AMD in the budget sector.

Motherboards for APUs can boast noticeably more advanced functionality: «native» support for USB 3.0 appeared in the system logic sets, the number of SATA connectors increased, but . .. Nevertheless, Socket AM3 + continues to live as a flagship, based on far from the most « fresh» generation AMD 9 **.


New models of motherboards continue to appear. This is explained simply: manufacturers pursue two goals — cost reduction (new element base, more economical engineering solutions) and periodic «reminder» of themselves. With the assistance of our partner — the company Regard, this article will consider one of these new products. Meet the Gigabyte GA-9 motherboard70A-UD3P.

Packing and contents

The motherboard comes in a white cardboard box, which denotes budget-class models (“top” and image boards come in boxes with a predominance of dark shades).

On the back of the box there is an image of the motherboard and a brief analysis of its functionality, as well as a description of the most important (from the point of view of the advertising department of Gigabyte) technical solutions used in this product:

Briefly list them:

  • Lower RDS (on) Mosfet — the use of mosfets on the motherboard with reduced on-state resistance, which reduces heat dissipation;
  • Humidity protection — the motherboard is based on a denser material than usual, which makes it difficult for moisture to penetrate into the inner layers of the textolite;
  • Power Failure Protection — a set of technologies designed to protect the motherboard from power surges and related possible damage;
  • Electrostatic Protection — protection of the motherboard from electrostatic discharges;
  • High Temperature Protection — reducing the number of sources of increased heat generation on the motherboard, which, as a rule, are the power elements of the power subsystems, processor, RAM, system logic set, by using only solid capacitors and the aforementioned Lower RDS (on) Mosfet.

You can learn more about these technical solutions on the special page of the Gigabyte website dedicated to Ultra Durable 4 Classic.

The usual for Gigabyte DualBIOS (two BIOS chips on the motherboard), 333 (USB 3.0 with three times the current, SATA3), On / OFF Charge (charging mobile devices via USB port when the PC is turned off) have not disappeared.

But let’s get back to reality. A fairly important attribute of the motherboard is its bundle, but since the GA-970A-UD3P belongs to the budget segment, we won’t find much richness. Under the lid of the box is a typical gentleman’s set:

Three instructions, a sticker on the system unit, a blank for the back of the motherboard, a DVD with software and four SATA cables with latches (two with angled connectors and two with straight ones; I must say, a reasonable approach).

Design and features of the board

General view of the board. Cooling system

Under the package and a cardboard separator in an antistatic bag is the motherboard itself:

Black, gray and some white. All this is on textolite, painted brown. Although the motherboard is quite a budget class, it still received a new design (recall that the old design of Gigabyte motherboards, combining blue and white colors, now goes only to very budget models), it is not for nothing that this product is positioned as the oldest in the line of Gigabyte motherboards on the AMD 970 system logic set.

If for the APU segment AMD has long abandoned the dual-bridge configuration of the system logic set, then for Socket AM3+ it remains traditional — the north and south bridges are in the form of separate crystals on the motherboard. Both of these bridges need heatsinks. And taking into account one more radiator on the processor power subsystem, there are already three of them [radiators]. Moreover, all of them were not without design frills (especially the south bridge radiator):

The northbridge heatsink is attached to the board with plastic latches, while the southbridge and CPU power subsystem heatsinks are screw-mounted. However, for the former, this is rather the cost of its decorative form.

Mounting of the cooling system familiar to Socket AM3+ (by the way, it also goes back to Socket 754 and is identically used on Socket FM2+):

Motherboard anti-bending force plate, solid metal, fairly thick metal:

The processor cooling system itself must fit into the following dimensions:

Note that the motherboard offers the user four connectors for connecting fans:

Four-pin CPU_FAN and SYS_FAN1, and three-pin SYS_FAN2 and PWR_FAN. Speeds are controlled only on CPU_FAN and SYS_FAN1, while both three- and four-pin fans are controlled. SYS_FAN2 and PWR_FAN are unmanaged.

Processor and memory power subsystem

Socket AM3 and AMD3+ processors require only two main power supplies — CPU Core and CPU NB Core, so there are two processor power converters on the motherboard, and both of them are hidden under one common radiator. The motherboard manufacturer claims to have an 8 + 2 circuit, but in fact this is not entirely true.

In fact, the power supply is based on the IR3564B PWM controller developed by International Rectifier.

According to the official documentation for this controller, it can work in 4+1 and 3+2 schemes. And on this motherboard, it works according to the first option — 4 + 1: one phase of the CPU NB Core and four phases of the CPU Core. And the 8 + 2 circuit was obtained by using the IR3598 doublers of the same International Rectifier.

They are also phase drivers. uPA2724 and uPA2726 manufactured by NEC are used as power elements — one for each of the received through IR3598 phases.

Both converters are powered by a single eight-pin ATX auxiliary power connector. However, the contacts are paralleled, so no one will interfere with using a power supply with a four-pin connector, which should not cause any problems even with decent overclocking even with three- and four-core processors like Athlon II and Phenom II.

The RAM power converter appears to be two-phase at first glance, but with just a Richtek RT8120D PWM controller, which is single-phase, this is somewhat difficult.

However, even being single-phase with such a set of element base, the power subsystem is able to cope with the power supply of four memory modules without any problems, and the BIOS of the motherboard and the installed processor will almost certainly limit the overclocking.