880GMA-E45 is made of high-quality components, including shielded capacitors, which gives an impression of robustness and reliability even before the motherboard is mounted into the case. On the other hand, the motherboard is truly packed, which caused a less-than-likeable layout.
First and foremost, the memory slots are placed too close to the CPU socket, which isn't such a problem if two modules are used (the slots are to be filled from the outside inwards), but can make a nightmare out of installing all four if using a massive CPU cooler. Furthermore, the 4-pin voltage connector is placed almost in between the CPU and the graphics card slot, so if you ever install a separate graphics card, quick removal of this connector will be rendered impossible (although one may dispute the need for quick removal of such a connector, agreed).
Positive features are much more numerous, though. The northbridge here is AMD's 880G, which supports all current AM3 socket CPUs, whilst also having a very usable integrated graphics core. Radeon HD 4250 (RS580) has 40 stream processors (comparable to 8 CUDA cores on NVIDIA GPUs), four texture and four ROP units, working at a default clock of 560 MHz and able to “borrow” up to 512 MB of memory from the system RAM (the default setting is 256 MB). This chip is obviously no gamer's choice, but it's still a very good multimedia solution, since the motherboard also contains an HDMI output for transferring image and sound to a compatible HD TV set. On the other hand, owners of a couple of monitors won't be too happy to hear that the integrated GPU only supports one digital output at a time, which means that it's impossible to use HDMI and DVI at the same time; instead, all you can do is connect one of the monitors to an analogue output. The 880G northbridge theoretically supports the installation of a separate side-port memory, to be used by the GPU exclusively, but MSI has decided to omit support for this feature on this particular model, so the GPU will be forced to rely on system RAM. Those who already have a separate graphics card such as a Radeon HD 4350 or 4550 will be able to combine it with the integrated GPU in CrossFire mode, gaining not so much in speed as in power savings. The southbridge is AMD's SB850, containing a SATA III controller (6 GB/s), while the motherboard also has two NEC's controllers in charge of providing USB 3.0 support, making sure that users are well-equipped for future disks and devices for years to come.
Besides the already standard core unlocking feature on AMD's quad-core CPUs selling as dual-core or tri-core ones, called, you'd never guess, “Core Unlocker” in BIOS, the motherboard also has a manual (literally) overclocking system called “OC Switch”. This system's comprised of two switches on the motherboard itself, the combination of which can boost the CPU frequency by 10%, 15% or 20%. Having in mind that this setting also increases other CPU and memory parameters, one has to have a truly high-quality combination of CPU and RAM in order to successfully use the last combo. We couldn't, for one, since that would require our test CPU to work at 3.96 GHz, which we'd be unable to achieve even with a massive air cooler. Overclock capabilities in general have left us unimpressed, mostly due to the 4-pin power connector, which can hardly deliver enough energy for major overclocking of a CPU with a TDP of 125 W, but also due to a small number of voltage phases. What's more, even the few “chosen ones” have no form of cooling available, active or passive. What else is there to say other than “pity”, since BIOS is already so choke full of advanced options.
|AMD Phenom II X6 1100T||default (3.3 GHz)||O.C. (3.8 GHz)|
|7-Zip 4.65 x64 comp./decomp.||14,514 / 211,667 kB/s||16,748 / 226,862 kB/s|
|x264 720p encoding||31 fps||36.3 fps|
|Blender x64 (less is better)||238 s||198 s|
|Cinebench R11.5 x64 1CPU/xCPU||1.10 / 5.85||1.26 / 6.75|
|Everest memory read/write/copy||8,370 / 7,042 / 10,884 MB/s||8,895 / 7,548 / 11,313 MB/s|
|Everest memory latency (less is better)||51.2 ns||54.2 ns|
|3DMark 06 CPU||5,947||6,917|
|3DMark Vantage CPU||16,695||19,038|
|Radeon HD 4250||1280x1024, 0xAA 0xAF||1680x1050, 0xAA 0xAF|
|3DMark 06, default, SM2/SM3||583 / 683||491 / 551|
|3DMark Vantage GPU, entry preset||1,352||1,016|
|DiRT 2, low||13.2 fps||13.1 fps|
|Resident Evil 5, DX9 low||9.2 fps||6.8 fps|
|Batman: Arkham Asylum, low||17 fps||13 fps|
|Test machine: AMD Phenom II X6 1100T, Cooler Master V10, MSI 880GMA-E45, 2 x 2 GB DDR3 Kingston HyperX 1600 MHz, WD Blue 500 GB, Cooler Master 1250W|
The usability of this motherboard is indisputable and it's bound to satisfy the needs of a large number of home users, including those who are planning an overclock of a few hundred MHz. Therefore, when assembling a modern AMD PC for a reasonable amount of money, make sure you include it into your “top picks” list.
|CPU socket||AMD AM3|
|Chipset||AMD 880G + SB850, int. Radeon HD 4250 (up to 512MB)|
|DDR3 slots||4, max. 16 GB DDR3-1600|
|Multi-GPU support||Hybrid CrossFire|
|SATA/ATA connectors||6 x SATA III, 1 x IDE (Jmicron JMB368)|
|Audio controller||Realtek ALC892 HD 7.1|
|Network controller||Realtek RTL8111DL 1Gbit|
|RAID support||0, 1, 0+1, 5, JBOD|
|Connections||1 x PCIe 2.0 x16, 2 x PCIe x1, 1 x PCI, 4+8 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI, 6 x stereo, SPDIF|
|Price||around 80 €|
AMD's Strongest Hexa-core
The new Phenom gets the former price position of 1090T at 3.2 GHz, which has in turn cheapened, and brings no significant novelties, only an increased frequency. 1100T also has the Turbo Core technology, which speeds up the CPU up to 3.7 GHz in certain cases. As a reminder, Turbo Core is AMD's less flexible, but still effective response to Intel's Turbo Boost. In case that only up to three cores are under load, the other three cores switch to low power mode, while the other three are dynamically overclocked to 3.7 GHz, achieving a larger overall effective speed in active programs, while keeping power consumption at the same level. This is particularly useful to gamers, since video games still make much better use of higher frequencies than a large number of cores. The new hexa-core is a “Black Edition” one, with an unlocked frequency multiplier, but since it's a high-consumption CPU, the overclock margin is unimpressive and one shouldn't expect marvellous results, at least not on air cooling.
|AMD Phenom II X6 1100T|
|Frequency||3.3 GHz (3.7 GHz Turbo Core)|
|CPU socket||AMD AM3|
|L1 / L2 / L3 cache||6 x 128 / 6 x 512 / 6,144 kB|
|Supported memory||DDR2, DDR3|
|Technology process||45 nm|
|Power consumption||125 W|
|Price||around 250 €|