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We have certainly seen quite a number of MSI's 'GD80' models over the years for various chipsets and with the exception of the occasional GD85 and of course, its Big-Bang series, the GD80 represents a pretty high-end member of MSI's lineup. Hence, there's a certain level of expectations about what we'll find on the MSI 990FXA-GD80, as it's an enthusiast class board for an enthusiast level chipset.
In terms of hardware, we weren't disappointed. MSI may have more extreme boards with hardcore overclocking features than this GD80, but with its latest incarnation of MSI's Military Class feature and practical blend of features, this is definitely an upper mid-range board. Like the ASUS Sabertooth 990FX, it comes with four PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, but effectively, only three can be effectively used by consumers.
MSI does not add more SATA ports with more controllers, but you'll get your JMicron fix with two eSATA ports at the rear. There is just a single Gigabit LAN port, which shows again that this is not the flagship 990FX from MSI, even if we think two is too many. VIA provides FireWire support, which we suppose is expected for this segment; we are just not fans of the interface when USB 3.0 available. FireWire still has its uses, but only to the video editing folks who have camcorders to support that output.
With decently low-profile heatsinks, a clean layout and onboard buttons, including the all-important Clear CMOS at the rear, this MSI board gets things right. We can't tell how it'll perform but with the quality of the components, it should be more than decent.
For those of you who have tried and hated MSI' cartoonish UEFI BIOS interface, the return of a plain, generic BIOS (from American Megatrends like the ECS board) is a huge relief. Since we haven't yet tried it ourselves, aside from glancing at the manual, we will hold our judgment for now, but we believe that it's a good move.
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