CES 2014 Hands-On: MSI AMD A88X-Gaming Board & 290X Lightning Specs

By Published January 07, 2014 at 9:58 am

With our coverage from CES 2014 rolling out rapidly (we’ve already outpaced last year’s coverage), we move now to MSI’s brand new motherboards and video card. MSI has been building their red-and-black dragon-embellished “Gaming” boards for a while now, but thus far, they’ve all been for Intel’s Haswell platform; the primary boards in MSI’s Intel line-up include the Z87-G45 Gaming and Z87-GD65 Gaming, with some troubleshooting and overclocking features differentiating them.

Until now, AMD has gotten a noticeably less amount of love from most major manufacturers – including MSI. Finally, though, AMD’s new A88X chipset (Kaveri) has arrived, heralding a new era of motherboards for the company’s microprocessors. In this CES 2014 hands-on preview, we look at the specs of MSI’s new A88XM Gaming and A88X-G45 Gaming motherboards, in addition to the 290X Lightning massive video card.

 

(This post was split between Hardware Editor Patrick Stone & Editor-in-Chief Steve Burke).

MSI A88XM Gaming & A88X-G45 Gaming Specs

Specs A88XM A88X-G45
Form Factor Micro-ATX ATX
Chipset A88X A88X
PCI-e 1 x16, 1 x8 1 x16, 2 x8
Phase Power Design 6+2 (or +3?) 8+2 (or +3?)
RAM Spec DDR3-2400 (OC) DDR3-2400 (OC)
SATA 6x6Gbps 8x6Gbps
USB 6xUSB3.0, 8xUSB2.0 6xUSB3.0, 8xUSB2.0

A88XMGAMING

The two motherboards aim to fill the void in MSI’s AMD product offerings; although neither board supports the Vishera platform, they have moved to adopt the new A88X AMD chipset for the impending Kaveri APU launch. The A88XM Gaming motherboard isn’t too dissimilar from its ATX form-factor G45 counterpart, but there are a couple of noteworthy differences (based on these prototype models): For starters, the A88XM board has – from what we could see in the suite – a 6+2 phase power design (might be 6+3), meanwhile the A88X G45 model offers a more standard 8+2 (might be 8+3) phase power design. For obvious reasons, the micro-ATX A88XM motherboard drops a PCI-e and PCI slot (yes, really), but nothing really odd or spectacular stands out here.

a88g45

These two boards mark MSI’s first foray into AMD with their rebranded “Gaming” product line. From the specifications listing and hands-on, it seems the G45 has strong overclocking potential and will primarily hinge on how Kaveri unfolds. There’s certainly nothing holding it back, so it’ll be a matter of whether Kaveri can leverage the phases to a purposeful degree (otherwise, the cheaper board options might do just as well).

MSI R9 290X Lightning Massive Video Card Hands-On & Specs // Patrick Stone

A quick look to the right as we entered MSI’s press suite revealed a new black-and-yellow monster.

msi-290x-2

If you’ve been doing system building for a while – especially in the 5000-series days – you already know that video cards have been gradually getting larger over the years. This one might be the most massive to date.

The sad news first: We weren’t able to see it in action, and MSI wasn’t disclosing any of the performance data. However, they did ensure us that this custom configuration runs cooler and quieter and thus is able to out-perform the reference design.

What we were able to garner is that the fans can be controlled separately. The two outer ones are paired on one controller and the middle one operates independently. The power connection represents a card with an appetite: To power this card, you’ll need 2x8-pin connectors and 1x6-pin connector, over the usual 2-connector requirement for reference 290X video cards. The cooling solution seems to use 5 heatpipes and wider spacing between the fins and mounts to the PCB, bracing a back-plate as large as the PCB itself. We can’t wait to get ahold of one of these to fully benchmark and then tear apart to see how it was put together.

Stay tuned as we’re likely to give you a better glimpse of MSI’s offerings soon.

Video Editing & Writing: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.
Writing: Patrick “MoCalcium” Stone.

 

Last modified on January 07, 2014 at 9:58 am
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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