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MSI 970A-G43 (MS-9763) MOTHERBOARD

MSI 970A-G43 (MS-9763) MOTHERBOARDThe MSI 970A-G43 (MS-7693) is a standard ATX motherboard designed for entry level gaming machines using a single video card.

  • AMD Socket AM3
  • AMD 970 + SB950
  • DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1866/2133*(*OC)
  • 4 memory slots, dual channel
  • Renasas µPD720202 USB 3.0 controller
  • Realtek RTL8111E Gigabit Ethernet
  • Realtek ALC997 HD Audio
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16
  • PCI Express 2.0 x4
  • PCI Express 2.0 x1 (pair)
  • PCI (pair)

REGULATORS

The regulators on the 970A-G43 are 4+1 phase which  AMD generally uses for 125W TDP. Mainstream enthusiast processors are now 125W with some 95W binned models. AMD and Intel are now increasingly manufacturing lower power processors for media center and NAS type applications.

The CPU regulator uses inexpensive On-Semi DPAK MOSFETs. It uses a simple 4+1-phase design to power the AM3+ socket. The regulators on the MSI 970A-G43 have holes for a heat spreader but we have not noticed any thermal problems. At the price point the 970A-G43 competes at, aesthetics are an expendable luxury.

SLOTS

The slots are well positioned for most mid-tower chassis when using full length display adapters. The black large heat sink is close to the board and does not get in the way of a video card or CPU cooler. We are using an AMD OEM cooler with heatpipes which is shipped with 125W boxed processors.

CAPACITORS

MSI uses the cylindrical (wound) polymer aluminum electrolytic capacitors which are easily recognized by their blue and white tops. There are over 40 electrolytic capacitors on the MSI 970-G43 which is the most we have seen on a motherboard. Most motherboards use semiconductors.

SB950

The AMD 970 crossbar and SB950 southbridge make this board a very powerful contender. The AMD 970 is designed for mainstream single video card systems. The SB950 is usually seen on more expensive motherboards which provides for the SATA600 and abundant USB 2.0 ports.

USB 3.0

The MSI 970A-G43 has the Renasas µPD720202. This is a USB host controller compatible with the USB 3.0 and xHCI (eXtensible Host Controller Interface) 1.0 specifications. The system bus is compatible with the PCI Express 2.0 specification. The controller provides two USB ports with LS (low-Speed) / FS (full-Speed) / HS (high-Speed) / SS (SuperSpeed) support. The MSI 970A-G43 has one USB 3.0 port on the rear and the front panel USB 3.0 header uses the second port.

AUDIO

The audio is provided by the Realtek ALC887 which provides Dolby, DTS etc. full support for DVD and Blu-ray media. The vast majority us uses are likely to use standard stereo speakers or possibly a front panel headset.

NETWORK

The LAN adapter is the Realtek 8111E. The provides 10/100/1000 Ethernet speeds with full automatic rate control. The 8111E is rich with a full range of layer 2 capability.

INTERNAL CONNECTIONS

  •  1 x ATX 24-pin power connector
  • 1 x ATX 8-pin 12V CPU power connector
  • CPU x 1 / System x 2 fan connectors
  • 1 x Front panel audio connector
  • 1 x Front panel connector
  • 1 x Chassis intrusion switch connector
  • 3 x USB 2.0 connectors
  • 1 x USB 3.0 connector
  • 1 x Serial connector
  • 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
  • 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  • 1 x TPM module connector

Brackets are available for those who need to use the serial port. Brackets are available for USB ports as well. These connect to the motherboard headers. We have a 4 port USB bracket which uses a pair of motherboard ports. PCI and PCI Express USB cards are inexpensive.

IO SHIELDMSI 970A-G43 IO Shield

  • USB 3.0 (2 ports)
  • USB 2.0 (6 ports)
  • Ethernet 1000BASE-T
  • PS/2 (keyboard or mouse)
  • Audio (6 channel, S/PDIF)

The IO shield is relatively basic. Serial and parallel were long ago assimilated by USB. Mice were quick to adopt USB, printers were close behind. Keyboards lagged by comparison mostly as they are very durable.

CPU

The MSI MSI 970A-G43 is designed for 125W processors. The Athlon II X2 250 (Regor) is designed for 65W operation. The Athlon II series will AMD’s first processor with hardware C1E (a low-power state). This means the Athlon II will be very energy efficient when idle or at standby.

We then tested the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition which make the 970A-G43 run well. Clearly this board can take advantage of the more recent processors effectively.

This motherboard cannot use CPUs with more than 200W power. The AMD FX-9570 processor is not supported.

RAM

The AM3+ platform is DDR3 only. We have tested G.Skill. Micron, Elpida, Nanya and KIngston memory which all work well with the 970A-G43.

G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM 2133 (PC3 17000) Desktop Memory Model F3-2133C11D-16GXL

VIDEO

The MSI 970A-G43 lacks integrated video but we have an available HD 5450. This board can also support dual slot cards easily for gaming.

Unlike NVIDIA, AMD cards can be installed in the x4 slot and operated in CFX mode. The additional bandwidth of using dual bridge cables help considerably.

Media center boxes need to be sure the video card supports HDCP Our Asus EAH5450 512MB and Sapphire HD 6970 both lack HDCP which frustrates BD use with Cyberlink PowerDVD.

FAN CONTROL

The MSI 970A-G43 lacks many fan headers. There is the CPU fan and a sensor only on the rear fan. The front fan is run at 100% at all times. Low cost fan control boxes fit the optical drive bay and can control 4 channels. These cost $10 and are a opoular solution.

UEFI

The MSI 970A-G43 barely supports UEFI which means no worries about using larger capacity storage. Four of the six SATA headers are angled to make cable management easier. There is a TPM socket on this board. Video cards need UEFI support as well. UEFI will require the hard disk or SSD to be wiped clean to use GPT. The the fast boot can be used to get Windows loaded faster from a reboot.

We tried UEFI and VBIOS video cards and the MSI board did not seem to care one way or another. This is in contrast to Asus which was more demanding.Using a 2TB system disk eliminated any worries over UEFI and disk limits. Larger disks can be used as data for iTunes etc.,

Eventually the video card sector will modernize however there is  lot of inertia.

MSI FAST CHARGE

MSI Fast Charge works with USB 3.0 to increase the power for charging mobile devices. The industry generally now runs USB power from the 5V standby so that machines can charge equipment while sleeping etc. The front USB 3.0  ports are provisioned with 2A of current for the BCS 1.2 protocol.

PERFORMANCE

The old AMD 770 was a good system in 2010, today however the AMD 970 provides a welcome boost in performance. The low cost of RAM means its very affordable to equip the MSI 970A-G43 with 16384MB main memory to manage with the most demanding programs. Photoshop is know to use a lot of memory. Many Autodesk programs are also very demanding.

The low cost AMD Athlon II 250 is sufficient for a basic video card. We noticed some tests with a GTX 295 which is roughly the same as our GTX 260 SLI (216 core). CPU performance is very mature, most gains from smaller semiconductor are speed and power consumption.

SOFTWARE

MSI has the usual bundle of software that comes on a DVD with the motherboard. The software bundle is not needed as the drivers are all included with Windows. The software is .NET which seems to run very slowly, which suggests a new compiler is needed to resolve the performance issues.

BIOS UPDATE

Do not use the MSI live update tool to flash the BIOS, it does not work. The BIOS can be flashed from a standard FAT32 formatted USB stick which works properly. Simply unzip the BIOS archive, and save the contents to the root of the low capacity USB FAT16 or FAT32 stick. We used the BIOS to install a BIOS A.60 update which offered some corrections to known issues.

PROBLEMS

The UEFI BIOS A.60 will not enumerate an alternate PCI Express cards if the onboard devices are disabled. We also found other PCI or PCI Express cards would not enumerate when the integrated devices are disabled. We tested a Via USB 3.0 PCI Express card and Via VT6421 PCI SATA/EIDE card. We also tested a Realtek PCI Express network card.

BIOS RESET

A few times the BIOS has become mangled due to faults. MSI conveniently has a reset jumper which can be used for forcibly reset the BIOS. We used a screwdriver to short the pins while booting the board which eventually got access to the BIOS restored.

BUILD

The 970A-G43 runs well when installed in our Corsair Carbide 300R chassis which has rear and top fans near the CPU and regulators. This keeps the CPU and regulators well cooled which should give this motherboard a long service life. Inadequate cooling has been the bane of many motherboards.

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