On-Board Peripherals

The AMD 990FX chipset is a two-chip solution. The south bridge chip is an SB950 chip, which is a renamed SB850. This chip supports six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 5 and 10). These ports are located on the motherboard edge rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 motherboardFigure 4: USB 3.0 (blue) and SATA-600 (white) ports

The portrayed motherboard also has two eSATA-300 ports, controlled by a JMicron JMB362 chip. There is no support for a floppy disk drive controller or an ATA-133 port.

This motherboard has 10 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. It also has two USB 3.0 ports, controlled by an NEC (Renesas) µPD720200 chip. These ports are located at the motherboard rear panel. This motherboard has a front panel connector for these USB 3.0 ports. See Figure 4. The board comes with an I/O bracket for you to convert this front panel connector into two USB 3.0 ports. We don’t understand why this motherboard comes with this adapter, since the ports available on the front panel header are shared with the ports located at the rear panel. This gives the impression that the product has four USB 3.0 ports, which is not the case.

 The 990FXA-GD80 has two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports, one at the motherboard rear panel and one available at a header on the motherboard. These ports are controlled by a VIA VT6315N chip.

This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC892 codec. Finally, Realtek is disclosing the specifications of this chip, which include 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs. These specs are good for the mainstream user, but if you are looking into working professionally with audio editing, you should look for a motherboard that provides an SNR of at least 97 dB for the analog input. Since this is a high-end motherboard, we expected that MSI would use a better codec, such as the Realtek ALC889.

The portrayed motherboard comes with independent analog audio outputs, a coaxial SPDIF output and an optical SPDIF output. You can route digital audio to your video card to have digital audio in the HDMI connector using the available “JSP1” header.

This motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors, clear CMOS button, coaxial and optical SPDIF connector, FireWire port, six USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA-300 ports (shared with two USB 2.0 ports), one Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports (blue), and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.

MSI 990FXA-GD80 motherboardFigure 5: Motherboard rear panel


Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.