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MSI 870A Fuzion review

Enabling the mainstream to mix ATI and Nvidia in multi-GPU setups

MSI 870a fuzion

The last time a motherboard appeared with Lucid's Hydra chip, it was aimed at the enthusiast and carried a price tag to match.

Now MSI is targeting the 870A Fuzion at a wider audience by pitching it at the mainstream end of the market, and by using a mainstream chipset, the AMD 870A, they've managed to keep costs down. It means they can fit the Lucid Hydra 200 chip and still pitch the board at under £200.

Leaving the Hydra chip aside for a moment, this is a nice board. MSI has overcome the limitations of the chipset by adding a second PCIe x16 graphics slot, so the board can support Crossfire regardless of the Hydra technology.

Using discrete chips for the SATA 6Gbps (Marvell) and USB 3.0 (NEC) has brought the board bang up to date. This means you may not get as many ports as you might via a chipset supporting these natively, but two of each is still better than none.

If you like tinkering about and adjusting all sorts of speed and voltage settings, then there'll be plenty to keep you occupied with the 870A Fuzion. It comes with MSI's Auto OC Genie, which auto-detects the best overclocking configuration for the board in the BIOS.

There's also Unlock CPU Core, which, as the name suggests, helps to unlock hidden cores on your CPU. If this automatic stuff isn't for you, you can get your hands dirty in the BIOS, changing settings. If you really muck this up then there's M-Flash, which enables you to re-flash the BIOS via a USB drive.

The cut-down nature of the 870A chipset can be clearly seen in the Cinebench and X264 benchmarks when it's compared against the more capable 890FX.

In the multi-CPU render test in Cinebench R10, the 870A Fuzion completes the test in 54.14 seconds, nearly eight seconds slower than the 890FX. It's the same picture with the X264 benchmark, with the 870A lagging behind the more advanced 890FX.

The gaming performance results show what a good job MSI has done with engineering in the second PCIe slot. There isn't much of a difference in frame rates in Far Cry 2 between the 870A Fuzion and the 890FX. In Crossfire mode, the 890FX's native support achieved 94.42fps, while the 870A managed 89.59.

When it comes to the Lucid Hybrid chip, things get more complicated, because it seems very much game dependent.

The driver support appears to lean more towards ATI/AMD than Nvidia. When two ATI cards are installed together in a pseudo-Crossfire mode, the average frame rate score of 81.52fps in Far Cry 2 isn't that far away from the two standard setups of the 870A and the 890FX.

When it comes to Nvidia, it's a rather different picture. We got frame rates that, quite frankly, didn't make much sense – in the pseudo-SLI mode, the two cards seemed to show a marked decrease in frame rate than a single card.

Trying to sort out the Fermi performance of the Hydra chip is one of Lucid's top priorities, with frequent driver updates released to try to improve matters.

But on to the rather more important point, and the reason for Hydra's existence: can you put two cards with differing core architectures in the same motherboard and run them together?

Well, we have to say a qualified yes. There are still driver worries, because the performance with the mix of AMD and Nvidia cards falls somewhere between a single card and dual same architecture setups.

We liked

MSI's 870A is a well laid-out board that, despite the price tag, comes with many of the overclocking features found on more expensive boards in the range.

Even without the Lucid technology, it's a half-decent motherboard, but with it, it offers the potential of mixing AMD and Nvidia graphics card technologies on the same motherboard.

We disliked

Lucid's Hydra technology, although easy to install and run, isn't the finished article as yet, and in some cases hampers the graphics performance. There are also a couple of strange port positions on the motherboard.

Verdict

We're pleased MSI has made the effort to try to pitch the idea of multi-GPU, multi-architecture cards at an audience where it possibly it makes more sense, but Lucid's technology still seems very much like a work in progress.

To its credit, Lucid is releasing driver updates on a regular basis as problems are ironed out, and it does at least offer SLI support for an AMD platform.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeDesktop Motherboard
Chipset ManufacturerAMD
Chipset Model770
Multi GPU SupportedCrossFireX
Number of PCI Express x16 Slots2
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Processor SocketSocket AM3 PGA-941
Brand NameMSI
Form FactorATX
Processor SupportedPhenom II X3, Phenom II X4, Phenom II X2, Athlon II X3, Athlon II X2, Athlon II X4, Sempron, Phenom II X6
Total Processor Supported1
Maximum Memory16 GB
Green CompliantYes
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityWEEE
64-bit ProcessingYes
Number of Memory Slots4
Number of PCI Slots1
Audio Channels7.1
Gigabit EthernetYes
Number of SATA Interfaces8
HyperTransport Speed2600 MHz
RAID SupportedYes
Number of Total Expansion Slots5
Network (RJ-45)Yes
Total Number of USB Ports7
Number of USB 3.0 Ports1
Total Number of FireWire/i.LINK Ports1
PS/2 PortYes
Number of PS/2 Ports2
Total Number of Onboard USB Ports4
Total Number of Onboard FireWire/i.LINK Ports1
Total Number of PCI Express Slots4
Processor TechnologyCool'n'Quiet Technology
Width305 mm
Depth225 mm
ManufacturerMicro-Star International Co., Ltd
Product Model870A
Product Name870A Fuzion Desktop Motherboard
Product LineFuzion
Controller TypeSerial ATA/300, Serial ATA/600
Manufacturer Part Number870A FUZION
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.msicomputer.com
Marketing Information

Powered by MSI Fuzion Technology, MSI Fuzion Series MBs offer Non-Identical & Cross-Vendor Multi-GPU Processing; which allows users to install any 2 different level and brand graphics cards in a single system. The technology can perform scalable rendering to deliver near-linear gaming performance by load-balancing graphics processing tasks.

Limited Warranty3 Year