For Joe PC enthusiast, it's often a worry buying a cheap motherboard. How cheap can you go before boards don't have the features you need?
Manufacturers must be faced with a bit of a quandary in how to spec out their low-end boards too. This 970A-G45 from MSI is very cheap, so inevitably some sacrifices have had to be made to keep the cost down.
Most prevalent is the chipset. Unlike 990X and 990FX boards, models built around the 970 chipset don't support the brand new flavour of AMD-based SLI, but they do support two AMD graphics cards in CrossFireX configuration.
That makes sense for a £75 board, although it might frustrate owners of multiple Nvidia cards. As a rule of thumb, AMD chipsets play nicer with AMD graphics cards anyway, so you may be backed into a corner as far as GPU choice goes, but at least it's a corner with benefits.
In other areas, it's pleasantly bountiful for such a cheap mobo. Like its 990FXA-GD80 cousin (and most 990FX boards) it heaps six SATA 6Gbps ports on its slender PCB.
That's great on paper, but alas, their placement gives away the 970A-G45's weaker breeding. With a graphics card occupying the top PCI-e slot, the SATA ports lie awfully close to its fan, making it quite a hassle to drop in and pull out cables.
CPU video encoding performance
X246 v4: Frames per second: Higher is better
ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX: 33
Asus M5A99X EVO: 33
Asus RoG Crosshair V: 33
Asus Sabertooth 990FX: 32
Gigabyte 970A-UD3: 33
Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H: 33
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7: 33
MSI 970A-G45: 33
CPU rendering performance
Cinebench 11.5: Index score: Higher is better
ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX: 5.86
Asus M5A99X EVO: 5.86
Asus RoG Crosshair V: 5.86
Asus Sabertooth 990FX: 5.72
Gigabyte 970A-UD3: 5.78
Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H: 5.83
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7: 5.74
MSI 970A-G45: 5.71
Still, thanks to the similar performance of all AMD's chipsets you won't lose out in that regard.
A cup of sugar, a cup of dirt; if you're looking to save money this motherboard won't bite you on the bottom with a glaring lack of features, but it's hardly luxurious.