I had mixed experiences with the MSI A88XM-E45. It’s a good looking Micro-ATX design that uses a classic MSI color scheme of blue and black with a chunky heat-sink on the power regulation hardware that is screwed in place. The smaller heat-sink on the chip-set is secured with a pair of plastic pop pins.
There are two blue PCI Express graphics slots that might be used for CrossFire. As is the usual way with these things the main slot is PCI Express 3.0 xl 6 while the second slot only offer four lanes of PCI Express.
In addition to that you get a PCI Express x1 slot and one PCI slot.
On the I/O panel we find two PS/2 ports, HDMI, DVI-D and VGA graphics outputs, two USB 2.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet and surround sound audio. The most eye-catching feature is the provision of four USB 3.0 ports on the I/O panel, and you also get a mid-board header that supports two more ports.
The only obvious feature on the MSI that jars are the six SATA connectors that stand vertically when I much prefer them to be laid horizontally.
In many respects the A88XM-E45 relies on the A88X chipset to supply all the features of this motherboard. This is highlighted by the tiny user guide which covers E45 variants of A88XM, A78M and A55M models and spells out that the main differences between the chipsets are the levels of support for USB and SATA.
Although the A88XM-E45 hardware is very conventional it has a particular strength in ease of setup that is common to every MSI motherboard I have seen in recent times.
Once the components are connected and the system is running well enough to present the UEFI setup screen you’re pretty much home and dry.
The UEFI setup screen is superb and takes advantage of a Full HD display. In particular I like the board explorer feature which shows a picture of the motherboard with details of the installed memory and expansion cards. Hardware monitor is also a marked improvement on most other motherboards as it displays graphs of temperature readings from each zone of the MSI.
Once you have checked that everything looks good in the setup screen you can install Windows and run the driver disc. Once the chipset and Ethernet drivers are installed the next job is to install MSI’s Live Update 5 software. At that stage you can sit back and let the software update the BIOS, install the latest version of every driver and ultimately deliver a PC that is ready for action.
At this stage I was happy with with MSI A88XM-E45 and it delivered decent test results in 3D Mark using the integrated graphics and also with an add-in graphics card.
The problem came when I ran PC Mark 8 as the system froze time after time in the middle of the test. I swapped the memory around from slot to slot, tried other makes and speeds of memory and switched the A10- 6790K APU for an A10-5800K.
In every other respect the MSI A88XM-E45 behaved perfectly and was a lovely little motherboard but the inability to run PC Mark 8 clouded my judgement. It is possible that I had a bad BIOS or dodgy.