Running multiple graphics cards is one way to improve gaming performance.
The industry is designed around using multiples of the same vendor’s products – two ATI or two NVIDIA cards – rather than mix and match. Thanks to the Hydra 200 chip, the MSI 870A Fuzion is able to run both ATI and NVIDIA cards together. The Hydra 200, from Israeli company Lucidlogix, acts as a PCI Express controller that can split workloads between multiple cards. This allows any combination of PCI Express graphics cards on a motherboard to both help render the scene.
Until now Hydra has been restricted to MSI’s enthusiast Big Bang Fuzion motherboards, though we saw it on ASUS’ Immensity concept motherboard at Computex. With the 870A Fuzion MSI has brought Hydra to a mainstream motherboard using AMD’s 770 chipset (functionally identical to the 870 chipset after which the board is named).
The premise is that you can plug in two different graphics cards – older models, or even newer models of graphics card – to work hand in hand.
However, over an entire day of testing various graphics cards with a variety of benchmark programs, we could only find one test where a combination of cards showed any benefit – a 22% improvement for a GeForce GTX 470 and a RADEON HD 5850 compared to a single GeForce GTX 470, using the 3DMark Vantage benchmark.
In games, combining two graphics cards usually led to a drop in performance. We mixed old and new cards, new and new cards, old and old cards and even identical cards, but none showed a gaming performance improvement.
Unfortunately, the failure of the Hydra 200 chip removes the 870A’s main selling point. Take it away and you’re left with a motherboard that packs a reasonable but unexciting feature set.
Because it uses the SB710 Southbridge it only has two SATA 6Gbps ports running via a Marvell controller, with the rest of the channels running at SATA 3Gbps.
The board does sport USB 3.0, although one port is kept internal to support cases with USB 3.0 front ports, leaving access to only one rear port and one of the two front ports that come on USB 3.0 supporting chassis.
The MSI 870A Fuzion just doesn’t live up to its promises. While a decent offering for AM3 owners, the Hydra chip fails to deliver upon the promised performance boosts where it counts. If it worked as it was described this would be a fantastic board, but as it is it compromises cutting edge features for the ability to run two graphics cards at less-than-stellar speeds. Which just isn’t good enough.