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AMD 890GX Chipset Review - SATA 6G goes native

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged:

The Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H

    This is one of the first AMD 890 boards to reach the market, and it certainly is a loaded board considering its pricepoint.  Retail price for this time is not set in stone, but I would expect it to be around the $169 mark at most.  Unlike the 785G, the 890G can split its 16 PCI-E 2.0 PEG lanes into 2 x 8 lanes.  It also has the NEC USB 3.0 controller, as well as the native SATA 6G support of the SB850 southbridge.

    The board features 128 MB of Sideport memory running at DDR-3 1333 speeds.  This local memory helps to speed up overall performance of the graphics, far more than just even relying on the main memory which is shared with the CPU.

The Gigabyte board (right) is a full featured ATX model with CrossFire support.  The MSI board is also fully featured with CrossFire support, but in Micro-ATX format.

    Gigabyte applied its Ultra-Durable 3 philosophy to this board, so it includes the 2 ounces of copper in the PCB, the solid ferrite core chokes, and solid capacitors throughout the design.  The board also features three times the power delivered to the USB ports as compared to older designs.

    Overall this board is a very nice design, but something of a throwback when it comes to power phases going to the CPU.  For a while it appeared as though we were headed to a power phase war between manufacturers, but happily it seems to have calmed down.  While higher end motherboards may still features 8+ phases, for those most part all those extra phases are wasted or merely immaterial when considering power consumption gains or overclocked stability.  This particular board features a 4+1 design, which is still plenty to drive even 140 watt TDP chips.  It is also apparently more than enough to power the upcoming Phenom II X6 chips from AMD.

    In the time that I have had this board, I have gone through three BIOS revisions.  Each was an improvement over the other in terms of stability, performance, or features.  The latest F3c BIOS revision now fully supports the AMD OverDrive utility and Black Edition Memory Profiles (BEMP).

    The board was very stable in testing, and did not appear to get overly hot.  The BIOS support was very good, with most every setting desired present.  It also allowed the use of BIOS profiles.  ACC is no longer supported in the SB850 chip, so it is not included in these new motherboards for core unlocking.

Gone are the 8+2 phases that Gigabyte has been well known for.  Instead the designers opted for a slightly cheaper, but still quite effective 4+1 phase setup.

Test Setup

    Due to time and budget constraints, I compared the 890GX to the older 785G with a SB750 southbridge .  Intel has made significant strides in integrated graphics performance, but it is still about 30% slower in most applications to the AMD 785G.  NVIDIA’s integrated performance is closer to AMD, but is still about 15% slower than the current AMD integrated parts.  I primarily wanted to see what performance improvements we are seeing from one generation to the next with AMD’s chipsets.

    For the base 785G testing I use the Catalyst 10.3 preview drivers, along with AMD’s AHCI drivers dated 10/2009.  The 890GX also uses the same Cat 10.3 drivers and AMD ACHI drivers.  I attempted to use the standard Microsoft AHCI 1.0 drivers, but performance on the SB 850 was significantly worse when using that driver.

Asus also has a horse in this race!  Unlike other offerings, this has a core unlocking mechanism in place.  The M4A89GTD series will take the 890GX in several different directions and pricepoints.

    I do not have a native USB 3.0 or SATA 6G storage device available for testing, but we are shipping a board off to Allyn ASAP to get connected to the Micron C300 SSD that he has in his possession.  He will also be delving into the IOPS performance of this new controller.

AMD Phenom II X2 555

2 x 2GB OCZ Platinum DDR-3 1600 @ DDR-3 1333 speeds with 7.7.7.30 timings

Seagate 500 GB 7200.11 Hard Drive

Lite-On SATA DVD-R/RW

Corsair 750TX Power Supply

OCZ Rally2 4GB Flash Drive for USB testing

Asus M4A785TD-EVO (AMD 785G chipset)

Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H

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