AMD 880G Mobo Roundup - New Mainstream Integrated Graphics


ASUS M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3

ASUS M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3

The ASUS M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 is the only ATX board among the three and the extra PCB allows it to bone up on the usual proprietary features. Among the more familiar names like ExpressGate and EZ Flash 2, are newer ones like Core Unlocker and Turbo Unlocker. Core Unlocker allows users to unlock any hidden cores on their AMD processors and is increasingly prevalent among motherboard vendors. Turbo Unlocker, which we covered in some detail here during our testing of the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula, is a slight but useful, automatic overclock of any AMD Phenom II X6 processor or 'Black Edition' quad-core. Essentially, one gets a small performance boost for 'free' and we aren't one to say no to that.

Besides the proprietary stuff, ASUS included an IDE connector onboard to supplement the five SATA 6Gbps ports and the sole eSATA port. To drive home the point that this is a premium 880G board, other features like USB 3.0 and FireWire are found. We attribute these additions to the more than adequate PCB area, which also allows ASUS to include a second PCIe 2.0 x16 slot for CrossFireX. So, while the typical AMD 880G board could usually do Hybrid CrossFireX (currently only certified for Radeon HD 5450) with the integrated graphics, this board can actually do CrossFireX with two discrete graphics cards, including even dual-slot cards.

Speaking of which, the integrated Radeon HD 4250 on the ASUS M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 is clocked significantly higher than the 560MHz default. How high? How would 700MHz sound? That's equivalent to the Radeon HD 4290 found on the 890GX chipset. There's also 128MB of DDR3-1333 SidePort memory to go along with this. In the gaming benchmarks, you'll find this clock advantage to be quite clear, and while it will not match a decent discrete graphics solution, it's more than what we had expected. ASUS has included tools in the BIOS to tweak the graphics core clocks, with an automated GPU Boost feature. The same goes for the CPU, which has a similar set of features available in the BIOS.

 

ASUS has been using a blue color scheme for its mainstream and performance range of motherboards and this is no different.

The rear I/O on this board is quite standard, with just a single PS/2 port but with two USB ports instead. The three video outputs, HDMI, DVI and analog VGA is accounted for and besides the two blue USB 3.0 ports, there are two more USB 2.0/1.1 ports. FireWire and eSATA complete the interfaces.

There are five SATA 6Gbps ports internally and while they are aligned facing upwards, they shouldn't interfere with any of your board components or add-on cards.

The usual four DIMM slots for DDR3 memory.

Here are the switches to toggle Core Unlocker, Turbo Key II and MemOK!. All three features are found on ASUS' other boards, like the Crosshair IV Formula. Given the presence of such onboard buttons, we were almost surprised that there were no power/reset buttons onboard and resetting the CMOS relied on a jumper instead of a button.

ASUS has included an IDE connector here and while it may look like a uncommon orientation and location to place the connector, ASUS manages to avoid clashing with dual-slot graphics cards. There could be a minor issue with the IDE cable though, as it has to be sufficiently long to loop over a dual-slot graphics card, which is the only way we think you might reach an IDE-based optical drive on your system.

Two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots are found and they are capable of supporting CrossFireX (x8/x8 configuration). Other than the PEG slots, there's just one PCIe x1 slot and three PCI slots.

The passive heatsinks are quite understated but the edges of the fins can be quite sharp.

The relatively new Realtek ALC892 HD audio CODEC is preferred, as is the trend we noticed from ASUS recently.

Of course, the NEC USB 3.0 controller that's found practically everywhere on boards which support USB 3.0.  

Like the Crosshair IV Formula, our impression of the M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 is that the design and quality lives up to ASUS' high standards. The layout is generally fine, despite the somewhat unconventional placement of the IDE connector. The Northbridge heatsink however does seem a bit too close to the CPU socket and we had some slight difficulties in removing our third-party CPU cooler, which was being hindered by the fins of the heatsink. Overall, the sense is that this is a premium board, and the quality components chosen along with a healthy list of features serves to convey this impression further.