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AMD 890FX Roundup - A Quartet of AMD's Finest

AMD 890FX Roundup - A Quartet of AMD's Finest


A Quartet of AMD's Finest

A Quartet of AMD's Finest

Lost amidst the headlines surrounding the launch of AMD's 6-core Phenom II X6 desktop processors was the simultaneous introduction of AMD's updated enthusiast chipset, the AMD 890FX. While review sites naturally dedicated some time to it (we gave it a page here), there wasn't time to examine the various 890FX boards in-depth. The fact that the AMD 890FX is mostly similar to its predecessor, with the exception of a new Southbridge, meant that there was even less of a story for the press. After all, the new SB850 may bring SATA 6Gbps support, but for most users still using older SATA 3Gbps hard drives, the newer interface is unlikely to bring immediate benefits. 

In any case, we have already tested the AMD Phenom II X6 and its Turbo Core technology to our hearts' content. This brings us finally to the high-end enthusiast AMD 890FX motherboards that vendors hope you purchase along with a brand-new 6-core processor. And maybe a couple or even a quartet of AMD Radeon HD 5800 graphics cards for quad CrossFireX if you are at it.

Don't be surprised if we tell you that some of these motherboards cost as much or almost as much as a Phenom II X6, for among them are premium models from top brands like ASUS, Biostar, Gigabyte and MSI. Although we've gathered the top boards from each maker in this round-up, the Biostar board is the most affordable 890FX motherboard in our mix and should make for an interesting comparison.

An interesting trend that we noticed for these four boards is that while AMD has removed the Advanced Clock Calibration feature that was used by enthusiasts to unlock the 'disabled or hidden' cores on certain AMD processors, the motherboard vendors have stepped up and introduced their own unlocking features. All four boards have their form of 'core unlocking' and one can even go to the extent of turning certain cores on/off if you choose to.

The 'unlock' is as simple as enabling a setting in the BIOS, which is certainly an improvement over the past, where one has to scour forums online to find the right model and the correct BIOS version to unlock an AMD processor, as we documented here. Before we examine the merits of these boards in the next few pages, the specifications are listed below. As we have previewed three of these boards, ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI, we will be using some of the content and images from those previews. 

Our AMD 890FX Contenders
  ASUS Crosshair IV Formula Biostar TA890FXE Gigabyte GA-890FXA-UD7 MSI 890FXA-GD70
CPU Support AMD Socket AM3 Processors (Phenom II / Athlon II / Sempron)
Chipset AMD 890FX and SB850
Memory
  • Supports 4 unbuffered DIMM of DDR3-2000/1866 (O.C)/1333/1066 SDRAM
  • Supports up to 16GB memory size
  • Supports 4 unbuffered DIMM of DDR3-1600 (O.C)/1333/1066 SDRAM
  • Supports up to 16GB memory size
  • Supports 4 unbuffered DIMM of DDR3-1866 (O.C)/1333/1066/800 SDRAM
  • Supports up to 16GB memory size
  • Supports 4 unbuffered DIMM of DDR3-2133/1800/1600 (O.C) 1333/1066 SDRAM
  • Supports up to 16GB memory size
Storage
  • Southbridge
    • 6 x SATA 6Gbit/s ports
    • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 configurations
  • JMicron JMB363 controller
    • 1 x SATA 3.0Gbps (black) port
    • 1 x eSATA 3.0Gbps port
  • Southbridge
    • 5 x SATA 6Gbit/s ports
    • 1 x eSATA port (rear)
    • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD configurations
  • VIA VT6330
    • 1 x Ultra DMA 133/100 for up to 2 PATA devices
  • Southbridge
    • 6 x SATA 6Gbit/s ports
    • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD configurations
  • Gigabyte SATA2 chip
    • 2 x SATA 3.0Gbps ports
    • Support for SATA RAID 0, 1 and JBOD
    • 1 x Ultra DMA 133/100 for up to 2 PATA devices
  • JMicron JMB363 controller
    • 2 x eSATA 3.0Gbps ports (rear I/O)
    • Support for SATA RAID 0, 1 and JBOD
  • iTE IT8720 controller
    • 1 x floppy drive connector
  • Southbridge
    • 6 x SATA 6Gbit/s ports
    • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD configurations
  • JMB363 controller
    • 1 x Ultra DMA 133/100 for up to 2 PATA devices
    • 1 x SATA 3.0Gbps port
    • 1 x eSATA port (rear)
Audio
  • SupremeFX X-Fi HD audio CODEC (VIA VT2020)
  • EAX Advanced HD 4.0
  • X-Fi  CMSS 3D
  • X-Fi Crystalizer
  • Creative ALchemy
  • Realtek ALC892 HD CODEC
  • Realtek ALC889 HD CODEC
  • Realtek ALC889 HD CODEC
Networking
  • Marvell 8059 Gigabit Ethernet controller
  • Realtek 8111DL Gigabit Ethernet controller
  • 2 x Realtek 8111DL Gigabit Ethernet controllers
  • 2 x Realtek 8111DL Gigabit Ethernet controllers
IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
  • VIA VT6315N chip
  • Up to 2 IEEE 1394a ports (1 rear, 1 header)
  • VIA VT6330N chip
  • Up to 2 IEEE 1394a ports (1 rear, 1 header)
  • T.I TSB43AB23 chip:
  • Up to 3 x IEEE 1394a ports (2 rear, 1 header)
  • VIA VT6315N chip
  • Up to 2 IEEE 1394a ports (1 rear, 1 header)
I/O Interface
  • 6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (blue)
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN port
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF output
  • 1 x eSATA port
  • 1 x IEEE 1394a port
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • ROG Connect button and USB port
  • Clear CMOS button
  • 6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN port
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF output
  • 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF output
  • 1 x eSATA port
  • 1 x IEEE 1394a port
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse
  • 6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  • 2 x eSATA/USB combo ports
  • 2 x RJ45 LAN port
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF output
  • 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF output
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  • 1 x eSATA/USB combo port
  • 5 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  • 2 x RJ45 LAN ports
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF output
  • 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF output
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse
  • Clear CMOS button
Expansion Slots
  • 3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (x16/x16 or x16/x8/x8)
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x4 slot
  • 2 x PCI slots
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (x16/x16)
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x4 slot
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slot
  • 2 x PCI slots
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (x16/x16 if both slots filled, x8 if all four PCIe slots filled)
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x8 slots
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x4 slots (1 slot is by default configured at x1, to run at x4, it will disable Gigabyte SATA2 chip due to shared bandwidth)
  • 1 x PCI slot
  • 4 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slots
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x4 slot
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slot
  • 1 x PCI slot
Special Features
  • MemOK!
  • iROG
  • ROG Connect
  • Turbo Key II
  • Core Unlocker
  • ASUS EZ Flash 2
  • ASUS TurboV EVO
  • Overclocking Navigator Engine
  • BIO-Flasher
  • Self Recovery System
  • TOverclocker
  • Q-Flash
  • EasyTune
  • Easy Energy Saver
  • Q-Share
  • Auto Green
  • Xpress Recovery 2
  • DrMOS
  • M-Flash
  • OC Dial
  • OC Genie Lite
  • GreenPower
PCB ATX form factor, 30.5 x 24.5cm XL-ATX form factor, 32.5 x 24.4cm ATX form factor, 30.5 x 24.5cm