The Phenom II X6 - AMD Replies with Six Cores

AMD 890FX Chipset + New OverDrive & Fusion Utilities

The AMD 890FX Chipset

With the new processor's backward compatibility with existing chipsets, there's no need to run out to get a new motherboard for the AMD Phenom II X6. But in case you're feeling the upgrade itch, AMD has a whole slew of updated chipsets to meet your needs, from the mainstream 880G (an updated 785G) to the 890GX that was released last month. For the enthusiast segment, AMD has updated its 790FX chipset and renamed it 890FX. These motherboards will be available around the same time as the Phenom II X6 and should be a fitting companion for the enthusiast, what with its support for up to quad-CrossFireX and SATA 6Gbps.


For the most part, the 890FX is unchanged from its predecessor, with the SB850 and its 6Gbps support the most significant upgrade.


Like the AMD 890GX, the major new feature on the AMD 890FX is the presence of the new SB850 Southbridge. SATA 6Gbps is native on this Southbridge, though USB 3.0, while supported on many newer boards, is still implemented via a third-party NEC controller. There is however 14 USB 2.0 ports, with the usual HD audio and Gigabit Ethernet rounding off the Southbridge.

There's no integrated graphics on the 890FX of course, but bandwidth is not an issue, with up to four x8 PCIe lanes for quad-CrossFireX should the motherboard vendor decide to go with this configuration. The alternative is the more common two x16 configuration. The 890FX also has hardware support for IOMMU, which is a feature not found on the lower tier 890GX. This is something for those who use virtualization, as the feature enables system devices to use their native drivers in a virtualized environment, leading to better performance. It's not a feature you'll see on desktop chipsets, and according to AMD, even those who are not into virtualization, can benefit from having a dedicated hardware controller doing memory isolation and protection.


AMD OverDrive and Fusion Desktop Utility

AMD also has updated its utilities for the launch. OverDrive (ver 3.2.1), its tweaking and monitoring tool, gets a refresh, notably with the addition of Turbo Core Control for users. This allows users to check if Turbo Core is working properly and to what extent, along with a clock and voltage tuning section. The new chipsets, 890FX and 880G are also supported on the new version. Together with the usual tweaks and overclocking adjustments, it should keep any enthusiast occupied. 

OverDrive can be intimidating for the less experienced user. Watching the clock speeds in real time can be fascinating in itself. It certainly has everything you can wish for in a tweaking utility. Here you can turn off Turbo Core and even adjust the number of cores affected.

Meanwhile, AMD's Fusion Utility for Desktop is into its second version. It's targeted at more casual users that ideally have both AMD CPU and GPU in their systems. There are tools for performance tuning of both the graphics and the processor for the enthusiast, while preset profiles and Auto-Tuning options are available for the less experienced. It supports Windows Vista and 7 only.

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