The AM2V890-VSTA is designed for the entry-level Socket AM2 market, sporting a classic K8T890 setup with the familiar VT8237A as its Southbridge. ASRock has designed the board to be easy on features to keep costs down, but still seemingly enough to meet the requirements for the Windows Vista Premium Logo Hardware Ready program. HD Audio is one of the key components here and we were pleasantly surprised to find a high-end Realtek ALC888 HD CODEC instead of the value edition ALC883 that comes with many budget boards. The board is also one of the first in the market to start featuring direct HDMI S/PDIF connector onboard that allows you to route onboard audio to a HDMI capable graphics card for output to consumer electronic devices like HDTVs.
The AM2V890-VSTA is a single GPU motherboard, with additional PCIe and PCI expansion slots. The attention grabber is an open ended PCIe x4 slot, which should be able to support an additional graphics card for multi-monitor output. However, the VT8723A only has four PCIe lanes to spare so by default, both PCIe expansion slots run at x1 mode. You'll need to flip a jumper to enable the PCIe x4 slot to run at x4 mode, though this will disable the remaining PCIe x1 slot.
The VT8723A Southbridge has basic storage support with two RAID capable 1.5Gbps SATA ports (RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD) and two Ultra ATA-133 connectors. However, the older chipset will not support NCQ. In light of all new chipsets doing away with IDE connections, the AM2V890-VSTA will at least be IDE friendly, retaining support for up to four IDE devices Connectivity-wise the AM2V890-VSTA will only come with one Fast Ethernet port, which is itself powered by the onboard MAC in the Southbridge. ASRock uses a VIA Networking VT6103 PHY to complement the MAC. Eight USB 2.0 ports are a given connectivity feature, though the board will not have support for FireWire.
The AM2V890-VSTA is designed with a compacted ATX PCB, retaining the full 12-inch length, but ASRock shaved 1.6-inches off its width to save space. At a glance, the board looks to have a decent layout, but once you start installing the board, there are some component placement issues you should look out for, especially the main 24-pin ATX, floppy and both IDE connectors, which are all non-ideally located. Other than that, the board is actually CPU and graphics card friendly with space to spare even if you happen to have one of those cards with outlandish coolers.
- FSB Settings: 200MHz to 450MHz
- RAM Frequency: DDR2-400, DDR2-533, DDR2-667, DDR2-800
- Memory Voltage Settings: Auto, Low, Normal, High, Ultra High
- Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only)
Let us just say this outright - The AM2V890-VSTA is not an overclocking motherboard - period. The BIOS of the AM2V890-VSTA is totally devoid of any voltage options except for a very vague and ambiguous memory setting. Users are able to toggle memory voltage from Normal to Ultra High, but there is no documentation on what the actual values are. As it turns out however, the memory voltage option might as well not exist either since the board will only run our low latency DDR2-800 memory stable at the maximum 'Ultra High' setting.
In our efforts at overclocking the board, we managed to achieve a 240MHz FSB with a 5x HTT multiplier, which was actually a decent score for the VIA K8T890, but then the board refused to budge any further even after the HTT multiplier was lowered to 4x and subsequently 3x. All memory frequencies and CPU multipliers have been lowered to compensate for the increase in FSB, but 240MHz is all we were able to get.