Unlike NVIDIA's continuous revamping of their nForce4 chipset family, the K8T890 is still VIA's long standing single graphics chipset. As a dedicated PCI Express Northbridge, the K8T890 can still pull in the stops with VIA's modular V-Link design. However, the Chaintech MK8T890 has a more demure setup. Despite the dominance of Socket 939 today, Chaintech has adapted the MK8T890 for Socket 754 support only. This distinctly puts the board in the OEM space and/or as a budget replacement board for older hardware. The chipset is paired with the VIA VT8237R Southbridge, featuring built-in support for 6-channel audio and Fast Ethernet. Although its feature list is dated, users will still get SATA storage support and a full range of USB 2.0 ports. The VIA K8T890 is also a PCI Express chipset, so your graphics upgrade options are still open for the foreseeable future.
Interestingly, the MK8T890 is the only board we've come across so far with a full ensemble of VIA components. Chaintech has chosen to make full use of motherboard-supported features to lower cost. Instead of relying on an independent network controller, the board features VIA Networking's VT6103L PHY chip that complements the built-in Fast Ethernet MAC. Audio is also controlled by VIA's VT1617A Vinyl AC'97 CODEC. With jack sensing, users can make use of the full 6-channel audio without additional connections. The only component lacking is FireWire support and although Chaintech's website has it listed as an optional component, there doesn't seem to be a separate SKU available for the MK8T890 that has this feature.
Although we understand where the MK8T890 is being pitched at, the tech evangelist in us is still sore that there isn't a single PCI Express component or expansion slot onboard (besides the one graphics slot of course), which seems to be total waste of a PCI Express chipset. A faster network controller couldn't have added that much to the board price and a three expansion slot Micro ATX board isn't all that far fetched. Still, we reckon that this board can still hold its own ground for low cost rigs (gamers included) as the AMD Sempron processors are adequate for everyday needs and when coupled with the right graphics card and adequate memory, you get a very affordable gaming rig. Better yet, if you can procure a used Athlon 64 (Socket 754), the performance obtainable from this Chaintech MK8T890 is almost as good as the latest motherboards.
The Chaintech MK8T890 is a very slim motherboard, trimmed to fit nicely into a Micro-ATX PCB and although the form factor doesn't allow Chaintech's short depth designs, the motherboard layout is still carried out in such a way. The CPU socket and DIMM slots are both rotated 90-degrees of the traditional placements so that the DIMM slots are now parallel to the expansion slots instead of being perpendicular. For a board such as the MK8T890, this gives a distinct impression of a structured layout with plenty of circulation room, which is a good thing. IDE and floppy storage connectors are located towards the front-middle portion of the board, while the ATX power is at the rear. Normally, we'd have commented this, but because the CPU socket is placed deep within the center of the board, there is plenty of room on both sides to route cables through.
Ever since MHz adjustable BIOSes have been the norm, we've not seen the static options such as those on the MK8T890. User's will still get access to rudimentary functions, but there are no options for voltage settings, CPU multiplier or advanced memory timings. The limited FSB frequency settings only go up to 220MHz and are tied to the PCIe and PCI buses. That's right, no bus locking either. We managed to get it running at 210MHz, but evidently, Chaintech doesn't mean for this board to be overclocked.