With both AMD and Intel committed to integrating graphics with their processors, one has to wonder if chipsets like the AMD 880G, which have a separate graphics core on the motherboard, may be one of the last of its breed. Especially since the AMD 880G is targeted at the mainstream segment, where users may not care too much about raw graphics performance and where the onboard HD playback capability is what matters. While the Intel HD Graphics on its Clarkdale family wasn't that impressive, it was decent enough for HD playback that users would find Intel's solution indistinguishable from the Radeon HD 4250 on the AMD 880G. We believe that a similar situation will occur when AMD launches its first 'Fusion' product, Llano, next year.
Coming back to the AMD 880G chipset, it has a Northbridge that's practically identical to that on its 785G predecessor. With a slight 60MHz boost in the clock speed of the integrated Radeon HD 4250, the onboard graphics performance is marginally better than the 785G. The good news is that the Southbridge is a new SB850 that's found on most of the better AMD's 8-series motherboards, and SATA 6Gbps could come in handy if you're one of the early adopters. As it is, there's hardly any reason to upgrade if you're already on a 7-series board and yet to get into SATA 6Gbps or USB 3.0 (which has to be added separately by the board vendors, like ASUS and Gigabyte here).
If you're new to the AMD platform however, this chipset is a definite mainstream favorite, especially if size matters. There are more microATX options available for the 880G and onboard graphics is mediocre whether it's the 880G or the 890GX. These boards can take in a Phenom II X6 processor without any issues and the new BIOS unlocking options to free hidden processor cores of lower-end SKUs on all three boards reviewed here is very useful.
Do note that the boards we've brought in for comparison today are targetted at various user needs. This brings us to remind readers that this article isn't a direct shootout of AMD 880G motherboards but just a comparative round-up of some of the first few boards bearing the new chipset. As such there are no winners but just an overall rating of how we feel the boards stand from our testing.
Individually, there's no doubt that the ASUS M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 is aimed at a slightly higher end segment than its peers here. Firstly, its ATX form factor distinguishes it from the rest, while the number of extra features and more expensive components all have their own price tags. The higher default graphics core clock, better overclocking and the presence of its unique Turbo Unlocker feature all mean that this ASUS board is better than the other two, in terms of performance and features. Its price, at around US$120, is accordingly more expensive. Locally, its S$234 retail price is also one that's more suited to a higher end chipset, like the AMD 890GX.
For those looking for a typical microATX 880G board that's not short of features, then the Gigabyte GA-880GMA-UD2H is probably what they have in mind. With a complete set of storage options, this Gigabyte board has a sole weakness in its default integrated core clock speed and the lack of SidePort memory. Users can tweak the graphics core frequency to alleviate some of these concerns but then again, if graphics performance is that crucial, why would you be using the integrated solution in the first place? Its US$95 pricing reflects its mainstream value proposition, though locally, the USB 3.0 version we reviewed here, may not be available. Instead, the distributor has a few other alternate models, though primarily using the older, non-SATA 6Gbit/s SB710 Southbridge. The closest to our review unit is the Gigabyte GA-880GA-UD3H, which is an ATX board that's more akin to the ASUS M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 in features and which goes for S$195.
Finally, Biostar's microATX offering looks to be as standard as a reference 880G board. The exception is its graphics core, which gets bumped up slightly to 600MHz along with SidePort memory. The feature list is however rather short, with no USB 3.0, no FireWire, eSATA or IDE support. It's basic but at least Biostar got a decent layout and there were no issues during our testing. Unfortunately, this plain vanilla 880G gets a US$100 price tag (local SRP of S$159), which makes it more expensive than the Gigabyte. In short, we feel that there are better alternatives than this Biostar board out there at this price.