Due to VIA's modular V-MAP architecture, the VT8237R Southbridge has been the mainstay in both VIA's Intel and AMD chipsets for the past two years. While it may have been cutting edge in 2003 with its integrated SATA RAID controller, the same can't be said today. From the way Gigabyte has designed the GA-K8VT890-9, it is quite clear that they knew this as well. The board wasn't supposed to compete with the top end nForce4 motherboards, but provide a solid entry-level platform with a decent feature-set including PCI Express support, expandability plus high-speed Gigabit networking. Sure, you won't get the latest cutting edge storage technology like SATA II and NCQ, but how many commercial SATA II drives are readily available even today? More appropriately, users looking for an economical mainstream motherboard won't logically be in the market for state-of-the-art hardware.
If we take a look at the performance of the board though, VIA showed that their expertise in core logic chipset development still counts for something. In all our benchmark runs, the board was playing catch-up most of the time, but of course, the GA-K8NXP-9 was a better-tuned board with an excellent amount of tweaking functions. The GA-K8VT890-9 however, as an entry-level solution, was devoid of enthusiast features such as overclocking and extensive BIOS options. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the cause of the stability problems that we faced during benchmarking. Since the board uses the default parameters on hardware such as memory modules, we found out that it was unable to properly handle the high-speed SPD timings, wrecking havoc with overall system stability. It might seem like queer advice, but in this unique situation, users should avoid using performance memory modules with the board unless of course Gigabyte introduces a BIOS that allows for greater customization.
The Gigabyte GA-K8VT890-9, frugal on features, but comes through with decent performance and not to mention, a great bargain.
Once we got the memory concerns out of the way with a lower speed pair of Corsair CMX512-3200LL modules, the GA-K8VT890-9 was able to closely match up with the high-end GA-K8NXP-9 based on the nForce4 Ultra. It proved to be a very capable performer in both desktop productivity and gaming with scores that were within 2% of the GA-K8NXP-9. The ace up its sleeve however, was the board's rock bottom pricing. With an average retail price going around US$82, the GA-K8VT890-9 is even cheaper than frugal nForce4 Ultra motherboards like Chaintech's VE series, VNF4 Ultra and the cheapest nForce4 Ultra motherboards from Gigabyte themselves are still well over US$100 today.
Thus, it all boils down to a 'what you pay for' situation. The VIA K8T890 is showing its age, outclassed by the nForce4 Ultra MCPs in terms of features. However, the GA-K8VT890-9 was never meant to be an enthusiast motherboard. What you get instead is extreme value for performance that can still be banked upon for a smooth computing experience whether you're just using it for work or play. If you're on a tight budget, but unwilling to sacrifice too much in terms of performance and want to put your hard earned cash behind a reputable first tier manufacturer, the Gigabyte GA-K8VT890-9 gets our vote.