Motherboard Guide

Native SATA 6Gbit/s Arrives - AMD 890GX Motherboards Examined

Native SATA 6Gbit/s Arrives - AMD 890GX Motherboards Examined



AMD Gets Native SATA 6Gbit/s

AMD Gets Native SATA 6Gbit/s

If AMD's first Fusion processor debuts as planned next year, it would be more than a year behind Intel's similar effort, the dual-core Clarkdale processors. Currently, AMD's integrated graphics chipsets have the GPU on the motherboard and things appear to be the same for its new refresh of the 790GX chipset. 'Imaginatively' named the 890GX, AMD does get one over its rival with this new chipset. The updated Southbridge used with this chipset, the SB850 comes with native SATA 6Gbit/s, including RAID (0, 1, 5 and 10) support.

Up to six SATA 6Gbit/s ports are onboard; additionally the SB850 continues to support the PATA interface (another feature that's not standard for Intel) and the usual HD audio functionality. Unfortunately, there's no USB 3.0 support yet, though one gets 14 USB 2.0 ports on this Southbridge, an increase of two over the 790GX. For the AMD 890GX motherboards we have received so far, USB 3.0 is implemented with an NEC controller instead, so at the very least, one should be getting USB 3.0 on some of the offerings.

As for the 890GX, it's a minor update over the 790GX. Think in terms of the AMD 780G going to 785G. That means for the integrated GPU, the changes are mostly in the newer Universal Video Decoder (UVD 2.0) and having support for DirectX 10.1. The actual graphics core (RV620) remains similar to that on the 790GX, with an identical number of shaders and the same 700MHz clock speed. Like the 790GX, vendors can give the integrated graphics on the 890GX a slight boost by adding SidePort memory (usually 128MB of onboard memory clocked at 1333MHz).

Not surprisingly, the integrated graphics on the 890GX is named the Radeon HD 4290, which puts it in the same class as the Radeon HD 4200 on the AMD 785G. The difference between the two is that the version on the 890GX is 200MHz faster than the 785G. However, like the 785G, the audio is less than ideal for HTPC enthusiasts, as it only supports 2-channel LPCM over HDMI and not multi-channel. Below is the architectural overview:

 

 

 

However, we did find an option called 'CPU Core Control' in both of our 890GX motherboards, which allows users to turn on/off certain CPU cores manually. We aren't too sure if this will allow enthusiasts to unlock their Phenom II processors like before but we'll get back to this once we have more time with these boards.

As you can tell, the 890GX is not much of an update over its predecessor from an end-user point of view. Unless you're ready to upgrade to SATA 6Gbit/s and USB 3.0 hardware immediately, the integrated graphics is the same on paper. Before we dive into the performance aspect, we have two 890GX boards up for review (from Gigabyte and MSI ) and we'll see if vendors are able to spin an attractive case for this chipset. Here are their specifications:
 

Gigabyte & MSI 890GX Motherboards Compared
  Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H MSI 890GXM-G65
CPU Support Support for AM3 processors - AMD Phenom II/Athlon II
Chipset AMD 890GX + SB850
Graphics Integrated Radeon HD 4290 graphics processor with 128MB DDR3 SidePort Memory
Memory
  • Supports 4 unbuffered DIMM of DDR3-1866 (O.C)/1333/1066 SDRAM
  • Supports up to 16GB memory size
  • Supports 4 unbuffered DIMM of DDR3-2133 (O.C)/1800 (O.C)/1600 (O.C)/1333/1066/800 SDRAM
  • Supports up to 16GB memory size
Storage
  • Southbridge
    • 6 x SATA 6Gbit/s ports
    • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD configurations
  • Gigabyte SATA2 chip
    • 1 x Ultra DMA 133/100 for up to 2 PATA devices
    • 2 x SATA 3.0Gbps ports supporting RAID 0, 1 and JBOD
  • iTE IT8720 chip
    • 1 x floppy drive connector
  • Southbridge
    • 5 x SATA 6Gbit/s ports
    • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD configurations
    • 1 x eSATA port
  • JMB368 controller
    • 1 x Ultra DMA 133/100 for up to 2 PATA devices
Audio
  • Realtek ALC892 HD CODEC
  • Realtek ALC889 HD CODEC
Networking
  • Realtek RTL811D Gigabit Ethernet controller
  • Realtek RTL811DL Gigabit Ethernet controller
IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
  • T.I TSB43AB23 chip
  • Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (1 rear, 2 headers)
  • Nil
I/O Interface
  • 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (blue)
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN port
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF output
  • 1 x IEEE 1394a port
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DVI-I
  • 1 x VGA analog output
  • 1 x eSATA port
  • 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (blue)
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN port
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF output
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse
  • 1 x DVI-I
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x VGA analog output
Expansion Slots
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slot
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x8 slot
  • 3 x PCIe x1 slots
  • 2 x PCI slots
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (x8/x8 if both slots filled)
  • 1 x PCIe x1 slot
  • 1 x PCI slot
Special Features
  • Support for @BIOS
  • Support for Q-Flash
  • Support for EasyTune
  • Support for Easy Energy Saver
  • Support for Xpress Recovery2
  • Support for Xpress Install
  • Support for Auto Green
  • OC Genie Lite
  • Active Phase Switching
PCB
  • ATX Form Factor (30.5 x 24.4cm)
  • mATX Form Factor (24.4 x 24.4cm)