AMD 990FX Mobo Round-Up: Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte - HotHardware

AMD 990FX Mobo Round-Up: Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte

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In preparation for the impending arrival of its Bulldozer-based FX-series of processors, AMD recently released their 9-Series chipsets. The AMD 9-Series currently consists of three products, the 970, the 990X, and the flagship 990FX chipsets.

At their core, all of the current AMD 9-Series chipsets are similar, and offer support for socket AM3 and AM3+ processors, DDR3 memory, PCIe 2.0 (with a varying number of lanes), and SATA III (6Gb/s). The chipsets differ in their support for AMD CrossFireX technology, however, due to a different number of PCI Express lanes available on each. The flagship 990FX supports up to four graphics cards, the 990X two cards, and the 970 only a single card. We should point out that some motherboards based on the AMD 990FX chipset will get official support for NVIDIA’s SLI technology as well, so those enthusiasts chomping at the bit for an 8-Core Bulldozer chip can enjoy some multi-GPU action with their graphics vendor of choice.

With AMD’s FX-Series process due to arrive sometime in the not too distant future, we thought it was a good time to check out a few high-end 990FX-based motherboards. We want to give you prospective AMD buyers a glimpse at some ‘boards designed with the FX-Series in mind. With that said, the 990FX chipset technically isn’t new. Take a look at the features and specifications ganked from AMD’s page below and then we’ll explain what we mean under the block diagram further down the page...


The ASUS CrossHair V Formula, ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional, and Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7 we'll be looking at here all offer official support for upcoming 8-Core AMD FX-Series processors

AMD 990FX / SB950 9-Series Chipset
Specifications & Features
  • Ready to take AMD FX processors beyond all expectation Full socket compatibility for AM3+ and AM3 processors with Hypertransport 3.0 interconnects means you can upgrade your components when you’re ready to, and help ensure you get the most performance.
     
  • Support for up to 4 AMD Radeon HD Graphics boards with AMD CrossFireX technology PCI Express 2.0 technologies enable 2x16 or 4x8 configurations to enable higher levels of performance on your graphics applications. The AMD 990FX enables our best scalable platform for game-dominating performance with support for 2, 3, or 4 graphics cards.
     
  • Get ready to take control of your PC with the next generation AMD OverDrive software for full FX control. Customize your PC by getting full control of your different AMD components.
     
  • Take advantage of advanced technology like SATA 6Gb/s to help accelerate your connectivity. Enjoy the latest in performance benefits on your multiple RAID configuration support and enhanced SSD configurations with motherboards built around AMD 990FX.
Graphics Not Included, Up to 4 slots for Graphics Upgrade 
CPU Compatibility AMD Athlon, AMD Athlon II, AMD Phenom, AMD Phenom II, AMD FX
Memory Support AM3 and AM3+ socket motherboards support DDR3
PCI Express PCI Express 2.0
USB Up to 14 USB 2.0
SATA Supports SATA 6Gb/s devices


AMD 990FX / SB950 Chipset Diagram

Although the 9-Series chipsets, including the 990FX we’re featuring here, offer official support for upcoming Socket AM3+ based FX-Series processors, the chipsets themselves are not new. In fact, the 990FX chip and its companion SB950 Southbridge are identical to the 890FX and SB850. Socket AM3+ motherboards, like the ones we’re going to show you here, are outfitted with a newer 942-pin socket that’s backward compatible with socket AM3 processors. These boards will also offer full support for the frequency and power scaling technologies coming with Bulldozer. In effort to minimize the confusion that could stem from using 8-Series branded chipsets on motherboards with official support for Bulldozer, AMD thought it best to rename the chipset. AM3+ motherboards that will exploit all of the features of and officially support Bulldozer, will employ 9-Series chipsets.

Now, let’s get to some specifics. As you can see, the 990FX chipset supports AMD socket AM3 / AM3+ processors with DDR3 memory (including Athlon II, Phenom II and FX processors), and features a total of 42 PCI Express lanes, with flexible configuration options.

Other features of the 990FX chipset are HyperTransport 3.1, which is a 6.4GT/s link between the CPU and 990FX--an upgrade from the HT 3.0, 5.2GT/s link of the 890FX enabled by the new socket configuration. The chipset also features an A-link Express III interface with 4GB/s of bandwidth between the 990FX and SB950. The SB950 features almost all of the typical amenities of a modern chipset: USB 2.0, HD Audio, Gigabit Ethernet, PATA, and PCI are present. In addition, the SB950 also features an additional pair of PCI Express Gen 2 x1 lanes, along with native support of 6Gbps SATA. No native USB 3.0 support is present, however.

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This is cool. Bulldozer is ~really~ gonna pop soon.

I like that the performance of the ASRock board stayed so close to the ASUS. The fact that it has more features for less money has me sold. I may just buy one of them soon, and keep it on the shelf for when Bulldozer is here.

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I wish AMD all the best hopefully they bounce back this round.

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"Nice round-up Marco. But I cant agree with the conclusion, I feel that the Asrock board should have been the editors choice. First of of all, it has more features as you mentioned, like Firewire, dual-Gigabit LAN, and a front-mountable USB 3.0 panel. Second , it cost less. Third, it came out on top, in four of the test. The only thing I dont like is John's face in the bios."

"A request that I have for a future special report or article,that either you or Joel can hopefully take on is, Dual Gigabit lan. what are the advantages of this and how does it perform versus a standard gigabit lan , especially in gaming and in a workstation environment."

"One thing I noted, when Bulldozer arrives, the RAM specifications will change to native 1866 instead of 1800(OC)"

-Optimus

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@Optimus - I hear your points, but the more refined UEFI utility, Intel LAN controller, overall layout and configuration of the Asus board, plus the easy to use OC tools give the the edge for me. I put less stock in Firewire (I never use it) and dual gigabit LAN.

As for the perf of dual gigabit LAN, I'm sure we can work up some benchmarks that show a bandwidth advantage, but for gaming and real-world perf. it's not going to be noticable. It won't have an impact on pings in-game, etc.

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Marco C:
@Optimus - I hear your points, but the more refined UEFI utility, Intel LAN controller, overall layout and configuration of the Asus board, plus the easy to use OC tools give the the edge for me. I put less stock in Firewire (I never use it) and dual gigabit LAN.

"OK, The Intel Lan is better quality, Firewire I will never use, Dual Lan, maybe. The OC tools wasn't mentioned or expanded in the "Bios Comparo and Overclocking" but Asrock has a neat Auto OC feature that people love. Also, the Asrock board supports 4 Way Sli and 4 Way Crossfire, the Asus only supports 3 Way of both. Which brings me to this Question : Even though the GTX 590 and AMD 6990 are dual GPUs in one and are internally SLI'ed and Crossfired, is the Asus Crosshair V limited to only handle one 590 or one 6990?'

-Optimus

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Not at all. 3-way vs. 4-way means it can physically fit 3 or 4 cards.

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Marco C:

Not at all. 3-way vs. 4-way means it can physically fit 3 or 4 cards.

"Thanks for clearing that up for me"

Marco C:
As for the perf of dual gigabit LAN, I'm sure we can work up some benchmarks that show a bandwidth advantage, but for gaming and real-world perf. it's not going to be noticable. It won't have an impact on pings in-game, etc

"That would be great, I have always been curious about Dual Lan"

 

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OptimusPrimeTime:
Firewire I will never use,

One thing that Firewire does that I really like is that you can Daisy-Chain several drives together with only one initial connection to your PC and they'll be seen, and work. A guy that I knew in California produced films for owners of racehorses, about their horses. (something to do with attracting investors) He had a Mac Pro with 6 external Firewire 800 drives all plugged into one another and only one connection to the PC. All of them worked and all ran at full speed. He could use any combination of them at the same time and had no problems with losing data.

So I ended up buying three of them and using them on my IBM clone. (EDIT: After adding a Firewire adapter card to my system) Same result, all of them worked without a hitch. Firewire's speeds have been eclipsed by USB 3.0 and E-SATA since then, but at the time, it was the fastest game in town.

Firewire works, and I'm surprised that it never saw any better adaptation by consumers than it did. I still have one of those (now old) drives and it still works.

 

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USB 2.o :(

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gigabyte and msi should really exit the 19th century. UEFI should be standard by now. who the hell wants to use a non-intuitive old school tandy 1000 type interface anymore? I miss ABIT and all the others that shut down. They would always push for new tech to be standard.

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