890GX Motherboards: Asus, Gigabyte
To test the AMD 890GX chipset, we got our hands on a couple of high-end motherboards from Asus and Gigabyte, the M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 and the 890GPA-UD3H, respectively.
The M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 is part of Asus' Xtreme Design family of products. As its name makes blatantly obvious, the board supports USB 3.0 though the use of dedicated NEC controller, but unlike many previous implementations of said chip on the Intel P55 platform, it is linked to the 890GX via PCI Express Gen 2, and doesn't require a bridge chip for max bandwidth.
The M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 includes a typical assortment of accessories, and like the other motherboards in the Xtreme Design family, it is built upon a dark colored PCB, with dark and light blue and white accents. There are relatively large heatsinks in the VRM and on the 890GX Northbridge, linked together via a heat-pipe and a smaller heatsink on the SB850 chip. As is typically the case, Asus does a good job with the layout and all major connectors and headers are spread out nicely around the edges of the board, and all are clearly labeled.
The slot configuration on the M4A89GTD PRO/USB3, consists of a pair of PCI Express x16 slots (1x16 or 2x8), a single PCI Express x1 slot, a single x4 slot, and a pair of PCI slots. Outputs in the I/O backplane are plentiful and include Firewire, USB 3.0, and eSATA.
Not visible in the pictures are the M4A89GTD PRO/USB3's extensive system BIOS options and some other Asus only features. The M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 supports a Quick Hot key feature for quick core unlocking with some Phenom II and Athlon II processors, Auto Tuning with Turbo Profiles in the BIOS, new fan controls in the BIOS as well, and GPU Boost. Asus has also revamped their AiSuite and EPU software for the M4A89GTD PRO/USB3.
The Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H is aesthetically similar to virtually all of the company's enthusiast offerings. It features Gigabyte's trademark blue PCB with orange, blue, and white slots / expansion headers. What stands out the most on this board from a physical standpoint is its large cooling solution, which cools the VRM and the chipset. The board's slot configuration consists of dual PCIe x16 slots, a trio of PCIe x1 slots, and a pair of PCI slots. Like the Asus board, the Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H features USB 3.0 through the use of NEC's controller, and overall the layout is very good, with well placed headers and connectors that are all clearly labeled.
The Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H's system BIOS is very well appointed, with a full array of overclocking tools. And it too has a couple of proprietary features. Gigabyte touts the 890GPA-UD3H's support for "USB Power 3X", which essentially triples the maximum power output that both the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports are capable of, for better compatibility with power hungry USB devices. And the Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H also features dedicated hardware dubbed "Precision OV" which offers better voltage control options for the CPU, chipset and memory than previous offerings, with linear real time voltage control.
Of course, the 890GPA-UD3H also supports many of the other features Gigabyte is known for, like Dual-BIOS and 2oz copper layers, but we've covered those many times before in previous articles.