Authour: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: March 2nd, 2010
The AMD 890GX Chipset kicks off strongly with support for HyperTransport 3.0 at 5.2 Mega Transactions per second (MT/s). This interconnect between the CPU and 890GX provides lots of bandwidth for all functions that the CPU needs to access. The CPU itself features the memory controller, and supports DDR3 at up to 1333MHz officially. ASUS extends that support with not only a qualified vendor list of 1600MHz tested modules, but 1800MHz and 1866MHz also.
Expansion Slots - The ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 features two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots double spaced, a PCIe 2.0 x4 slot, a single PCIe 2.0 x1 slot, and two PCI 2.3 slots. The two PCI Express Graphics (PEG) slots support single card at x16 lane, or dual cards at x8 each. ASUS use a PEG blanking card in the upper slot to push all the lanes to the lower slot. This somewhat non-traditional layout has a couple of benefits. Firstly it places the GPU a little further from the heatsinks for the CPU and chipset, and thus helps cooling of the passive design used here. Secondly, it makes discrete CrossfireX configuration simpler, as it is easier to see the upper slot and insert the second card with the lower one in place, than vice versa. Thirdly, for many ATX cases, it places the graphics card in a better position to receive intake air from front and side fans. In our CoolerMaster HAF 932 this placed discrete cards directly under not only the side 200mm fan, but in line with the front 200mm as well.
GPU Blanking Card
Connectivity - The Alink Express connection between the SB850 and the 890GX has doubled in bandwidth from the previous generation, now offering a healthy 2GB/s. This allows the SB850 to deliver all six native SATA 3 ports at full bandwidth, unlike some competitor mid range chipsets. The SB850 offers IDE, AHCI and RAID modes, including RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. In AHCI mode you can select ports 5 and 6 to be IDE mode, if you have an optical device that doesn't work well with AHCI. A Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) MAC has been integrated into the southbridge as well, requiring only the external connections to be utilized. ASUS have chosen to continue their partnership with Realtek, and included an 8111E controller onboard.
ASUS have taken 12 of the 14 native USB 2.0 ports available from the SB850 and added an NEC USB 3.0 controller, connected to the 890GX. These two ports are located on the rear backplane and color coded blue to differentiate them from the rest. Legacy parallel ATA devices are supported with a single two-channel Ultra DMA 133/100 port. Notable for its absence is the floppy drive - no controller, no port. Rounding out the legacy items are a single PS/2 keyboard plug, and a serial port header. A VIA VT6308P controller provides IEEE 1394 connections, one on the backplane and one header on the board.
New Storage and Connectivity Standards
Graphics - Integrated in the 890GX is AMD's fastest IGP yet, the Radeon HD 4290. This GPU has a long history and is based on the RV620, better known as the Radeon HD3450. RV620 was itself a die-shrink and upgrade of RV610, a.k.a the Radeon HD 2400. Updated to support DirectX 10.1 and still packing 40 shaders and a core clock of 700MHz, it is complemented by 128MB of DDR3 Sideport memory as well as access to system ram (UMA). This is an improvement over the 790GX's HD3300 (RV610 @ 700MHz), and the 785G's HD 4200 (RV620 @ 500MHz). Mainboard manufacturers can choose between display outputs, with the HD 4290 capable of Surround View via onboard VGA and digital output (HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort) as well as with a discrete non-CrossFireX display adapter.
While it might have been nice to see a 5-series based IGP, with the upcoming Llano processors featuring integrated APU it might not make sense to develop yet another integrated graphics chipset. A byproduct of paving the way for the upcoming integrated CPU and APU configuration is the new multi-GPU mode CrossfireX. Cross Generation CrossfireX under Windows 7 is now also supported, with HD 4290 able to tag-team with the recently released AMD ATI Radeon HD 5450. This new Crossfire-X mode is made possible by AMD's recent rearchitecture of their ATI Catalyst drivers.
Scale up performance
Audio - ASUS have included a Realtek ALC 892 High Definition Audio device, supporting 8-channel (7.1) output, connector retasking and jack connection sensing, and an ASUS Noise Filter. The HD 4290 supports 5.1 audio over HDMI, with bitstream LPCM support. Adding the entry level Radeon HD 5450 increases that to 7.1 HD Audio with Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio bit-streaming.
Performance - Featuring an 8+2 Phase design and 100% 'solid' capacitors, the ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 has a number of enthusiast features. The Precision Tweaker offers adjustable voltage control for vCore, North Bridge, CPU PLL, PCH (HyperTransport), RAM, and Chipsets. Stepless incremental adjustments of the Base clock and PCI Express frequencies is available, too. ASUS MemOK! allows the system to automatically find a set of memory timings and latencies for the board to POST, with the touch of a button. An onboard Core unlocker switch lets you attempt to find the full potential of your processor, by unlocking hidden cores. This option can be activated at boot time or in the BIOS, as well.
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