AMD's 890GX chipset
has arrived in a major way, and for what seems like the first time in quite a
has taken the lead in competing IGP core logic technologies away from Intel. The
ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3
motherboard incorporates a number of upgrades in the ATI Radeon HD 4290 IGP,
such as dedicated bandwidth for the USB 3.0 ports and six native SATA 6Gb/s
jacks via the AMD SB850 southbridge.
All of this has been well integrated by ASUS into an ATX
motherboard with enough features and versatility to satisfy those looking to
build powerful gaming rigs or a simple graphics-integrated HTPC/Media PC for
home or work.
As a platform for intensive 3D gaming the ASUS M4A89GTD
PRO/USB3 motherboard features dual PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots that can be run in
a single x16 or CrossfireX x8/x8 modes. The AMD 890GX chipset has a lot of PCI
Express bandwidth to throw around, so having features like USB 3.0 and SATA
6Gb/s ports don't require compromises like bridge chips or a loss of expansion
ports. For those of you planning on upgrading to the six-core Phenom II X6
processor, this board is indeed 140W AMD CPU ready.
As much as we like
the AMD 890GX, it's the AMD SB850 southbridge's native support for SATA 6Gb/s
that steals the show. Competing integrated graphics boards from Intel (think:
H55) won't match this until the Intel Platform Controller Hub found on all three
of its recently introduced chipsets is overhauled. With current SSDs having
their sequential read performance bottlenecked by the limits of SATA III 3Gb/s
connections, having six SATA 6Gb/s connections capable of RAID 0, 1 5 and 10
means that the ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 has some real expandability options....
although we do wish ASUS had gone a step further by including four additional
SATA II ports. Six SATA connections are great, but ten gives you more breathing
room for future expansion.
I've discussed the benefits of USB 3.0 already, suffice
to say that if you're shopping for a motherboard in 2010 you want this
technology in your PC. ASUS's M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 motherboard's implementation of
dual USB 3.0 ports is the best we've seen thus far, with both ports receiving
full bandwidth without having to sacrifice any PCI Express expansion slots
As integrated graphics go, the ATI Radeon HD 4290 isn't
dramatically different from the Radeon HD 4200 found on motherboards based on AMD's 785G chipset. Bumping the
core clock up to 700MHz has improved 3D gaming performance a little, but its still not powerful enough to play
modern 3D games. It is very easy to overclock the IGP (also the CPU and even
unlock CPU cores) using ASUS' included TurboV Evo software, but the benefits are
not that substantial. As far has High Definition content and 1080p video
playback, and standard everyday 2D desktop applications, the integrated Radeon
HD 4290 is entirely fine.
the ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 motherboard was an absolute joy, PCSTATS pushed the
bus speed to 285MHz without much effort. IGP overclocking was spotty, but
increasing speed from 700MHz to 1050MHz wasn't difficult.
Features vs. Cost vs.
When all is said and done, the ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3
motherboard shapes up into a very complete MediaPC/HTPC platform. Particularly
when matched with AMDs value-oriented quad-core AMD socket AM3 processors. Given a retail
price of $180 CDN, ($155 USD, £95 GBP) for the ASUS M4A89GTD
PRO/USB3 motherboard, I think it's good value - if - SATA 6gb/s and USB 3.0 are
on your list of must-have's.
If not, AMD 785G motherboards are priced around $100 and
offer very similar integrated graphics performance that's suitable for
mainstream office PCs. Boards like the ASUS M4A785TD-V posess nearly identical HTPC
capabilities, but without SATA 6Gb/s or USB 3.0.
With six-core Phenom II X6 CPUs impending, our
recommendation tilts slightly towards AMD 890GX boards + USB 3.0 functionality -
the speed of that wonderful interface, coupled with the M4A89GTD PRO/USB3
motherboard's HDMI 1.3 output just screams HD Media PC in our books. It all
depends if you're building a PC to be future proof, or a cheap-as-possible
MediaPC right now.
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