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ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 AMD 890GX Motherboard Review

ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 AMD 890GX Motherboard Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: The ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 motherboard is built around the 55nm AMD 890GX and SB850 southbridge. It has 128MB of onboard DDR3-1333 sideport memory for the integrated DX10.1 ATI Radeon HD 4290 graphics. Its AM3 CPU socket will accommodate AMD Phenom II and Athlon II processors, right through to the six-core Phenom II X6.
 80% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: ASUS Mar 02 2010   J. Apong  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3

Overclocking CPU/IGP Tests and ASUS OC Software Report

Overclocking Results:
Stock Max. OC
Motherboard Speed: 200 MHz 285 MHz
IGP Video Speed: 700 MHz

1050 MHz

If you're new to Overclocking and not sure what to do, check out these two excellent Guides for some pointers:
Overclocking the CPU and Memory
Overclocking the Videocard

As always, PCSTATS overclocking tests started by dropping the multiplier on the AMD Phenom II x4 955 BE CPU from 16x to 8x, and disabling features like Cool'n'quiet, CPU C1E power states, etc.

A set of DDR3-1600MHz memory modules from Corsair were installed into the ASUS M4A89GTD-Pro/USB3 motherboard and set to run at DDR3-800 mode so the memory wouldn't hold the CPU back. No videocard was installed, which seemed to allow the bus speed to overclock pretty far.

The bus speed of the ASUS M4A89GTD-Pro/USB3 motherboard was increased from the stock setting of 200MHz to 225... 245.. 255.. 270... and so on until 290MHz which POSTed but caused the computer to crash while loading Windows 7. After the automatic reboot we dialed the motherboard bus speed down to 285MHz which was stable enough to load Windows. So far, 285MHz is the best motherboard overclock PCSTATS has gotten out of this quad-core Phenom II processor and memory combination, and it speaks well for the AMD 89GX.

After finishing with the CPU, PCSTATS turned its attention to overclocking the AMD Radeon HD 4290 IGP. The ability to overclock an integrated video chipset is relatively fun and mostly pointless, the results can boost performance a little but we don't generally recommend it; if you find the IGP unsuitably slow for gaming, buy a discrete graphics card instead.

Integrated Graphics Overclocking - A Confusing Implementation

ASUS enable AMD 890GX IGP overclocking with via a software tool called Turbo-V Evo GPU Boost and through BIOS level controls as well. The twin implementation caused a lot of confusion in PCSTATS own OC tests, as enabling 'GFX Engine Clock Override' in the BIOS disables the Turbo-V Evo GPU boost software from taking effect. On top of that, the BIOS option sets the default Radeon HD 4290 GPU clock speed to 500MHz, instead of its native 700MHz clock speed. Somewhere, the true meaning of 'GFX Engine Clock Override' was lost in translation we think.

The default clock of ATIs Radeon HD 4290 IGP is indeed 700MHz, but adding to the house of confusion is ATI's own Catalyst 10.3 driver which reports GPU speed at 500MHz... as does GPU-Z 3.9. To muddy the overclocking experience even further, when the 'GFX Engine Clock Override' BIOS option is enabled the ASUS TurboV-Evo software continues to facilitate GPU overclocking, although nothing is actually happening. This quickly leads to the bemusing situation of a Radeon HD 4290 seemingly overclocked to 1500MHz .... but no not really.

Suffice to say, overclocking the Radeon HD 4290 IGP by the ASUS' TurboV Evo software tool will work if the 'GFX Engine Clock Override' is left disabled in the BIOS. Or, if you overclock the GPU from the BIOS only. That's the route PCSTATS ended up going, and within a few minutes the Radeon HD 4290 IGP was overclocked from 500MHz (the default but incorrect setting in BIOS) right through to 1050MHz without a hitch.

Bottom line, ASUS need to pick an overclocking implementation that works in the BIOS and via software at the same time, or at the very least throw up a red flag when one setting disables the Windows based GPU overclocking software.

This is just another reason why PCSTATS prefers overclocking via the BIOS, it always gets the job done right!!!

ASUS TurboV Evo, Core Unlocker and Turbo Key II

On the top right side of the ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 motherboard are a pair of physical switches that control two of the M4A89GTD PRO/USB3's performance tuning features. The first is labeled "Turbo Key II" and the second is called "Core Unlocker".

Core Unlocker can be used with AMD processors that have disabled, but working cores and cache. This applies to certain triple-core and dual-core AMD Phenom II/Athlon II processors, like the AMD Phenom II X2 555 or the Athlon II X3 435. These chips are actually quad-core processors with one or two cores disabled by AMD. While sometimes these cores are disabled because they are unstable or don't meet AMD's specifications, in other cases there could be a perfectly functional core buried inside your CPU, just waiting to be unlocked.

Asus M4A89GTD-Pro/USB3 overclocking switches for Turbo Key II and Core Unlocker.

To enable Core Unlocking on the ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 motherboard, the computer first needs to be shut off completely, and then the "Core Unlocker" switch flicked on. You can also enable this option through the BIOS at boot-up, and as the system loads it will automatically unlock any functional cores and cache. Note that functionality vary's from processor to processor, so there's no guarantee... just the possibility of free performance! If the system starts acting unstable, simply power down and reset the switch to off.

Further performance gaines can be had with ASUS' Turbo Key II switch, which engages some automatic overclocking with minimal fuss. Since this is automated overclocking, the system errs on the side of caution and doesn't push the CPU core clock speed to anything near its absolute limit. If you're looking to go to the last mile with ASUS' tools, you'll want to open up the Turbo V Evo software tuning suite.

Here you can set the Auto Tuning feature to 'extreme', which will push the CPU clock speed to its maximum stable speed.

Turbo V Evo controller IC.

The Turbo Evo software has the ability to overclock the Radeon HD 4290 IGP with a tool called GPU Boost. Using GPU boost in easy mode automatically overclocks the GPU by a moderate amount, but enabling the manual mode lets you crank the IGP as high as it can go. Again, performance will vary between motherboards, but this is an easy way to turn an IGP into a suitable gaming platform.

All in all, ASUS are bringing easy one-touch overclocking to the forefront, while still providing hardcore overclockers with extensive Windows-based and BIOS level overclocking controls. If overclocking isn't your 'thing' do yourself a favour and try out 'CPU level up' in the BIOS at the very least. Overclocking the processor can improve system performance nicely. In PCSTATS experience IGP overclocking is kind of redundant, since the gains aren't significant enough to make the integrated graphics powerful as a stand alone videocard in 3D games in any case. If you don't game, there's no need to overclock the IGP - ATI's HD 4290 is plenty sufficient for standard 2D desktop applications, playing back HD 1080p videos and all the eye-candy Microsoft Windows 7 can throw at it.

On the next page of this review PCSTATS will look at a few screen shots from within the ASUS BIOS to give you a feel for what overclocking tools exist, and several of this boards more unique qualities....

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Contents of Article: ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3
 Pg 1.  ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 AMD 890GX Motherboard Review
 Pg 2.  ATI Radeon HD 4290 Integrated Graphics
 Pg 3.  Introducing the AMD 890GX / SB850 Chipsets
 Pg 4.  Motherboard Highlights Photo Gallery
 Pg 5.  — Overclocking CPU/IGP Tests and ASUS OC Software Report
 Pg 6.  Inside the BIOS Options
 Pg 7.  Power/SATA3 Benchmarks, Test System Specs
 Pg 8.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Sysmark 2007
 Pg 9.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Sandra 2009
 Pg 10.  Motherboard Benchmarks: PCMark Vantage
 Pg 11.  Motherboard IGP Benchmarks: 3DMark06
 Pg 12.  Motherboard IGP Benchmarks: 3DMark Vantage, FEAR
 Pg 13.  DX10 Motherboard IGP Benchmarks: Call of Juarez, Crysis
 Pg 14.  HD Playback CPU Load, ATI Stream testing
 Pg 15.  AMD 890GX for Media Center? Yes

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