Biostar's TA890GXE motherboard is a no-frills approach to
the AMD 890GX / SB850 chipsets. It's a microATX form-factor
motherboard so it can fit into nearly any case, it has robust graphics and
storage options and most importantly this board is just plain affordable.
The TA890GXE motherboard is compatible
with any socket AM3 processor, so it's possible to install an entry level socket
AM3 Sempron chip if you're on a very tight budget, or switch
things up and lock in a six-core Phenom II X6 1090T processor and turn it into a
video processing, content creating, media PC monster. The options as they say,
As a socket AM3 motherboard, Biostar's TA890GXE is DDR3-only, with four memory DIMMs that support
up to 16GB of DDR3-800/1066/1333/1600(OC) RAM. Entry level 4GB DDR3 memory kits are still
hovering around $100, but much like the cost of gas prices seem to fluctuate
up and down.
MicroATX motherboards are a natural fit for integrated graphics processors,
and the AMD 890GX's built-in Radeon HD 4290 is one of the most
full featured and powerful IGPs available on motherboards today. Just like the
Radeon HD 4200 IGP found in AMD's 785G chipset, this IGP has 40 shader
processors and DX10.1 support, but with a faster 700MHz core clock speed. The HD 4290 isn't of much use for
hardcore gaming, but in a pinch it will get you playable frame rates
in World of Warcraft, provided you fiddle with some system settings. When it
comes to HD video decoding and plain old desktop 2D graphics, the HD 4290
is more than powerful enough. Biostar hasn't included any Sideport memory in this incarnation of the
AMD 890GX chipset, but in practice this only has a minor impact
on overall 3D performance anyway. If you need full-on 3D gaming
capabilities, the TA890GXE has a PCI Express 2.0 x16 videocard slot ready and
The most compelling features of ATI's Radeon HD 4290 IGP come from its media capabilities. The IGP has support for
Unified Video Decoder (UVD) 2 (MPEG2, VC-1, and H.264 formats) endowed IGP
and expanded compatibility with ATI Stream Transcode. In simple terms, this means
the IGP uses graphics hardware to accelerate certain types of desktop
applications. The Radeon HD 4290 supports Blu-Ray 1.1 features like
picture-in-picture as well. The Radeon HD 4290 IGP also powers the Biostar TA890GXE's
HDMI 1.3, DVI and VGA video output from the rear panel of the TA890GXE.
INCLUDES: User's Manual,
Driver CD, (3) SATA cables, I/O Shield, SATA power cable.
Chipsets: AMD 890GX / SB850
Support: AMD Socket AM3
Type: Dual Channel DDR3
Support: (1) PCI Express x16 2.0
Graphics: Radeon HD 4290 (700MHz GPU)
You can expand the Biostar TA890GXE's graphics output
using a single x16 PCI Express 2.0 slot for any discrete NVIDIA or ATI
graphics card. Additional expansion comes care of a PCI Express
2.0 x1 slot and a pair of legacy PCI slots for add-in cards. As in most microATX
motherboards space is at a premium, but fortunately with the high levels of
integration of the AMD 890GX chipset this won't be a problem for most users -
the board as it is, only needs a CPU and memory to give you full
functionality as a PC.
AMD's 890GX chipset is paired with the SB850, AMD's first
southbridge storage controller to have native SATA 6Gb/s connections (ie.
SATA III/3). The Biostar TA890GXE has five internal SATA 6Gb/s connections which
support RAID 0, 1 5 and 10 modes. Biostar adds a VIA VT6330 controller for an
additional eSATA II port and IDE connector.
For whatever reason the Biostar TA890GXE
motherboard only has four USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel (with three USB
2.0 headers at mid-board). Even with the headers we fell this is a little
skimpy, so make sure to count the amount of USB devices you use before buying,
or be prepared to invest in a decent USB hub. Rounding out the rest of the I/O
panel are HDMI 1.3, DVI and VGA outputs, a 1394a firewire port, a powered eSATA
port, an optical S/PDIF output, a gigabit LAN jack and 8-channel audio outputs.
If you've read the above list you'll notice that USB 3.0
support is conspicuously absent from the Biostar TA890GXE's list of
features. To reach the TA890GXE's relatively inexpensive $125 CDN ($125 USD, £80 GBP) price point Biostar chose
to scrap a few optional extras typically included on full size 890GX boards.
Since USB 3.0 requires the integration of an extra add-in controller (typically
the NEC D720200F1) it
was cut. It's not difficult to find a PCI Express x1 USB 3.0 card should you
need two USB 3.0 ports down the road.
from the AMD 890GX's Radeon HD 4290 integrated graphics
TA890GXE supports dual-display output over HDMI or DVI and VGA output, so it can
output video to an analog monitor and HDTV at the same time. With specific
Radeon HD 5000 series graphics cards, up to three monitors can be supported care
of ATIs Eyefinity.
AMD 890GX & ATI Radeon HD 4290 Integrated Graphics
PCSTATS has covered the AMD 890GX/SB850 chipsets and integrated ATI Radeon HD 4290 graphics in great
detail already so if you'd like to freshen up on the technology, please spend a
few minutes to read these two sections before continuing on with the Biostar
AMD's 890GX platform is an upgrade from AMD's previous
integrated chipsets like the AMD 790GX, and direct competition for Intel's H55
platform and graphics-integrated socket 1156 processors.
Graphics Chipsets |
||Socket AM2/Socket AM3
||1066Mhz DDR2/ 1333MHz
||1x16 PCI Express 2.0 /
2x8 PCI Express 2.0
||1x16 PCI Express 2.0,
2x8 PCI Express 2.0
|1x16 PCI Express
||6x1 PCI Express 2.0
||6x1 PCI Express 2.0, 2x1 PCI Express 2.0
||6x1 PCI Express 2.0|
||Radeon HD 3300/RV610
||Radeon HD 4290/RV620
||Intel HD Graphics|
||12/Varies by CPU|
||12x USB 2.0
||14x USB 2.0,
Most of the big upgrades for the AMD 890GX chipset
revolve around the chipset's improved graphics capabilities. The Radeon HD 4290
brings a number of architectural improvements over AMD's previous Radeon HD 3300
graphics chipset, including support for DirectX 10.1, HDMI 1.3 video out put
capabilities and more efficient use of SidePort memory.
While the Radeon HD 4290 has proven itself capable of
some light gaming, like most IGPs it simply can't keep up with modern hardcore
games at anything approaching high detail settings. The same can be said of
Intel's socket 1156 Core ie and Core i5 processors, which have graphics
integrated directly into the CPU. Even at the best of times you'll be adjust
quality sliders and turning down the resolution to get decent framerates in
today's 3D games. If you are interested in playing games on either of these
platforms it's a good idea to invest around $70-100 in a videocard like the
Radeon HD 4670 or Radeon HD 4850.
The SB850 southbridge also stands out with its native
SATA 6Gb/s capabilities. It will be a long time coming for Intel to refresh its
H55 Express chipset with SATA 6Gb/s support, so getting support for faster SSDs
will continue to be a problem for Intel's platform. AMD's SB8650 southbridge can
already take advantage of these drives, as well as giving you the ability to
connect them in RAID 0, 1 5 and 10 modes.
Now it's time to examine the physical layout of the Biostar TA890GXE more closely...