ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 890GX Motherboard Reviewajmatson - March 1, 2010
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When I first looked at the ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3, I loved the design and layout. It is simplistic and elegant with everything placed with regards to not interfering with another part of the board as much as possible. The color scheme of the motherboard is elegant as well with no outrageous contrasting colors, which I like since most cases have windows and you want to show off the hardware you have inside to the world. As with ASUS motherboard this one take the design step to ensure it lasts you a long time. ASUS uses 100% solid Japanese capacitors and a 8 + 2 Phase power design which keeps your CPU and components with clean power for operation and overclocking. The ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 supports the latest AMD processors including the Phenom II and Athlon II series to keep you up with the hardware trends. The chipset for this board is the 890GX with integrated HD 4290 graphics and the newer SB850 Southbridge designed for better performance and transfer speeds. ASUS has built this board using their Xtreme Design technology as shown on the packaging. The Xtreme Design technology uses three key areas to increase the safety, performance, and reliability of the motherboard. The first point is that the board is designed for number one in performance. This is achieved by using a multi-phase power design which can switch phases by demand and has a better power efficiency by design. The performance is also complemented by the TurboV and Turbo Key utilities which aid in better and more stable overclocking. The second point of the Xtreme Design is that it is number one in safety. ASUS has designed their Xtreme Design board to have better protection against EMI (Electo Magnetic Interference) and ESD (Electro Static Discharge). This is done by ASUS including an Anti-Static chip to the board, re-designing the circuitry, and designing the I/O shield to to handle and protect the discharge more efficiently making the board protected 4x better then the standard design. The last point of the Xtreme Design is that it is number one in Reliability with their Stack Cool3+ PC Board design. This design used a 2+2 ounce copper design in the PC Board which offers up to 17% better heat dissipation lowering the overall temperatures of critical components extending their life.
On the back panel, the connections available are not slim. ASUS has done away with the PS/2 mouse port placing two USB 2.0 ports there instead and keeping only the keyboard PS/2 port; underneath them are an HDMI port which supports up to 1080P high definition video and audio, an optical S/PDIF port, a VGA port, a DVI video port, two more USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, one eSATA port, one Gigabit LAN port powered by a Realtek 8111E chipset and also features AI Net 2 functionality, the analog audio ports and two unique looking blue USB ports. What is so unique about them? Well these two blue colored ports are USB 3.0 specification which provide speeds of up to 4.8Gb/s for fast data transfers. The USB 3 on the ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 motherboard is provided by the NEC D720200F1 chip right below the back panel.
Moving on down the motherboard, we get to the expansion slots that the M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 offers. This board supports CrossFireX with two discrete cards by using the two PCI Express X16 slots on the board. When both slots are used they operate at X8 speeds, however, when only one card is used then it runs at X16 speeds. The catch to this is that for a single card setup the card must be placed in the lower blue colored X16 slot and a switch card must be placed in the upper whitish colored X16 slot to enable the true X16 speeds. I have seen a lot of manufactures going back to this switch card design lately for their single card configurations. If the card is not placed in the top slot the discrete card will run at only X8 speeds. In addition to the X16 slots there is a PCI Express X1 slot and an X4 slot for additional expansion cards. ASUS has also kept two legacy PCI slots on the board for those of you who have the older cards such as sound or network cards that you still want to run. As I mentioned above, this board also supports Hybrid CrossFireX with the integrated HD 4290 IGP. The IGP uses the core and is clocked at a generous 700MHz which is the fastest AMD integrated graphics to date. It also features 40 stream processors and this particular board also has a 128MB DDR3 1333MHz on board memory chip, called Sideport memory which gives a faster boost to the video. This memory chip is manufactured by Hynix, which is known for their memory stability and speed.
The ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 motherboard is a Socket AM3 board which officially supports all AM3 processors including the Phenom II, Athlon II, and Sempron 100 series CPUs including 140 watt processors designed with the 45nm manufacturing process. The board also supports AMD's Cool and Quiet technology which throttles back the CPU speed and power consumption when the load levels are low or in an idle state. HyperTransport 3.0 is also supported for a maximum speed of 5200MT/s. The M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 also supports up to 16GB of DDR 3 memory in its four banks with speeds up to 1866MHz overclocked and 1333MHz natively. One thing I want to point out, which I absolutely love about this board, is that they changed the way the memory is placed compared to the standard on most AMD board. If you notice the colors are alternating instead of together for the DIMM slots. Instead of each channel being side by side as in other board the blue slots are one channel and the black slots are the second. This allows those of you with larger heatsinks suck as water cooled ones to populate them is the alternating slots allow you to run them. This has been my biggest pet peeve with AMD based boards for years and I applaud ASUS for changing this on the M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 and I hope to see this become standard on AMD board in the future.
Down to the bottom of the ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 motherboard are the expansion headers. These headers provide you even more expandability as needed without getting in the way when not being used. The headers that are available for the user include the front panel audio heaters, a FireWire header, three USB 2.0 headers, six SATA 6Gb/s ports, two of which are at a 90-degree angle for better positioning with large graphics cards, the front panel headers, one IDE header supporting up to two devices, and a COM header. Up near the COM header, there are a couple of switches and a button. The button is the MemOK button which when pressed will test the memory for settings that are compatible with the motherboard and then set them automatically. The board will start with those settings programmed and will boot up for the user. The other two switches are the Turbo Key II and the Core Unlocker switches. The Turbo Key II switch when activated will automatically overclock the system giving it a bit of a boost without any manual input from the user. The Core Unlocker switch will also without any input into the BIOS from the user make the necessary adjustments to attempt to unlock the hidden cores on some of the AMD processors. While ASUS does not guarantee this will work with every processor, the idea of having it in case is a nice thrill. We will be testing it out later in the review to see if it works.
To keep the board nice and cool, ASUS has incorporated their Hybrid coolers which consist of heatsinks and heatpipes designed to transfer heat from the most critical areas and out into the cases airflow. There is one heatsink over the voltage regulators, which is connected by a heatpipe to another fin style heatsink that covers the 890GX Northbridge. Over the SB850 Southbridge is a smaller flat style heatsink to keep the chip cool as well.
Now that we have everything out, let's plug it in and check the software side of this baby.