Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H 890GX Reviewjlqrb - March 1, 2010
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When getting our first look at the board, you can tell it has an extremely clean layout. It uses high quality parts and comes with Gigabyte's signature blue and white color scheme. The high quality parts in use with the board come as all solid Japanese capacitors, a redesigned Ultra Durable heatpipe, and 2 ounces of copper PCB. The all solid capacitors are rated to be able to run up to 50,000 hours and will prevent leakage from occurring. The copper PCB is found in both the power and ground layers; it will reduce your system temperature and improve energy efficiency. These features, along with the heatpipe, are all part of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 design that is used across multiple Gigabyte motherboards to add durability and stability. Another added benefit to this design is that it can increase the overclocking potential of the motherboard, adding extra value to it in the overclocking market. The board obviously uses the new 890GX/SB850 chipset combination, which has the fastest integrated graphics processor that AMD has produced to date. The HD 4290 IGP is built on the RV620 core clocked at 700MHz and has 40 stream processors, 128MB memory side-port, DX 10.1 support, as well as ATI Avivo and UVD 2.0 technologies. The HD 4290 is similar to the IGP found on the 785GM boards, but with the higher clock frequencies it will have additional gaming performance. This is not to say you can play demanding games with it, but Gigabyte states it is 18% faster than the chip found on the 790GX motherboard and their own internal testing has it scoring 3300+ points in 3DMark06. The HD 4290 is more than just a capable low level gaming chip though, as it should run HD content easily with the use of technologies such as ATI Avivo and UVD 2.0. Turning the board over, you see mainly just the blue PCB, but you can also see that Gigabyte has secured the Ultra Durable heatpipe on with a secure screw bracket and not a simple push-pin system. The can actually help the heatsink make better contact with the chipset below it, which can help reduce temperatures.
The top portion of the Gigabyte GA890A-UD3H has the rear I/O ports, voltage regulation area, AM3 socket and memory DIMMs. The layout here is actually very spacious and I ran into no issues while installing a Thermalright Ultra-120 Black Edition heatsink. The Ultra-120 installed very easily, but because the Ultra Durable heasink on the MOSFET is large, I wanted to make sure a heatink that sits lower to the board would fit. So, for good measure I also installed a Scythe Andy Samurai master heatsink, which, like the one before it, fit without any issues. Since this is an AM3 socket motherboard, only AM3 processors will be supported, unlike AM2+ motherboards. With a full line up of AM3 processors ranging from single core Semprons to quad core Phenom II processors and support for AMD's upcoming six core processors, there will be no shortage of options available. Next to the CPU area are four 1.5v DDR3 memory DIMM sockets. These DIMMs can support up to 16GB of dual channel memory rated up to 1866+ OC. With the memory voltage being set at 1.5v stock, most users will have to manually set their memory voltage in the BIOS to ensure full stability. This was the case with my 1.9v set of memory and at that high voltage requirement, I was greeted with a red blinking warning stating my voltage was excessively high. You will just have to ignore this and set your memory at the voltage that is required. To the right of the four DIMMs is a 24-pin ATX power connector; there is also a 8-pin 12v power connector to supply added voltage to the processor and this is found near the top of the board behind the MOSFET heatsink. Under the portion of the heatpipe labeled Ultra Durable, you will find the voltage regulation area for the processor. This area consists of MOSFETs, VRM, phase units and caps. To ensure proper flow to the CPU area, Gigabyte has added a 4+1 phase unit and like the rest of the board also uses solid state Japanese capacitors.
The rear I/O expansion area on the Gigabyte GA-890GX-UD3H motherboard like the 790GX, is nicely set-up for just about any type of use. From top to bottom you have one PS/2 port that will support either a mouse or keyboard, two USB 2.0 ports, DVI-D port, D-sub port, HDMI 1.3 port, optical S/PDIF out connector, 1394a port, two more USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, RJ-45 and the rear audio panel. For the most part these are standard ports for a chipset with an integrated graphics processor, but the use of USB 3.0 is new. The USB 3.0 ports (which are the two blue ports) are controlled by an on-board NEC controller and come with 10x the bandwidth of USB 2.0. Also, with the use of Gigabyte's power boost technology you will get an additional three times the speed over standard USB 3.0 designs. The ITE IT8720 integrated chip I/O controller for the ports is found near the bottom of the motherboard, this chip also controllers the floppy disk drive. As you can see Gigabyte has taken added a protective cap to the D-SUB, DVI-D and HDMI 1.3 ports.
Moving down to the expansion slot area of the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H, you will find three PCI-E x1 slots, two PCI slots and two PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots. These PCI-E 2.0 slots can be used to for CrossFireX, and when both slots are occupied, the bandwidth will run at x8/x8, this was the case with the previous GX chipset as well, but in most cases this reduction will not make much of a difference while gaming. Both of these slots conform to PCI express 2.0 standards and support CrossfireX as well as Hybrid CrossFireX. With the 890GX boasting an even stronger integrated graphics than the previous AMD boards, it will make Hybrid CrossFireX possible with the new HD 5450 Graphics card. In between these two PCI express x16 slots is the CMOS battery and CMOS clear pins. These can be used to reset the BIOS in case of a system failure, such as one from a corrupted setting. To the right of expansion slots are eight 90-degree SATA connectors. The bottom six blue connectors are all SATA 3.0, which support speeds up to 6Gb/s and are all controlled though the SB850 Southbridge. The six SATA 3.0 connectors support internal RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5, 10, and JBOD modes, leaving you with no shortage of RAID options. The two additional white connectors are both standard SATA 2.0 and these are both controlled by Gigabyte's on-board SATA 2 chip, as is the IDE port. With all the connectors being bent at an angle, the SATA cables will not get in the way of larger dual slot graphics cards.
For added expansion, the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H motherboard has a wealth of headers and most of these are found at the bottom of the motherboard. From left to right you have a COM header, two IEEE 1394a headers, four USB 2.0 headers, a fan header, and the front panel headers. The only header not found here is the front panel audio header, which is found directly behind the rear audio port.
Lastly, let's take a look at the Ultra Durable 3 cooling solution. The largest part of the heatsink is used to cool the 890GX chipset and with the increased frequencies over the previous generation of integrated graphics processors, the use of a large heatsink could be needed. The heatsink has a large base with thick fins coming off it that will help transfer heat away from the Northbridge. Sitting on top of the cooler is a blue and white metal sheet with Gigabyte's name on it. To more effectively transfer heat from this area, the NorthBridge cooler is connected to the MOSFET cooler by means of a single heatpipe. This pipe will transfer the heat that is built up from the 890GX to the MOSFET area where it can be removed by top and rear case fans. This MOSFET cooler has an aerodynamic design that will allow for better airflow though it, which will remove the air faster and cool the components better. Like the cooler below, it also has a metal layer attached to the top that advertises the use of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable design, these logos, don't serve a cooling purpose, but they do help with the overall look of the motherboard. Moving down the board you will find a lone heatsink that is small in size. This cooler is the same that Gigabyte has used to cool their SouthBridges, and it should be more than enough to keep SB850 Temps under control.