Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H 890GX Review
Reviewed by: jlqrb
Reviewed on: March 1, 2010
Price: $130 - $180
The release of the AMD 890GX/SB850 based motherboards is one that many AMD users have anxiously been waiting some time for. There are good reasons beyond just being an AMD Fan-boy. The new 890GX/SB850 will be the replacement for the 790GX chipset and come with advancements such as support SATA 3.0 and have an integrated HD 4290 graphics processor, which is AMD's fastest to date. This new chipset will also include USB 3.0, which is not supported by the chipset, but instead is utilized by an on-board NEC chip. With all these new technologies entering the AMD market, it is easy to see why this board has been one to watch, but when you add support for AMD's upcoming Six Core processors, the reasoning behind this anticipation becomes more clear. Along with all the features already listed, you will also get tried and true technologies such as CrossFireX, DDR 3 memory and support for all current AM3 based processors. With so much technology in one package, this board will be an extremely versatile product, making it a good fit across a very large portion of computer users worldwide. The 890GX motherboard we are going to be looking at today is the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H. For those familiar with Gigabyte, certain features have become ubiquitous like their Ultra Durable 3 design that has 2-oz copper PCB, heatpipe cooling, dual BIOS, and the blue with white color scheme will also be very familiar. These features, that are unique to Gigabyte, have always made for high quality products. When you combine these with the new integrated technologies and support for upcoming processors, it makes for one exciting release!
As with most Gigabyte products, the packaging for the 890GPA-UD3H comes with a wealth of information about the motherboard. Most of the packaging is white with colorful wording and contains pictures that arebeing used to inform the consumer of the included technologies. On the front, the largest of images showcasing the features describes the use of 'three' throughout the board. This is referring to on-board acceleration, features that will increase the USB 3.0 power by threefold, and also to SATA 3.0. Below this image Gigabyte lists the socket type, supported processors, memory support as well as other features of the board. The back side of the packaging lists many of the same features as the front, but goes more into detail of how these features and technologies are implemented and how using them is beneficial to you.
Opening the box, you find the accessories sitting on top of a white cardboard insert. The accessories consist of a rear I/O shield, two SATA cables, one IDE cable, a manual, an installation guide, a drivers disk, and a small Dolby Digital sticker. Once the accessories and insert are out, you have access to the motherboard, which comes wrapped in an anti-static bag and is laying on a layer protective foam padding.
With the board out of the box, we can start to get a closer look at what the new AMD 890GX/SB750 chipset is really about.
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.
Installing the drivers that are included with the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H is extremely easy as most of it can be done automatically. There also is an option to install the drivers one at a time, but this is also easily done because Gigabyte has each individual driver in its own box with a description of the the drive and a large install button on the side of it. The disk also included utilities, manuals and software that is specific to Gigabyte. To access these other options, you simply need to select one of the tabs on the left and options for that tab will open in the installation window.
The tabs on found in the installation screen other than the Chipset Drivers are Application Software, Technical Manuals, Contact, System, Download Center and Auto Green. Each tab has its own function and will let you install or download what software is needed. The Application Software tab has utilities such as Norton Internet Security, Adobe Reader, Ethernet Diagnostics Utility and Auto Green (Auto Green is also the bottom tab). The Technical Manuals tabs has a link that will open up a PDF version of the installation manual, which is the same as the one found in the accessories. The Contact system, just lists way to contact Gigabyte and the System lists the information for the components you are using. Below these is the Download center which is a link to get up-to-date downloads and last is the Auto Green tab. This tab allows you to setup energy saving via a Bluetooth device, such as a cell phone.
Now that we have the board in and drivers installed, we can get on to testing, but first lets take a look at the included BIOS.
The BIOS used in the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H motherboard is a version of Award BIOS which comes with an extremely easy to use interface. The Award BIOS can make simple changes such as setting a first boot device or changing the system date and time. It can also make more complicated changes, such as altering a processors clock speed or setting specific timings for your memory. The changes made in the BIOS affect the overall system performance and stability.
The Main Menu:
The first screen you will see when entering the BIOS is the main menu screen. From here you can make a selection to enter a sub-menu where you can make changes to the settings of the motherboard. These options are MB Intelligent Tweaker, Standard CMOS Features, Advanced BIOS Features, Integrated Peripherals, Power Management Setup, PnP/PCI Configuration, PC Health Status, Load Fail-Safe Defaults, Load Optimized defaults, Set Supervisor Password, Set User Password, Save & Exit and Exit without Without Saving.
MB Intelligent Tweaker(M.I.T.)
The first option is where all the overclocking for the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H will be done. From this page, you can configure clock frequencies and adjust voltages to different areas of the system. For processor overclocking, you can adjust the Clock Ratio and frequencies. The frequencies will adjust the internal clock speeds of the processor, which will also make adjustments to the memory and chipset frequencies as well. Overclocking with the Clock Ratio will only adjust the multiplier for the processor raising the speed of the CPU, but leaving all other settings intact. For memory overclocking, you can make a simple change such as changing the Set Memory Clock, but there is also DRAM Configuration menu that will allow you to make more in-depth changes to the memory, such as making changes to the timings. At the bottom of the menu, you will find the voltage area. This is where you can manually set voltage to different areas, such as the CPU, memory, and NorthBridge.
Standard CMOS Features:
The Standard CMOS Features is where you can locate IDE or SATA drives that are connected to the system as well as set parameters for the A drive.
Advanced BIOS Features:
The BIOS Features let you make changes such as a first boot device, enable Cool&Quiet, and set the way the first display of the board initializes. This menu will also let you make changes to the IGP from with in the IGX Configuration menu. The IGX menu will let you make changes to the HD 4290's Side port memory, Frame buffer size, and even core clock.
From this page you can make changes to built-in peripherals included with the motherboard. these peripherals include the SATA, USB, LAN, Serial ports, and others.
Power Management Setup:
The Power Management page is where changes to the power management operations are made. Here you can change the ACPI Suspend Type and choose which device can resume your system operations.
PCI/PnP Setup / PC Health Status:
The PCI/PnP page is where you can make changes to the to devices that are installed on the PCI bus. There is only one option found here, which lets you allocate the IRQ or interrupt request line to the PCI VGA card. The PC Health Status is where you can monitor system voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. Here you can also set a shut-down temperature in case the CPU, Northbridge, or System get too hot, as well change settings to the SMART Fan Controller.
Now we have had a good look at the board, drivers, and BIOS, so we can now get to the testing.
Support for AM3 Processors
AMD Phenom II Processor/AMD Athlon II Processor
(Go to GIGABYTE’s website for the latest CPU support list.)
Hyper Transport Bus
North Bridge AMD 890GX
South Bridge AMD SB850
4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16GB of system memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
Support of DDR3 1866(OC)1333/1066 MHz memory modules
Support for non-ECC memory modules
(Go to GIGABYTE’s website for the latest memory support list.)
128 MB DDR3 SidePort Memory
Integrated in the North Bridge:
1 x D-Sub port
1 x DVI-D port
1 x HDMI port
Realtek ALC892 codec
High Definition Audio
Support for Dolby Home Theater
Support for S/PDIF in/out
Support for CD in
1 x Realtek RTL8111D chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)
(The PCIEX16 and PCIEX8 slots support ATI CrossFireX and ATI Hybrid CrossFireX technologies, and conform to PCI Express 2.0 Standards.)
3 x PCI Express x1 slots
2 x PCI slots
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3_0~SATA3_5) supporting utp to 6 SATA 6Gb/s devices
Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD
GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to two IDE devices
2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_6,GSATA2_7) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
iTE IT8720 chip:
1x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
Integrated in the South Bridge:
Up to 14 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 on the back panel, 8 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
NEC D720200F1 Chip:
Up to 2 USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
T.I. TSB43AB23 chip:
Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (1 on the back panel, 2 via the IEEE 1394a brackets connected to the internal IEEE 1394a headers)
1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12v power connector
1 x floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU fan header
2 x System fan header
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x CD In connector
1 x S/DIF In header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
2 x IEEE 1394a headers
1 x Serial port header
1 x clearing CMOS jumper
Back Panel Connectors
1 x PS/2 keyboard port or PS/2 mouse port
1 x D-Sub port
1 x DVI-D port
1 x HDMI port
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
1 x IEEE 1394a port
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
1 x RJ-45 port
6 x audio jacks
System voltage protection
CPU/System temperature detection
CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
CPU overheating warning
CPU/System/ Power fan fail warning
CPU/System fan speed controller
2 x 8 Mbit flash
Use of licensed Award BIOS
Support for DualBIOS
PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Support for @ BIOS
Support for Q-Flash
Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
Support for Download Center
Support for Xpress Install
Support for Xpress Recovery 2
Support for EasyTune
Support for Easy Energy Saver
Support for Smart Recovery
Support for Auto Green
Support for Q-Share
Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Support for Microsoft Windows 7/Vista/XP
ATX Form Factor, 30.5cm x 24.4cm
- USB 3.0 10x Super Speed: Utilizing the new generation SuperSpeed USB 3.0 interface from NEC with a 10x sata transfer speed boost over USB 2.0, USB 3.0 features dual-simplex transfer fro simultaneous data transfer from PC to USB device for improved data transfer efficiency.
- USB Power 3x: The 3x USB Power Boost from Gigabyte is designed to deliver the utmost compatibly and stability for USB devices, by supplying sufficient power though a singe USB port. This will help free up USB ports for using multiple UBS device on a single motherboard.
- SATA 3.0 4x speed via RAID 0: Double your hard disk drive performance with SATA Revision 3.0 (SATA 6Gbps) from AMD SB850, the latest generation of high speed storage interface. Coupled with RAID 0 (Stripe) mode. SATA Revision 3.0 enables a data transfer boost of up to 4x speed over Rev. 2.0
- Benefits of 2 oz Copper PCB: Revolutionary Ultra Durable 3 technology from Gigabyte features the industry's first consumer desktop motherboard design with 2oz copper power and ground layers for dramatically lower system temperature, improved energy efficiency and enhanced stability for overclocking.
Ultra Power Efficient
- Easy Energy Saver: Featuring an advanced proprietary software design, Gigabyte easy Energy Saver is able to dynamically adjust CPU power depending on workload, delivering on workload, delivering just the right amount of power need for the task. One click of the Easy Energy Saver button and three levels of CPU voltage auto-adjust options allowing users to easily take advantage of power savings, without any confused or complicated calibration setup
- Not your average IGP: Based on AMD 890GX chipset with ATI Radeon HD 4290 graphics core (DirectX10.1) GA-890GPA-UD3H is able to boost GPU frequency up to 1150MHz delivering ultimate graphics performance. Plus an additional 128MB DDR3 Side-Port Memory accelerated the 3DMark06 score can even beyond 3300 makes.
All information courtesy of Gigabyte
To test the performance of the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H, I will be putting it though a series of benchmarking programs such as graphics intensive games, real world applications, and component specific tests. This is a long process, that takes hours to complete and, after these tests are completed, we will have a good idea of the performance of the new 890GX chipset. We start with our Scientific and Data benchmarks, like WinRAR, Office 2007, Sandra and Cinebench 10. Each test is run multiple times to ensure there are no errors in any one run. Next we move to the gaming part of the benchmarking process. Here we run current games though in game benchmarks or a specific scene and like the Scientific and Data test, multiple runs are done. To gauge the performance of the new 890GX board, I will be comparing it to other motherboards based on AMD's AM3 platform.
DDR3 Testing Setup:
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 955 @ 3.20GHz
- Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H
- Memory: 4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600 @ 9-9-9-27
- Video Card : NVIDIA GTX 260 (216)
- Power Supply: ZALMAN ZM750-HP 750W
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 7200.11 750GB SATA w/ 32MB Cache
- Optical Drive: Lite-On 8x DVD+/-RW
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
Overclocking with the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H motherboard was extremely easy, thanks to the easy to use MB Intelligent Tweaker and my Black Edition processor. I started by raising the multiplier up to the level where the processor would run at 3.7GHz, which I know to be stable with this chip. At that point, I started to run benchmarking programs to test the stability and with each successful pass I would raise the multiplier one step higher. I expected the processor to plateau at somewhere around 3.8GHz which is usually the case, but to my surprise I was able to get the chip to run stable just over 3.9GHz. I have had some boards clock this chip to 3.65, on the low end, and up to 3.8GHz, on the high end, which is dependent on the overclocking potential of the motherboard. These results were very welcome as I originally wanted to get this processor clocked to 4GHz and seeing how well this board overclocks, it leaves me with some hope that I can achieve this goal yet! As you can see from the image below, CPU-Z 1.53 cannot read the full specs for the motherboard and is classifying it as having a 785GX/SB750 chipset.
- Scientific & Data:
- Office 2007
- POV Ray 3.7
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Far Cry 2
- Crysis Warhead
- Call of Duty: World at War
- Fallout 3
- Left 4 Dead
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.
Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.
Lower is Better
WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds; the lower the better.
In Apophysis, the Gigabyte 890GX board finished the rendering in 30 minutes, which was the case with most of the AMD base motherboards. In the WinRAR tests, the board managed to outpace all of the other boards and had some really impressive zip compression times.
Excel 2007 Big Number Crunch: This benchmark uses mathematics to perform complex calculations in Excel 2007, which puts a heavy load on the processor. The measurement is in seconds that it takes to complete the task. The benchmark is performed three times and then averaged for the final score.
Lower is better
POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing), enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.
Higher Is Better
PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge the performance of each individual motherboard to see which board, if any, rises above the others.
In this series of benchmarks, the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H showed off its performance gains over the older generation of chipsets, by being the fastest board in all of the benchmarks.
SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the motherboards.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
The results from the GA-890GP-UD3H results were again quite good and, even though most of the scores here came out very close, you can see the new 890GX Chipset is definitely a great performer. The memory scores were lower than the other boards, but this was due to my memory having slower timings than those used in the comparison motherboards and not a limitation of the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H.
ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.
Higher is Better
CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.
Higher is Better
HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
In ScienceMark, the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H blew past the other motherboards and was only one of two to achieve a score over the two thousand mark. For Cinebench, the board was not the fastest when it came to running the test with the use of only a singe core, but when it came to the results for the multi-core render the 890GX board was again the fastest board out of the comparison models. HD Tune was a odd one and if you look at the burst speed you can see that it almost doubles the other boards, but the average read time was somewhere in the middle in terms of performance. In this test CPU Utilization was good at 3% and the Access Times were good as well.
Far Cry 2:
Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real-time effects and damage. This next generation first-person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft, surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this Far Cry game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.
- DirectX 10
- Game settings to very high
- Vsync Off
In Far Cry 2, the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H performed very well and was able to reach higher frames per second than the other models at the highest resolution.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way, there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.
- DirectX 10
Crysis Warhead has always been an extremely demanding game and, even though the new 890GX chipset seems to have better gaming performance than previous generations, this benchmark had all the boards in roughly the same place in terms of performance.
Activision's Call Of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.
- All in-game settings to maximum
- FPS measured via Fraps
In Call of Duty, the Gigabyte GA-890GP-UD4H performed similar to the other boards, but it did come out on top at the highest resolution once again.
Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter you are born in, is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital.
- All other in-game settings to maximum
The 890GX is really coming off as as good performer. It may only be a one or two frame difference between the other boards, but it keeps coming out ahead of the other models, while using the same components.
Left 4 Dead from Valve leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!
- Vsync Off
- All other settings to maximum
In Left 4 Dead, the new 890GX board was faster than the competition at the lowest resolution and tied with the best performing boards in all other benchmarks.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how these boards fare. The settings we will use are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: CPU1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
During the 3DMark06 testing, the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H board was among the top performers regardless of the resolution.
Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.
- All default settings in each preset level
- Entry: 1024x768
- Performance: 1280x1024
- High: 1680x1050
- Extreme: 1920x1200
The Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H was, once again, the fastest board out of all the comparison models regardless of what setting was used.
Gigabyte's first AMD offering based on the latest 890GX chipset is an absolutely phenomenal motherboard. Not only does it come with the latest technologies, such as USB 3.0, SATA 3.0 and the ATI Radeon HD 4290 integrated graphics processor, but it also right out of the box comes with more horsepower than the previous generation of AMD Mainboards and has features that will appeal across a wide spectrum of users. With a higher level of performance, it was repeatedly the top performer during the testing phase of the review, in both games and benchmarks. Along with the top tier performance AMD has integrated on-board graphics with HD 1080P support and CrossFireX, for unsurpassed gaming power that will make the board appeal to gamers, multimedia users, as well as those with more general computing needs. This in itself might not be enough incentive for users of AMD older chipsets to want to instantly run out and grab one off the shelves, but like my favorite infomercials always say, "wait! There’s more". This board also comes with Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 design, that uses 2-oz of copper PCB, a Ultra Durable heatpipe to cool the chipset and MOSFETs, dual BIOS, all solid Japanese capacitors and a 4+1 Phase Unit. All of these features have really help Gigabyte stand out as one of the top motherboard manufactures and when the GA-890GPA-UD3H motherboard was the first out of many to overclock my AMD 955BE to 3.9GHz, I was more than sold on the design! I have been using this AMD processor since last fall and from that time until now, there has not been a motherboard that would run it stable at anything over 3.8GHz. So, even though it is only 100MHz over other boards, it to me was a big accomplishment because there not been another board out of all the ones I have used to achieve it.
With the praise out of the way let’s talk about the new hardware that comes with the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H motherboard. Of course the biggest difference is the 890GX/SB850 chipset combination, which will allow AMD to integrate new technologies on their boards. The first and most exciting of these advancements is support for AMD's upcoming six core processors. With the use of additional cores these CPU's will have performance gains over AMD's current line-up and when they do finally hit the market you will definately want hardware that supports them. The next new addition is support for SATA 3.0 which has speeds up to 6Gb/s making it twice as fast current generation SATA 2.0. The Gigabyte 890GX motherboard includes six of these connectors, that all come with support for RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5, 10, and JBOD modes. On top of the six SATA 3.0 ports, Gigabyte has also included two addition SATA 2.0 connectors that will work perfectly for additional HDD's or DVD drives. The 890GX chipset also comes with an integrated NEC chip adding support for USB 3.0, which is rated to be ten times faster then current generation USB ports. Unfortunately, I did not have any USB 3.0 or SATA 3.0 devices to test during this review, but even without being able to run these test myself there have been many articles stating their performance gains of these technologies. At some point these should become the standard in the same way that USB 2.0 and SATA 2.0 phased out the versions before them.
Another improvement over the older boards is the HD 4290 integrated graphics processor, which is faster than the HD 4200 found on the 785GM chipset. This new IGP comes clocked at 700MHz, has an on-board 128MB DDR3 memory side-port, 40 unified shaders and support for DX 10.1. These are strong specifications for an integrated chip and even though you won't be able to play graphically intensive games, it will be able handle more mainstream games such as The Sims 3 with ease. When it comes to most IGP's though, gaming is not normally the main use, as they tend to be more for watching HD content or general computing. For those who like to watch HD content and use their computers as a home theater there is a lot to like from the HD 4920. It allows for hardware up-scaling of DVD video to HD quality, has an HDMI 1.3 port and ATI Avivo™ HD Technology with full 1080p HD playback. All of these will make for a great HTPC.
Regardless how well designed a product is there are always a few issues to go along with it. The first of these issues was that, even with the large heatsink the 890GX NorthBridge would still get rather hot. This was not a surprise though, and is due to the integrated HD 4290 graphics processor, but the close proximity to the CPU it has the ability to raise the temperatures there as well. The other issue was that the included rear I/O shield did not line up properly with the HDMI port on the rear panel and I was not able install the motherboard with the shield in place. Also, like the 790GX motherboards, the 890GX can not run CrossFireX at full x16 speeds and when both cards are installed it will be at x8/x8 bandwidth. Even with these issues, the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H is an extremely versatile motherboard that offers better performance, support for current technologies, and overclocks much higher than older AMD chipsets. This board comes highly recommended!
- 890GX/SB750 chipset
- Ultra Durable 3 design
- High overclocking potential
- Six core processor support
- SATA 3.0
- USB 3.0
- Eight SATA ports
- NorthBridge can get hot
- I/O shield didn't line up with rear ports
- CrossFireX runs at x8/x8