AMD's 890GX Chipset in Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H

CPUs|Motherboards
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Cooling

Lower cost boards ship with simple heatsinks on the chipset(s) while those targeted at enthusiasts typically have large heatpipe coolers and heatsinks on the voltage regulation modules near the CPU socket. A well-cooled motherboard can deliver better power efficiency and stability.

Heatsink Temperatures
Heatsink
Southbridge
Northbridge
VRM
MSI 785GM-E65
50°C
64°C
61°C
Asus M4A785TD-V
57°C
70°C
61°C
Asus M4A78T-E
50°C
85°C
63°C
Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H
50°C
86°C
79°C
Gigabyte 785GPMT-UD2H
49°C
81°C
95°C
(bare)
DFI 790GX-M3H5
60°C
86°C
80°C
Measured with a spot thermometer at the hottest point of each location after 15 minutes of full CPU + GPU load.
CPU fan reduced to 8V.
Ambient temperature: 22°C

Both the Northbridge and VRM heatsinks run fairly hot on the 890GPA which is understandable considering it uses the latest and greatest AMD chipsets. It may be in Gigabyte's best interest to use taller, larger heatsinks in the future.

3D Performance

Futuremark Comparison
Motherboard
Graphics
3DMark05
3DMark06
Gigabyte 78GM-2SH
(X2 4850e)
HD 3200
2293
1116
Intel DH55TC
(Core i5-661)
GMA HD
3215
1688
Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX (C2D E7200)
GF9300
3522
1797
Asus M4A785TD-V
(X3 720 BE)
HD 4200 (SidePort)
4095
1789
Asus M4A78T-E
(X3 720 BE)
HD 3300 (SidePort)
4884
2205
Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H (X3 720 BE)
HD 4290 (SidePort)
4934
2322

As we remarked before, the HD 4290 graphics chip is just the 790GX's HD 3300 with minor functionality updates. As such, the 890GPA performs similarly in 3DMark to 790GX motherboards.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chipset:

Compared to 790GX and 785G, 890GX features a rash of minor improvements, but it seems to us that the real driving force behind the chipset is the desire to capitalize on all the chatter regarding the SATA/USB 3.0 standards. The benefit of SATA 3.0 is limited as hard drives remain the norm, and they don't come close to hitting even 2.0 speeds except in short bursts. To really take advantage of the increased bandwidth of 3.0, you need high-end solid state drives or a RAID configuration. The bandwidth improvement of USB 3.0 is more useful; at best, USB 2.0 only provides half of the standard's 480mbps maximum. Neither AMD or Intel have a native controller yet, and although AMD current stopgap solution gives third party controllers twice the bandwidth of the current ~250MB/s provided on comparably-priced Intel boards, you will be hard pressed to find a USB 3.0 device that will take advantage of the extra speed. The primary application for USB 3.0 is external storage where the limitations of mechanical hard drives comes into play once again.

Aside from SATA/USB, 890GX offers few real advancements. The new SB850 southbridge supports SATA port multiplication with FIS-based switching so a third party controller is not required when using multi-drive eSATA enclosures and docks. Also, AMD took its fastest IGP, HD 3300, and added UVD 2.0 and DirectX 10.1 support, features that have been available on the 785G's HD 4200 chip since last summer. Like 790GX, two cards in CrossFire each get 8x of PCI-E bandwidth, but Hybrid CrossFire can now be accomplished using their newest entry level graphics card, the HD 5450. AMD also touts 890GX support for the upcoming 6-core processors, but we suspect 785G and 790GX boards will also be compatible in the future with a BIOS update. 890GX is AMD's most advanced chipset to date, but there is nothing revolutionary; AMD is just keeping things up date.

Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H:

Compared to its 785G counterpart, the Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H consumed a bit more power on idle and on load, and the HD 4290 graphics chip used about 10W more than HD 4200 when heavily stressed, which is about on par with HD 3300 found on the 790GX chipset. The system power draw was lower during video playback though, as Cool'n'Quiet kept the CPU speed/frequency lower than usual, so we'll call it about even. More interestingly, our measurements showed less power being drawn by the CPU and VRMs throughout testing. So while overall power consumption was close, when we take CPU power regulation out of the equation, the 890GX board used about 6W more than its 785G cousin, whether due to the new chipset, the USB 3.0 controller, or a combination of the two.

If you wish to lower your energy usage further, undervolting is the way to go. The board applies an offset when undervolting the CPU that applies whether the system is idle or on load, so you can adjust the CPU voltage with Cool'n'Quiet enabled to make it an even more efficient feature. Gigabyte's Easy Energy Saver is a quick and simple way to do this, but it is limited to only -0.075V. If you undervolt in the BIOS, there is no limit except the CPU. The sample board had problems cold booting with our Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition when the voltage was set below 1.025V.

The board runs fairly hot, particularly the Northbridge cooler. It is connected to the VRM heatsink with a heatpipe, but a size upgrade would be welcome. The board's fan control system is adequate, gradually ramping up the CPU fan in a smooth and effective manner, but only limits the speed of two system fans by a moderate, constant amount. This can be improved by using the SpeedFan software utility which can lower the speed of the CPU fan and one system fan all the way down to zero.

Overall, the Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H is a good motherboard with no serious flaws. It currently retails for about US$140, which is reasonable given its feature-set and the fact it utilizes AMD's newest chipset and integrated graphics core. It should also be noted that an equivalent Intel LGA1156 board will cost you about $200. For existing AMD users, the 890GX chipset is really only an evolutionary step-up and isn't worth the upgrade from 785G/790GX unless you need an integrated USB 3.0 controller. If you're starting from scratch, it is worthwhile. SATA/USB 3.0 may not be particularly useful at the moment, but you can reap the benefits in the near future when the standards are more widely adopted.

Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H
PROS

* SATA & USB 3.0
* Liberal BIOS options
* Good CPU power management
* Offset undervolting
* Fastest IGP available
CONS

* Cold-boot problems below 1.025V vCore
* Runs a little hot
* Lack of eSATA

Our thanks to Gigabyte for the Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H sample.

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Articles of Related Interest
Asus P7H55D-M EVO LGA1156 microATX Motherboard
Intel Core i5-661: A 32nm CPU with Integrated Graphics
Gigabyte MA785GPMT-UD2H 785G Motherboard
Intel's LGA1156 and Lynnfield core
AMD's 785G Chipset Boards: 780G Evolved
Intel DG41MJ: Affordable 775 Mini-ITX

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