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Who Wins This Three-Way 990FX Comparison?

Three AMD 990FX-Based Motherboards For Enthusiasts
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Today’s test is a little different than our usual process in that we went ahead and used each company's bundled management software at its default settings, allowing some of the value added to each board's bundle to show through. ASRock's board comes the closest to a traditional "clean" install, since its IES technology is turned off by default. Asus takes an approximate 1% performance hit, but doesn't appear to get any efficiency benefit. And Gigabyte's firmware nudges storage performance down slightly.

ASRock also offers the most features, and if you need those features, they might be worth the extra $22 shown in the chart, compared to Gigabyte’s 990FXA-UD3. The problem is that the chart represent last week's prices, and we haven't a clue what will happen next week. The best ASRock can hope to accomplish is an occasional value-tie to Gigabyte, and that didn't happen today. Whether or not Gigabyte and ASRock achieve a value tie appears to depend on the day of the week you look at their prices.

Update, 4/3: ASRock tells us that the 990FX Extreme9 is now listed for $160 again on Newegg. This price will be held until the end of April. For $30 less than this board was originally reviewed, its feature set becomes much more attractive, and more in-line with the value message of AMD's FX processors.

The tightest competition comes down to Asus' M5A99FX Pro R2.0 and Gigabyte's 990FXA-UD3. Gigabyte enjoys a slight advantage in the performance-per-dollar race, while Asus' big lead is in memory overclocking. At the same time, Asus takes a big loss in idle power consumption, but compensates with a big win in full-load power draw. And if we diminished most of those power differences by not installing Asus' power management software at default settings, the company would have likely matched the performance of Gigabyte and ASRock.

Gigabyte has the benefit of FireWire ports, which most users no longer need. Asus has the benefit of USB BIOS Flashback, which isn't needed very often either, but is a real lifesaver when you figure out an update is necessary to support that new processor you just bought. Asus bundles a better application suite to complement a longer list of exclusive features. Then again, we think Asus needs those extras to justify the M5A99FX Pro R2.0’s $5 premium over the Gigabyte board. The company succeeds in this. And, with overall value balanced, we cast our vote in favor of the better overclocker.

Our Smart Buy award applies to folks who put in the effort to configure Asus' power management software to their perfect preferences or, alternatively, the purists who'd prefer not to install it at all. The utility's default settings simply were not beneficial in our tests.

We know that some of those same purists will object, pointing out that they won't install any of Asus' value-added software anyway, will do their research before buying a processor that might not be supported out of the box, and don't plan on using extraordinarily fast DDR3 memory. They'll tell us they're better off saving $5, keeping FireWire connectivity, or adding an expansion card to its extra single-lane PCI Express slot. Because those enthusiasts have their own specific needs, they already know they're right. Our next award is proof that $5 saved is $5 earned, and recognition that Gigabyte's 990FXA-UD3 is still a solid, well-priced product that does its job well.

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Top Comments
  • 27 Hide
    boulbox , April 1, 2013 9:23 PM
    Glad to see AMD getting some love.
  • 25 Hide
    designasaurus , April 1, 2013 9:42 PM
    "if we diminished most of those power differences by not installing Asus' power management software at default settings, the company would have likely matched the performance of Gigabyte and ASRock."


    Don't speculate! Do the tests and add it to the article so we can see what the software packages are actually accomplishing! That's why I read your site, yeah? For hard info that I can't get myself.
  • 12 Hide
    Crashman , April 2, 2013 1:13 AM
    falchardAren't the 990FX chipsets kind old?
    990FX is AMD's current "high-end" chipset for enthusiast-level desktops. AMD occasionally releases new chips (look last fall) and motherboard companies keep updating their selection of products.

    Old chipset, recent boards, any questions?
Other Comments
  • 27 Hide
    boulbox , April 1, 2013 9:23 PM
    Glad to see AMD getting some love.
  • 25 Hide
    designasaurus , April 1, 2013 9:42 PM
    "if we diminished most of those power differences by not installing Asus' power management software at default settings, the company would have likely matched the performance of Gigabyte and ASRock."


    Don't speculate! Do the tests and add it to the article so we can see what the software packages are actually accomplishing! That's why I read your site, yeah? For hard info that I can't get myself.
  • 9 Hide
    bgunner , April 1, 2013 10:25 PM
    designasaurus"if we diminished most of those power differences by not installing Asus' power management software at default settings, the company would have likely matched the performance of Gigabyte and ASRock."Don't speculate! Do the tests and add it to the article so we can see what the software packages are actually accomplishing! That's why I read your site, yeah? For hard info that I can't get myself.

    I totally agree with this statement. The test should have been done and added into the article because this would of been a good representative of the value of the software. I would like to know for a fact if the software was a hindrance to the electrical efficiency of the Asus and Gigabye boards.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , April 1, 2013 10:36 PM
    bgunnerI totally agree with this statement. The test should have been done and added into the article because this would of been a good representative of the value of the software. I would like to know for a fact if the software was a hindrance to the electrical efficiency of the Asus and Gigabye boards.
    At least the power was measured and mentioned, even if it didn't get into the chart.
  • -9 Hide
    bit_user , April 2, 2013 12:08 AM
    AMD's 890FX was an excellent low-cost server platform, in its day. Great I/O, tons of PCIe lanes, 6-channel SATA3, and ECC support. All with boards and CPUs in the desktop price range that were close to being performance competitive with Intel (when they were introduced, at least).

    Now, AMD is just slipping too far behind. Not just on the CPU front, but like how about some PCIe 3?

    I'm waiting for 64-bit ARMs to hit the desktop. That's probably the next truly interesting thing on the horizon.
  • -5 Hide
    falchard , April 2, 2013 1:05 AM
    Aren't the 990FX chipsets kind old?
  • 6 Hide
    boulbox , April 2, 2013 1:07 AM
    Quote:
    Aren't the 990FX chipsets kind old?


    Yes, but not a lot of new things need to be offered anyways. PCIe 3.0 is just a gimmick and doesn't really give much more performance over PCIe2
  • 12 Hide
    Crashman , April 2, 2013 1:13 AM
    falchardAren't the 990FX chipsets kind old?
    990FX is AMD's current "high-end" chipset for enthusiast-level desktops. AMD occasionally releases new chips (look last fall) and motherboard companies keep updating their selection of products.

    Old chipset, recent boards, any questions?
  • 4 Hide
    Onus , April 2, 2013 6:06 AM
    What did I miss? The ASRock has better features, including 3-way SLI, more USB3.0, an abundance of accessories, uses less power (the only positive efficiency), has higher performance, lower VRM temps; but BOTH of the other two got awards? I noted the comment about fluctuating prices, but on features alone ASRock looks like the winner. Surely it wasn't the slightly lower OC...
  • 7 Hide
    Onus , April 2, 2013 6:14 AM
    darkchazz"Three AMD 990FX-Based Motherboards For Enthusiasts"I don't think enthusiasts would want to buy a slow CPU from AMD.

    I think of enthusiasts as people interested in getting the maximum performance from their hardware; regardless of its base level, getting the most out of it. Boards like these which can be tweaked every which way are precisely the kinds of products enthusiasts enjoy.
  • -8 Hide
    Novuake , April 2, 2013 6:39 AM
    Saddest part about the platform is that it feels old and out of date. So little integration... This design is now years old and its their top of the lane. I see nothing new since 890.
  • 0 Hide
    Novuake , April 2, 2013 6:43 AM
    darkchazz"Three AMD 990FX-Based Motherboards For Enthusiasts"I don't think enthusiasts would want to buy a slow CPU from AMD.


    Really? Wow...
  • 0 Hide
    Novuake , April 2, 2013 6:45 AM
    boulboxYes, but not a lot of new things need to be offered anyways. PCIe 3.0 is just a gimmick and doesn't really give much more performance over PCIe2


    I disagree, the whole platform smells of too much power consumption. AMD needs to INNOVATE, not just add more features and drive up power.
  • 7 Hide
    azraa , April 2, 2013 8:03 AM
    NovuakeI disagree, the whole platform smells of too much power consumption. AMD needs to INNOVATE, not just add more features and drive up power.


    I disagree again. Sure the HT is old, but except for a few details, this boards, being updated regularly with their firmwares or even the pcb revisions, are quite good. The power modulation works fine for this quite cheap boards, I mean, check out those overclocks, and they are very conservative. The amount of sata3 ports is excellent, PCI lanes are ok just what you need nothing more nothing less. RAM management seems a bit old, you are correct, but only professionals get value of it, professionals that should be buying extreme Intel setups. For the average Joe editing and rendering, their memory solution is just 1 minute slower, who cares.

    I think AMD doesn't need to innovate, which is quite a prostituted word. They need to improve their technologies further, as they've been doing for the last years, just at a faster pace, without falling into self indulgence, in that i agree with you.
  • 5 Hide
    lilcinw , April 2, 2013 8:16 AM
    It is nice to see my GA-990FXA-UD3 win a Tom's award (even if it is an older rev).

    My only complaint about the board is that the NB or SB, I don't exactly remember which, would cause a thermal shutdown while running Folding@Home 24/7 last summer. It didn't help that a GTX 560 Ti at 100% load was dumping waste heat right on top of it.

    Re-configuring the cooling in my cheap case and down-clocking the GPU got me back up and running.
  • 2 Hide
    ddpruitt , April 2, 2013 8:55 AM
    Quote:
    folks who put in the effort to configure Asus' power management software to their perfect preferences


    I love Asus's power management options, power savings or performance when needed. Although I wish the balanced setting didn't cause problems with OCing and would pile on the juice when needed.
  • 1 Hide
    dsolom3 , April 2, 2013 9:03 AM
    lilcinw, my friend had a similar problem. 2 ways to solve it:

    1. move the GPU down to the second slot, which should drop NB temps by about 5-7 degrees C.

    2. Replace the northbridge cooling solution with an active fan (10-15 degree drop). VRMs also get super-hot, 75C is not uncommon under load. Quite frankly, the NB/VRM colling solution on this board is terrible, and I cannot fathom how it got a recommendation at all given these grievances.
  • 1 Hide
    g-unit1111 , April 2, 2013 9:41 AM
    I have that same Gigabyte board but an older version of it without the UEFI - it still holds up very well even after a CPU upgrade.
  • 1 Hide
    subcutaneous , April 2, 2013 9:58 AM
    OnusWhat did I miss? The ASRock has better features, including 3-way SLI, more USB3.0, an abundance of accessories, uses less power (the only positive efficiency), has higher performance, lower VRM temps; but BOTH of the other two got awards? I noted the comment about fluctuating prices, but on features alone ASRock looks like the winner. Surely it wasn't the slightly lower OC...


    I was left wondering the same thing.
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