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Which 990FX Board Should You Buy?

Five $160 To $240 990FX-Based Socket AM3+ Motherboards
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If value were simply a comparison of performance per dollar, MSI would walk away a clear winner by providing the cheapest board in this round-up. This is a story about enthusiast-class motherboards, though, and for $10 more, an enthusiast can get a motherboard with fully-functional overclocking controls today. We realize that further development could put MSI on top in the near future, but the 990FXA-GD80 has yet to prove itself in this regard. The board could be a top value to anyone who doesn’t overclock, but the enhanced capabilities of its competitors are worth far more than the $10 price difference to us.

ASRock arguably provides the most features for the money, yet one of the features missing is three-way SLI capability. Past experience also dissuades us from using its x4 slot to enable three-way CrossFireX. Added Ethernet and USB 3.0 ports surely make the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional a top pick for anyone who desires neither overclocking nor three-way graphics configurations, but a true enthusiast product should really offer both.

Furthering the cause for added features, ECS’ A990FXM-A includes both three-way SLI and dual gigabit Ethernet controllers. ECS even adds a Bluetooth transceiver, all for a petty $50 over competing models from Asus and ASRock. While its biggest problem is an underdeveloped firmware that doesn’t properly support overclocking AMD’s new FX processors, the most nagging layout issue is its inability to accommodate many graphics card models once front-panel USB 3.0 is connected. The A990FXM-A is attractive, yet troublesome in so many ways that we’re left perplexed, and that’s not a feeling we’d want to pay an extra $50 for.

With six graphics card slots, eight internal SATA 6Gb/s ports and eSATA 6Gb/s, Gigabyte’s 990FXA-UD7 is almost in a league of its own. It even costs $10 less than the otherwise-featured ECS competitor, while offering four-way SLI. We believe four-way SLI is a killer feature, though not many builders use it.

The problem is that using four-way SLI in the 990FXA-UD7 prevents the use of its USB 3.0 front-panel header. We can’t even add a third-party USB 3.0 controller card to gain another header in this configuration, since all the slots are full. And we are beginning to think that front-panel USB 3.0 is yet another killer feature.

In the end it’s the top overclockers that get our attention. A low price and great firmware put Asus $190 Sabertooth 990FX side-by-side with Gigabyte’s $230 quad-SLI 990FXA-UD7. Our inability to overlook Gigabyte’s poor USB 3.0 front panel header placement makes it far easier for us to choose the cheaper Asus model for our own systems.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    _Pez_ , November 7, 2011 5:09 AM
    Yeah If were to buy this boards would be with a Phenom real 6 core CPU 1100T :D  that is the smartest choice. I think.
  • 14 Hide
    ta152h , November 7, 2011 6:08 AM
    What a bunch of pretzel logic we have in this article.
    Quote:
    Of course, a fan of Intel's work could argue against the need for 42 lanes of second-gen PCIe when the 36 native to X58 Express support multi-card graphics configurations just as capably. But such a comparison really isn't necessary. After all, we've known for almost a year that Intel’s lower-cost Sandy Bridge-based part outperform the pricey six-core Gulftown-based processors in many desktop benchmarks, including pretty much every gaming scenario we throw at the two platforms.


    So, x58 is irrelevant, because SB beats it. Except AMD's offering is somehow relevant even though both x58 and SB beat it. What?????

    If you ignore x58 because SB offers better performance, you ignore anything AMD has because a SB setup offers better performance. If you want 36 or less lanes, x58 still offers better processors than you can hope to get from AMD. Bizarre logic.

    Not that AMD is irrelevant, just the logic is badly flawed.
  • 11 Hide
    ellmondo , November 7, 2011 4:56 AM
    let the amd bashing begin...
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    julianbautista87 , November 7, 2011 4:23 AM
    thanks for this article. I was waiting for it since some guy said that the 8150 was performing badly because of the mainboard used, but now I see that that was not correct.
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , November 7, 2011 4:36 AM
    nice thorough review.
    but great chipsets cant offset poor CPU's.
  • 11 Hide
    ellmondo , November 7, 2011 4:56 AM
    let the amd bashing begin...
  • 14 Hide
    _Pez_ , November 7, 2011 5:09 AM
    Yeah If were to buy this boards would be with a Phenom real 6 core CPU 1100T :D  that is the smartest choice. I think.
  • 5 Hide
    theuniquegamer , November 7, 2011 5:23 AM
    What about asus 990fx crosshair v formula motherboard?
  • -2 Hide
    frostweaver , November 7, 2011 5:30 AM
    I would wait till next year to decide. I still feel that windows 7 aint optimized for BD.
  • 9 Hide
    Tijok , November 7, 2011 5:34 AM
    First off, thanks for the great article, good to see Tom's is keeping up the top notch quality!

    Secondly, I would really like to see a piece on extreme CFX/SLI configurations on rigs like this. It seems an article with reliable information on this would be beneficial to gaming enthusiasts, IT professionals, and HPC builders alike!

    Hope to see an article along these lines soon!
  • 4 Hide
    palladin9479 , November 7, 2011 5:58 AM
    I bought the Sabertooth during the summer and I can attest to how amazing that board is. It's really nice, lots of features and high quality. I'm running a Phenom II X4 970BE @ 4.3Ghz on water right now. Absolutely wonderful system.
  • 14 Hide
    ta152h , November 7, 2011 6:08 AM
    What a bunch of pretzel logic we have in this article.
    Quote:
    Of course, a fan of Intel's work could argue against the need for 42 lanes of second-gen PCIe when the 36 native to X58 Express support multi-card graphics configurations just as capably. But such a comparison really isn't necessary. After all, we've known for almost a year that Intel’s lower-cost Sandy Bridge-based part outperform the pricey six-core Gulftown-based processors in many desktop benchmarks, including pretty much every gaming scenario we throw at the two platforms.


    So, x58 is irrelevant, because SB beats it. Except AMD's offering is somehow relevant even though both x58 and SB beat it. What?????

    If you ignore x58 because SB offers better performance, you ignore anything AMD has because a SB setup offers better performance. If you want 36 or less lanes, x58 still offers better processors than you can hope to get from AMD. Bizarre logic.

    Not that AMD is irrelevant, just the logic is badly flawed.
  • 6 Hide
    we_san , November 7, 2011 6:32 AM
    Want to know if 990's abundant pci lane give significant benefit over z68 in gpu bottleneck scenario (SLI or crosfire off course).
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , November 7, 2011 6:32 AM
    TA152HWhat a bunch of pretzel logic we have in this article.So, x58 is irrelevant, because SB beats it. Except AMD's offering is somehow relevant even though both x58 and SB beat it. What????? If you ignore x58 because SB offers better performance, you ignore anything AMD has because a SB setup offers better performance. If you want 36 or less lanes, x58 still offers better processors than you can hope to get from AMD. Bizarre logic. Not that AMD is irrelevant, just the logic is badly flawed.
    That's what it looks like after copy-edit.

    Originally it referred to AMD's insistence of comparing its FX-8150 to the 990X to prove that the FX-8150 had far better value. The original version of the paragraph referred to that comparison method a sham, and THEN referred to the SB vs BD debate. I guess it's neither nice nor necessary to call the 8150/990X price/performance comparison a sham, so the paragraph was altered to improve it's tone :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Device Unknown , November 7, 2011 7:21 AM
    Fantastic guys! I have been researching which mobo to get the last 2 days for our mod... this saved me a lot of trouble. Asus it is :) 
  • 2 Hide
    jdwii , November 7, 2011 7:33 AM
    The Sabertooth is such a good board i love it so much. I even think its the best bang for buck out of the 990FX boards. To bad i could not give such positivism for the Bulldozer.
  • 1 Hide
    masterofevil22 , November 7, 2011 7:51 AM
    Hey, that my board :D  Sabertooth 990FX with 1055t @4.1Ghz on a Noctua D-14. Waitin around for better AM3+ chips..
  • 0 Hide
    kg2010 , November 7, 2011 8:24 AM
    Dear Tom's,

    Please do a Tri-Sli review with 580's in it.

    Compare the 8150 @ $279 vs the 2500K @ $215, who would you recommend?

    Hint: http://www.hardocp.com/article/2011/11/03/amd_fx8150_multigpu_gameplay_performance_review/1
  • 0 Hide
    g00ey , November 7, 2011 9:36 AM
    I have read that the Gigabyte UD5 and UD7 motherboards have vdroop issues due to lack of an LLC unit. There has been a lot of talk about this in different forums with a lot of people getting disappointed about it. When I wrote to the Gigabyte support team they said that they have added the LLC in revision 1.1 of the UD7 motherboard in the review. According to your review you have the rev 1.1 of this motherboard and yet LLC features are missing in the BIOS, so there are still vdroop issues with this motherboard, am I to understand that this is correct?
  • 4 Hide
    tmk221 , November 7, 2011 9:47 AM
    you use radeon hd 6950 while there is radeon 6970 on a picture :) 
  • 0 Hide
    nikorr , November 7, 2011 10:48 AM
    Not bad at all!
  • -3 Hide
    dkraptor , November 7, 2011 11:00 AM
    Hmmm. So where is the most important of them all? Asus Crosshair V Formula?
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