The 990FX Chipset Arrives: AMD And SLI Rise Again


I think that anyone who was hoping to see Bulldozer-based Zambezi processors hit store shelves in conjunction with this year's Computex show in Taipei is going to be disappointed by AMD’s 990FX platform. It’s 890FX, with a new name to show forthcoming AM3+-based processors will work right out of the box.

There’s nothing wrong with that, though. In fact, I’m glad AMD came up with a way to show its customers how to get the most out of an upcoming processor without complicating the upgrade process. Enthusiasts who actually can be troubled to do their homework know that 890FX/990FX and AM3/AM3+ share mechanical compatibility, though it’ll take 990FX and AM3+ to exploit Zambezi’s power/frequency management features. No doubt 800-series boards will start becoming scarcer as the industry gears up to support AM3+.

As we all wait to see what the company’s torch-bearing architecture can do, motherboard manufacturers are throwing us a little bone by licensing Nvidia’s SLI technology for use on 990FX-based platforms. Is the capability worth ditching your old 890FX board and buying an upgrade?

That depends on how loyal you are to Nvidia. Now that AMD’s CrossFire performance is much-improved, there’s no real reason to shy away from multi-card configs from either vendor unless your trepidation comes from multi-card configs themselves.

What concerns us, though, is that in a direct comparison to a similarly-priced platform based on Core i5-2400 and Z68 Express, the Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition hit performance ceilings in a number of benchmarks where the GeForce GTX 570s in SLI still had performance left to offer. Intel’s higher frame rates proved that the graphics cards weren’t to blame.

To that end, I really don’t see a reason to buy 990FX right now. If your priority is top performance in multi-card configurations, you’re buying an Intel-based platform. And if you’re in the market for a fast AMD machine, you’d be doing yourself an injustice by not waiting however long it takes for the Bulldozer-based Zambezi to materialize.

We’re definitely hopeful that the licensing of SLI means AMD’s Scorpius platform will perform well. Now’s not really a good time to build a new gaming machine on Phenom II, though. So, today’s 990FX launch ends up being a bit of a tease. We know what’s coming; we just want it to get here already.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • Marco925
    But! Does it play metro 2033?

    It Does!!!!
  • nice to see support for both videocard producers. especialy for nvidia. now you can do amd+nvidia not only amd+ati(amd)
  • nforce4max
    So fast that it sucks your eyeballs into the back of your skull C:
  • stingstang
    Tom's, what the hell is this? "At the end of the day, it's the graphics cards which are the bottleneck."
    Did you go about benchmarking graphics cards, or was this a motherboard/cpu comparison? I'm tired of hearing this excuse all the time. We know you have a pair of 6990s and 590s in your shop. Get rid of that stupid bottleneck and DO IT RIGHT!
  • wishmaster12
    Of couse you guys know their using Nvidia cards.
  • saint19
    I'd keep in mind that this performance review was made it with an AM3 CPU and not with the new generation.
  • lavitz1125
    Eh, too late too little.
  • geekapproved
    What performance review? They didn't get to test anything. LOL
  • -Fran-
    Thanks for the review, but at lower resolutions we all know that the CPU differences will become clear. So you just proved that if a game is taxing on the GPUs, both solutions are equal and when the graphics card ain't being taxed, CPU differences become apparent... Ok, thanks for proving what we already know once more (not being sarcastic here >_
  • -Fran-
    Uhm... that last comment of mine was cut in half with the missing char of that face... I guess that's an escape char; oh well.

    What is missing said something like: "face"), but you said you wanted to test AMD's SLI on their 990FX vs Intel's SLI. So, IMO, you need less graphics horse power: like 2 GTS250's or 2 GTX460's or 2 GTX560's (not ti's) to tax the graphics subsystem and really show the differences. Maybe up the resolution also to really show if there is a difference between AMD's or Intel's SLI.

    Thanks again for the Article, Mr Chris.