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Five AMD 890FX-Based Motherboards Compared

Conclusion

Asus' motherboard did the greatest number of things well, while MSI’s accurate voltage setting allowed it to take the overclocking lead under a very narrow set of circumstances. But how did these two perform?

The big surprise from today’s performance charts is that Gigabyte wins, in spite of Asus’ 0.35% uncorrectable overclock. And we’ve yet to consider price and slot layout differences that might make different products suitable for different buyers.

During our overclock tests, we ran into problems because most boards jumped from 1.440 V to 1.456 V, violating our 1.45 V limit, since the latter setting rounds to 1.46 V. After-hours testing showed that Biostar would have won if 1.46V were the limit. The TA890FXE is also the cheapest board in today’s roundup at $140, making it the perfect choice for budget overclockers who don’t care about its lack of USB 3.0 capability.

For a few dollars more than the low-cost Biostar, ASRock’s $155 890FX Deluxe3 offers a more CrossFire-friendly slot layout and is the only board in today’s roundup to offer four USB 3.0 ports. Windows XP users who need to load AHCI drivers will also note that this is the least-expensive board to include a legacy floppy interface. ASRock’s overclocking capabilities are about average, but the “average” of today’s contenders is fairly high from a historical perspective.

Gigabyte has the highest overall performance, yet its oversized PCB requires an eight-slot case simply to accomodate the board, and using its bottom slot to hold a double-slot graphics card requires a case with nine or more slots (Thanks to Doron for pointing out the nine-slot case) . Owners of 10-slot cases will likely consider the $240 890FXA-UD7 as the best four-card solution.

Anyone who wants to fit a similar four-card CrossFireX configuration into an eight-slot case will be happy to see that MSI’s $200 890FXA-GD70 is also $40 cheaper than its Gigabyte rival. Better still, buyers who don’t need space for that fourth double-slot graphics card will find that the 890FXA-GD70 actually fits in a standard seven-slot ATX chassis. Yet, MSI buyers must forgo a few minor features to get this lower price, such as the loss of one eSATA and one SATA port. They must also be willing to believe that MSI’s lower-cost five-phase voltage regulator is still durable enough to satisfy their overclocking needs over the long term.

Hardcore overclockers might put the Crosshair IV Formula on top of their lists, even though it didn’t win our basic overclocking tests. Instead, this is a board designed to support higher CPU current at higher voltage levels typically used in liquid nitrogen overclocking competitions. One might expect that altering a few settings on-the-fly could give them a special advantage in these types of competitions, and for that, Asus adds it RoG Connect feature. Its Go Button feature can also be handy for more basic on-the-fly changes without connecting a second system. ProbeIT allows tuners to more easily monitor voltage levels from a meter, and Asus even uses 10 high-capacity phases, rather than medium-duty parts, to help keep these voltage levels more consistent. But as nice a board as the Crosshair IV Formula is, its less-flexible slot spacing and reduced connectivity could make its $230 price seem reasonable only in the minds of professional overclockers.

  • makwy2
    Great article. Very informative!

    One little suggestion, in the features comparison it would be nice to include a row on the cost of these mobos. As one eventually reads in the Conclusion there is quite a bit of difference between them in this area but if this 'stat' was featured I would be able to focus only on the boards within my price range. I know that it would be hard to keep up to date and such but it would really be a service to those of us who are not made of money.
    Reply
  • wintermint
    I own a gigabyte mobo and I'm happy with it :)
    Reply
  • Lmeow
    I'd personally go for the Crosshair IV Formula simply because of the kickass colour scheme. :D
    Reply
  • xurwin
    uhuh! i really like the crosshair IV formula for its design and Awesome color! wish every mobo has a creativity design
    Reply
  • joytech22
    Ugh this year i already made some horrible decisions, honestly didn't think the Asus board would look so beautiful! i really wanted that board too but i already ordered a different Asus board for SLi support (with AM3)..

    *Sigh*
    Reply
  • liquidsnake718
    interesting and very persuasive article as i was seriously thinking of getting an AMD based system instead just a few weeks ago until I finally bought a new processor. I still dont have the mb yet but reading this article made me want to get the Asus or the Gigabyte board. I would have possibly gone for a phenom II x4 or even x6 but its too late! What a good read this was and I am slowly understanding the value oriented target market that AMD and ATi offer to beginners and enthusiast builders and overclockers.

    Truly.... if not for getting my i7930 I would have bought these motherboards first!

    I have just purchased a i7 chip x58 chip but reading this article actually made me regret it! I have yet to buy a mb as the ud4 isnt available in Manila yet.

    I will build this pc slowly but make it the best possible in the timeframe while I eke out the best of my current c2d system and netbook in the meantime.
    Reply
  • alexcheng
    URRGH!!! X58 or 890FX?!?!! AMD and Intel are causing me a mental breakdown!!!!!!!
    Reply
  • dEAne
    I have a gigabyte mobo and Its good, One thing I don't like is that DDR3 cannot use past 1333 range if you want to use 1600 only few slots are available.
    Reply
  • aquicl
    wow
    Reply
  • xurwin
    dEAneI have a gigabyte mobo and Its good, One thing I don't like is that DDR3 cannot use past 1333 range if you want to use 1600 only few slots are available. now now. breathe slowly. ASUS CROSSHAIR IV FORMULA 890FX!!!
    Reply