AMD Phenom II X6 1090T And 890FX Platform Review: Hello, Leo

8-Series Chipsets, Revealed

Yes, Phenom II X6 is a drop-in upgrade for existing Socket AM2+/AM3 motherboards. But that’s not stopping the company from launching a handful of chipsets alongside its six-core CPUs. The 8-series chipsets logically replace older 7-series parts, even if they’re fundamentally similar.


Starting from the top of the stack, the 890FX succeeds the 790FX as AMD’s discrete graphics-only flagship. The northbridge component sports 42 total PCI Express 2.0 lanes, 32 of which can be used for graphics (2 x 16 lanes or 4 x 8 lanes), four of which are ganged into a 4-lane link, and six of which attach to x1 devices like USB 3.0 and gigabit Ethernet controllers.

890FX also supports IOMMU (input/output memory management unit), which, in a virtualized environment, allows virtual machines direct access to hardware components by remapping I/O DMA transfers and device-generated interrupts. There are a couple of good examples where this might be particularly useful. In a workstation environment, Nvidia’s SLI Multi-OS technology lets you assign a dedicated GPU in a multi-card setup to one particular virtual machine using an app like Parallels’ Workstation 4.0 Extreme. Or, you could assign a specific Ethernet controller to one performance-sensitive VM, cutting back on the performance penalty that you’d suffer otherwise. Intel’s version of this technology is called VT-d, and has been around for a while now.

Like 790FX, 890FX is manufactured on TSMC’s 65 nm node and fit into a 29x29 mm package. Aside from its slightly-expanded suite of PCI Express connectivity, the northbridge’s only real notable change is a doubling of the bandwidth between itself and the SB850 southbridge, from 2 GB/s to 4 GB/s.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 890FX890GX870880G
Socket SupportAM2+/AM3
InterconnectHyperTransport 3.0
PCI Express2.0 / 42 lanes2.0 / 22 lanes2.0 / 22 lanes2.0 / 22 lanes
CrossFireX SupportYesYes--
VirtualizationIOMMU 1.2---
NB/SB Interfacex4 A-Link III
Integrated Graphics-Radeon HD 4290-Radeon HD 4250
Playback Acceleration-UVD2-UVD2
Max. TDP19.6W25W12.5W18W
Process Technology65 nm55 nm65 nm55 nm
Package Size29 x 29 mm21 x 21 mm21 x 21 mm21 x 21 mm
Row 13 - Cell 0 SB850SB 710
USB Ports14 USB 2.0 + 2 USB 1.112 USB 2.0 + 2 USB 1.1
SATA6 x SATA 6Gb/s6 x SATA 3Gb/s
FIS-Based SwitchingYes-
Integrated Gigabit EthernetYes-
Clock GeneratorYes-
Process Technology65 nm130 nm
Package Size23 x 23 mm21 x 21 mm


Launched last month, the 890GX is less enthusiast and more mainstream. It’s limited to 22 lanes of PCI Express 2.0 connectivity and includes an integrated Radeon HD 4290 graphics processor. Support for DirectX 10.1, hardware acceleration for video playback, and Stream technology support don’t change the fact that integrated graphics is best reserved for folks who don’t do much in 3D-oriented applications.

890GX does support CrossFireX, though. It thus becomes possible to buy a relatively inexpensive motherboard based on 890GX and upgrade it over time to sport a couple of discrete graphics cards that split 16 lanes of PCIe into two x8 links.


Likewise, the AMD 870 chipset boasts 22 PCI Express lanes as well. But because the value-oriented part doesn’t support CrossFireX, its single 16-lane graphics link is reserved for single-card configurations (and not divisible into a pair of x8 links). You won’t find an integrated GPU in this northbridge—it’s decidedly a discrete graphics-only value part.

As with all of the other 8-series chipsets, AMD’s 870 employs the same 4 GB/s A-Link III interface with whichever southbridge motherboard vendors choose to pair it up with.


The entry-level integrated graphics chipset is still fairly well-equipped. 880G boasts 22 PCI Express 2.0 lanes, divisible into one x16 link and six x1 links. Its onboard GPU is called Radeon HD 4250, indicating its relative performance versus the 890GX’s Radeon HD 4290. Nevertheless, it still comes with video playback acceleration, Stream technology and post processing capabilities.

The SB850 Southbridge

While we’re not feeling the bandwidth bottleneck between northbridge and southbridge today, AMD’s integration of a SATA 6Gb/s controller onto its SB850 makes a data crunch much more plausible. Each 6 Gb/s port is theoretically capable of 600 MB/s. Times six ports, you’re looking at 3.6 GB/s. Factor in gigabit Ethernet and a pair of PCI Express 2.0 lanes (yes, the SB850 sports PCIe connectivity for the first time), and you’re in excess of the link’s throughput.

That’s not to say we’re in danger of getting anywhere close just yet. Storage devices are only just taxing the limits of 3 Gb/s SATA links, and it’s rare to see a gigabit Ethernet connection saturated as a pair of x1 PCI Express slots max out their potential bidirectional bandwidth. At the same time, it’s good to see AMD proactively prevent bottlenecks, especially knowing that motherboard manufacturers will be attaching USB 3.0 controllers and secondary network adapters to the southbridge.

As with southrbridge components prior, SB850 supports HD audio and its own PCI bus. SB850 also features up to 14 USB 2.0 ports.

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.
  • theDARKW0LF
    Awesome, good thing I waited for this release, hello six cores (first post)!
  • dwave
    My 4 core Core2Quad @ 2.83 is still working everything great, so I won't be upgrading. Nice to see the price for 6 cores is very reasonable though!
  • This maaayy just be my "conspiracy theory" but please also test nvidia cards with the processors. Not flacking AMD or anything but there could possibly be optimizations and "reverse optimizations" for the processors.

    I just cant remember tom's last review that had an nvidia card with an AMD processor.
  • theDARKW0LF
    Lol I was just into the hype at that last post, I didn't even start to read the review, now I think I'll just go back to the Phenom II X4, ah well lol
  • Finally this article comes out. I've been waiting since the morning for this. Lol but anyway, good read.
  • cangelini
    Got some GTX 480 numbers in there as well txt, and the results weren't much prettier.
  • englandr753
    Being that I have seemed to changed my use of my pc more toward video editing than gaming I am definitely selling off my Q9550 and going with the AMD X6. I still game some but don't care to have the cutting edge video card atm so this is perfect for me. I'm buying from AMD for my next cpu! Way to go AMD! I still have another Q9550 system so don't think I'm an AMD fan boy but I do love it when AMD gives such a great value for such a great product. Everyone should...
  • You know, AMD can make a 48core CPU, but if it performs worse than Intel's 4 core, than it does not matter that it costs only as much as Intel's 4 core.

    In this case, it does not perform better than i7-920, even though the 920 is a 4 core cpu (and no, no one really runs it at 2.66, everyone pushes it at least to 3, since it takes nothing to get it to that speed, and it right away outperforms AMD's 6 core, and has a much better memory throughput).
  • englandr753
    Is the X6 1090T not oc'able at all? It would seem there should be some headroom for overclock to some degree. Starting out at 3.2g makes me think you should be able to get fairly close to 4.0.
  • cangelini
    englandr753Is the X6 1090T not oc'able at all? It would seem there should be some headroom for overclock to some degree. Starting out at 3.2g makes me think you should be able to get fairly close to 4.0.
    I was able to hit 3.7 with Turbo CORE enabled fairly easily. It might go higher, but I'd argue this probably isn't as much of an overclocking chip as a 965 might be.