Five $160 To $240 990FX-Based Socket AM3+ Motherboards

A990FXM-A Firmware

Our A990FXM-A sample arrived with a pre-Bulldozer firmware that required the installation of a pre-Bulldozer CPU to update. That could be a problem for anyone who doesn't already have a Socket AM3 CPU sitting around. However, later samples of this board should ship with the newer firmware factory-installed.

ECS spreads the fewest overclocking options across as many menus as it could, with the primary M.I.B. menu offering only reference clock settings and a few voltage options. We were a little disappointed in the menu’s lack of a fixed voltage option, which forced us to hunt for our 1.40 V target using offsets. Also, the integrated northbridge's voltage cannot be controlled independently.

CPU multiplier control turns out to be an inexact science as well, since it controls neither the minimum nor maximum ratio, but instead the target base ratio for AMD Turbo Core. CPU VID control appears to require an alphanumeric input that we didn’t have a chart for, and none of this menu’s options are even described in the manual.

Memory ratios are fully adjustable, while timings are limited to primary and a few secondary settings.

The external HyperTransport frequency ratio is adjustable, but the CPU’s internal HT interface is not. This dramatically limits how far we can push the CPU’s reference clock.

Because of missing overclock settings and the inability to control Turbo Core through firmware, we were forced to use AMD Overdrive for most of the A990FXM-A’s O/C testing.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • timbo1130
    How is this relevant to enthusiast? Bulldozer is out classed by Sandy Bridge I don't care if there are a few less sata ports. If you need to upgrade your better off going with Sandy bridge and z68 or p67 or wait for SB-E and X79.
  • julianbautista87
    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.
  • mayankleoboy1
    nice thorough review.
    but great chipsets cant offset poor CPU's.
  • ellmondo
    let the amd bashing begin...
  • _Pez_
    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.
  • theuniquegamer
    What about asus 990fx crosshair v formula motherboard?
  • frostweaver
    I would wait till next year to decide. I still feel that windows 7 aint optimized for BD.
  • Tijok
    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!
  • palladin9479
    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.
  • ta152h
    What a bunch of pretzel logic we have in this article.
    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.