No news isn’t always good news. AMD has been purposefully vague on the graphics specifications of its 8-series chipsets. Today we know why. The AMD 890GX has the exact same graphics horsepower as the 790GX:

  AMD 890GX AMD 790GX AMD 785G
CPU AMD Socket-AM3 AMD Socket-AM3/AM2+ AMD Socket-AM3/AM2+
Manufacturing Process 55nm 55nm 55nm
PCI Express 24 PCIe 2.0 lanes 22 PCIe 2.0 lanes 22 PCIe 2.0 lanes
Graphics Radeon HD 4290 (DirectX 10.1) Radeon HD 3300 (DirectX 10.0) Radeon HD 4200 (DirectX 10.1)
Core Clock 700MHz 700MHz 500MHz
Shader Processors 8 (5-way) 8 (5-way)  
Full H.264/VC-1/MPEG-2 HW Decode Yes (UVD2) Yes (UVD) Yes (UVD2)
8-channel LPCM No No No
South Bridge SB850 SB750 SB750
USB 14 USB 2.0 ports 12 USB 2.0 ports 12 USB 2.0 ports
SATA 6 SATA 6Gbps ports 6 SATA 3Gbps ports 6 SATA 3Gbps ports


In fact, it’s virtually the same graphics core as the 790GX and 785G built on the same 55nm process.

AMD 890GX North Bridge (left) vs. AMD 790GX North Bridge (right) - nothing has changed

SidePort memory on a motherboard

For those of you who aren’t familiar with AMD’s integrated graphics, it’s a 40 SP implementation of the RV6xx core running at 700MHz. The chipset supports optional SidePort memory. It’s an optional dedicated frame buffer that provides additional low latency bandwidth to the integrated graphics core. If your application demands more memory, the GPU can still use the CPU’s memory controller and system memory.

There haven’t been any improvements to the audio side of the chipset either. The 890GX still supports 2-channel LPCM or 5.1 Dolby Digital/DTS bitstreaming over HDMI. If you want more, AMD will happily sell you a Radeon HD 5450 to plug in to your new board.

AMD continues to offer full hardware H.264/MPEG-2/VC-1 video decode acceleration. The UVD2 engine responsible for the video acceleration remains unchanged from the 785G and 790GX.

Boards based on the 890GX will be well equipped with video outputs like this ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3

Overall system performance remains unchanged. The 890GX performs no differently than the 790FX/GX chipsets:

  AMD 890GX AMD 790GX
x264 HD Encode - Average FPS 26.6 fps 26.6 fps
7-zip Benchmark 5962 MIPS 5917 MIPS


With nothing new on the integrated graphics front, the 890GX relies mostly on its new South Bridge, the SB850, to excite. AMD first doubled the bandwidth between its North and South Bridges. Then, it added a native 6Gbps SATA controller with 6 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet MAC and two PCIe 2.0 lanes. The SB850 doesn’t offer any native USB 3 support, so we’ll still see motherboard manufacturers rely on NEC’s external USB 3 controller. The new South Bridge does support two more USB 2.0 ports as well, bringing the total up to 14.

  AMD SB850 AMD SB750
NB-SB Link 2GB/s Each Direction 1GB/s Each Direction
Additional PCIe Two PCIe 2.0 x1 Lanes None
USB 14 USB 2.0 ports 12 USB 2.0 ports
SATA 6 SATA 6Gbps ports 6 SATA 3Gbps ports
PATA 2 Channels 2 Channels
HD Audio Interface Yes Yes
Integrated Gigabit Ethernet MAC Yes No


The first 890GX motherboards will be starting at $130. ASUS' M4A89GTD Pro will sell for $145, add another $10 if you want USB 3.0 support.


I'd expect Gigabyte's pricing to be somewhere in line with that as well.

Gigabyte's GA-890GPA-UD3H

Ready for Integration

The 8-series of chipsets will be AMD’s last incarnation of traditional integrated graphics chipsets. Sometime next year we’ll get Llano, AMD’s first APU with a CPU and GPU on the same die.

AMD's Llano 32nm CPU/GPU due in 2011

At 55nm, the 890GX North Bridge is tiny. At 32nm the North Bridge would be about 1/3 the size. Now you can see why it makes sense to bring this on-die. The South Bridge is even smaller:

AMD SB750 (left) vs. AMD SB850 (right).

We’re not too far away from having nearly all of this technology integrated into the CPU.

The Test

Motherboard: ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 (AMD 890GX)
Intel DH55TC (Intel H55)
Gigabyte's GA-890GPA-UD3H (AMD 890GX)
Chipset Drivers: Intel (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 10.3
Hard Disk: Corsair P256 SSD
Memory: Corsair DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 5450
Video Drivers: AMD Catalyst 10.3
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows Vista 7 64-bit
AMD’s Integrated HD 4290 vs. Intel Integrated HD Graphics
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  • GullLars - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    Since the SB850 also supports RAID, it would be nice to see what the bandwidth and IOPS roof is when RAIDing SSDs. The pictures say 2 GB/s bandwidth, but i'm sceptical. That would put it on par with LSI 9211-4i, only with more ports, so it's possible to reach higher bandwidth with a cheap SATA 3Gbps RAID.
    Dependent on scaling, you could get about 1200MB/s with x25-V's or 1500+ MB/s with x25-M's, but would the IOPS scale?

    I also have a request for a re-run of your 4KB random read numbers for SB750/850 vs ICH10R, as testing at low QD on an vertex LE makes no sense when comparing avalible performance (only accesstime overhead, wich would be better meassured at QD 1). If you redo the test at QD 32, you will see numbers roughly around 150MB/s and then maybe there will be more of a difference than at ~40MB/s, especially when you consider in the additional management overhead of NCQ at higher queue depths. Even indilinx barefoot drives can do 60MB/s 4KB random read at QD 5 (wich according to your traces is within average QD in some scenarios).
  • sbrown23 - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    I had hoped to see the Cheese Slices thing make another appearance here. Is video playback performance improved at all, or just the same as 790GX?

    On a side not, does anyone know how the Core i3 HD graphics does with Cheese Slices? Does it look like crap? Wondering if i3 is suitable for a Media Center/streaming media PC.
  • Tek92010 - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    Hi, ever since the ATI purchase I've been hearing less and less about new nVidia chipsets for the AMD platform. I can understand the issues that they are having competing on the Intel side of the fence however, it really irks me to see them give up on something that they have bein doing so well for so long. In my opinion nVidia still has the best solution on the AMD side - even more so if you're running nVidia graphics.

    Their USB 2.0 performance, disk performance and AHCI support is up there with Intel's. Their inter-chipset communications speed is up to mark and their IGP performance is acceptable. Not to mention the general stability and maturity of their chipsets and drivers, so why then have they been so quiet on the desktop chipset side for so long?

    Why haven't they updated their AMD IGP's to be on par with the excellent Geforce 9300/9400 solutions that they produced for Intel solutions? They had announced upcoming ACC support shortly after AMD started showing off what new tricks it could do with their then new SB750. How long again do we have to wait for that to be implemented?

    Can someone who knows please tell me the truth about what nVidia's future chipset plans are on both the AMD and Intel fronts. I am feeling as if I will be forced to make a platform change sooner or later and I really don't want to go with AMD's current solutions until they address their relatively sub-par disk and AHCI performance.
  • Tek92010 - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    After doing some reading last night I learned that nVidia does have an answer to AMD's ACC out called NCC (nVidia Core Calibration). Apparantly it allows for the same core unlocking and better overclocking on Phenom as AMD's ACC.">
  • Tek92010 - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    After doing some research last night I discovered that nVidia had in fact released it's own version of AMD's ACC which it calls NCC (nVidia Core Calibration). It's supposed to enable better overclocking as well as core unlocking on Phenom.

  • Paladin1211 - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link


    "until they address their relatively sub-par disk and AHCI performance."

    It's not sub-par, mate. USB 3.0 performance is as good as Intel. And with a midrange SSD you'd have the same speed as Intel AHCI, too. Only when you slap in a high end SSD, then it would start to differ.

    Given the mass majority of people don't even use a single low-end SSD let alone high-end SSD, the SB850 performs more than good enough. Enthusiasts will at least go for the i7 920 or 860, they don't deal with Phenom II 955 or SB850 either.

    Sub-par disk and AHCI performance? You must be joking!
  • Tek92010 - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link


    "sub·par (sb-pär)
    1. Not measuring up to traditional standards of performance, value, or production.
    2. Below par in a hole, round, or game of golf."

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    It's sub-par to me compared to nVidia and Intel chipsets which won't limit my nor my customer's high-end SSD performance. I was never talking about USB 3.0 performance. What qualifies you to make such a broad, generalizing statement about the processor choices of enthusiasts? Why wouldn't an enthusiast build a system with an AMD Phenom II 955 and instead opt for at least the i7 920 or 860, because you said so? The onset of SSD's have shown many people a better way to spend their system budget. Some may now opt for a cheaper and lower performing, "just good enough" processor in order to afford a good performing SSD and might end up with a better overall experience than one with an unbalanced and "mechanical hard disk drive bottlenecked" system.

    It is quite posibble to build an excellent gaming system for example, based on the AMD Phenom II 955 and any of the midrange to high end GPU options available today. At high image quality settings the Phenom II 955 will surely be able to provide an acceptable and playable frame rate to many compared to it's i7 920 or 860 counterparts.

    Don't forget the whole point of my post. It was really about what is going on at the nVidia camp. If nVidia were to stop making chipsets for AMD then we would all be stuck with something that is not on the same level as Intel in terms of AHCI and general disk performance. If that were to happen then it might push many system builders towards opting for Intel. Not that anything's wrong with that though.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    Remember though, AMD isn't looking for just budget shoppers but ideally would like to market to the small number of big spenders too. And those big spenders won't be spending with AMD if the expensive SSD they have bought doesn't work as well.
  • Ryun - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    nVidia isn't making a LGA 1155/1366 board because they don't have a license for the QPI from Intel. Intel is legally blocking them from making chipsets for their new Core i processors (and the new Atom as well), but last I heard there was pending litigation.

    I don't have a concrete reason for nVidia not making AMD boards anymore, but my guess would be because a) AMD doesn't have a very good product lineup in the mobile segment and that's the one seeing the most growth at the moment. I don't think nVidia wants to invest in a platform that doesn't bring in the dough; and b) nVidia is still upset about AMD buying ATI and creating it's own in-house chipset.

    That said, I agree. If I had to choose between ATI and nVidia chipsets I would choose nVidia.
  • Tek92010 - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    Can you find out nVidia's official position on and reasoning for their lack of AMD chipset innovation and competition Anand?

    There was a time when the chipset market was very exciting. Are we ever going to return to the glory days of VIA vs SiS vs AMD vs nVidia vs Intel?

    Also why haven't you used nVidia chipsets in your testing of AMD platforms for so long? nVidia platforms might actually make them look little better on the benchmarks than their own in-house designs, or are the AMD chipsets better than nVidia's now in your opinion?

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