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.


ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3

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 9.1.1.1020 (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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  • semo - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    I'm not aware if the motherboard header pin configurations for USB 3.0 have been standardized yet. I'm sure there will be a period when every maker will come up with their own design until we settle on a single one Reply
  • glockjs - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    i don't feel so bad in being impatient and buying one of the gigabyte 333's...790xta to be exact. looks like i didnt miss much :D Reply
  • semilobster - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    Great review Anand! When can we expect a review of the new Hybrid-Crossfire with the 5450? How did they make this work? So far Hybrid-Crossfire has only worked with other RV610 based GPUs (the RV620 was just a slightly modified RV610) Reply
  • Spoelie - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    Extremely disappointed. Still the uncompetitive SATA performance, no USB3, no ACC and the same integrated graphics performance we had back in 2007, 2 and a half years ago.

    For a company that's behind on cpu performance and tries (tried?) to push the platform "advantage", this is one lackluster platform. It's like they've given up altogether.

    I've had AMD systems for the past years, but 2010 seems to be time to switch, and it pains me :(
    Reply
  • Alouette Radeon - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - link

    Let me see if I understand this correctly. You're going to switch to the criminal organization known as Intel because AMD hasn't upgraded their SATA? You're kidding right? No spinning hard drive today can keep up with the SATA speeds as they are except for SSDs and you're whining about that? Don't even get me started on the fact that the Radeon HD 4290 is still the top performing IGP with DX10.1 added. Do you really think you'd prefer an Intel GMA??? My god, what rock do you live under? Just for ideological purposes alone, I won't touch Intel or nVidia until they clean themselves up. Dishonesty in a corporation pisses me off more than anything and if you've seen the way Intel has conducted itself in the last 10 years you wouldn't be so quick to switch. Sure, switch to Intel, increase their market share, let AMD die and then we'll all be happy with Intel having a monopoly and dictating to us what we get as they slow technological advancement down and raise prices on everything all because you felt inadequate without SATA performance numbers that are meaningless because there's no hard drives that can take advantage of them! With knuckleheads like you in the world, it's no wonder we're where we are today! Reply
  • AznBoi36 - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    I don't really see a problem with AMD's platform. Sure their SATA performance isn't as great as Intels; but like Anand said - as long as you aren't running the latest SSDs then the SATA performance difference between AMD/Intel is negligible.

    And yeah, these guys are sitting on their asses as far as chipsets go. How long has ICH/r10 been out? A long time now. I'm still waiting for 8 SATA ports with RAID6. That's probably a long time coming though.

    If you want ACC, then you can still pick up an older 790/785 board. Even my old Gigabyte MA785GM-US2H has it. The only benefit I see with the new 890GX is if you need native SATA3 RAID and more than 2 ports (all other boards use the marvel controller and have only 2 SATA3 ports with RAID 0/1/0+1)
    Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    The problem is that native SATA 6gbps for SSDs is exactly why I was interested in the 8 series. It's back to 3rd party controllers now, which gives AMD no advantage. Reply
  • leexgx - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    but it does support ACC and core unlocker they had an page Just for it (did any one read all of this pre-review before posting)

    all that amd have done is hid the option now but it still can be done
    Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    Oh yea switch to where the grass has the same color because there are no more significant upgrades between platforms either...

    They have now all been equally lazy. And lets not talk about nvidia with their endless nfarce rebadging of chipsets from a decade gone by...

    Its clear that there is no pressure in the platform business anymore. Nvidia is a joke and AMD / Intel just throw old bones at us. Get used to it. Also because "platform" is becoming more and more meaningless, except for southbridges...
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    I'm not saying Intel has a better platform feature wise, but it has more performance (SATA, CPU) and lower power consumption. AMD used to have a platform advantage, but the last year that was erased. There is absolutely no reason anymore, except for price, to pick AMD at this moment. And you do not want to be in that position in this industry. Reply

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