ASRock 880GXH/USB3 Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on June 3, 2010


Introduction

The new AMD 880G chipset is based on Radeon HD 4250 graphics engine, which is a slower version of the graphics engine used on AMD 890GX (Radeon HD 4290). This way 880G-based motherboards are cheaper than 890GX-based ones. Let’s take a look at ASRock 880GXH/USB3, which brings USB 3.0 ports.

In the table below we provide a comparison between AMD 880G and other chipsets with integrated graphics from AMD.

Chipset

AMD 890GX

AMD 880G

AMD 785G

AMD 780G

AMD 760G

AMD 790GX

GPU Clock

700 MHz

560 MHz

500 MHz

500 MHz

350 MHz

700 MHz

Graphics Processors

40

40

40

40

40

40

Engine

HD 4290

HD 4250

HD 4200

HD 3200

3000

HD 3300

DirectX

10.1

10.1

10.1

10

10

10

PCI Express

2.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

South Bridge Chip

SB850

SB710

SB710

SB700

SB710

SB750

USB 2.0 Ports

14

12

12

12

12

12

SATA-300 Ports

None

6

6

6

6

6

SATA-600 Ports

6

None

None

None

None

None

RAID

0, 1, 5, 10

0, 1, 10

0, 1, 10

0, 1, 10

0, 1, 10

0, 1, 5, 10

ATA-133 Ports

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

Other chipsets with on-board video from AMD include AMD 690V, AMD 690G, AMD 740G and AMD 780V. AMD 690V, AMD 690G and AMD 740G are based on a DirectX 9 graphics engine, while AMD 780V is based on a DirectX 10 one. AMD 780V is based on Radeon HD 3100 engine, which runs at 400 MHz – clock is the main difference between HD 3100, HD 3200 and HD 3300 engines.

As you may know by now, on systems with integrated video the video memory is achieved by stealing part of the main RAM. Chipsets from AMD have a feature called SidePort, which is an optional memory chip soldered on the motherboard in order to increase video memory. The portrayed motherboard doesn’t have this feature.

Now let’s take an in-depth look at ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard.

The Motherboard

ASRock has four motherboard models based on AMD 880G chipset, 880G Extreme3, 880GXH/USB3, 880GMH/USB3 and 880GM-LE. In the table below we show the main differences between these four models.

 

880G Extreme3

880GXH/USB3

880GMH/USB3

880GM-LE

Form Factor

ATX

ATX

microATX

microATX

Memory

4 sockets

4 sockets

4 sockets

2 sockets

PCI Express x16 slots

Three

One

One

One

PCI Express x1 slots

One

Two

One

One

PCI slots

Three

Three

Two

Two

South Bridge Chip

SB850

SB710

SB710

SB710

SATA-300

None

Five ports

Five ports

Six ports

SATA-600

Six ports

None

None

None

eSATA

None

One eSATA-300 port

One eSATA-300 port

None

USB 2.0

12 ports

11 ports

11 ports

12 ports

USB 3.0

Two ports

One port

One port

None

Audio Codec

VIA VT2020

Realtek ALC892

Realtek ALC892

Realtek ALC662

Networking

One Gigabit Ethernet port

One Gigabit Ethernet port

One Gigabit Ethernet port

One Gigabit Ethernet port

SidePort Memory

128 MB

No

128 MB

No

Video Outputs

VGA, DVI-D, HDMI

VGA, DVI-D, HDMI

VGA, DVI-D, HDMI

VGA, DVI-D

Voltage Regulator

8+2

4+1

4+1

3+1

All of them use Japanese solid capacitors, which is great.

In Figure 1 you have an overall look at ASRock 880GXH/USB3. As you can see, it uses the standard ATX form factor.

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard
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Figure 1: ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard.

Slots

AMD 880G north bridge chip has 22 PCI Express x1 lanes (the same number used on AMD 870 and AMD 890GX chipsets), with seven internal engines to control them (AMD 890GX has eight engines). ASRock 880GXH/USB3 comes with one PCI Express x16 slot, one PCI Express x1 slot and three standard PCI slots.

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard
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Figure 2: Slots.

Memory Support

AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, and not the chipset, that defines the memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

At the moment, the integrated memory controller of socket AM3 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture, however ASRock says 880GXH/USB3 supports DDR3 memories up to 1,800 MHz through overclocking. The reviewed motherboard has four DDR3 sockets and since, at the moment, each DDR3 memory module can have up to 4 GB, you can have up to 16 GB with this motherboard.

The first and the second sockets are white, while the third and the fourth are blue. In order to achieve the maximum performance, you should install two or four memory modules to enable the dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used, install them in sockets with the same color in order to enable this feature.

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard
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Figure 3: Memory modules. Install two or four modules for the best performance.

On-Board Peripherals

AMD 880G chipset is a dual-chip solution and we’ve already published all the main specs from this chipset on the first page of this article. ASRock 880GXH/USB3 uses the SB710 south bridge chip, but some other motherboards use the SB850 chip instead, which provides SATA-600 ports and an additional RAID level (5).

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard comes with five SATA-300 ports, with the sixth port transformed into an eSATA-300 port. These ports support RAID 0, 1 and 10. The five internal ports are installed on one of the corners of this motherboard, so a video card won’t block them.

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard
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Figure 4: Location of the five SATA-300 ports.

This motherboard has one ATA-133 port and a floppy disk drive controller, which are features rare to be found on newer motherboards. Therefore if you need these features you may want to pick this motherboard.

From the 14 USB 2.0 ports supported by the chipset, ASRock 880GXH/USB3 offers 11 of them, five soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard. This motherboard also has one USB 3.0 port, controlled by a Fresco Logic FL1000G chip. The big problem with this motherboard – and this is an unbelievable mistake done by ASRock – is that on the rear panel there are two blue USB ports, but only one of them is USB 3.0 (the bottom one; the top one is USB 2.0). It is simply impossible for the average user to get which of the two is the USB 3.0 port without looking at the manual (page 3).

No FireWire ports are provided.

Audio is generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC892 codec, which presents eight channels. The chip manufacturer doesn’t not publish detailed technical information about this codec, so we can’t give an opinion regarding the audio section of this motherboard. An optical SPDIF output is available and you can add a coaxial SPDIF connector by installing an adapter on the “HDMI_SPDIF1” header available.

This motherboard provides shared 7.1 analog outputs, meaning that you will have to “kill” either the mic in or the line in jack if you install an analog 7.1 speaker set.

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111DL chip, which is connected to the system using a PCI Express x1 lane and thus not presenting any potential performance issues.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with PS/2 keyboard connector, five USB 2.0 ports (the four black ones and the top blue one), VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, eSATA-300 port, Gigabit Ethernet port, USB 3.0 port (the bottom blue one), optical SPDIF output and shared analog 7.1 audio outputs.

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard
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Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel.

As you can see, this motherboard comes with three video connectors, but only two of them can be used at the same time.

There is no mouse PS/2 connector so you have to use a USB mouse (or a wireless mouse with a USB receptor).

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 also has a legacy serial port available through a header labeled “COM1” near the last PCI slot. In order to use it you will need an I/O bracket that doesn’t come with the product.

This motherboard also has an infrared interface. If you want to use it you will need to buy the optical components and install them on the “IR1” header available.

Voltage Regulator

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 comes with a five-phase voltage regulator circuit. From the five available phases, four are used to generate the CPU main voltage (VDD, a.k.a. Vcore) while the other one is used to generate the VDDNB voltage (which feeds the integrated memory controller, the integrated HyperTransport bus controller and the integrated L3 memory cache). Thus this motherboard has a “4+1” configuration.

This motherboard comes with a passive heatsink installed on top of the transistors of the voltage regulator circuit. This motherboard uses only solid capacitors and ferrite chokes, which are better than iron chokes. Please read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator tutorial for more information.

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard
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Figure 6: Voltage regulator circuit.

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard
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Figure 7: Voltage regulator circuit.

Overclocking Options

Like other recent models from ASRock, 880GXH/USB3 includes a core-unlocking feature (called “UCC” by the manufacturer) – which allows you to easily unlock hidden CPU cores (if your CPU has hidden cores, so this operation will not always work) – and an automatic overclocking feature called “Turbo 50,” which promises to increase the system 3D performance on 3DMark Vantage Entry test by 50%. This motherboard also has has a dynamic overclocking feature.

Below we list the main overclocking options present on ASRock 880GXH/USB3 (1.10 BIOS).

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard
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Figure 8: Overclocking menu.

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard
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Figure 9: Overclocking menu.

Main Specifications

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 motherboard main features are:

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

Conclusions

ASRock 880GXH/USB3 has some advantages and some disadvantages over competing products. As advantages we have the ATX form factor (which some users prefer over the microATX form factor), core unlocking feature, automatic overclocking feature, the presence of an ATA-133 port, a floppy disk drive port and one USB 3.0 port.

As main disadvantages we have the use of SB710 south bridge chip instead of SB850 (translation: no SATA-600 ports) and the presence of one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port painted with the same color (blue), making it hard for the average user to know which one is the USB 3.0 port (which in our opinion is an inexcusable flaw).

However, at USD 100 we think it is too expensive for what it offers. The microATX version of this motherboard, called 880GMH/USB3 costs USD 85 and has the exact same specifications (the only difference between the two, besides the size, is the number of PCI Express x1 and standard PCI slots).

Therefore if you want a more affordable motherboard based on AMD 880G the smaller version of this motherboard is a better option.

If, however, you prefer SATA-600 ports over USB 3.0 ports, then a better option is Foxconn A88GM Deluxe. It is important to point out that models from ASRock have core unlocking and automatic overclocking, features not present on this model from Foxconn.

If you want to go cheap you can try ASRock 880GM-LE at USD 75, but we can’t recommend this other model because of the presence of only two memory sockets and the six-channel audio with shared jacks.

However, if you really want to save, you can buy a AMD 785G-based motherboard for USD 35 less – in fact we don’t think this huge price gap justifies the performance difference between AMD 785G- and AMD 880G-based motherboards. But in this case you won’t get a USB 3.0 port.

All options provided, the final decision is yours.

By the way, one constructive criticism to ASRock is to hire someone with a better knowledge of the English language to revise the text on their product box. Two examples of phrases written in “Engrish” are “World’s First AMD 880G Chipset Motherboard Supports Unlock CPU Core” (the correct form would be “World’s first motherboard based on AMD 880G chipset to support CPU core unlocking”) and “An user-friendly and united tool which allows you to overclock your hardware devices to get the best system performance” (the correct form would be “A user-friendly tool that allows you to overclock your hardware devices to get the best system performance”). Unfortunately this kind of problem happens a lot with several manufacturers.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ASRock-880GXH-USB3-Motherboard/1016


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