ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on September 23, 2010
The AMD 890FX is the current high-end chipset for AMD processors and the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 is a motherboard based on this new chipset, bringing nice features like three PCI Express x16 slots, eight SATA-600 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, solid capacitors, core unlocking utility, and more.
This motherboard is practically identical to the 890FX Deluxe3 that we’ve already written about. The main differences between the two are the USB 3.0 configuration, the number of USB 2.0 ports, and the audio codec.
While the Deluxe3 has all four USB 3.0 ports soldered on the motherboard rear panel, on the new Deluxe4 two of them are available through a 3.5” external adapter for you to put them on the front panel of your case. Because of this change, the manufacturer could add two USB 2.0 ports on the rear panel of the new Deluxe4 motherboard, making it to have 10 USB 2.0 ports instead of eight like on the Deluxe3.
The Deluxe3 uses a VIA VT2020 audio codec, whereas on the Deluxe4 this component was replaced by a Realtek ALC892. Curiously, both components aren’t listed at their manufacturer’s website, so we can’t compare them and tell which one is better.
In Figure 1, you have an overall look at ASRock 890FX Deluxe4. It uses three passive heatsinks, one on top of the voltage regulator transistors, one on top of the north bridge chip, and one on top of the south bridge chip. The first two are connected using a 6 mm heatpipe, and the motherboard comes with a 40 mm fan for you to install on the voltage regulator heatsink, if you want to add extra cooling on this piece.
AMD 890FX chipset has 42 PCI Express x1 lanes controlled by 11 engines – just to put things into perspective, the AMD 890GX chipset has 22 lanes controlled by eight engines. This allows this chip to provide a very high-end slot configuration.
The ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 comes with three PCI Express x16 slots. The first two always work at x16, regardless of the number of installed video cards. The third slot, labeled PCI5, always work at x4. On the 890FX Deluxe3 model the third slot is white instead of blue, making it easier to identify the slower slot, but on the new Deluxe4 all slots are blue. All slots support CrossFireX mode, as expected, but not SLI.
The PCI Express x16 slots have enough space between them for you to install up to three dual-slot video cards. However, to install a dual-slot video card on the third PCI Express x16 slot you will need a case with at least eight expansion slots, and it will cover two SATA-600 ports, the serial port header, floppy disk drive port, the front panel header, frontal USB 3.0 header, the power and reset buttons, and the POST diagnostics display. By installing a dual-slot video card in the first PCI Express x16 slot you will cover the PCI Express x1 slot that is to its left, while installing a dual-slot video card in the second PCI Express x16 slot you will cover one of the standard PCI slots.
This motherboard also comes with two PCI Express x1 slots and two standard PCI slots.
AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor – and not the chipset – that defines what 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 from socket AM3 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture, however ASRock says the 890FX Deluxe4 supports DDR3 memories up to 1,866 MHz through overclocking. The 890FX Deluxe4 has four DDR3 sockets and since at the moment each DDR3 memory module can have up to 4 GB each, you can have up to 16 GB with this motherboard.
The first and second sockets are white, while the third and fourth are blue. In order to achieve the maximum performance you should install two or four memory modules in order to enable dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used, install them on sockets with the same color in order to enable this feature.
The AMD 890FX chipset is a dual-chip solution, using the SB850 south bridge chip. This chip natively supports six SATA-600 ports (with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10). If that wasn’t enough, ASRock added two extra SATA-600 ports (controlled by a Marvel 88SE9120 chip, no RAID support), for a total of eight SATA-600 ports.
The SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset are placed on the motherboard edge, rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them, as you can see in Figure 4. This motherboard has one ATA-133 port controlled by a VIA VT6330 chip (which is also a FireWire controller), which is also placed rotated on the motherboard edge. The other two SATA-600 ports are located on the motherboard edge near the third PCI Express x16 slot, as shown in Figure 5.
This motherboard also has an eSATA-600 port on its rear panel. How this port is connected to the system is a mystery to us, because there is no extra controller chip available for this port and there are no ports left on the south bridge chip or on the Marvell 88SE9120 chip. Our best guess is that it is connected in parallel to one of the available ports in the system, but ASRock doesn’t make this clear.
A floppy disk drive controller is present, driven by the Super I/O chip (Nuvoton NCT6775F).
This motherboard has 10 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. This product also has two USB 3.0 ports at its rear panel, controlled by a NEC μPD720200 chip, and another two USB 3.0 ports available through a header, controlled by another NEC μPD720200 chip. The board comes with an aluminum-made 3.5” adapter for you to install these two extra USB 3.0 on the front panel of your case.
Two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports are provided, one standard-sized on the rear panel and one through a header on the motherboard. They are controlled by a VIA VT6330 chip.
Eight-channel audio is generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC892 codec. Unfortunately this component isn’t listed at Realtek’s website. The 890FX Deluxe4 comes with both coxial and optical SPDIF outputs, and you can route digital audio to video cards to have it available on the video card’s HDMI output by installing a cable on the motherboard “SPDIF_O12” header.
The analog audio connectors are independent, so you won’t have to “kill” the line in or mic in jacks if you decide to install an analog 7.1 speaker set.
The ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip, which is connected to the system using a PCI Express x1 lane and thus not presenting any potential performance issues.
In Figure 7, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with keyboard and mouse PS/2 connectors, clear CMOS button, optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, six USB 2.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one FireWire port, one eSATA-600 port, two USB 3.0 ports, an independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.
Other smaller features are available. As you can see in Figure 8, this product comes with a POST diagnostics display, allowing you to discover through a two-digit code what is wrong with your computer, if it doesn’t turn on. This board also has on-board power and reset buttons, which are quite handy when debugging your PC.
This motherboard supports one legacy serial port through a header called “COM1” (shown in Figure 5), but it doesn’t come with the I/O bracket that is required to use it. This motherboard also comes with an infrared interface (“IR1” header), allowing you to easily install an infrared sensor to allow your computer to communicate to other infrared devices (e.g., remote control).
It also has a core unlocking feature (called “UCC” by ASRock), which allows you to unlock hidden cores of certain AMD CPUs.
In Figure 9, you can see all the accessories that come with this motherboard.
The ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 comes with a ten-phase voltage regulator circuit. From the ten available phases, eight are used to generate the CPU main voltage (VDD, a.k.a. Vcore), while the other two are used to generate the voltage required by the integrated memory controller, the HyperTransport controller, and the L3 memory cache (VDDNB). Therefore, this motherboard has a “8+2” configuration.
This motherboard comes with a passive heatsink installed on top of the transistors of the voltage regulator circuit, connected to the passive heatsink that is installed on top of the north bridge chip using a 6 mm heatpipe. In Figure 10, you can see the voltage regulator circuit with this cooling solution installed and, in Figure 11, with it removed. The product comes with a 40 mm fan that can be installed on the voltage regulator heatsink, if you want to improve its ventilation.
All capacitors used on this motherboard are solid made in Japan and the voltage regulator circuit uses 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.
The new ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 provides several overclocking options. It has a dynamic overclocking function, where you can easily overclock your CPU from 0% to 20% in 4% increments, and also an automatic overclocking function called “Turbo UCC.” Below we list only the main ones available on the 1.00 BIOS.
As mentioned, this motherboard has a core unlocking feature, available under “ASRock UCC” in the motherboard setup. This function allows you to unlock hidden CPU cores on selected AMD CPUs.
The main specifications for the ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The new ASRock 890FX Deluxe4 is basically an 890FX Deluxe3 with a different USB configuration. Both have four USB 3.0 ports, but on the newer model two of these ports are available on a 3.5” front panel adapter. The Deluxe4 also has two additional USB 2.0 ports. The audio codec was also changed from the VIA VT2020 to the Realtek ALC892, but we have no comments here, since both manufacturers don’t post technical specification about these codecs on their website.
The price difference between the two is of USD 10, and it is up to you to pay a little more to get the frontal USB 3.0 ports.
These two motherboards from ASRock are the most inexpensive socket AM3 motherboards based on the AMD 890FX chipset, and incredibly they provide more features than more expensive models, like eight SATA-600 ports and four USB 3.0 ports.
If you want a mainstream socket AM3 motherboard with the latest technologies and, at the same time, want to save money, these two motherboards from ASRock are your best options right now.