Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 Motherboard
By Rafael Otto Coelho on June 22, 2010


Introduction

The AMD 890FX is a new high-end chipset for AMD processors and the Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 is a high-end motherboard based on this new chipset, bringing features like six PCI Express x16 slots, six SATA-600 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, Japanese solid capacitors, lots of overclocking features and more.

This new high-end chipset is a two-chip solution. The main feature of the north bridge chip is the presence of 42 PCI Express x1 lanes – almost double the amount present on AMD 890GX chipset (22 lanes) – which allows a very high-end configuration for the expansion slots as we will explain in the next page. The south bridge chip used is an SB850, the same one used on the AMD 890GX chipset. The main feature of this chip is the native support for six SATA-600 (a.k.a. “SATA 6G”) ports, so the motherboard doesn’t need an external chip to support this feature, and certainly the AMD 890FX and 890GX will help the new SATA standard to become mainstream.

A very important detail of this motherboard is the fact that it does not use the standard ATX form factor. Gigabyte says it uses the XL-ATX form factor (which is not a standard form factor), measuring 12.8" x 9.6" (32.5 cm x 24.4 cm), against 12" x 9.6" (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm) of standard ATX. In short, this means this board is one slot longer than a standard ATX motherboard, with eight slots and not seven; thus, it will not fit standard ATX cases (with seven expansion slots). The 890FXA-UD7 will need an eight slot case, or a case with extra room beyond the seventh slot (in this case, you will not be able to use the last slot).

In Figure 1, you can have an overall look at the Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7.

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Figure 1: Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7.

Slots

As mentioned, the 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 Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 comes with six PCI Express x16 slots (remember we wrote that the five slots on the MSI 890FXA-GD70 were an impressive number). The first one (PCIEX16_1) works at x16 if the third slot is empty; if it is used, both of them will work at x8. The fifth one (PCIEX16_2) works at x16 if the sixth one (PCIEX8_2) is empty; it will work at x8 if it is occupied. The second PCI Express x16 slot (PCIEX4_1) works at x4 all the time and the fourth one (PCIEX4_2) works at x1, unless you disable the extra SATA controller, when it will work at x4 speed.

The way that the PCI Express x16 slots are arranged was well-thought out. There is enough room between the slots for you to install dual-slot video cards in the first, third and fifth PCI Express x16 slots at the same time. A fourth dual-slot video card can be installed on the last PCI Express x16 slot, but only if you have a case with nive or more expansion slots (of course, in this case, it will block all the USB, serial, parallel and FireWire headers available). So, with the right case, you can have up to four dual-slot video cards installed at the same time with this motherboard, a configuration that is not possible to achieve with cheaper products.

It is important to note that motherboards from other manufacturers may use a different configuration.

This motherboard offers support for CrossFireX technology, but not for SLI. The product comes with two CrossFireX bridges.

The Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 also comes with one standard PCI slot. The use of a dual-slot video card in the fifth PCI Express x16 slot will “kill” the standard PCI slot.

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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 Gigabyte says the 890FXA-UD7 supports DDR3 memories up to 1,866 MHz through overclocking. This 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 it.

The first and the second sockets are blue, while the third and the fourth are white. 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.

In Figure 3, you can see the memory slots, an ATA-133 port, a floppy disk drive port, plus power and reset buttons.

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Figure 3: Memory modules. Install two or four modules for the best performance.

On-Board Peripherals

As explained earlier, 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). These ports are placed on the motherboard edge rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them, as you can see in Figure 4 (blue connectors). This motherboard has one ATA-133 port controlled by a JMicron JMB363 chip, that also provides two SATA-300 ports (white connectors). A JMicron JMB362 chip controls two eSATA-300 ports at the motherboard rear panel. You have to pay extra attention because on this motherboard the SATA-600 connectors are blue and the SATA-300 connectors are white, while all other motherboards use the opposite color scheme.

As we mentioned in the last page, there is also a floppy disk drive controller.

In Figure 4, you can also check the two-digit POST diagnostics display, allowing you to discover through a two-digit code what is wrong with your computer if it is not turning on. There is also a "clear CMOS" button protected by a plastic cap.

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Figure 4: SATA ports.

This motherboard has 14 USB 2.0 ports, eight soldered on the rear panel (two of them are shared with the eSATA ports) and six available through three headers located on the motherboard. Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) are available on the motherboard rear panel, controlled by a NEC μPD720200 chip.

Three FireWire (IEEE1394) ports are provided (controlled by a Texas Instrument TSB43AB23 chip), two soldered on the rear panel of the board (one standard and one micro size), and one available through a header on the motherboard.

Eight-channel audio is generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC889 codec, which is a professional-grade component, with 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate (both numbers for the inputs and outputs), 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its analog inputs and 108 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its outputs. These numbers mean that you can work professionally with audio mixing/editing (e.g., converting VHS tapes and vinyl records to digital format) with no background noise (white noise). The motherboard provides on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF connectors and you can route digital audio to your video card to have it available on an HDMI connector by installing the required cable on the “SPDIF_O” header available on the motherboard. 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 MSI 890FXA-GD70 has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, controlled by two Realtek RTL8111D chips, each one connected to the system using one PCI Express x1 lane.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with one shared keyboard or mouse PS/2 connector, coaxial SPDIF output, optical SPDIF output, eight USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire ports, two eSATA-300 ports (shared with USB 2.0 connectors), two Gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB 3.0 ports (blue ports), and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.

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Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel.

This motherboard supports one legacy serial port and one parallel port through headers, but it doesn’t come with the I/O bracket required to use them.

On-Board Peripherals (Cont'd)

In Figure 6, you can see all accessories that come with this motherboard. It comes with a manual, driver DVD, case backplate, SATA and IDE cables, two CrossFireX bridges, case stickers and an I/O bracket that allows you to convert two standard SATA ports into eSATA ports.

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Figure 6: Accessories.

If you remove the liquid cooling block that comes installed over the northbridge heatsink, you can attach the "Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2" heatsink, which is installed as an expansion card, using the first slot of the case. You can see this heatsink installed in Figure 7.

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Figure 7: Heatsink.

Voltage Regulator

The 890FXA-UD7 has a high-end voltage regulator circuit with 10 phases, eight for the CPU main voltage (VDD a.k.a. Vcore), and two phases for the CPU VDDNB voltage (memory controller, HyperTransport bus controller and L3 memory cache). Therefore, it uses an “8+2” configuration.

As all high-end Gigabyte motherboards, the 890FXA-UD7 uses "Ultra Durable 3" technology, which consists of ferrite chokes, lower RDS(on) MOSFET transistors, Japanese solid capacitors and 2 oz copper PCB tracks for power planes. Please read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator tutorial for more information.

As you can see in Figure 8, there is a big passive heatsink on top of the transistors of the voltage regulator circuit, which is connected to the north bridge chip heatsink through a heatpipe. If you have a liquid cooling system, you can connect it to the northbridge block and all main components of the motherboard will also be cooled.

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Figure 8: Voltage regulator circuit with the heatsink.

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Figure 9: Without the heatsink.

Overclocking Options

This motherboard brings a feature called "Auto Unlock" that enables hidden cores of the CPU, if you are lucky to have a CPU with hidden cores (this function, therefore, won't work with all CPUs).

The Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 is clearly targeted to overclockers, providing a myriad of overclocking options. Below we list only the main ones available in the F1 BIOS.

Memory timings can also be tweaked.

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Figure 10: Overclocking menu.

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Figure 11: Overclocking menu (Cont’d).

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Figure 12: Memory timing options.

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Figure 13: More options.

Main Specifications

The Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 motherboard main features are:

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.

Conclusions

The Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 is really a top-shelf motherboard for AMD processors. If you want to build a gaming computer based on a Phenom II CPU and are looking for a motherboard with plenty of PCI Express x16 slots in order to make a three-way or four-way CrossFireX array, with nice overclocking settings, high-end voltage regulator circuit, excellent on-board audio, USB 3.0 and six SATA-600 ports and lot of features, this is the board. As a bonus, you get a motherboard with a high-end cooling system, supporting liquid cooling or a big expansion card type passive heat sink.

This motherboard is not inexpensive and you will also need a case with eight expansion slots.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Gigabyte-890FXA-UD7-Motherboard/1032


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