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Asus M4A88TD-V Evo/USB3 Rev 1.04G Motherboard

The “Value for Money” hardware is seriously misunderstood and misquoted. The word “cheap” does not always mean “value for money”. When you say “cheap” or a “low cost hardware”, it means “its the cheapest out of the lot what you get in the market irrespective of the quality/feature drop”. But when you say “value for money” it means “its the best you can get for the lesser money being paid and some elements/features on the board that stands out only in higher cost counterparts”.

Keeping that in mind, Asus India sends me M4A88TD-V Evo/USB3 Rev 1.04G motherboard.


Chipset comparison, Specs, packaging and contents:

Note: Just to clarify about crossfire support in 880G chipsets, the 880G dedicates 7 PCIe links PCIe slot. It does “allow” the manufacturers to put couple of x16 2.0 slots but it splits X16 in one slot and x4 in another. There’s no official “Crossfire support” from AMD for 880G chipsets.

 

Note: This is a media sample and these are the accessories that I got. However in retail packs, you get Q-Connector, A driver disk which includes AMD’s AOD utility and IDE Cable. The board does come with Serial header but it does not come with a connector.

Bare minimum accessories but its enough to get you started. It also comes with 2 SATA 6Gb/s cables and 2 SATA 3Gb/s cables.

From Upper left: 8 Pin EPS connector with 8+2 (actual) power phase with EPS 12V  connector. The board comes with EPU and PEM chip.
From Upper Right: 4x DIMM slots that support upto 2000mhz 16 gigs DDR3 Rams. According to the manual, using the blue slots is recommended for overclocking.There 2 switch- one for Unlocking the cores (if you’re lucky), Turbo key for auto-overclocking and a memory check button. Both the switches and the button comes with a dedicated LED light.  After removing the heat sink, you will find a Hynix IC being used as Sideport 128MB memory.
From Lower Left:: The Board comes with NEC “D7020200F1″ USB3 chip powering up 2 USB 3.0 ports on the Rear I/O panel. It uses Realtek ALC892 codec and there’s a SPDIF out header and a Front panel Speaker/Mic header. From the top, its PCIE x1, PCIE X16+1, couple of PCI slot, the second PCIE x16 slot and one more PCI slot.
From the lower Right: 5x SATA 6Gb/s port. This chipset supports upto 5 SATA 3 ports, out of which 5 are on the board whereas the 6th is the e-sata 6 Gb/s port on the rear I/O Panel. This is the where you will find Turbo V chip as well. Despite this board coming with a Q connector, header indicators are given clearly incase you didn’t use it.
From the left: 1x PS/2 keyboard connector, 4x USB 2.0 ports, an E-SATA port, two USB 3.0 ports, a DVI connector, a VGA connection, a HDMI connection, and six audio jacks for the ALC892 and an S/PDIF port. Due to the chipset’s limitation, you cannot have dual display with HDMI and DVI, rather either with HDMI with VGA and/or DVI with VGA. Asus has mentioned this point in their manual (Page 2-25).


Layout

By the looks of it, Asus seem to have taken notes from cons mentioned on other boards (and maybe from their older versions).

The chokes+caps are neatly stacked with MOSFETs and Driver ICs with an  Push pin aluminium passive heatsink with a thermal pad. The NB and the SB however comes with some sort of a dried out thermal adhesive. The NB comes with a better push pin whereas the low profile (does the job) SB comes with the usual pushpin. The NB sink does cover the Sideport memory as well but there’s no thermal pad/adhesive over it. At first, the board gave me an impression that it was supposed to be an mATX design but they decided to throw in couple of PCI slots (or the second PCIE slot).

SATA ports are away from the reach of longer graphic cards, however using the right angled SATA connectors will block the SATA port above/below it. It would have been nice to see at least the IDE connector being right angled like in certain Asus boards, but unless you’re using the second PCIE slot for any reason, its not much of an issue. Just to add further, the plastic retention bracket (socket is made by Tyco) is stronger than the usual ones I’ve seen so far, and all the 4 screws securing the the bracket, the board and the plate are slightly longer (by 2-3 threads). Assuming this is what you get in retail boxes, looks like a good option to use those coolers which uses the retention bracket.

PEM chip and EPU chip seem to be implemented in a manner that it regulate voltage distribution through the Driver ICs and the mosfets with the Phase. Speaking of phase, Asus advertises this as “8+2” phase. Asus told me that they use 1 inductor per phase and the 8+2 phase is handled by the EPU+ PEM chip. They dynamically handle voltages unless you have manually set the voltage.

If you have a cooler like the Noctua U12P-SE2, the first 2 DIMM slots are covered. However according to the manual, its best if the rams are installed on the blue slots for overclocking. It would have been nice if Asus labelled the DIMM orientation as “DIMM_A1”, “DIMM_B1”, “DIMM_A2” “DIMM_B2” rather than “DIMM_A1”, “DIMM_A2”, “DIMM_B1” “DIMM_B2”- or at least put 2 blue slots together.  I would have liked to see one more PCIE X1 slot in the middle of the board rather than seeing a PCI slot or the second PCIE slot.

My apologies to the readers for not putting the Asus Xonar DX card which I usually use to give a proper idea of the spacing between PCIe x1 slot and the Northbridge sink/with other cards, but I haven’t received it from RMA since 1st November, 2010 due to ‘availability shortage’ (as told to me by Prime ABGB who got this reply from Rashi).


Bios

Main
AI Tweaker
Power
Boot
Tools
Exit Screen

There were couple of issues I bumped in when I did manual overclocks and observed after updating BIOS.

1. CPU Ratio was locked in Auto mode irrespective of whatever mode I’ve selected on CPU overclocking and on new/older bioses. I did bump the multiplier using the AMD Overdrive by 0.5x and the system froze.

Update (20-01-11): Works when C1E and Cool n Quiet is disabled. You will then need to Save, restart and then go to BIOS to change the CPU Ratio. You can also change the multiplier using the AMD Overdrive as well.

2. When I flashed to 1601 bios version, SATA 5-6 option under “SATA Configuration” was locked in IDE mode. This was the case whether or not the the ports were occupied or not (even after CMOS reset, to rule out any possible weird issue).


Test setup and Benchmarks

3D Mark 06Settings: Resolution: 1280 x 1024; Anti aliasing: none; texture filtering: Optimal

3D Mark Vantage
Settings- Resolution:1024x 758; texture filtering: Optimal; texture quality/shadow shader quality/shadow resolution quality/shader quality: enable; all post processing options: enabled
Call of Juarez
Settings: Resolution: 1440x 900; Details: low; shadows: none; AA: 2x MSAA

Dirt 2
Settings: 1280 x 1024; AA: none; Night lightning, shadows, mirrors, distant vehicles, objects, trees, vehicle reflection, water,; particles, crowd, ground cover, cloth: low; Post process: medium Skidmark: on
X 264 Benchmark
Cinebench 11.5

 


Conclusion

    • The basic layout does the job but I would have liked to see right angled SATA ports or at least the IDE port on the board. The board comes with 3 fan headers- including for the CPU fan. Speaker headers should have been on at least one Upper/lower right hand side of the board. People who are into cable management would rather not use the headers- or find some way to sneak the case’s header cable from the back assuming any pc case makers provide header cables that long. Some of these is something not really you will not like to see in an ATX board from a Tier 1 manufacturer.

 

  • x4 mode on crossfire? Pretty sure one would consider at least an 890G board which lets you do crossfire on x8 mode. If the second PCIE slot was ditched for an PCIE x1, I would have liked it as anyone who will buy a good enough crossfire setup now will give this chipset a pass, irrespective of the brand.

 

 

  • CPU Ratio is locked irrespective of the BIOS versions. Doesn’t let you change the multiplier using overclocking utilities either.

 

 

  • The Southbridge did get hot eventually when using Auto-OC options and during cinebench 11.5. At least the thermal pad should have come on the Southbridge.

 

The pricing is as follows:

India U.K. U.S.
Rs. 7,750 £80 $119

You get cheaper 880G boards out there from the respected Tier 1 manufacturers but they come with their own set of limitations- form factor being one of them. You get MATX 880G boards for $99 but keep in mind that despite the claim certain companies make, I wouldn’t use 120Watt Quad/hexa core processors if I were you.  You’ll not have that problem on this board but honestly if you can afford a Hexa-core processor and a good enough graphic card, consider a good enough 890G board. The Auto-OC options (Turbo Key and OC tuner utility) gave the following overclocks below:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
With Turbo Key

 

With OC Tuner Utility
It did overclock the processor to about 3.6 ghz but it downclocks the DRAM frequency.

For any reason, if you can’t afford a good enough 890G board but need those PCI slots+ SATA 6Gb/s+ couple of USB 3.0 ports and most likely will use only the auto-OC options at max, you could shortlist this board.

The price quoted for India just needs to be favourable as not many will like to spend so much on a 880G board, especially when you can throw in Rs. 1000 approx more to get a decent 890G board.

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