Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H Review

We’ll be seeing a lot of new boards from different manufacturers with different form factors and features since AMD have introduced new northbridge and Southbridge.

This board comes with HT 3.0 support and the new AMD 890GX/SB850 chipset with an on-board HD 4290 (RV620 core) 700MHz core clock that can run hybrid crossfire with ATi 5450. Just like the 880g, 890GX supports UVD2, DVD upscaling and out-of-the-box X 6 support. The chipset can accommodate D-SUB, DVI, HDMI and Display Port, but no dual display option. The Northbridge can run pcie x16 2.0 with a single card and pcie x8 on a crossfire setup.

Coming towards the Southbridge, the SB850 supports upto 6 sata 6 GB/s, upto 14 USB 2.0, gigabit Ethernet, HD Audio and it holds on to support FDD/IDE as well.

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The board I will be reviewing is a mainstream model- Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H. This is aimed to be a mainstream model to target hardware enthusiasts, gamers and overclockers (or all of above), fulfilling what Matx boards couldn’t and filling the “void” between a low end and a high end/expensive motherboard.


Packaging, specification and contents

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A buyer who never bought a Gigabyte board before or haven’t done much research on it will learn everything about the usual and unique offerings on this board (2 oz. Copper with all solid caps, dual bios, 128MB DDR3 sideport memory, on-board graphics with full HD support- list goes on) and even information on the other side of the board. Sure, the box comes with “eye-candy” logos but all the information about the product is written in simple language and detailed illustrations. This is something one will appreciate from Gigabyte, especially by those who end up buying a board from a store if one is not able to do any research. The box simply gives a vibe “You simply can’t go wrong by picking me up”. Whether it performs as it should is something we will find out when we progress with the review.

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The contents I received with this review sample are pretty basic that we would expect in a UD2H series- an IDE cable with sata connectors, a driver/utility disk and a user’s manual with a multilingual guide to assemble the system together (and it’s easy to follow so first time system builders will find some confidence when assembling it for the first time). It would be awfully nice if Gigabyte bundled crossfire connector with the board as some graphic card manufacturers might bundle a smaller connector.

Layout

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The board is a rev 1.0.The sinks are removed to give a better idea of the motherboard, especially for overclockers and to those who want a rock solid board with an effective passive cooling.

From the top left:

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The 8 pin EPS connector is nestled next to the sink. Many would find it bit inconvenient to install/remove the cable from here especially with the sink being too close

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Though it’s not a problem for many, people will appreciate even the smallest of liberty to connect/disconnect on a mainstream board. The CPU_FAN header is placed properly. Gigabyte needs to put their F_AUDIO headers near the USB/1394 headers- or maybe somewhere near the sata/IDE connectors. A pcie x1 and SYS_FAN header is cramped between the northbridge heatsink and the pcie x16 slot. Users most likely will use the 2nd or 3rd pcie x1 slot as Gigabyte has generously given 3 of them.

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Even for tall heatsinks with push-pull config, it stays within the board’s layout.
After removing the board’s sinks, you can see that the MOSFET sinks are meant to protect MOSFETs, VRM, 4+1 phase units and the solid capacitors for the CPU.

This is the same story with the northbridge sink. It cools down 890GX and the sideport memory. For the curious, the board uses a Hynix 128MB DDR3 memory.

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Both the MOSFET and the northbridge have sinks with thick fins and are joined by a heat pipe, whereas the southbridge uses a standalone sink. The mosfet uses 2 plastic pushpins, whereas the northbridge uses spring screws are secured from the other side of the board. Seeing these setups being done by Gigabyte, this board will be preferred by overclockers who need a good board as their main system.
From the top right:

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Depending on the heatsink and rams you buy, there will be some obstruction. The gap between the socket and the DIMM slots is as same as what one would see in an MATX board. If a user installs a mid-size-to-large heatsinks, it will overshadow 2 DIMM slots. If you buy rams with a tall heat spreader, you can only use the last 2 DIMM options. A 3 pin PWR_FAN header is next to the DIMM slots, along with the usual 24 pin ATX and the IDE slot.

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The board comes with 6 SATA3 6GB/s but Gigabyte have given a dedicated sata 2 controller to power up 2 more SATA2 slots. A big thumbs up for this implementation, as users will sata2 hard drives/dvd drives will not end up wasting occupying a sata3 port. The chip is made by J Micron.

From the bottom left:

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As being mentioned earlier, the board has 3 pcie x1 slots. The board comes with 2x pcie slots which run on x8 mode on a crossfire setup. As space is still available, Gigabyte given 2 pci slots for the extra add-ons. Towards the left, you will see a REALTEK controller for LAN and a chip for HD audio. The board comes with CD IN, SPDIF IN and OUT header, followed by a serial and a FDD connector down below. Towards the right hand side (part of it is seen on this and the next photo) there are 2 1394 headers. While one would think for a moment why there is a pcie x1 slot cramped below the northbridge sink.Most likely not be used unless the other 2 slots are occupied.
From the bottom right:

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At the end of the pcie x16 slot, the board comes with a Realtek rtm880n clock generator chip and the dual bios chips. The southbridge comes with a standalone low profile heatsink which uses plastic push pins and a right angled sata connectors with all the front panel headers below it. At the bottom, comes with 4 USB headers and a 4 pin SYS_FAN header.

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The I/O panel comes with 4 USB 2.0, 1 keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, VGA, DVI, HDMI, optical/SPDIF out connector, 2 USB3.0 connectors, an ethernet port and 6 audio jacks. What would be nice to see is an e-sata port, which is also a norm for certain matx/most atx sized boards especially Gigabyte. People who don’t need/use it, will not bother.

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To give you a better idea of the board, I’ve installed Noctua u12pse2, Asus xonar DX and an Evga 9600gt.

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On the right side of the board, users who bought rams with tall heatspreaders will end up sacrificing the first 2 DIMM slots. Rams with low profile heatspreaders wouldn’t have this problem, but you will have to install the rams before installing such heatsinks and you will have to remove the heatsinks if you want to remove the rams.

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Even with tall heatsinks with push-pull configuration, there is adequate space between the MOSFETs and Northbridge sinks.

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As said earlier, people would be tempted to install the card on the 3rd slot.

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When I installed the 9600gt on the pcie x8 slot, I bumped into something I wouldn’t like to see it on any atx board.
There is a little bit of space between the southbridge sink and the card when you install it on the pcie x8 slot. It shouldn’t be a problem for people who are interested to crossfiring, but they could have placed it a little away from the pcie x8 slot.

The expandability option of the board cannot be questioned but it comes with some hiccups as far as organization is concerned. Many wouldn’t bother about it and few will not like to see this. It is manageable in any case. Another good point about this board (most Gigabyte boards, if you compare it with models from other brands) is that you don’t need any VGA switch card.

Bios

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The board comes with dual bios and it uses Award bios. This board that I received came with F3 bios.

MB Intelligent tweaker is where overclockers will have all the setups they need to tinker around:

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As usual, M.I.T. comes with clean and organized options. There are more options under IGX configuration.

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Under IGX configuration, the first option lets you to allocate ram’s memory to your onboard graphics. Selecting UMA will allocate memory only to the onboard whereas selecting sideport will allocate sideport memory to your onboard. By default it’s on UMA+ Sideport and I left it with that option.

UMA frame buffer size lets you to set the amount of system memory to be allocated to your onboard graphics. The options are restricted to auto, 128MB, 256MB and 512MB. Its left on default viz. auto.
Surround view lets you to choose the VGA output when using dual screens. However as highlighted before, the option is restricted between D-SUB/DVI and D-SUB/HDMI.

VGA core clock control is where you can enable the VGA core clock option.

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VGA core clock is where you get the liberty to overclock your onboard’s core clock. During benchmarking, the option is left at its default clock speed i.e. 700 MHz.
Sideport memory clock is where you can overclock your sideport memory with an interval of 30 Mhz between each settings. This is a pretty good feature for people to try to overclock their onboard and give it a bit of a push, but it would be awful nice if Gigabyte allowed users to manually set their own values just like how one can for VGA core clock. Still, there’s a lot of option to tinker around the IGX configuration.

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Now back to the main M.I.T. screen,

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CPU clock ratio and CPU frequency is where you overclock your processor and memory clock allows you to set your ram’s frequency. More frequency option comes under memory clock when you bump the memory clock values. NB frequency can be bumped by users as well.

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DRAM configuration lets you change the memory’s latencies. The ram kit which is inserted detected as 1333 MHz 9-9-9-24. You can simply refer to SPD values and set it once you switch the DDR3 timing items to manual.

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Back to the main M.I.T. screen,
Once you switch the system voltage control to manual, you can control probably all the voltage control you will need. The voltage options available have an interval between 50-100V when you choose the options. Experienced overclockers would have preferred to put in the voltage manually, but it’s not all that bad. Rather, it’s a good option for many to be satisfied.

You can save upto 8 profile on your BIOS and also save the settings on your hard drive, floppy or USB. This option is fantastic and probably one of those settings one might expect on higher end UD5 models. The problem I ran into F3 bios is that when I use the pre-saved profile and restart the system, it switches itself off. After starting it back, the system uses the settings under the profile.

Edit (14/05/10): You asked for it and hence you got it!

As requested by a member, I’ve bios flashed to f7c beta bios. There was nothing new under M.I.T, but there were couple of features enabled under advanced bios features:

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CPU unlock does come up. After enabling the cpu unlock and restarting the system, once you go back to advanced bios features CPU core control option comes under the CPU unlock option. Unfortunately my 550 BE cannot be unlocked, but this should give an idea to those who are curious about the new bios.

Test setup and benchmarks:

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

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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

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Call of Juarez

Settings: Resolution: 1440x 900; Details: low; shadows: none; AA: 2x MSAA

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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

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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
Settings: 1280x 1024; preset: low; Renderer: enhanced full dynamic lightning (dx10 mode) ; MSAA/SSAO: off.

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x264 Benchmark (3rd run)

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Winrar x64 Benchmark
Benchmark is done with a main folder containing 20 sub folders and images with total size of 1.21GB

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Overclocking and conclusion
The processor that I have is a c2 stepping AMD 550BE where I need to use 1.44v to get it upto 3.6GHz on the Biostar 790GXBE, but I used the same voltage and on first try I was able to get it to almost 3.8 GHz. Other than that, I gave a minor bump on HT Link and the on-board’s clock speed without bumping up the respective voltage settings.

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Most of the users will end up getting a c3 revision. This board is a great overclocker, provided the user takes advantage of its full potential. On stock without a discrete graphic card, there’s not much difference with the 790GX chipset.As far as F7C Beta bios goes, I was not able to push more clock speed with the same VCORE.

The good: New board with new chipset and out-of-the-box support for a hexa core with 6 sata 3+ 2 sata ports and the rest of the goodies.

The bad: No diagnostic LEDs (atleast), no e-sata port despite Gigabyte able to provide one on the UD2H series boards.

The annoying: Gigabyte managed to put almost all the goodies in a board, but needs to work on certain areas like placing the DIMM slots well away from the socket enough to install tall heatsinks and the southbridge.
F_Audio headers need to the placed where it should be.

If for any reason, anyone wants to use a floppy on the system, the port is on the lower left section.

Also the f3 bios used to shut down the system after loading a profile (even a profile with stock setting), but most likely that would be corrected on new bios releases.
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Boards from another competitor has core unlocking button on the board, whereas core unlocking option on Gigabyte called “core boost” is available under Easy tune 6’s advanced mode. It would be nice if Gigabyte put the core boost option on the bios itself, which might be implemented on their newer bios releases, assuming they will do so.

I’ve been told by Gigabyte that this board is worth Rs. 8500. Assuming street price is going to be similar, that is a killer pricing for a good board with a new chipset+ lot of expandability option, even compared to h55/p55 boards and even considering certain hiccups.

Edit: I confirmed with Gigabyte and the pricing is Rs. 11,500/-. The street pricing will be less and most likely be under Rs. 10,000-.

Now a counterpart with similar offerings from another brand (Asus M4A89GTD-PRO/USB3) is worth Rs. 11,000 and uses a VGA switch card. For whatever reasons you go the AMD way, this will be one of the boards that it will be on your hardware shopping list and if you pick up this board, you simply can’t go wrong. This board gets a thumbs up from my end.

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