Asus M4A89TD PRO Page: 1

Introduction

One month on since the release of AMD's flagship chipset and Hex Core processors, it's quite clear that today's performance users are gifted with a substantial choice of hardware to form the basis of their new machines. Despite the fact that AMD are using six cores to fight against the Intel Core i7, it still remains the case that the underdog is a valid choice for even the performance obsessed.

 

Our previous testing has already indicated that the range topping X6 1090T processor can pack a mighty punch under a variety of applications, but as always it's important to ensure that your system is well balanced in order to make the most of what it has to offer. In particular it is vital that you don't underplay the importance of motherboard selection. Thankfully you can rely on Overclock3D to test just about any worthwhile set of components to exhaustion. Today we'll be putting Asus' M4A89TD PRO Motherboard to the test.

 

Not to be confused with the M4A89GTD PRO, today's test motherboard features the new 890FX and SB850 core logic. Akin to it's predecessor, the flagship chipset boasts ATi CrossfireX Multi GPU capability with dual 16x/16x lane speeds. However minor changes have been made, resulting in the introduction of native SATA3 6.0Gbps support and the removal of Advanced Clock Calibration. Thankfully the removal of the latter feature is of no concern as Asus have implemented their very own core unlocking function. Enough chit chat for now, here are the full specifications of the M4A89TD PRO.

 

Specifications


Form FactorATX, 12" x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm)
Processor SupportAMD Socket AM3 Sempron 100/Athlon II X2/X3/X4 and Phenom II X2/X3/X4 Processors
ChipsetAMD 890FX / SB850
Memory4 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB 2000(OC)/1600/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
Expansion Slots

2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (Dual 16x/16x)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
2 x PCI

Multi-GPU SupportATi CrossfireX Supported
Storage

AMD SB850 Southbridge
6 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports

JMicron 363 SATA Controller.
1x e-SATA 3.0Gb/s
1 x IDE 

LANOne Marvell 8059 PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000
AudioCreative ALC889A
 AMD SB850 Southbridge
- 14 x USB 2.0 ports (8 x Rear, 6 x Internal)

Firewire2 x 1394a ports (1x Rear I/O, 1x Onboard) 
Back Panel I/O1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x e-SATA
1 x LAN
6 x USB2.0/1.1 ports
1 x IEEE1394a port
1 x Clear CMOS switch

 

On face value, the M4A89TD PRO appears to have a lot in common with it's more "extreme" sibling, the Crosshair IV Formula. Let's investigate...



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Packaging & Initial Impressions

The M4A89TD PRO arrived in Asus' latest livery of white, green and blue. The packaging was fairly compact but as expected for a motherboard lacking the Republic of Gamers label.

 

 

Asus M4A89TD PRO     Asus M4A89TD PRO

Asus M4A89TD PRO

As per usual the first things you'll see are the motherboard's accessories. Included in the bundle you will find a manual, driver disc, I/O shield and two SATA cables.

 

...and here it is in the flesh/silicon

Asus M4A89TD PRO     Asus M4A89TD PRO

Sporting Asus' latest colour scheme, the M4A89TD PRO appears very tidy. The large blue heatsink near the I/O ports is a high density fin arrangement with a single heatpipe that serves the purpose of cooling the board's power management circuitry and the 890FX chipset itself.

Asus M4A89TD PRO     Asus M4A89TD PRO

Asus have adopted a more modest array of expansion ports on the M4A89TD PRO by implementing just two PCI-Express 16x slots, a mix of PCI-E 1x/4x and two PCI slots. This will no doubt be sufficient for all but extreme users.

Asus M4A89TD PRO     Asus M4A89TD PRO

It's a pity that Asus didn't mount the SATA ports in a 90* rotated fashion facing the edge of the board as it helps free up space on the PCB and allows for better cable management.



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Testbed 

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition "C3"
Asus M4A89TD PRO Motherboard
4GB Corsair XMS3 PC3-12800C8 RAM
Samsung Spinpoint F1 320GB SATA II Hard Disk Drive
XFX Radeon HD 5670 1GB GDDR5 Graphics Card
Samsung 22x DVD+/-RW SATA
Windows 7 Home Premium x64

Turbo V EVO

Our previous reviews have shown Asus' Turbo V EVO to be a very capable automatic overclocking tool. Novices look here!

Asus M4A89TD PRO

Turbo V EVO follows a very systematic process of HTT Base clock manipulation, Voltage adjustment and short term stability testing. It will inevitably push your system until it locks up and restarts however it should then resume all operations until a stable overclock is obtained.

Asus M4A89TD PRO

While the function is in execution, the entire window is maximised and thus preventing you from using anything else concurrently. Just sit back and watch Asus do all the work for you!

  Asus M4A89TD PRO

Two crashes and errr, that was it? Sadly this time round Asus Turbo V was only able to offer us a 2% overclock. Not quite as successful an attempt as on the Crosshair IV Formula or on the Asus M4A89GTD however as always, your mileage may vary!



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BIOS

Anyone remotely surprised by the layout of the M4A89TD PRO should really consider getting an eye test. The location of parameters remain separated into very intuitive sub menu's, which are usable for both new and existing Asus users.

 

Asus M4A89TD PRO      Asus M4A89TD PRO

Asus M4A89TD PRO

Overclocking

Following on from our BIOS exploration, we commenced our manual overclocking journey. The M4A89TD PRO overclocked effortlessly to a Maximum Base HTT frequency of 315MHz before losing the will to boot. It must be said that this particular sample appeared to be less forgiving with overzealous overclocks however we never had to resort to the dreaded CMOS Clear function. We were a little disappointed by the maximum HTT frequency obtained as this remains 25MHz below the £120 M4A89GTD PRO motherboard and 15MHz below the Asus Crosshair IV Formula (early BIOS). That said, anyone who is spending this much on a motherboard will most certainly choose from AMD's wide selection of Multiplier Unlocked "Black Edition" processors, thus removing any reliance on Base HTT Frequency alone.

Asus M4A89TD PRO

On the basis of our previously obtained results, we moved on to try and find a maximum overclock for our trusty Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition processor. We eventually found out limits at 3.90GHz with a Base HTT of 300MHz and a CPU Multiplier of 13.0x. This is typically the ballpark for our processor sample so we were pleased to see that the M4A89TD PRO was capable of maxing it out.

Asus M4A89TD PRO


With a maximum overclock obtained, it's now time to kickstart our rigorous testing regime...



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CPU Performance

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC.

CPU Arithmetic

The CPU arithmetic test ascertains the processor's capabilities in terms of numerical operations. Two subtests named Dhrystone and Whetstone are carried out respectively. This is not a measure of latency and thus higher is better.


This particular synthetic benchmark shows a near perfect correlation between overclocking and it's related performance increases. The scores achieved are excellent for a Quad Core processor of it's pricetag. Both the 890FX and it's less feature rich sibling perform very similarly in this test.


CPU Multimedia

The CPU Multimedia Test focuses on CPU based operations that may occur during multimedia based tasks. The magnitude of the score depends on the processor's ability to handle Integer, Float and Double data types.

Again there is very little in this test that would separate these two motherboards.


CPU Queen

CPU Queen is based on branch prediction and the misprediction penalties that are involved.

CPU Photoworxx

PhotoWorxx as the name may suggest tests processors by means of invoking functions that are common to Photo Manipulation including Fill, Flip, Crop, Rotate, Difference and Colour to B&W conversion.

CPU ZLib

This is an integer based benchmark that will test the CPU and Memory by means of the CPU ZLib compression library.

On the whole, Everest Ultimate Edition's CPU benchmarks have shown the Phenom II X4 965BE to be a rather potent choice for an upper midrange system. At any rate it's quite clear that the Asus M4A89TD PRO is complementing the processor very well. Again, significant gains are exhibited from the +500MHz overclock.

 WinRAR

 WinRAR's embedded Benchmark focuses on the processor's File Compression capability.


The Phenom II X4 965BE fairs reasonably well with File Compression based tasks. Most users will feel far from short changed with the results obtained.



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Memory & Hard Disk Drive Performance

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC.


With DDR3-1600, both AM3 motherboards yielded results around the 13GB/sec ballpark, with the M4A89TD PRO boasting a noticeable lead.


Everest Ultimate Edition's memory testing suite determines the performance of your memory and your system's memory controller. Both Read and Write operations are tested.

Do note that you shouldn't directly compare Everest Memory Bandwidth results with SiSoft Sandra results as the tests are performed very differently. Once again these figures are essentially as expected.

 

Hard Disk Performance

HDTune

HDTune analyses the performance and health of your Hard Disk Drive. It's comprehensive test will determine minimum, maximum and average transfer rates.

Given that both motherboards are outfitted with the same SB850 storage controller, it came to no surprise that the two results were nigh on identical. It should also be mentioned that these results are no better than those exhibited on a SATA II (3.0Gbps) controller, showing quite clearly that only certain Hard Disk Drive configurations will take full advantage of the available bandwidth. 



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3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is Futuremarks flagship gaming oriented benchmark at present and is considered to be a demanding one at that. Our tests were carried out under the "Performance" prefix.

Interestingly, the M4A89TD PRO has taken a considerable lead over the M4A89GTD PRO in our 3DMark Vantage test. We were intrigued by the result as the hardware configuration has remained the same and so have the drivers. Initially our M4A89GTD PRO was operating at a lower PCI-Express lane speed due to some confusion with the board's Crossfire switch and this could well be the cause of this.

Crysis Warhead

Crysis Warhead is without a doubt one hard nut to crack, especially at higher resolutions and a dash of Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering.

Crysis Warhead is a heavily GPU dependent release and as such it comes to no surprise that the graphs are rather level.

Microsoft Flight Simulator X

Flight Simulator X remains to be a terribly demanding game for it's age. Known for being very demanding on the CPU but also requiring a level of GPU power in the process, we thought it'd be interesting to see how it faired.

 

The results achieved are admirable given the settings applied and both testbeds performed very much on par with each other.

DiRT 2

DiRT2 is a very recent race driving game, known for it's Direct X 11 support.

 

It's excellent to see that even the mid range Radeon HD 5670 is capable of holding it's own in this modern day release. The results obtained are very much as expected for our testbed machines.

Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead is a very popular hit and should be an interesting choice to take our testbed for a spin. Let's see how well it performs.

This particular test is arguably a tad weak for the testbed in question however it continues to show both testbeds performing competitively against each other.

That's all folks! Let's wrap this one up...



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Conclusion


Right folks, so it's time to wrap this review up, but what do we think of Asus' latest 890FX motherboard? All in all the motherboard has exhibited very competitive performance when compared against it's little brother, the M4A89GTD PRO. You can expect typical Asus quality levels (this is a good thing) and for most of the part, the motherboard has proven to be a very stable and well designed product.

There are a few things that bother us about it though. First and foremost let's talk about pricing. Today, you can buy the Asus M4A89TD PRO for £160.99. While it is priced reasonably well against it's competitors, it is sitting perilously close to Crosshair IV Formula money, which you can purchase at just a £6 premium. Today's review product is far from sparse in terms of it's features however it inevitably lies in the shadow of it's "Republic of Gamers" counterpart. There is no getting around the fact that the M4A89TD PRO has an (arguably) inferior motherboard layout to the Crosshair IV Formula and in our testing could not overclock as well either. We were particularly disappointed to see that there were no more than two PCI-Express 16x ports. Even though the 890FX chipset doesn't support 16x/16x/16x/16x electrically, having multiple full size PCI-Express slots on a motherboard offers much greater flexibility.

So let's cut to the chase... would we buy it? For what it offers, we feel that it is a very competent motherboard that would have no trouble at forming the basis of a high performance computer. In light of it's competitors however, we strongly feel that Asus' own ROG Crosshair IV is a superior proposition for a very similar outlay. We believe that the final deciding factor will lie with your intention (or lack of) to operate graphics card's in ATi CrossfireX. If for example you plan on buying a pair of Radeon HD 5870's, you will most certainly want an 890FX based motherboard. Those who will opt exclusively for single card solutions will get by just fine with the variety of affordable 890GX examples available today. Really, if we were willing to spend in excess of £160 on a motherboard, the Asus M4A89TD PRO falls short of our expectations. Asus have done a fine job at designing this motherboard however at it's current pricetag, it will inevitably have to stand in the shadow of the Crosshair IV Formula...

The Good
- Max HTT in excess of 300MHz
- Competitive Performance
- Core Unlock Function

The Mediocre
- Automatic Overclocking yielded poor results
- Pricing too close to it's superior sibling; the Crosshair IV Formula

The Bad
- None 



Thanks to Asus for the sample on test today, you can discuss our findings in the forums.