Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review Page: 1

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

Introduction

There have been a few AMD motherboards released in recent times since the introduction of the 890 chipset. We've recently looked at a couple that come with the Lucid Hydra chip on board. Today we're going back to basics with a non-Lucid AM3 motherboard.

That doesn't mean that this is a standard AMD motherboard though. By virtue of its perception as the value option for a system, AMD motherboards tend to be lacking some of the more high-end features that we've seen upon its Intel counterparts.

With the recent release of the six core 10xx series of AMD processors being such good performers it was about time that a company took up the mantle and brought out a motherboard that did it justice.

One of the highest quality Intel motherboards around are Gigabytes UD7 series and so it is pleasing to see them apply this methodology to the AMD 890 chipset in the form of the Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 motherboard.

Technical Specifications

A glance through the technical specs shows the level of detail we have here. The 890FX chipset coupled to a SB850 Southbridge and the ALC889 Realtek audio certainly leaves nothing on the table. Also worthy of note are six SATA 6Gbps connections allowing a more futureproof storage capability over the two ports we normally see.

Finally it's slightly larger than an ATX board, so it's worth checking you aren't trying to shoehorn it into a tiny case.

CPU
  1. Support for Socket AM3 processors: AMD Phenom™ II processor / AMD Athlon™ II processor
Front Side Bus
  1. 5200 MT/s
Chipset
  1. North Bridge: AMD 890FX
  2. South Bridge: AMD SB850
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory (Note 1)
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2000(OC)/1333/1066 MHz memory modules
Audio
  1. Realtek ALC889 codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for Dolby Home Theater
  5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  6. Support for CD In
LAN
  1. 2 x Realtek 8111D chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
  2. Support for Teaming
  3. Support for Smart Dual LAN
Expansion Slots
  1. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2) (Note 2)
  2. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1, PCIEX8_2) (Note 2)
  3. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1, PCIEX4_2) (Note 3)
    (All PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 Standard.)
  4. 1 x PCI slot
Multi-Graphics Technology
  1. Support for 2-way/ 3-way/ 4-way ATI CrossFireX™ technology
Storage InterfaceSouth Bridge:
  1. 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors supporting up to 6 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID5, RAID 10 and JBOD
* SATA3 RAID 0 4x and SATA3 2x performance are maximum theoretical values. Actual performance may vary by system configuration.

GIGABYTE SATA2 Chip:
  1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  2. 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD
JMicron JMB362 chip:
  1. 2 x eSATA 3Gb/s connectors (eSATA/USB Comobo) on the back panel supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD
ITE 8720 chip:
  1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
USBSouth Bridge:
  1. Up to 14 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (8 on the back panel, including 2 eSATA/USB Combo, 6 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
NEC D720200F1 Chip:
  1. Up to 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports on the back panel
* USB 3.0 10x performance is a maximum theoretical value. Actual performance may vary by system configuration.
IEEE 1394T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  1. Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  4. 1 x IDE connector
  5. 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  6. 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  7. 1 x CPU fan header
  8. 2 x system fan header
  9. 1 x North Bridge fan header
  10. 1 x power fan header
  11. 1 x front panel header
  12. 1 x front panel audio header
  13. 1 x CD In connector
  14. 1 x S/PDIF In header
  15. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  16. 1 x IEEE 1394a header
  17. 3 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  18. 1 x serial port header
  19. 1 x parallel port header
  20. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper
  21. 1 x clearing CMOS button
  22. 1 x power button
  23. 1 x reset button
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse port
  2. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  3. 1 x coaxial S/PDIF out connector
  4. 2 x IEEE 1394a port
  5. 6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  6. 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  7. 2 x eSATA/USB Combo connectors
  8. 2 x RJ-45 port
  9. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller
  1. ITE IT8720 chip
H/W MonitoringSystem voltage detection
  1. CPU/System temperature detection
  2. CPU/System fan speed detection
  3. CPU overheating warning
  4. CPU/System fan fail warning
  5. CPU/System fan speed control (Note 4)
BIOS
  1. 2 x 8 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune (Note 5)
  8. Support for Easy Energy Saver
  9. Support for Smart Recovery
  10. Support for Auto Green
  11. Support for ON/OFF Charge
  12. Support for Q-Share
Bundle Software
  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Operating System
  1. Support for Microsoft Windows 7/ Vista/ XP
Form Factor
  1. XL-ATX Form Factor; 32.5cm x 24.4cm


Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review Page: 2

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

First Look

Gigabyte have always kept a clear look to their packaging, placing an emphasis upon the features rather than anything else. This very much continues with the UD7 advertising the main events of the 333 support (USB3, SATA3, 3 times USB power) and hex-core support.

On the reverse we have details of the many high-quality power elements that go into making the UD7s such good overclockers. Crisp and clear best describes the box, conveying a lot of information without becoming overwhelming.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review  

As is becoming the norm with high end motherboards, the UD7 comes with a window underneath the top flap that allows prospective purchasers to view the contents before laying down their hard earned cash. We also have the usual comprehensive Gigabyte manual that covers the major points you could hope for.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review  

Within the box we have the standard contents one would expect. SATA cables, e-SATA bracket, Crossfire bridges etc. In what looks like a matchbox from this shot we have the alternative chipset heatsink. More of that on the next page.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review  

Finally here is the motherboard itself. It's been a few years now since Gigabyte switched so a two-colour motherboard and it is as cool looking now as it was then. A quick glance and you can identify a Gigabyte, and that's surely mission accomplished?

The IO section contains everything you'd expect from such a high-end motherboard. Linkable LAN ports, USB3 and USB2 ports, SPDIF and sound outputs. Even a combined PS2 port.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review



Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review Page: 3

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

UD7 In Detail

Down the business end of the UD7 we find the extra space afforded by the XL-ATX sizing allowing plenty of PCI-e slots to be installed on the board. Two x16 slots and two x8 slots ensure even the greediest graphics card owner will be kept happy.

Six SATA 6Gbps slots are great to find on the UD7. Normally with chipset technological turnover being so rapid we'd wonder why there was so much on a board that probably wont outlive the SATA technology, but AMDs AM3-based motherboards have been around for a long time now that you should be able to take advantage of so many ports, and if you've got the readies a RAID array on this motherboard will fly.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review  

It's been a long time since we've seen such a clean area around a CPU socket. There definitely wont be an issue in installing any CPU cooler you can think of in the UD7.

Gigabyte must be listening. Previously we complained that the combination of water-block and air-chipset cooler was pointless as it wasn't good enough for either market. Now if you wish to install the larger air heatsink you have to remove the water-block. A great job of Gigabyte of listening to its userbase and implenting those little changes that can make all the difference.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review  

The "Ultra Durable" branded heat-sink (in case you weren't sure where the UD came from in UD7) is a fixture on the power-phase on UD motherboards. It always looks great and, unlike many similar heatsinks, isn't so tall or strangely shaped that it negates the installation of a large cooler or a exhaust fan in a case.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review  

Here is a very cool little feature. We're all familiar with clear CMOS buttons. Anyone who's done overclocking has very likely accidentally hit it too without meaning to. Gigabyte have given the clear CMOS button on the UD7 a protective shield so you have to remove it before you can press the button. We feel like a fighter pilot flipping up the switch so we can hit the missile button or something. Yes we're all big kids now and then.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

Hmm. In amonst all this great design there are always a few niggles. This is slightly more than a niggle though. On-board power and reset buttons are to ensure you can overclock out of the case so you can get it all stable before installing it more permanently. But you'll always need to have your ATX24 cable in. So once that is in place, and the RAM, you're really going to be struggling for space to fit a finger on the button.

It's especially odd when there is so much space down by the southbridge.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review



Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review Page: 4

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

Test Setup and Overclocking

Our test setup consists of our standard AMD test rig. We'll also be comparing the UD7 to our two most recently tested AMD platforms, the MSI 870A Fuzion and the ASUS Crosshair 4 Extreme. So our graphs are all at stock, but we've included an overclocked result for the UD7, just to show the benefits you can have if you wish to go down the overclock route.

Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 Motherboard
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE 3.20GHz Processor
 Corsair Dominator GT 4GB @ 1600mhz
ATi Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Graphics Card
Corsair AX1200w PSU
Windows 7 Home Premium x64

Overclocking

Overclocking on the UD7 was slightly different to most other AMD boards we've tested recently. It just took a little bit longer to work your way around the settings and discover what exactly the board needed and where, to get the maximum out of it.

But as you'll see, it's worth the extra effort.

There are three major elements that go into an AMD overclock, so our first task was to find the highest that each would reach, before consolodating them into our final overclock.

Here we have a very nice 3240.1MHz on the HT Link.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review 

Regardless of the various tweaks and adjustments that have occured over the years, to a certain degree it's still all about the speed of the Bus. The UD7 gives us an exceptional 380MHz which really should give us a good overclock on our 1090T processor.

The Northbridge responds equally well with 3250MHz the best stable clock we obtained. If you're one of those people who loves good memory speeds, the UD7 has you covered there too.

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review     Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

So with plenty of overhead available to us from the three main elements of the overclocking process thanks to the quality of the major parts in the UD7, our best stable overclock, and that which we'll be using for our overclocked tests on the following pages, was 4.185 GHz. Not shabby at all and a couple of hundred MHz better than we saw from either the Crosshair or the Fuzion. It's not so easy to get there as those two boards, but definitely worth the extra time.

The main problem with getting the overclock is that the exceptional Bus Speed we saw above just couldn't be held at higher CPU speeds. Having a major Bus Speed is all well and good if it is easy to keep stable when the processor multiplier is increased again.

Still we got a great overclock and that's the important thing.

    Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review



Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review Page: 5

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

Everest Ultimate Edition

CPU Benchmarks

At stock, unsurprisingly, all three boards perform pretty much the same. The extra overclocking performance of the UD7 shines through when compared to both the MSI and ASUS offerings. It's almost like the kick-on from 4GHz to 4.2GHz finally frees up the 1090T to do its thing.

 

Memory Benchmarks

This is curious. Everything being equal we should have fairly identical memory results, but the UD7 trails in a little behind the 870A and CH4E. Although the overclock gives us a serious boost, it's not quite as amazing as we were hoping for. Lets see if the other testing bear this result out or if it's an anomoly.

 

CineBench R11.5

What better place to start than with rendering. Something that definitely requires as much memory performance as possible. Here the UD7 shines. Running with an identical setup it scores 0.15 points more than its competition. Although that might appear small, in CineBench terms it's a serious improvement.

When we apply our overclock it rockets up, as you'd expect. What we didn't expect is to get a nearly linear "clock for result" improvement. Really demonstrating that the UD7 doesn't take any performance away from our setup.

 

POV-Ray

The freeware Persistence Of Vision Raytracing program nicely backs up our CineBench results with the UD7 gaining an edge on the MSI and ASUS boards. The most impressive result is that when overclocked the 890FX-A UD7 gives us over 1000 Pixels Per Second Per CPU. Incredible.



Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review Page: 6

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

SiSoft Sandra

Processor Benchmarks

Our standard two tests using SiSoft Sandra are the Processor Arithmetic and Processor Multi-Media benchmarks. As we'd expect with such a closely matched set of components the differences are slight at best.

Once again our overclock really frees up the 1090T processor as we get results either on or just above what pure maths would suggest our overclock would give. The Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 definitely responds well and allows our components to breathe.

Processor Arithmetic

Processor Multi-Media

 

Memory Bandwidth

If I can borrow a quote from Lewis Carroll, curiouser and curiouser. Whereas Everest showed the UD7 falling well short of the Crosshair 4 Extreme and 870A Fuzion, here it pips them both. The importance of looking at all the results before drawing conclusions is demonstrated clearly here as both Everest and Sandra give different results, yet our other tests show no great loss or benefit either way.



Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review Page: 7

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

3D Benchmarks

For our 3D Mark Vantage and gaming tests we ran all three test systems at their maximum stable overclock. It's really at this end of the scale where the differences between each system, especially for gamers, shine or fail.

3D Mark Vantage

As we saw earlier on, the UD7 is capable of overclocking much better than our recent AMD review boards. This is really born out here when we're comparing like for for like. It might only be 100 points in Performance mode, but once we move into gaming at higher resolutions that margin will only increase.

 

Crysis Warhead

Proof, if proof were needed, that increase it does. Just over 3FPS Average better than its nearest rival, which is a lot in Crysis as we all know.

 

Mafia II

At first it seemed that something was amiss in the Mafia II results, because the difference between the 890FX-A UD7 and the rest is way more than 200MHz on the overclock would give us. However when you look at the Metro results below it's clear that something is definitely rocking and rolling on the UD7.

 

Metro 2033

In keeping with the Mafia II scores, Metro 2033 absolutely loves something about this particular combination and gives us about 40% higher frame-rate than our other two setups. Whilst with Mafia it's only making something smooth, as smooth, here the difference is from unplayable to just about playable if you grit your teeth. Good stuff.



Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review Page: 8

Gigabyte 890FX-A UD7 Review

Conclusion

There is a hell of a lot to like about the Gigabyte 890FXA UD7 and not a lot to dislike.

Firstly it's great to see a manufacturer taking the lessons they have learnt from high-end Intel motherboards and applying them to the AMD platform.

The UD7 list of additions really helps the board to be a bit of an overclocking beast. The increase in the quality of the power circuitry in particular means it is able to deliver smooth power to the CPU and RAM and therefore get a stable overclock where others would fail.

How this overclock then reacted is our major delight from our testing. The Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 almost gets better the faster everything goes, and absolutely doesn't stand in the way of your components performing at their absolute maximum.

The results of our testing show that this also benefits generally with all three motherboards naturally being within a gnats chuff of each other, but if anything snuck ahead in any testing it was always the UD7. Considering the test setups for all three were identical that is quite the feat.

Quality is, as you'd expect, outstanding. The board really feels well put together and solid. It's great to see Gigabyte listening to its audience and changing the way they apply the combined water/air heatsink on the chipset. A much better solution than before. The inclusion of a CMOS Reset cap is a nice touch too, stopping an errant finger from erasing days of hard work.

We only have a few gripes. Although we obtained a very good overclock from the UD7, 200MHz better than our other two test motherboards, it really wasn't as easy to get there as with those two. It's not to say it's as bad as the old Lanparty days, just that it's not quite as mind-blowingly simple as some other boards out there. It's also, by virtue of having so many PCI-e expansion slots, larger than a plain ATX motherboard and this is something that you need to be aware of prior to purchase.

Finally we come to pricing. A UD7 variant based on the Intel chipset is considerably more expensive than a lesser model. However here, although certainly there is a premium to be paid, the 890FXA-UD7 comes in at a very respectable £170. Sure it's not the cheapest motherboard on the market, but with 6 SATA 6Gbps sockets, linkable LAN, great cooling, high quality components etc., it's actually a bargain.

The best motherboards are all about doing their job, without you really being aware they are there, and the UD7 does this with aplomb. A couple of tiny niggles are all that keep it from getting Gold, but we're still more than happy to award it our coveted OC3D Silver Award.

  

Thanks to Gigabyte for providing the 890FXA-UD7 for review. Discuss in our forums.