The ASUS M4A89TD PRO/USB3 is an ATX design, but has some interesting departures from the more traditional layout. These departures could mean some extra performance, or they could end up being an albatross around the M4A89TD's neck. For now, let's take a walk around the board.
The upper half of the M4A89TD is where we find some of the most obvious changes in design philosophy. ASUS has moved the RAM slots over towards the right hand edge of the board along with the CPU socket. This has allowed them to place all the power regulation hardware in a neat line parallel to the I/O ports. ASUS has also placed the 890FX NB at the bottom of this line. All of this is covered by the same heatsink instead of breaking things off and connecting them by a heatpipe.
Taking a closer look, we find an old ASUS favourite; the MemOK! button. This button can help you adjust your RAM during POST to ensure your settings are going to work.
At the top of the RAM slots we find a pair of switches. These control the Core Unlocker and the Turbo Key II functions on the board.
Here we have a better shot of the linear power regulation setup with the 890FX at the bottom. The 4-pin Aux 12V power connector is a little awkward here, but as no one else is putting these in a better place, we will not fault ASUS for this.
The lower half of the M4A89TD shows off its positioning in the upper end of the mainstream market. With only two x16 slots on the board, you are not getting more than Crossfire. You also have a single x1 and x4 slot for audio or TV tuners. Beneath the PCIe slots are two PCI 2.0 slots for all of your legacy devices.
On the other side of the M4A89TD we find another interesting departure. ASUS has split the six SATA 3.0 ports into offset groups (three each). This helps with getting the cables in and out of the ports. The PATA port is still at a 90 degree angle, but as the included cable is wide and flat, this angle can help with air flow in the long run.
The I/O ports are fairly typical, although we were surprised to see a PS/2 port for both mouse and keyboard. Many motherboards are switching over to all USB or only leaving a single dual purpose PS/2 port.
So now the question we have to ask is, will these design departures be a benefit, or will they create an issue as ASUS has to extend the signal traces in unusual patterns? We are going to find out in a few, that is for sure.
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