To keep things interesting after a run with GIGABYTE's top of the line X58A-UD9, we are taking a look at one of their more mainstream products. This is the GA-890GPA-UD3H which is based around the 890GX chipset.
The GA-890GPA-UD3H is aimed at the upper end of the mainstream consumer and business market with options for six SATA 3.0 drives, two USB 3.0 ports and support for up to 140 Watts CPUs. For the more mainstream consumers (and more than a few business users) the HD 4290 integrated graphics will be more than enough to keep things going smoothly. For those of you looking for a little more, the Crossfire support and two x16 mechanical PCIe 2.0 slots will be sure to keep you happy.
Of course, as this is a GIGABYTE motherboard you are going to get the usual Ultra Durable 3 components and the 2 ounces of copper in the PCB. You get all of this for only $134.99 at NewEgg.com which is not a bad price for the flexibility you get here. Now let's see if the performance can meet the price.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
The box is the typical busy GIGABYTE box. You have lots of text, lots of logos and in general there is a ton of things going on even at the front of the box. The most prominent item on the box is the 333 acceleration graphic followed by the warranty label stuck in the center of the box.
The back of the box calms down a tad, but still manages to be very busy. In fact, it can be a little hard to sort through everything that is happening on the outside of the box. Thankfully you can figure out the three main attractions of this board; USB 3.0, SATA 3.0 and powered USB ports.
Inside the box the we find rather Spartan accessories. However, this is ok as the 890GPA-UD3H is not an enthusiast product, so it really does not need an over lavish amount of accessories. Still, you cannot deny that you have everything you need to get the 890GPA-UD3H going.
The layout of the 890GPA-UD3H is fairly clean with very little to clutter it up. Even around the bulky plastic mounting bracket for the CPU fan the 890GPA-UD3H manages to stay clean.
Looking at the area around the CPU (now that we have mentioned it), we find some of the normal items including four DDR3 slots, the AM3 socket and a 24-Pin ATX power socket. We also see that GIGABYTE has left a PATA port on the board to handle legacy devices.
Moving to take a look at the power regulation, we see part of the "4+1" phase setup that GIGABYTE talks about on the box. They have the solid caps lined up very neatly and you can see the chokes hidden under the large heatsink. You can also see the cooling for the 890GX Northbridge. It has a nice stylized look to it; we only hope that it can also keep the chipset cool as well.
Looking at the lower half of the board, we can see that the 890GPA-UD3H has been designed for good flexibility. The three PCIe x1 slots are great for items like TV tuners, add-in audio cards and even network cards. The two x16 mechanical slots are unfortunately not both x16; only the top slot is x16 while the other is x8. There are also two PCI slots just to round things out (wow, I can remember when the ISA [Industry Standard Architecture] slot was the legacy throw back). You can also see two 1394a headers, yet there are no brackets included.
Flipping over to the other side of the board, we find the six SATA 3.0 ports along with two white ports that are still SATA II, but are controlled by GIGABYTE's own RAID controller. There is something else that I want to draw your attention to on the board. Printed just above the USB headers are the words "ON/OFF Charge". This is interesting only because it was not mentioned on the box at all. With more devices getting their juice from USB cables, this would be a big deal and one that I would have thought would show up on the packaging.
The I/O ports are nothing to write home about, but they will certainly get the job done. The one thing to take careful note of is the DVI port. This is DVI-D only; you will not be able to use any other cables without an adapter.
In general the GIGABYTE GA890GPA-UD3H is a board designed with flexibility in mind. It does not appear to be built to knock your socks off, but to give you the widest range of build options. Now let's see how it performs.
BIOS and Overclocking
The BIOS on the 890GPA-UD3H follows the normal customized Award layout you find on most GIGABYTE motherboards.
As usual the place that most overclockers will spend their time is in the MB Intelligent Tweaker page and sub-menus.
As you can see above, the MIT page has almost all of the adjustments to push whatever CPU you drop in. You also have a few sub-menus that allow you to adjust all of the other pieces of the puzzle.
If you are not using an add-in graphics card, the IGX configuration page is where you want to head to make sure you are getting the most from the on-board HD 4290 and sideport memory.
The DRAM configuration page really does not need much of an explanation. It is nice to see the large number of options for a board that is aimed at the mainstream market, though.
The Advanced BIOS Features on the 890GPA-UD3H is much better named than on many systems I have seen lately. Here we find some actual advanced features like the CPU unlock control, the Core control (you can dynamically disable certain cores), and other CPU based options that you may or may not need.
The Integrated Peripherals page is a tad boring, but is important to mention here. It does contain the controls to enable/disable the on-board functions and also, in the case of the SATA controllers, lets you choose the operation mode.
The PC Health Status page is important for the fan controls and also to enable or disable the hardware thermal control. If you leave this on it can seriously hinder your overclocking attempts.
As with most GIGABYTE motherboards, getting things moving when overclocking is pretty easy. We started ours off in the MIT page with the CPU Frequency and moved around from there. Oddly when we overclocked with only the HD 4290 we found that we had to hard set the PCIe bus to 100MHz, or we had video issues. We also had to turn off Cool and Quiet along with the hardware thermal controls. Once these had been taken care of, we managed to hit 230MHz x 16 for a clock rate of 3.776GHz.
You can see the validation for the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T on the GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H here.
As all overclocking results are dependent on the hardware you use, your results may vary. Results of our overclocking tests are included in the performance section with the stock scores.
The version of EasyTune 6 that is on the 890GPA-UD3H is a bit different than what we were used to. Of course, we are used to dealing with the Intel based boards, but that does not mean that it is not functional.
As with the Intel versions, the first two pages are more for information than for overclocking. It is not until you hit the Tuner page that you get to your OC tools.
When you get to the Tuner page is when you begin to see the differences. With the Intel version of the software there is an Easy Boost page; while on the AMD version there is a simple button. You also have an easy overclocking method and an advanced method.
The last few pages give you some options for overclocking your GPU (if it is compatible), controlling the smart fans from inside Windows and also offering a light monitoring capability for temperatures and voltages.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Comments
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment GIGABYTE, AMD, ASUS, corsair and Sceptre.
Setting up the 890GPA-UD3H was very simple, although we did have to use a HDMI to DVI-I adapter to connect to our KVM. This is because the DVI adapter on the 890GPA-UD3H is DVI-D only instead of the more compatible DVI-I. Although this is an annoying item, it is not a "GIGABYTE only" problem. We are seeing this one pop up on more motherboards and even some GPUs.
After we sorted the connection, the rest was very easy. The driver installation DVD is pretty simple to use with the exception of a less than clearly labelled utilities section, but it was not so bad as to prevent using the system.
Synthetic Tests - Part I
With any system you will want to see a combination of synthetic testing and real-world. Synthetics give you a static, easily repeatable testing method that can be compared across multiple platforms. For our synthetic tests we use Everest Ultimate, Sisoft Sandra, FutureMark's 3DMark Vantage and PCMark Vantage, Cinebench as well as HyperPi. Each of these covers a different aspect of performance or a different angle of a certain type of performance.
Memory is a big part of current system performance. In most systems slow or flakey memory performance will impact almost every type of application you run. To test memory we use a combination of Sisoft Sandra, Everest and HyperPi 0.99.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2010c 1626
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
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The 890GPA does not do too terribly bad for memory performance. We see that typical release of memory resources when we drop in the add-in graphics card as well.
Version and / or Patch Used: 5.30.1983
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
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Everest Ultimate is a suite of tests and utilities that can be used for system diagnostics and testing. For our purposes here we use their memory bandwidth test and see what the theoretical performance is.
Everest tells the same tale. The memory performance from both Sandra and Everest shows a little better than average (for an AMD based motherboard).
Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
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HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.
For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.
Hmmm, it looks like adding in the HD 5870 slowed things down a little for HyperPi. This was unexpected as we saw a slight jump in memory performance.
Synthetic Tests - Part II
Disk Drive Controller
The system drive controller is an important part of system performance. In most modern boards your drive controller will run off of the PCI-e bus. The PCI-e bus performance can be affected by poor trace layout as well as many other design choices that show up on different boards.
For testing we use Sisoft's Sandra and Everest.
Ok, I am not sure what to make of the results here; we see an improvement in HDD (SSD) performance with the addition of the HD 5870 (along with a memory performance increase), but the HyperPi scores dropped. Something is out of place.
Everest confirms our Sandra findings and would seem to indicate an issue (possibly with drivers) with the HDD controller when using the IGP.
Synthetic Tests - Part III
Here is where we dig out the FutureMark tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 188.8.131.52
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
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For overall system performance we use PCMark Vantage. This is run in both x86 and x64 mode to give the best indication of performance.
The results here are nothing too out of the ordinary really. They show you what you would expect in terms of performance scaling in this primarily CPU based test.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
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For synthetic gaming tests we used the industry standard and overlockers bragging tool 3DMark Vantage. This is a test that strives to mimic the impact modern games have on a system. Futuremark went a long way to change from the early days of graphics driven tests to a broader approach including physics, AI and more advanced graphics simulations.
3DMark Vantage uses the DX10 API in addition to having support for PhysX. As we are no longer using an NVIDIA GPU for testing (at least until we can get a GTX 4xx card) you will only see the CPU based PhysX results in the scores. For testing we use the Performance test run.
Again our results are nothing that you could not predict.
Cinebench R11.5 x64
Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5 x64
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: www.maxon.net
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Cinebench is a synthetic rendering tool developed by Maxon. Maxon is the same company that developed Cinema4D, another industry leading 3D Animation application. Cinebench R11.5 tests your systems ability to render across a single and multiple CPU cores. It also tests your systems ability to process OpenGL information.
The Cinebench results are also right around what you would expect from an AMD 890 based board running a Phenom II X6 CPU, with the exception of lower scores when the HD 5870 was in the system.
Real-World Tests - Part I
Real-world testing allows us to see how well a product will perform when used in the same manner as it would be in your house or office. It is an important side to performance testing as it can uncover hidden glitches in the way a product performs.
It is especially true when testing a mainboard; there are so many components of a board that have to interact that any problems between parts can cause a failure of the whole.
For real-world testing we use some common applications and functions. We test with LightWave 3D for rendering performance, AutoGK for transcoding from DVD to AVI and two games for gaming testing.
Rendering of 3D Animation is a system intensive endeavor. You need a good CPU, memory and HDD speed to get good rendering times. For our testing we use LightWave 3D. This software from Newtek is an industry standard and has several pre-loaded scenes for us to use.
Version and / or Patch Used: 9.6
Developer Homepage: http://www.newtek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.newtek.com/lightwave/
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With LightWave 3D we again see the trend of the system to be slower with the HD 5870 installed than it is with only the IGP.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55
Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
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AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.
Here we see the system perform in a manner that we would expect. As for the actual transcoding times; well, they are what we have come to expect from an AMD based system, so your performance here is right on the money.
Real-World Tests - Part II
Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose use multiple cores and GPUs. They are able to stress the system through use of good AI. Both have decent positional audio that adds impact to the sound subsystem of the board. We ran each game through the level or parts listed and recorded frames per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.
As most IGPs are not meant for high-end gaming, we have swapped out one of our First Person Shooters for a more mainstream game. We have also adjusted down the testing resolution from 1920x1200 to 1280x960. In order to keep full measure of the board, we return to 1920x1200 when we test the board with our HD 5870.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: Ten Minutes of Game Play in Sunset Valley
Developer Homepage: http://www.ea.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.thesims3.com/
The SIMS 3 is the third complete edition of this popular game. In it you create a personality for use in a virtual world. The town we chose was Sunset Valley; we created a basic character and off we went. We performed as many actions as we could to give the board and GPU as much to think about as possible. The settings we used are shown below.
Well, I mean what did you expect from an IGP? - SIMS 3 was playable at this resolution, but it was not something you would want to do for an extended time.
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: Clearing the Safe house through to the Rescue
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com
Product Homepage: http://farcry.us.ubi.com
Far Cry 2 is a large sandbox style game. There are no levels here so as you move about the island you are on you do not have to wait for the "loading" sign to go away. It is mission driven so each mission is what you would normally think of as the next "level".
In the game you take the role of a mercenary who has been sent to kill the Jackal. Unfortunately your malaria kicks in and you end up being found by him. Long story short, you become the errand boy for a local militia leader and run all over the island doing his bidding. The settings we used for testing are shown below.
Far Cry 2 was even more of a punishment for the HD 4290 on the 890GPA-UD3H.
There is not too much to say here. Most IGPs can game to a certain extent, but they are in no way meant for high level gaming. You should be able to run some of the classics, though; games like Half Life, Half Life 2 and even Portal are usually very playable. Of course, when you drop in a better GPU, things do take off. Unfortunately, we also saw other performance drop somewhat, so that is a mixed bag at best.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
Using only the IGP the 890GPA-UD3H is pretty good on power draw even with the Phenom II X6 1090T. This will be of interest to many business and mainstream users. For the gamer or enthusiast, well, things are a little different. Adding in a high-powered GPU is going to increase the power draw (especially under load).
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboard; this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
Heat generation was not bad at all. In fact, through all three of our test runs the Northbridge kept fairly cool. It would seem that the cooling that we had our doubts about does actually work well.
The GA-890GPA-UD3H is a pretty nice little board with only a few issues that we could find. It seems like it would fit nicely into any mainstream build or even an office PC. The problems that you might face would be if you add in a high-end graphics card. For some reason this simple act causes a reduction in performance that we did not expect.
Still, the other aspects of the board are good enough to attract the attention of the market that it is aimed at. The flexibility of the slot placement means that you have options to re-use existing hardware or buy more current parts. The clean layout means good air flow once this is built inside a case.
All in all we, feel that while there are a few issues with running an add-in board, you are still getting a good deal for the $134.99 you will spend at NewEgg.com or any other e-tailer.
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