The 890GX chipset has been around for awhile now, but let’s start off with a quick recap for those who may be unfamiliar. There are a few differences from the previous chipsets, so let’s take a look at the block diagram:
The block diagram also shows that the 890GX has a 16X PCI Express 2.0 that can be divided into two X8 lanes for a CrossFire X setup, a step up from the other chipsets we previously saw that only featured a x16/x4 configuration. There are also six x1 lanes available for any other expansion cards from the 890GX. Additionally, however, another two x1 lanes are also available through the SB850 southbridge, bringing a wide range of options to users here.
Another significant difference with the 890GX is the integration of the SATA 6GB/s support with that SB850 southbridge. Solid States Drives that can take advantage of this. We also see that USB 3.0 is available, and the controller interfaces though AMD’s 2GB/s A-link Express III from the 890GX "northbridge" (admittedly, a misnomer) to the SB850 southbridge by means of four 2.0 lanes. Lastly, the SB850 supports 14 USB 2.0 ports, two more than the 785G or 790GX chipsets.
Also included in the 890GX is the Radeon HD 4290 integrated graphics. The 4290 is based on the integrated graphics of the RV620 (HD 4200) that we saw in the 785G, and the shaders, texture units, and ROPs remain the same. Unfortunately the 890GX does not feature 40nm manufacturing process, instead staying with 55nm, so more raw horsepower isn’t possible at this point, and so AMD has gone with a clock increase instead. The only difference is here that the new 4290 is simply a higher-clocked version, coming in at 700MHz core speed instead of the previous 500MHz.
The features also remain the same, bringing DirectX 10.1 support, HDMI 1.3 compatibility, and AMD’s Universal Video Decoder (UVD). This UVD technology enables the graphics processor to aid with video decoding during playback, an essential feature nowadays on IG boards, particularly if you have any plans of building an HTPC. The 890GX also features such as Picture-in-Picture capability, and enhancements such as colour vibrance, flesh tone enhancement, noise reduction, and contrast settings. Connectivity on the 890GX also remains unchanged, supporting DVI, VGA, HDMI, and also DisplayPort.
Further, with ATI’s Hybrid Crossfire X (or Dual Graphics, as it is to be called now), you can insert a discrete graphics card to boost the performance of the onboard integrated graphics. However, we know that integrated graphics are still not at the point where they are truly capable of producing "respectable" framerates to the point of being considered for a gaming system. You’re really only limited to low resolutions at the best of times, and even then you’ll get mediocre performance if you try to run any "modern" game.
There is the option of building a cheap gaming rig with a 890GX board and a budget-oriented ATI Radeon 5000 series card such as the 5570.
Let’s move onto the ECS A890GXM-A2 next.