Gigabyte is known for making quality motherboards and there is no exception here. Our objective was to compare the 990FXA-UD5 and the 890FXA-UD5 to see the improvements with Bulldozer lurking around the corner. Unfortunately, AMD’s setback with LLano’s release did not allow us to look at Bulldozer with the 990FX chipset but tested results with the Phenom II X4 980 instead.
The 990FXA-UD5 has a revamped look as Gigabyte refashioned the colors and went with a very sleek monochromatic look. The layout has also changed a bit too. Most notably, though, the 990FX/SB950 chipset eliminates some features that were not needed and adds and additional PCIe slot(total 5 useable) along with more USB headers and a full complement of 6G sata ports. The 990FX chipset now supports SLI which is embraced by Nvidea fans and is long overdue. Also, the 990FXA with 8 + 2 Power Phase incorporates the MOSFETs and driver IC on the power side and can satisfy the growing power requirements of today’s processors. The 990FXA-UD5 has not been completely overhauled but the improvements were definitely needed with the popularity of multi-graphics cards and multi Solid State and internal/external HDD’s amongst other advances.
On the performance side, the Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5 overclocks with the best boards we have seen. We achieved 4.5GHz stable which equals its older brother, the 890FXA-UD5, but in our tremendously fun dry ice runs, it beat the 890FXA by a few MHz and we achieved one of our best results on the Phenom II X4 980 to date.
On the negative side, Gigabyte did not use the new UEFI interface BIOS that allows mice navigation as most manufacturers have now done, although the UEFI does not increase performance. We also did not find a LLC (Load Line Calibration) that eliminates Vdroop when overclocking but when we tortured the motherboard and cranked it up, our voltages were actually higher than the BIOS setting. There was no Vdroop to hold us back. Lastly, the lack of ON/OFF, Reset and Clear CMOS switches are unfortunate, particularly for overclocking junkies that typically use tech stations and appreciate the convenience of these button. These are not dealbreakers but these few details would have made the 990FXA even more attractive.
As mentioned, the 990FX chipset brings more function but there are no significant performance gains and overclocking improvements to speak of. AMD says Socket AM3+ will perform better with Bulldozer than socket AM3 but both the 890FXA and 990FXA carry Socket AM3+ and they performed virtually equal. This leads us to the conclusion there is no absolute need to upgrade from 890FXA to the 990FXA but if you are looking to build in preparation for Bulldozer, then we do recommend going with the 990FXA-UD5; it is a great choice if you don’t need all the bells and whistles normally found on flagship motherboards. Coming in at $200 makes the Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5 a very attractive package overall in terms of features, performance, and price.