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AMD 890GX Chipset Overview

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After releasing the 790GX chipset in the summer of 2008, AMD stopped increasing integrated graphics performance for the time being, apparently to focus on a new integrated graphics core with DirectX 11 support that would be a part of the Fusion package, along with CPU cores.

But the market makes older powerful and feature-rich solutions look less attractive than newer moderate offerings. Chipset manufacturers have to be even more persuasive, because they need to attract both motherboard makers and consumers. So, to provide enough integrated motherboards for the Socket AM3 platform, the company rolled out the AMD 785G chipset last year. Unlike 780G, it supported DirectX 10.1 and ATI Stream.

These days, when hexacore CPUs and a newer high-performance platform are closing in, it's a good time to renew the high-end chipset series as well.

So, the chipset is a classic Northbridge and Southbridge bundle. The former is connected to CPU by means of the HyperTransport 3.0 bus (20.6 GB/s). It also features a PCI Express controller and a graphics core. The Southbridge connects to the Northbridge by means of newer Alink Express III (based on PCI Express; 2 GB/s), adding the remaining features, like SATA, PCI and such.

Chipset specifications:

  • Supports all Socket AM3 CPUs (Phenom II, Athlon II, Sempron 140);
  • Graphics core supporting DirectX 10.1, UVD 2.0, ATI Stream;
  • Up to 2 x PCIe x16 slots (PCIe 2.0), a single graphics card gets all 16 lanes, dual graphics cards get 8 lanes each;
  • Up to 8 x PCIe x1 slots (full-speed PCIe 2.0), including 6 provided by the Northbridge and 2 provided by the Southbridge;
  • Up to 6 x SATA III ports for 6 x SATA 3.0 devices, supporting AHCI, NCQ, eSATA, port headers and separate device disconnection; RAID 0, 1, 0+1 (10), 5;
  • Up to 4 x PCI slots;
  • Up to 14 x USB 2.0 on two EHCI host controllers supporting separate device disconnection;
  • Gigabit Ethernet MAC;
  • 7.1-channel High Definition Audio;
  • A PATA port for up to 2 x PATA/133 devices;
  • Legacy peripherals support.

Now let's take a closer look at chipset's certain features.

The first thing that AMD underlines is full-speed intra-chipset interfaces. This is quite reasonable, at least to provide actual bandwidth, not just formal support, for SATA 3.0 and USB 3.0. Just note that the SATA 3.0 controller is built into the chipset, while USB 3.0 will be implemented by means of additional controllers by motherboard manufacturers (probably not in every motherboard). The chipset just makes sure that all PCIe links, not just graphics slot-related, full-speed (e.g., meet the PCIe 2.0 requirements). In turn, Intel and NVIDIA chipsets only provide half a bandwidth to links to internal controllers and PCIe x1 slots.

Obviously, the support for SATA 3.0 isn't going to benefit regular hard drives, even from the fastest series. Not speaking of cheaper models with 7200rpm and 5400rpm spindle rotation speeds. But it will surely benefit SSD devices, at least in tasks requiring intensive drive access, as well as in running large applications. The right chart shows the results of Micron Real SSD C300-EEFDDAC256MAG.

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Page 1: Introduction, specs, SATA 3.0

Page 2: Dual Graphics, features, conclusions

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