iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 Motherboard

A workhorse with a lot of automatic overclocking features.

June 17, 2010

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  • CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 810
  • RAM: 2 x 2GB Apacer DDR3-1333 CL9 9-9-9-24-1T for Socket AM3 boards; 2 x 2GB GoodRAM PRO DDR2-1066 CL5 5-5-5-15-2T for Socket AM2+ boards
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200rpm)
  • Graphics card: ATI RADEON HD4850, 512 MB GDDR3
  • PSU: AcBel ATX-550CA-AB8FB
  • OS: Windows Vista SP1 64-bit, Catalyst 9.2, latest chipset drivers


  • 7-Zip 4.65 x64
  • WinRAR 3.80
  • XviD 1.2.1
  • x264 r1129 x64
  • FarCry 2 (Ranch Medium)
  • Crysis (DX10, HOCbenchmark, VGA test, built-in demo)
  • Devil May Cry 4 (built-in benchmark)
  • World in Conlict (built-in benchmark)

To assess performance we measure time required to archive a 297MB set of 277 files of various types and convert a 636MB MPEG2 video using XviD and x264. We also measure frames per second in game demos. In FarCry 2 we run tests in 4 modes: low, medium, high and very high quality. The first three modes imply the aforesaid quality level, 1280x720 resolution, DX9 rendering, High Performance. The last mode implies: 1680x1050 resolution, Very High setting for both graphics and system, DX10 rendering. In Crysis we also use 4 modes at 1024x768 and 1280x1024 and run tests at Low and High quality in each mode. In Devil May Cry 4 we run two tests: 1280x720 (High DX9) and 1680x1050 (Super High DX10). In World in Conlict we run test in 4 modes: 1280x720 Low, 1280x720 Medium, 1680x1050 High, 1680x1050 Very High.

It's obvious which modes should be used with integrated graphics and which, with discrete graphics. Note that if a motherboard has no integrated graphics, performance tests are only used to check for serious layout or BIOS flaws and can be reduced to minimum. Vice versa, performance tests are indicative for motherboards with integrated graphics. And if a certain motherboard review lacks certain details, we might add respective test results to make up for it.

To assess capabilities of a motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock test CPUs (which ones depends on board's market segment) to a stable maximum with the help of Zalman CNPS9700 AM2 and Cooler Master Hyper Z600 coolers. At that we use all motherboard features, like CPU core voltage adjustments and, if needed, bus multiplier and clock adjustments (Hyper-Transport, CPU NB, etc.) For RAM we select a clock rate typical for this class of modules by adjusting its multiplier, or clock rate needed to maximize CPU core clock rate. The stability of an overclocked machine is assessed in Windows Vista with the help of AMD OverDrive stability test (all tests are run for 5 minutes). Note that since overclocking potential somewhat varies from one board to another, we are not focused on finding board's exact overclocking potential accurate to 1MHz. We just try to find out if a board hampers in CPU overclocking (due to insufficient voltage stabilizer power, etc.) and see how it performs in atypical modes, including automatic BIOS recovery in cases of overclocking issues (not requiring CMOS reset) and such.

Power consumption is assessed in the light mode (with text editor running) and in the heavy mode (FarCry 2, high quality, 1280x720). At that we enable processor's standard power-saving features. Also, if a board has proprietary power-saving features, we examine their efficiency separately.

BIOS overclocking settings Availability Notes
Memory timings +  
Memory frequency + DDR3-800 ~ DDR3-1600
HT bus frequency (multiplier) +  
CPU reference frequency + 100MHz ~ 600MHz
CPU multiplier + Cores and CPU NB
Graphics core frequency + 400MHz ~ 1500MHz
Video buffer frequency + DDR3-1333 ~ DDR3-2000
CPU voltage + 0.60V ~ 2.00V (CPU)
0.50V ~ 1.90V (CPU NB)
2.2V ~ 2.9V (CPU VDDA)
Memory voltage + 1.2V ~ 2.55V
Chipset voltage + 0.80V ~ 2.00V (Northbridge)
1.10V ~ 1.40V (Southbridge)
0.80V ~ 1.40V (HT bus)
1.50V ~ 1.80V (video buffer)

The BIOS adjustment ranges of CPU voltage, as well as some other parameters, depend on the given processor. We publish the results of our AMD Phenom II X4 810. We used BIOS 1301 dated April 12, 2010.

The BIOS has all the necessary options. Adjustment ranges are wide enough for almost all values. Actual option values are conveniently highlit. We can't criticize automatic reset to default values either.

There's just one thing. It takes the motherboard a long time to wake up -- about 8-10 seconds from powering on to BIOS splash screen. This is especially noticeable, if two PCs are connected to the same monitor (in our case a work machine is connected to a DVI port, and the testbed is plugged into a VGA port). In this case, the monitor sometimes switches of to the second machine, believing there's no signal from the current source.

CPU AMD Phenom II X4 965 3.4GHz AMD Phenom II X4 810 2.6GHz
CPU frequency, MHz 4000 3705
CPU reference frequency (multiplier), MHz 200 (x20) 285 (x13)
Core/CPU NB voltage (according to BIOS), V 1.50/1.30 1.48/1.35
CPU NB frequency (multiplier), MHz 2600 (x13) 2565 (x9)
HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz 2000 (x10) 1995 (x7)
Memory frequency, MHz DDR3-1333 DDR3-1140
Notes Increase core and CPU NB multipliers Increase reference frequency, reduce CPU NB and HT bus multipliers

The results are decent, but not outstanding. They correpond to those of an mid-end workhorse with non-extreme overclocking capabilities. Users without much overclocking experience who are still willing to overclock can use various semi-automatic and full-automatic modes, traditional for ASUS products. These include the purely software Turbo V for Windows and CPU Level Up BIOS option that increases the multiplier or reference frequency to obtain the desired CPU core clock rate. As stated above, ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 also has mechanical switches that should theoretically let the motherboard overclock itself (after a reboot). Like most automatic means of overclocking we've seen, this one doesn't yield optimal results in real life either. For example, the motherboard only chose to overclock AMD Phenom II X4 965 to 3.7GHz by means of the multiplier. Not bad, but the CPU NB frequency should've been increased as well. The second CPU, AMD Phenom II X4 810, got 2.8GHz by means of increasing the reference frequency to 216MHz. At the same time, memory clock rate was illogically reduced to DDR3-864. But Corsair overclocker modules we used could easily work at DDR3-1600.

Anyway, ASUS likes the idea of freeing users from manual overclocking more that it may seem. Thus, the company has provided an automatic overclocking option for the graphics core as well (aside from manual core and memory clock rate adjustments). In the Turbo mode, overclocking obviously doesn't exceed 10-15%, so there are no stability issues. As for the Extreme mode, Northbridge voltage needs to be slightly increased -- one thing that cannot be done automatically -- so it's not stable. As for manual overclocking, the Radeon HD 4290 easily works at 1000MHz, if you increase the voltage by 0.05V ~ 0.1V. If you raise it higher, the core will work at 1.2GHz ~ 1.5GHz. By the way, we've seen about the same with the AMD 790GX chipset.

Performance and efficiency

We compared ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 with the previously tested Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H based on the same chipset.

ATI Radeon HD 4850 Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:17 2:17
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:15 1:15
HDPlay (DXVA Off/On), CPU load 26%/3% 26%/3%
Far Cry 2 (Very High @ 1680x1050), fps 62 62
World in Conflict (Very High @ 1680x1050), fps 29 29

Int. graphics Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:17 2:18
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:15 1:17
HDPlay (DXVA Off/On), CPU load 26%/3% 29%/3%
Crysis (Low @ 1024x768), fps 36 36
World in Conflict (Low @ 1680x1050), fps 32 32
FarCry 2 (Low @ 1280x720), fps 35 35

Enclosure power consumption

We measured power consumption with the wattmeter built into the PSU.

AMD Phenom II X4 810 + ATI Radeon HD 4850 Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 84 71
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 101 88
Far Cry 2, W 170-206 129-177

AMD Phenom II X4 810 + int. graphics Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 18 13
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 47 25
Far Cry 2, W 74-92 74-89

ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 has an EPU chip that is, in theory, responsible for dynamically disabling inactive VRM phases. However, enabling this mode in Windows doesn't affect actual power consumption. Is the feature enabled by default? Anyway, ASUS's motherboard turns out to be more power-efficient than Gigabyte's, both with integrated and discrete graphics.


ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 has enough features, but is not outstanding. It expands chipset capabilities with eSATA, FireWire and USB 3.0 controllers. (By the way, if you don't need the latter, there's a similar modification just without USB 3.0). On the bright side the build quality is high, the BIOS is bug-free enough, and there are automatic overclocking features, if you're interested. On the downside is insufficient flexibility in configuration of graphics slots and a standalone IDE controller, strange from a consumer's point of view. This has been a "fix" for Intel chipsets that haven't had this functionality since long ago. But, fortunately, AMD chipsets still fully support IDE drives, and a chipset IDE channel has unquestionable advantages in terms of compatibility with operating systems, loaders, backup software, etc. On the other hand, most users don't really care about this. So if the price is competitive, the motherboard should be in demand.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, design

Page 2: Design cont'd, features

Page 3: Overclocking, performance, consumption

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