iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ECS A890GXM-A Motherboard

Utilitarian yet original.

April 21, 2010

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The motherboard is based on the AMD 890GX chipset (AMD 890GX Northbridge + SB850 Southbridge). There are five SATA 3.0 ports (RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5), as well as an eSATA 3.0 port. There is also a chipset-based IDE controller for two PATA/133 devices -- still present in all modern AMD chipsets. There are also the following additional controllers.

  • Integrated audio based on the 8-channel Realtek ALC892 HDA codec, optical S/PDIF Out on the rear-panel.
  • Two Gigabit LAN based on Realtek 8111DL (PCIe x1), can be combined into one channel.
  • System monitoring based on ITE IT8721F-S. The BIOS can control CPU (4-pin only) and system fan speed based on the desired temperature threshold and Start PWM Value (min. fan speed). The fan speed is adjusted by Fan Slope increments (a percent of fan speed increased per each degree of the growing temperature).

We assessed the integrated audio solution in the 16-bit/44kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.3 and an ESI Juli@ sound card.

Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB: +0.00, -0.01 Excellent
Noise level, dB(A) -87.4 Good
Dynamic range, dB(A) 87.2 Good
THD, % 0.0043 Very Good
THD + noise, dB(A) -71.2 Average
IMD + noise, % 0.026 Good
Channel crosstalk, dB -88.1 Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, % 0.022 Good

Overall grade: Very Good. The results are typical, though some motherboards with this codec score better. The subjective difference is insignificant anyway. The analog outputs are all right for a set of inexpensive home theater speakers. If you need more, you should use the optical S/PDIF and HDMI.



  • 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 + 200 MHz ~ 500 MHz
Graphics core frequency + 200 MHz ~ 2000 MHz
CPU multiplier + Cores and CPU NB
CPU core voltage + +50 mV ~ +500 mV
Memory voltage + +10 mV ~ +630 mV
Chipset voltage + +10 mV ~ +630 mV Northbridge
+10 mV ~ +150 mV Southbridge
1.50 V ~ 1.75 V SidePort chip

The BIOS adjustment ranges of the 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 dated February 10, 2010.

The BIOS offers a complete set of default overclocking parameteres, except for CPU NB voltage. The automatic recovery of default values still doesn't work flawlessly. There's no indication of clock rates you'll get after applying changes to the BIOS. And considering there are no custom user profiles as well, the motherboard doesn't look very friendly to overclockers.

CPU Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition 2.8 GHz Phenom II X4 810 2.6 GHz
CPU frequency, MHz 3700 3380
CPU reference frequency (multiplier), MHz 200 (x18.5) 260 (x13)
Core/CPU NB voltage (according to BIOS), V 1.48/1.10 1.35/1.20
CPU NB frequency (multiplier), MHz 2200 (x11) 2340 (x9)
HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz 2000 (x10) 2080 (x8)
Memory frequency, MHz DDR3-1333 DDR3-1040
Notes Increase core and CPU NB multipliers Increase reference frequency, reduce CPU NB and HT bus multipliers

The aforementioned impossibility to adjust CPU NB voltage somewhat limited its overlocking. But that shouldn't radically affect the overclocking of CPU cores since the multiplier could be adjusted. But perhaps there are other limitations as well, so only the overclocking of an unlocked CPU can be considered successful. The results of a regular CPU are quite moderate.

Performance and efficiency

We compared ECS A890GXM-A with the previously tested MSI 890GXM-G65 based on the same chipset.

ATI Radeon HD 4850 MSI 890GXM-G65 ECS A890GXM-A
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:15 2:20
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 60 55
World in Conflict (Very High @ 1680x1050), fps 30 30

Int. graphics MSI 890GXM-G65 ECS A890GXM-A
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:17 2:19
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:15 1:17
HDPlay (DXVA Off/On), CPU load 30%/3% 29%/3%
Crysis (Low @ 1024x768), fps 35 36
World in Conflict (Low @ 1680x1050), fps 32 32
Far Cry 2 (Low @ 1280x720), fps 34 34

Enclosure power consumption

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

AMD Phenom II X4 810 + ATI Radeon HD 4850 MSI 890GXM-G65 ECS A890GXM-A
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 61 (APS On)
66 (APS Off)
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 83 95
Far Cry 2, W 143-196 148-184

AMD Phenom II X4 810 + int. graphics MSI 890GXM-G65 ECS A890GXM-A
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 15 (APS On)
18 (APS Off)
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 35 28
Far Cry 2, W 69-81 64-84

The performance is almost identical, but efficiency is not. ECS A890GXM-A does best when used with integrated graphics, while MSI 890GXM-G65 consumes less when used with a discrete graphics card. Since the feature disabling inactive phases in ECS A890GXM-A cannot be turned off, there's only one result.


ECS A890GXM-A is a very utilitarian, but also somewhat original motherboard. The complete set of video outputs allows connecting any monitors without adapters; the two Gigabit LAN ports may come in handy, if you want to use your PC as a gateway or just need a higher-speed connection. The minor features like the Clear CMOS button on the rear panel and On/Off and Reset buttons on the PCB are also convenient, at least during the setup. In other words, all the peculiarities ECS A890GXM-A has are useful. They were not added just so the motherboard could stand out. Perhaps just overclocking enthusiasts may wish for more BIOS features -- one thing ECS doesn't have much expertise in. However, this time the motherboard has no memory modules compatibility issues, so if you're not going to overclock memory, you should definitely consider this model.

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