[nextpage title=”Introduction”]The AMD 890FX is the new high-end chipset for AMD processors and the ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 is a mainstream motherboard based on this new chipset, bringing nice features like three PCI Express x16 slots, eight SATA-600 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, solid capacitors, core unlocking utility and more. Check it out.
This new high-end chipset is a two-chip solution. The main feature of the north bridge chip is the presence of 42 PCI Express x1 lanes – almost double the amount present on AMD 890GX chipset (22 lanes) – which allows a very high-end configuration for the expansion slots as we will explain in the next page. The south bridge chip used is an SB850, the same one used on the AMD 890GX chipset. The main feature of this chip is the native support for six SATA-600 (a.k.a. “SATA 6G”) ports, so the motherboard doesn’t need an external chip to support this feature, and certainly the AMD 890FX and 890GX will help the new SATA standard to become mainstream.
In Figure 1 you have an overall look at ASRock 890FX Deluxe3.
Figure 1: ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 motherboard.
As mentioned, the AMD 890FX chipset has 42 PCI Express x1 lanes controlled by 11 engines – just to put things into perspective, the AMD 890GX chipset has 22 lanes controlled by eight engines. This allows this chip to provide a very high-end slot configuration.
On 890FX Deluxe3 ASRock decided to hook up these lanes like this: the first PCI Express x16 slot (blue) always work at x16, independently of how many video cards are installed; the second PCI Express x16 slot (blue) always work at x16; and the third PCI Express x16 slot (white) always work at x4.
It is important to note that motherboards from other manufacturers may use a different configuration. With 42 available lanes it is possible, for instance, to have four PCI Express x16 slots working at x8 at the same time.
ASRock made a nice job using different colors to identify the speed of the PCI Express x16 slots. So if you want to install two video cards make sure to use the blue slots.
Another terrific thing ASRock did was to give enough space between these slots. This means you won’t have any trouble installing two dual-slot video cards on this motherboard (in this case the first video card will cover one of the PCI Express x1 slots and the second card will cover one of the standard PCI slots). You can only install a third dual-slot video card if you have a case with eight or more slots (ATX cases by default have seven), and even then you will cover two SATA-600 ports, one USB header, the floppy disk drive port, the power and reset buttons and the POST diagnostics display.
This motherboard offers support to CrossFireX technology, of course, but not to SLI. The product, however, doesn’t come with CrossFireX bridges.
890FX Deluxe3 also comes with two PCI Express x1 slots and two standard PCI slots.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, and not the chipset, that defines the memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
At the moment, the integrated memory controller of socket AM3 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture, however ASRock says 890FX Deluxe3 supports DDR3 memories up to 1,800 MHz through overclocking. This motherboard has four DDR3 sockets and since, at the moment, each DDR3 memory module can have up to 4 GB, you can have up to 16 GB with it.
The first and the second sockets are white, while the third and the fourth are blue. In order to achieve the maximum performance, you should install two or four memory modules to enable the dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used, install them in sockets with the same color in order to enable this feature.
Figure 3: Memory modules. Install two or four modules for the best performance.
[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]
As explained earlier, the AMD 890FX chipset is a dual-chip solution using the SB850 south bridge chip. This chip natively supports six SATA-600 ports (with RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10). If that wasn’t enough, ASRock added two extra SATA-600 ports (controlled by a Marvell 88SE9120 chip, no RAID support), for a total of eight SATA-600 ports.
The SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset are placed on the motherboard edge rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them, as you can see in Figure 4. This motherboard has one ATA-133 port controlled by a VIA VT6330 chip (which is also a FireWire controller), which is also placed rotated on the motherboard edge. The two extra SATA-600 ports are located on the motherboard edge near the last PCI Express x16 slot, as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 4: POST diagnostics display, SATA-600 ports and ATA-133 port.
Figure 5: Extra SATA-600 ports.
This motherboard also has an eSATA-600 port on its rear panel. How this port is connected to the system is a mystery to us, because there is no extra controller chip available for this port and there are no ports left on the south bridge chip or on the Marvell 88SE9120 chip.
A floppy disk drive controller is present, driven by the Super I/O chip (Nuvoton NCT6775F).
This motherboard has eight USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. One very interesting thing ASRock did was to put one of the USB 2.0 headers and the FireWire header close to the power supply main connector, which may facilitate routing the cables coming from the front panel of your case.
One of the highlights of 890FX Deluxe3 is the presence of four USB 3.0 ports. Usually motherboards featuring USB 3.0 ports have only two ports, so this motherboards certainly has a big advantage over competitors. These four ports are controlled by two NEC μPD720200 chips.
Two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports are provided, one standard-sized on the rear panel and one through a header on the motherboard. They are controlled by a VIA VT6330 chip.
The motherboard doesn’t come with I/O brackets for you to use the extra USB and FireWire ports.
Eight-channel audio is generated by the chipset using a VIA VT2020 codec. Unfortunately this component isn’t listed on VIA’s website, but
at least the product manual says that it presents a 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio on its outputs, which is a professional-grade number. 890FX Deluxe3 comes with both coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs and you can route digital audio to your video card if you need digital audio on its HDMI output by installing the appropriated cable one the available “HDMI_SPDIF1” header.
The analog audio connectors are independent, so you won’t have to “kill” the line in or mic in jacks if you decide to install an analog 7.1 speaker set.
890FX Deluxe3 has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip, which is connected to the system using a PCI Express x1 lane and thus not presenting any potential performance issues.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with keyboard and mouse PS/2 connectors, clear CMOS button, coaxial SPDIF output, optical SPDIF output, four USB 2.0 ports (black and red ports), one Gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 3.0 ports (blue ports), one FireWire port, one eSATA-600 port, and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.
Figure 6: Motherboard rear panel.
Other smaller features are available. As you can see in Figure 4, this product comes with a POST diagnostics display, allowing you to discover through a two-digit code what is wrong with your computer if it is not turning on.
This motherboard supports one legacy serial port through a header called “COM1.” It doesn’t come with the I/O bracket that is required to use it. This motherboard also comes with an infrared interface (“IR1” header), allowing you to easily install an infrared sensor to allow your computer to communicate to other infrared devices (e.g., remote control).
This board also has on-board power and reset buttons, which are quite handy when debugging your PC.[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 comes with a 10-phase voltage regulator circuit. From the 10 available phases, eight are used to generate the CPU main voltage (VDD or Vcore) while the other two are used to generate the VDDNB voltage, which is used by the integrated memory controller, the L3 memory cache and the HyperTransport bus controller. Thus this motherboard has a “8+2” configuration.
This motherboard comes with an active heatsink installed on top of the transistors of the voltage regulator circuit, connected to the passive heatsink that is installed on top of the north bridge chip using a heatpipe. In Figure 7, you can see the voltage regulator circuit with this cooling solution installed and, in Figure 8, with it removed.
Figure 7: Voltage regulator circuit.
Figure 8: Voltage regulator circuit.
As mentioned earlier, all capacitors used on this motherboard are solid and the voltage regulator circuit uses ferrite chokes, which are better than iron chokes. Please read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator tutorial for more information.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 provides some overclocking options, including a dynamic overclocking option, which automatically overclocks the system for you. Below we list only the main ones available on 1.4 BIOS.
- CPU dynamic overclocking: From 0% to 20% in 4% steps.
- CPU base clock: From 150 MHz to 500 Hz in 1 MHz steps.
- PCI Express clock: From 75 MHz to 250 MHz in 1 MHz steps.
- CPU voltage: From 0.600 V to 2.000 V in 0.0125 V steps.
- Memory controller (CPUNB) voltage: From 0.600 V to 2.000 V in 0.0125 V steps.
- CPU clock multiplier (VDDA) voltage: From 2.56 V to 2.70 V.
- Memory voltage: From 1.322 V to 2.244 V in 0.017 V steps.
- HyperTransport voltage: From +1.106 V to +1.506 V in 0.05 V steps.
- Chipset voltage (erroneously listed as “mGPU voltage”): From 1.108 V to 1.794 V in 0.015 V steps.
Memory timings can also be tweaked.
As mentioned, this motherboard has a core unlocking feature, available under “ASRock UCC” in the motherboard setup. This function allows you to unlock hidden CPU cores on selected AMD CPUs.
Figure 10: Overclocking menu (Cont’d).
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 motherboard main features are:
- Socket: AM3.
- Chipset: AMD 890FX + SB850
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6775F
- Parallel ATA: One ATA-133 port controlled by a VIA VT6330 chip
- Serial ATA: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10) and two SATA-600 ports controlled by a Marvell 88SE9120 chip
- External SATA: One eSATA-600 port.
- USB: Eight USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard and four available through two headers on the motherboard. Four USB 3.0 ports controlled by two NEC μPD720200 chips
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): Two ports, one normal-sized soldered on the rear panel and one available through a header on the motherboard, controlled by a VIA VT6330 chip
- On-board video: No
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a VIA VT2020 codec (8-channel, 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its outputs, no more technical information is provided). On-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip, connected to the system through one PCI Express x1 lane
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: Yes
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (the first always working at x16, the second always working at x16 and the third slot alwa
ys working at x4), two PCI Express x1 slots and two standard PCI slots
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to 16 GB up to DDR3-1800 through overclocking)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, one four-pin connector (PWM control) for an auxiliary fan and two three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra Features: POST diagnostics LEDs, utility for unlocking hidden CPU cores inside the motherboard setup, external clear CMOS button
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard drivers and utilities
- More Information: https://www.asrock.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 155.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 is one of the most inexpensive socket AM3 motherboards based on the new AMD 890FX chipset and, at the same time, brings an impressive number of features, some of them not even found on more expensive products, such as eight SATA-600 ports and four USB 3.0 ports.
Right now the only motherboard that is cheaper than this model from ASRock is Biostar TA890FXE, which doesn’t have USB 3.0 ports and has six SATA-600 ports instead of eight. This model from Biostar, however, has four PCI Express x16 slots. The presence of four PCI Express x16 slots isn’t necessarily an advantage, because on this product from Biostar they are too close to each other, making the motherboard to support only two dual-slot video cards. On ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 you can have up to three dual-slot video cards, as long as you buy a case with eight or more expansion slots.
In summary, if you are looking for a mainstream motherboard for your AMD processor based on the new AMD 890FX chipset and want USB 3.0, ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 is the motherboard that presents the best bang for the buck right now.
By the way, one constructive criticism to ASRock is to hire someone with a better knowledge of the English language to revise the text on their product box. Two examples of phrases written in “Engrish” are “World’s First AMD 890GX Chipset Motherboard Supports Unlock CPU Core” (the correct form would be “World’s first motherboard based on AMD 890GX chipset to support CPU core unlocking”) and “An user-friendly and united tool which allows you to overclock your hardware devices to get the best system performance” (the correct form would be “A user-friendly tool that allows you to overclock your hardware devices to get the best system performance”). Unfortunately this kind of problem happens a lot with several manufacturers.
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