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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

The AMD 890FX is the new high-end chipset for AMD processors and the Biostar TA890FXE is a mainstream motherboard based on this new chipset, bringing nice features like four PCI Express x16 slots, six SATA-600 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 can have an overall look from Biostar TA890FXE.

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 1: Biostar TA890FXE motherboard.

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

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 TA890FXE Biostar decided to hook up these lanes like this: the first PCI Express x16 slot (white) always work at x16, independently of how many video cards are installed; the second PCI Express x16 slot (red) always work at x4; the third PCI Express x16 slot (white) always work at x16; and the fourth slot (red) always work at x1. Unfortunately this configuration isn’t clear on the product manual or on the manufacturer website.

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.

At least Biostar used different colors to identify the x16 slots. So if you want to install two video cards make sure to use the white slots. However, Biostar could make a better job identifying which slot runs at x4 and which one runs at x1.

It is important to note that the manufacturer didn’t leave space between the PCI Express x16 slots. You won’t have trouble fitting two dual-slot video cards on this motherboard, but if you want to install three or four video cards the first three must be single-slot solutions. So the use of three or four video cards is more targeted to expanding the number of video monitors than creating a bigger CrossFireX setup.

This motherboard offers support to CrossFireX technology, of course, but not to SLI. The product comes with two CrossFireX bridges.

The motherboard also comes with two standard PCI slots. The absence of PCI Express x1 slots isn’t an issue, since PCI Express technology allows you to install x1 expansion cards on any kind of PCI Express slot, so you will be able to install your x1 cards on x16 slots.

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 2: Slots.

Near the first PCI Express x16 slot the motherboard has a standard peripheral power adapter, which should be used to provide more current to the PCI Express slots. The manufacturer doesn’t say when this connector should be used, therefore we recommend you to always install it to the power supply.

[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 Biostar says TA890FXE supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 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 red. 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.

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 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) and on TA890FXE Biostar decided to put one of these ports on the rear panel as an eSATA-600 port. Four of the internal ports are placed on the motherboard edge rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them, as you can see in Figure 4. The fifth port is installed on the traditional orientation and video cards installed on the forth PCI Express x16 slot may block it.

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 4: SATA-600 ports, ATA-133 port and POST diagnostics display.

The manufacturer added an ATA-133 port on this motherboard, which may be useful to users trying to install older optical and hard disk drives. This port is controlled by a VIA VT6330, which is also a FireWire controller.

No floppy disk drive controller is present.

This motherboard has 12 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the rear panel and six through three headers located on the motherboard.

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 Realtek ALC892 codec. Unfortunately this component isn’t listed on Realtek’s website, so we can’t comment on audio quality. TA890FXE comes with optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs and you can route digital audio to video cards to have digital audio available on HDMI connectors by installing the appropriate cable on the “JSPDIFOUT1” header available.  

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.

Biostar TA890FXE has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111DL chip, which is connected to the system using a PCI Express x1 lane and thus not presenting any potential performance issues.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with keyboard and mouse PS/2 co
nnectors, optical SPDIF output, coaxial SPDIF output, six USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire port, one eSATA-600 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 5: 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 “J_COM1.” It doesn’t come with the I/O bracket that is required to use it. This motherboard also comes with an infrared interface (“CIR1” 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”]

Biostar TA890FXE comes with a six-phase voltage regulator circuit. From the six available phases, five are used to generate the CPU main voltage (VDD or Vcore) while the other one is 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 “5+1” configuration.

This motherboard comes with a passive 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 6, you can see the voltage regulator circuit with this cooling solution installed and, in Figure 7, with it removed.

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 6: Voltage regulator circuit.

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 7: 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”]

Biostar TA890FXE provides some overclocking options. Below we list only the main ones available on BIOS.

  • CPU base clock: From 200 MHz to 600 Hz in 1 MHz steps.
  • CPU voltage: From +0.05 V to +1.45 V in 0.05 V steps.
  • Memory controller (CPUNB) voltage: From +0.05 V to +0.200 V.
  • Memory voltage: From -0.400 V to +0.630 V in 0.010 V steps.
  • HyperTransport voltage: From +0.010 V to +0.300 V in 0.010 V steps.
  • South bridge voltage: From +0.010 V to +0.400 V in 0.010 V steps.

Memory timings can also be tweaked.

As mentioned, this motherboard has a core unlocking feature, available under “BIO-unlocKING” in the motherboard setup. This function allows you to unlock hidden CPU cores on selected AMD CPUs.

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 8: Overclocking menu.

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 9: Overclocking menu (Cont’d).

Biostar TA890FXE motherboardFigure 10: Memory timing options.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

Biostar TA890FXE motherboard main features are:

  • Socket: AM3.
  • Chipset: AMD 890FX + SB850
  • Super I/O: ITE IT8721F
  • Parallel ATA: One ATA-133 port controlled by a VIA VT6330 chip.
  • Serial ATA: Five SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10).
  • External SATA: One eSATA-600 port controlled by the chipset.
  • USB: 12 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the motherboard and six available through three headers on the motherboard.
  • 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 Realtek ALC892 codec (8-channel, no technical information is provided). On-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs.
  • On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111DL chip, connected to the system through one PCI Express x1 lane.
  • Buzzer: No.
  • Infrared interface: Yes.
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: Four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (the first always working at x16, the second always working at x4, the third slot always working at x16, and the fourth always working at x1) and two standard PCI slots.
  • Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to 16 GB up to DDR3-1600 through overclocking).
  • Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and two three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans.
  • Extra Features: POST diagnostics LEDs, utility for unlocking hidden CPU cores inside the motherboard setup.
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One.
  • Programs included: Motherboard drivers and utilities.
  • More Information: https://www.biostar-usa.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 140.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

Biostar TA890FXE is a really nice option if you are looking for a motherboard for your AMD CPU based on AMD 890FX chipset with lots of features and don’t want to sell an arm to buy one. The highlights of this motherboard includes the presence of four PCI Express x16 slots, SATA-600 ports, one eSATA-600 port, POST diagnostics display and on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF connectors.

The only feature “missing” on this motherboard is USB 3.0. If you want this feature you will have to spend more and buy a more expensive model from a different brand.

XE is the most inexpensive 890FX-based motherboard available on the market today, providing a terrific value to the smart user.