No news isn’t always good news. AMD has been purposefully vague on the graphics specifications of its 8-series chipsets. Today we know why. The AMD 890GX has the exact same graphics horsepower as the 790GX:

  AMD 890GX AMD 790GX AMD 785G
CPU AMD Socket-AM3 AMD Socket-AM3/AM2+ AMD Socket-AM3/AM2+
Manufacturing Process 55nm 55nm 55nm
PCI Express 24 PCIe 2.0 lanes 22 PCIe 2.0 lanes 22 PCIe 2.0 lanes
Graphics Radeon HD 4290 (DirectX 10.1) Radeon HD 3300 (DirectX 10.0) Radeon HD 4200 (DirectX 10.1)
Core Clock 700MHz 700MHz 500MHz
Shader Processors 8 (5-way) 8 (5-way)  
Full H.264/VC-1/MPEG-2 HW Decode Yes (UVD2) Yes (UVD) Yes (UVD2)
8-channel LPCM No No No
South Bridge SB850 SB750 SB750
USB 14 USB 2.0 ports 12 USB 2.0 ports 12 USB 2.0 ports
SATA 6 SATA 6Gbps ports 6 SATA 3Gbps ports 6 SATA 3Gbps ports

 

In fact, it’s virtually the same graphics core as the 790GX and 785G built on the same 55nm process.


AMD 890GX North Bridge (left) vs. AMD 790GX North Bridge (right) - nothing has changed


SidePort memory on a motherboard

For those of you who aren’t familiar with AMD’s integrated graphics, it’s a 40 SP implementation of the RV6xx core running at 700MHz. The chipset supports optional SidePort memory. It’s an optional dedicated frame buffer that provides additional low latency bandwidth to the integrated graphics core. If your application demands more memory, the GPU can still use the CPU’s memory controller and system memory.

There haven’t been any improvements to the audio side of the chipset either. The 890GX still supports 2-channel LPCM or 5.1 Dolby Digital/DTS bitstreaming over HDMI. If you want more, AMD will happily sell you a Radeon HD 5450 to plug in to your new board.

AMD continues to offer full hardware H.264/MPEG-2/VC-1 video decode acceleration. The UVD2 engine responsible for the video acceleration remains unchanged from the 785G and 790GX.


Boards based on the 890GX will be well equipped with video outputs like this ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3

Overall system performance remains unchanged. The 890GX performs no differently than the 790FX/GX chipsets:

  AMD 890GX AMD 790GX
x264 HD Encode - Average FPS 26.6 fps 26.6 fps
7-zip Benchmark 5962 MIPS 5917 MIPS

 

With nothing new on the integrated graphics front, the 890GX relies mostly on its new South Bridge, the SB850, to excite. AMD first doubled the bandwidth between its North and South Bridges. Then, it added a native 6Gbps SATA controller with 6 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet MAC and two PCIe 2.0 lanes. The SB850 doesn’t offer any native USB 3 support, so we’ll still see motherboard manufacturers rely on NEC’s external USB 3 controller. The new South Bridge does support two more USB 2.0 ports as well, bringing the total up to 14.

  AMD SB850 AMD SB750
NB-SB Link 2GB/s Each Direction 1GB/s Each Direction
Additional PCIe Two PCIe 2.0 x1 Lanes None
USB 14 USB 2.0 ports 12 USB 2.0 ports
SATA 6 SATA 6Gbps ports 6 SATA 3Gbps ports
PATA 2 Channels 2 Channels
HD Audio Interface Yes Yes
Integrated Gigabit Ethernet MAC Yes No

 

The first 890GX motherboards will be starting at $130. ASUS' M4A89GTD Pro will sell for $145, add another $10 if you want USB 3.0 support.


ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3

I'd expect Gigabyte's pricing to be somewhere in line with that as well.


Gigabyte's GA-890GPA-UD3H

Ready for Integration

The 8-series of chipsets will be AMD’s last incarnation of traditional integrated graphics chipsets. Sometime next year we’ll get Llano, AMD’s first APU with a CPU and GPU on the same die.


AMD's Llano 32nm CPU/GPU due in 2011

At 55nm, the 890GX North Bridge is tiny. At 32nm the North Bridge would be about 1/3 the size. Now you can see why it makes sense to bring this on-die. The South Bridge is even smaller:


AMD SB750 (left) vs. AMD SB850 (right).

We’re not too far away from having nearly all of this technology integrated into the CPU.

The Test

Motherboard: ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 (AMD 890GX)
Intel DH55TC (Intel H55)
Gigabyte's GA-890GPA-UD3H (AMD 890GX)
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1020 (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 10.3
Hard Disk: Corsair P256 SSD
Memory: Corsair DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 5450
Video Drivers: AMD Catalyst 10.3
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows Vista 7 64-bit
AMD’s Integrated HD 4290 vs. Intel Integrated HD Graphics
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  • rachotilko - Thursday, March 25, 2010 - link

    What about RAID offered on desktop boards ? What's the point in providing us with 6x6Gb SATA, when NB-to-SB link is capable of delivering a mediocre 2Gb/s ? I would be more than happy with soft/fake RAIDs that comes with desktop boards, had there not been this absurd bottleneck. In that case I would be able to build a decent RAID10 or RAID5 (with writeback cache enabled) delivering mindblowing disk performances. Now I have to buy overpriced Adaptec/3ware/Areca... or witch to Intel. Shame on you, nVidia and AMD. Reply
  • stuhad - Thursday, March 11, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the article Anand, I really appreciate all the work you do in helping the layman understand new technology.

    So anyway, after reading your article on AMD's Radeon HD 5450, I was just wondering whether hybrid graphics could perhaps improve the 5450's deinterlacing ability? And would dx11 still run if you had the igp and discrete card in hybrid mode or would you need to run dx10.1?

    Hopefully an updated BIOS will eventually allow you to actually get hybrid graphics working and answer all these questions.

    Thanks again
    Reply
  • Alouette Radeon - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - link

    You know, in the last few years I've realized something and I have to admit I was a complete moron. I used to be your typical, stupid, "Intel and nVidia ONLY" computer user. Sure, I had good reason. I'd used Intel CPUs exclusively from the 8088 all the way to the Core 2 Duo. Then when I was working at tigerdirect I saw a HUGE difference in price and I wondered "Could AMD really be that bad?". Well after doing a TON of market research I came to discover that in fact, most of the bad things I'd heard about AMD had been put out by Intel themselves. This was all a part of why the EU and Korea fined them and the USFTC is now charging them. I also had been reading things about ATi's resurgence. Now, understand that ATi was nothing new to me. I'd owned an ATi EGA and then VGA wonder card in the past. ATi used to RULE graphics and they were expensive but they were also the best. Things started to fall apart because management got stupid and they made some bad products. This was when nVidia grabbed the market by being less expensive and competitive at the same time. Now, the situation has changed. I was interested in a Core 2 Quad Q8200 and a GeForce GTX 260. After doing that research I decided to risk it and go with the AMD side of things. I figured they couldn't be THAT bad or they'd be out of business. Well, in the end I bought a Phenom II X4 940 and a Radeon HD 4870. I couldn't be more satisfied with my purchase because not only did I save over $300 on the cost of my rig, now that I've found out about the dishonesty that Intel and nVidia have been involved in, I'm so glad I didn't hand over my dollars to them. Intel and nVidia are a cancer on this industry and until they clean themselves up (which won't happen until AMD is big enough to force them to) those two corporations won't get a PENNY from me. Remember, when the HD 4870 came out, nVidia dropped the prices of the GTX 260 and GTX 280 by a whopping 62%! If they could do that and still make a decent profit, they must have been RAPING the public before that. Sorry mVidia and Intel, you blew it with me and anyone else who has a brain (or at least gives a shit about this industry.) Reply
  • Mr Bill - Saturday, March 06, 2010 - link

    I wonder if the poor performance is simply a matter of driver signaling protocol? Maybe a driver rewrite will increase SSD performance. Reply
  • juampavalverde - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    Looking at the specification of this two chips, and the previous name path which amd choose, with the 790fx, then 790x, then 770, then 780g, and later 790gx (780g at 700 mhz with sideport and crossfire), and recently 785g, it is clear that todays new northbridge shall be called "795GX" (785g at 700 mhz with sideport and crossfire), because imho the southbridge change doesnt justify the addition of 105 to the model number. As long as i remember, when 790fx dropped sb600 in favor of sb700 an later of sb750, there was no change in his name. Reply
  • elerick - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    Any talk whether or not 890 platform will support mini itx? Last I heard until we get integrated chipsets on cpu it would be next to impossible to get am3 on mini-itx.

    Thanks,

    Jason
    Reply
  • amalinov - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    Anand,
    I greatly appreciate the work you do (recently the SSD articles are great). But in this case I find some inconsistencies/ommissions that shouldn't be there IMHO (or I totaly misunderstand something):
    1. In the table comparing SB750 with SB850 the "PATA" line shows "2 channels" for both. But SB750 has only 1 channel (of course for 2 devices: master+slave).
    2. About SB850 PATA - from what I see every mainboard with SB850 uses ANOTHER chip for the PATA channel and this leads me to the conclusion that the AMD powerpoint slides are partialy copy-paste from SB750 and the "Parallel ATA" is a wrong left-over (do you have explicit confirmation for PATA in SB850? Is there a single mainboard using PATA from SB850?).
    3. SidePort DDR3 - what is the width of the interface (8bit - 128bit)? supported speeds? (appearently DDR1333). Is it used as Frame buffer or otherwise? Could UMA/Shared memory be disabled and the IGP be forced to use SidePort memory only?
    4. Manufacturing technology, die area, transistor count, chip power consumption. Some of these are listed for AMD890GX (but not all), but the SB850 is totaly in the dark. (I ask for these assuming that AMD donsn't hesitate to share this with the general public)
    5. Other SB850 features. If I remember correctly the leaked roadmaps this southbridge was to have integrated clock generator(s), DASH 8051 controllers, improved power management and hardware monitoring features - what happened to these? Also, there it was stated that SB850 would have 4 PCIe x1 ports (in addition to the A-Link III). Now we see only 2. Is this realy the total count or only the initial wave of mainboards does not use the other 2?
    6. SATA/600 - I hope when you get back a SSD with over-300MB/s speeds that you will do a test SB850 vs. Marvell-on-AMD vs. Marvell-on-Intel (in addition to the SB850/300 vs. SB850/600 and the AHCI/MS/etc. driver issues)

    Here start the not so important things:
    7. IGP audio - does the 890GX DisplayPort support audio? (and what about mainboards routing to the DisplayPort one of the USBs? The other of the pair could go to a combo eSATA/USB port... but I start wishfull thinking here :))
    8. Gigabit ethernet MAC - I don't see any mainboards using it, but don't assume it is missing (like the PATA), because of most mainboards not using Intel MAC too - but do you have any info if EVER this is going to be used (eg. what PHYs are compatible with SB850, etc. - maybe some of the nF590 times?)

    And here some could be considered off-topic:
    9. SLI support - after Nvidia starting selling "license" to mainboard manufacturers for SLI support - are there any announcements for AMD-chipset boards with SLI support?
    10. You mentioned briefly Hybrid Crossfire IGP+GPU and it seems like a "beta", but when it is ready would it support IGP+GPU+GPU (two HD5450 with 890GX) and IGP+GPU+GPU+GPU (this seems very theoretical, but maybe for some people if the IGP can increase performance even by 1fps it is better to use it than waste it... development/testing/certification costs-for-zero-benefit aside)?
    11. USB 3.0 (this is a general note on USB3.0, not regarding this particular review) - most articles state that USB3.0 is "10 times USB 2.0" or "like PCIe 2.0" or "4.8" or "5" GT/s (resulting in speeds between 480MB/s for 4.8GT/s with 8/10 - and up to - 625MB/s for 5GT/s without appling 8/10 in the calculation). Then we have other overheads, etc. Additionaly, it is clear that the 3.0 is bi-directional (4 wires) in contrast to 2-wire USB2.0. I remember vaugely that in some USB.org file I have readed something that implied that the 4.8 or 5 number applies to the sum of both directions, thus in a single direction USB 3.0 is half that speed. But maybe I misunderstanded something here... Anyway, I haven't found a good description of USB 3.0 speed - starting from the raw link speed in one direction, going trough 8/10, etc., reaching pre-protocol overhead speed (equivalent of USB2.0 480Mbps-60MB/s), explicitely stating where they double to take into account bi-direction full duplex capability. So that in the end we know that the USB 3.0 theoretical maximum is xxx MB/s per direction, 2*xxx MB/s total (to make assumptions for the influence of NEC chip-to-southbridge and north/CPU-to-south link limitations). It would be good to have this single direction/bi-directional and 8/10 issues sorted out in a nice table with the versions of UATA, SATA, PCI, PCIe, USB2.0, USB3.0, QPI, HT - where some will have only single-direction and other bi-directional. In addition to shared (like PCI and UATA)/not shared types. Hmm, and what about SATA controllers in the southbridges? Do we have 6x600MB/s in SB850, or 3x600MB/s where there are pairs (primary+secondary ports with masters only) sharing the same 600MB/s link between a internal SATA two-port controller and chipset "backbone"? What about transfers between SATA ports on the same controller (eg. 1st primary-to-1st secondary) or on different controllers (eg. 1st primary-to 2nd primary) - do they pass trough main memory/shared SATA controller link/north-to-south link - or does the SB850 have something like the direct PCIe-to-PCIe switch logic for SLI/CrossFire? But, again I am going off-topic here.

    Pffeu. It got a long post. Thank you for reading it and best regards!
    Reply
  • lplatypus - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    The 790GX basically does have UVD2 capabilities, contrary to the table on the first page of this article.

    See this forum post from an AMD employee who supports their linux video driver:
    http://www.phoronix.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1056...">http://www.phoronix.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1056...
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    Great post, but can you overclock these IGPs? Reply
  • Paladin1211 - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    It's the same IGP as in the 785G, so it can be overclocked as well as the HD 4200. Reply

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