To understand the motherboard we are reviewing today, we need to explain the 890GX chipset from AMD first. And all we simply need to do is tell you a thing or two about its features. The 890GX chipset consists out of two chips that are added onto the motherboard PCB. The Northbridge chip, which is called the 890GX and the paired (Southbridge chip) SB850. Together they form the infrastructure for all standard devices, connectivity and interconnect bandwidth.
The Northbridge chip primarily functions as a HUB for your processor, memory and PCIe links towards your graphics chipset. It is the primary chip responsible for these functions. The GX (opposed to FX) extension however also means that there's an IGP embedded into this ASIC. Much like the 785 chipset the 890GX has a GPU tucked nicely away into the die. It's based of the Radeon HD 4200 silicon, the Radeon HD 4290 to be precise.
Integrated Graphics HD 4290
DirectX 10.1 support
2nd generation Unified Video Decoder (UVD 2.0)
Full hardware decode acceleration of H.264/VC-1/MPEG2
Hardware decode acceleration of a secondary video stream (Picture-in-Picture) (10-20% CPU usage decrease)
Improved ATI Avivo Video Post Processor
Enhanced DVD up-conversion to HD
Automatic dynamic contrast adjustment
Multichannel LPCM over HDMI (no PAP, no HD audio bitstreaming)
For an IGP in its genre it's a pretty decent one as for any major high-definition function, it is completely capable thanks to the embedded UVD 2.0 video core. The IGP is based on the RV620 core which is DirectX 10.1 compatible. That fact also makes it a nice card for Windows 7 as it allows for low-level DirectCompute functions. We again see an optional link to a dedicated memory cache, the IGP can utilize a dedicated DDR3 (64 & 128-bit) performance framebuffer cache, or alternatively will hog some of your system memory.
Being a series 4000 graphics core, it will open up ATI Stream technology, which means you can encode media files over the GPU with 3rd party software like MediaShow Espresso or even accelerate Adobe Photoshop and Adobe flash.
Games wise a simple game or two could be played fairly okay in lower resolutions, It's powerful enough for the low-level stuff, but for anything a little more serious you'll of course need a dedicated graphics card. The embedded IGP still packs 40 shader processors with a core and shader clock at 700 MHz. This solution will be faster than the IGP Intel's Clarkdale processors for example, have embedded.
Other than that, all the standard features are there like HyperTransport 3.0, PCI Express 2.0, ATI Hybrid graphics support. The 890GX has two x8 or one x16 PCIe link available for - dedicated graphics and then six times a x1 link for other kit and gear. And I'd strongly like to hint to USB 3.0.
With an updated Hyperlink (revision 3) we now can connect to the SB850 chip with a well-appointed 2GB/sec bandwidth. Yes we just arrived at the next station on the motherboard, the SB850 Southbridge.
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