With the recent release of the new AMD six-core processors like the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T and 1055T many PC users will be looking for a new motherboard to go along with one of these new processors. AMD has previously released the 800 chipset series and the SB850 chipsets to support the new platform. Today we have the opportunity to test one such board, the ASRock 890GX Extreme3. The ASRock 890GX Extreme 3 comes priced at only $129.99 plus $2.99 shipping. This low price tag puts it near the bottom of the price margin of other 890GX/SB850 motherboards, but it comes with all the features found on the more expensive motherboards. The ASRock 890GX Extreme3 mainboard features support of up to 140W processors, a pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, six SATA III 6Gbps connections and has the ability to unlock CPU cores on AMD Phenom II X2 and X3 processors! Not bad features for a board for under $130!
Some of the motherboards out there will sacrifice bandwidth in one area to satisfy the needs of another. That is not the case with ASRock's True 333 technology. The ASRock 890GX Extreme3 features the True 333 technology. This technology allows you to run the PCI-E for the latest graphics cards, SATA3 and USB 3.0 at full speed simultaneously!
ASRock True 333 technology isn't the only key feature of the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 as it also features ASRock UCC (unlock CPU Core) technology). This technology is similar to unlocking that was done with AMD's ACC feature, but it was only available on the SB710 or SB750 motherboards. With the new SB850 chipset ACC is no longer present, so motherboard makers had to come up with a new method to unlock the cores. ASRock did a video of UCC on the 890GX Extreme3 technology, which is the board we are reviewing, so take a look at it below.
As you can see unlocking the processor is as easy as enabling just one setting in the motherboard BIOS and after the system is rebooted the processor will have an additional core as shown in the video! Other key features of the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 motherboard can be seen below.
Phenom II X6 6-Core CPU Ready
Supports Exclusive ASRock UCC Chip - Unlock CPU Core feature
ASRock DuraCap (2.5 x longer life time), 100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
Advanced V8 + 2 Power Phase Design
Supports CPU up to 140W
Supports Dual Channel DDR3 1800(OC)
Integrated AMD Radeon HD 4290 graphics, DX10.1 Class iGPU, Shader Model 4.1, Max. shared memory 512MB
Built-in 128MB DDR3 1333/1200MHz SidePort Memory
Supports ATI Quad CrossFireX, 3-Way CrossFireX, CrossFireX and Hybrid CrossFireX
Multi VGA Output options: D-Sub, DVI-D and HDMI
1 x eSATA3 Connector, 6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors, 2 x USB 3.0 ports, 2 x IEEE1394 ports
Smart Switch Design : 1 x Power Switch with LED, 1 x Reset Switch with LED, 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED
Dr. Debug (7-Segment Debug LED)
Supports ASRock Instant Boot, Instant Flash, OC DNA, OC Tuner, IES, Multi-Speed Fan Control
7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection, DAC with 110dB dynamic range (VIA VT2020 Audio Codec with QSound) , Premium Blu-ray audio support.
- Support for Socket AM3 processors: AMD Phenom II X4 / X3 / X2 (except 920 / 940) / Athlon II X4 / X3 / X2 / Sempron processors
- Six-Core CPU Ready
- Supports UCC feature (Unlock CPU Core)
- Advanced V8 + 2 Power Phase Design
- Supports CPU up to 140W
- Supports AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet Technology
- FSB 2600 MHz (5.2 GT/s)
- Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
- Supports Hyper-Transport 3.0 (HT 3.0) Technology
- Northbridge: AMD 890GX
- Southbridge: AMD SB850
- Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
- 4 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 1800(OC)/1600(OC)/1333/1066/800 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 16GB
Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows 32-bit OS. For Windows 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.
- 8Mb AMI Legal BIOS
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU, VCCM, NB, SB Voltage Multi-adjustment
Let's take a look at they layout of the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 motherboard on the next page!
ASRock 890GX Extreme3 Box and Bundle
The retail packaging for the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 is sharp looking! The entire box is dressed up in a holographic design which is sure to catch the eye. When looking at the retail packaging the eye is immediately drawn to the large gold circle which boasts about the True 333 capabilities of the board. Beyond that it emphasis's that it is Windows 7 ready as well as being ready for the new AMD six core processors!
The back of the retail packaging is busy with marketing text. It is well organized and easy to follow. A couple of the features emphasized on the back of the box are the OC DNA and the OC tuner. OC DNA allows you to save the BIOS profile and share it with people with the same system. The OC Tuner is an application for overclocking the system from with in windows. I used it to overclock the ASRock X58 Extreme3 that I reviewed just recently.
The top of the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 retail packaging has a handle that makes for easy carrying.
The bottom of the box is where you will find the label containing the serial number and part numbers.
The sides of the box are limited on text aside from the name of the company and the motherboard model
The bundle that comes with the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 is a little on the light side but contains everything you need to assemble the system. One thing that I would have liked to see different, is the SATA cables. The ASRock 890GX Extreme3 is a black PCB with blue and white expansion slots and DIMM slots. No where on the board is there any yellow, yet the SATA cables they supply you are a bright yellow. I would have liked them to be black, no where near a big concern though. The expansion slot bracket on the right is an E-SATA bracket that plugs into one of the six internal SATA 3.0 ports. The driver disks contains all the drivers you will need to get your new system up and running. It also includes the utilities like OC Tuner and OC DNA.
ASRock 890GX Extreme3 Board
The ASRock 890GX Extreme3 motherboard is a sharp looking board. I dig the blue and white color combinations that ASRock used on their Extreme3 series. Aesthetics aside, it has the feel of a solid board and hopefully the performance will match the feel.
Taking a look at the DIMM slots we see that it will support a maximum of four memory modules of 4GB each for a maximum of 16GB of memory. Above the DIMM slots you can see they will support DDR3 in Dual Channel mode at 1800MHz.
The SATA 3 ports are angled so that they will not interfere with todays long graphics cards.
This corner of the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 is nothing short of busy. The top right of the image is the Dr. Debug, this will come in handy if the board ever fails to complete the p.o.s.t. (power on self test). Fortunately I never had to use the Dr. Debug because the board always completed the p.o.s.t., even during the overclocking segment of the article. Immediately below the Dr. Debug is the pin out for a system speaker. Next to that is the front panel pin header. Moving on we have an integrated power and reset button which is great when you are using an open bench for some extreme overclocking. The header next to the power button is the front panel Firewire header.
Sliding across the board we have four USB 2.0 headers, and the serial port connector (com 1). Next to the serial port is the infrared module header, the HDMI SPDIF header, and the front panel audio header.
Rounding the corner we have the PCI and PCIE expansion slots. The blue PCIE slots will run a single card at 16x bandwidth or dual cards at x8/x8 bandwidth. The white PCIE x16 slot runs at x4 bandwidth.
The rear panel connectors are laid out fairly well. The blue USB ports on the right side of the image are the USB 3.0 ports. Above the USB 3.0 ports is the integrated Gigabit N.I.C. The red USB ports are USB 2.0, immediately below those is a IEEE 1394 (Firewire) port and a eSATA2 port. Next to the eSATA2 port is the clear CMOS button. Beyond that is the HDMI, DVI and VGA ports. Last but not least a P/S2 port for a keyboard and another pair of USB 2.0 ports.
The CPU socket will support the latest AM3 processors up to 140W TDP from AMD and is six core ready! The ASRock 890GX Extreme3 features what ASRock calls advanced V8 + 2 power phase design for clean and solid power delivery.
ASRock 890GX Extreme3 Bios
The front page of the BIOS shows you the version of the BIOS that you are currently running as well as information on the processor and the memory.
The OC Tweaker page has a lot of different options on it. Above you can set your overclocking modes and frequency of your processor. This is also where you can try and unlock a dual core or triple core processor. I did set up and try to unlock the AMD Athlon X2 255 to no avail. I have tried to unlock "extra" cores on multiple systems and am confident that I am limited to a dual core with that chip.
The screen shot above is where you will set your the different voltages. The CPU voltages are adjustable between .6 volts and 1.625 volts with incremental adjustments of .0125V. You can also adjust the multipliers of the CPU, the north bridge, and the hyper threading bus speed. Just below those settings you can adjust the speed, voltage and timings of the memory.
Below the memory timings are the settings for the chipset. Here you can manually set the clock speed of the memory and the onboard graphics.
The Advanced tab of the bios has more options for configuring the CPU, chipset, and all the onboard features.
The CPU configuration page will allow you to set up the cool' n' quiet. For our testing today this was disabled, as it may reduce the clock speeds and voltages. The secure Virtual Machine will allow you to run a virtual machine inside your operating system. This is a handy little feature for those of you that would like to work on a different operating system that your primary one.
The chipset settings allow you to configure you audio, and graphics features of the ASRock 890GX Extreme3.
The storage configuration allows you to SATA operation modes. You can also check and see what devices you have plugged in to each SATA 3 port.
Under the USB configuration you can enable or disable the onboard USB 3.0 if you are going to run a third party USB card.
The Hardware monitor page shows you relevant temperature information of the ASRock 890GX Extreme3. The speeds of the fans plugged into the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 can also be manually set here.
The final page of the BIOS is the Exit page. Here you can save the settings you manually input or load the defaults or various performance setup's.
Test System Configuration
All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit with all the latest updates installed. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. The Patriot Sector 5 memory modules were run in double-channel mode at 1333MHz with 7-7-7-20 timings. The ATI Radeon HD graphics cards were tested with 10.3 CATALYST suite drivers. The ASRock 890GX Extreme3 motherboard was running BIOS version 1.1. The AMD 910e processor was running at the default clock of 2.6GHz.
The ASRock 890GX Extreme3 and the MSI 785GM-E65 went toe to toe pretty well in all the benchmarks pretty well. A couple of the benchmarks showed the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 as a clear winner. SiSoft Sandra 2010 showed that the memory bandwidth of the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 was .5GB/s faster than the MSI counterpart. 3dMark Vantage also showed the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 coming out ahead when it was tested using the integrated graphics. That should be expected since the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 utilizes the Radeon HD 4290 graphics and the MSI uses the 4200 chipset. The PcMark Vantage (tested with the integrated graphics) results are a bit baffling. The ASRock 890GX Extreme3 had a ~100 point margin in all of the suites except the productivity suite which it lost by ~100 points. The baffling score is the overall PcMark Suite score that was 40 points lower than the MSI 785GM-E65. After looking at all the benchmarks, I would have to call the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 the overall winner.
Since power consumption is a big deal these days, we ran some simple power consumption tests on our test beds. The systems ran with the power supplies, case fans, video cards and hard drives. To measure idle usage, we ran the system at idle for one hour on the desktop with no screen saver and took the measurement. For load measurements, Prime95's in-place large FFT's was run on all cores to make sure each and every processor was at 100% load for maximum power consumption and heat. We also ran FurMark 1.8 at 1280x1024 to put a full load on the graphics card. All systems were tested using as identical hardware.
The MSI 785GM-E65 does pull less power than the ASRock 890GX Extreme3. This can likely be attributed to being a smaller form factor board with less features.
Overclocking the ASRock 890GX Extreme3
Overclocking the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 was a blast and was easy as 1-2-3. 1)Raise the Frontside bus 2)reboot and test 3)Adjust voltages as needed and repeat. The only voltage that had to be adjusted was the CPU VCore. The AMD Phenom II 910e is an energy efficient chip which runs at 1.175V out of the box. Right off of the bat I had to bump up the VCore to get the machine to boot into windows. The only voltages that I had to adjust to reach the final overclock were the CPU VCore, DRAM voltage(probably wasn't necessary) and the NB Voltage was bumped slightly.
I was able to hit a final stable overclock of 4.069GHz! Would this board and chip combination have gone higher? With better cooling, I would put money on it. Breaking the 4GHz Barrier on air is a solid overclock however you look at it though.
In the event that you have the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 motherboard and the AMD Phenom II 910e Below are the settings that were used to achieve the ~53% overclock. Feel free to use these settings as a guide line, but each and every chip is different so results may vary.
Of course I had to run some tests to confirm a certain level of stability. This first one was Super Pi. At the processors default speed of 2.6GHz it completed one million decimal places of Pi in 26.208 seconds, overclocked it completed in only 17.425 seconds!
3dMark Vantage is a great benchmark for showing performance differences while overclocking. The CPU score improved by 4532 3dMarks which is 49.7% boost, that happens to be a near perfect performance scale as the final overclock was 56.5% over the 2.6GHz that the 910e comes with out of the box.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
I had a blast working with the ASRock 890GX Extreme3. If you look only at performance numbers the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 outperformed the MSI 785GM-E65 in the majority of the tests. Though there is much more to the ASRock 890GX Extreme3.
The features that the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 offers, are key points that should be taken into consideration as well. The True Blu-ray when using the integrated Radeon HD 4290 will play back your Blu-ray movies in full 1080p with 24bit/192KHz sampling in 7.1 surround sound. The True 333 capabilities of the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 almost speaks for itself. Having the ability to run your graphics, USB 3.0, and your SATA 3 at full bandwidth at the same time is a beautiful thing!
Since I am on the topic of the True 333 I do have a gripe about the way it is done on the ASRock 890GX Extreme3. My only complaint about the True 333 is the E-SATA3. Instead of the rear panel I/O having an E-SATA 3, it is limited to E-SATA 2. The front of the retail packaging boasts about having E-SATA 3. The way they achieved the E-SATA 3 is by using an expansion slot bracket that plugs into one of the 6 SATA ports on the front of the board.
Will it get the job done? Yes it will. Does the bright red SATA cable compromise the appearance of a great looking board? Yes it does. I am not one to worry about the looks though, I wouldn't hesitate to use the E-SATA bracket if I needed to.
Aside from my complaints about the color of the SATA and E-SATA cables, I have absolutely nothing but good things to say about the ASRock 890GX Extreme3. It out performed the MSI 785GM-E65 in the majority of the tests. It is a great board for overclocking. I was able to overclock the AMD Phenom II 910 up and over the 4GHz barrier on air!
Legit Bottom Line: The ASRock 890GX Extreme3 is a great looking, more importantly great performing, and chocked full of features for only $129.99!