ASUS M4A89TD Pro – Inside Look

May 3rd, 2010 in .Blogs .Tech
Nick Holland
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ASUS’ latest AMD motherboard, the M4A89TD Pro, uses the latest AMD 890FX/SB850 chipset combination that launched this week. We’ve covered some of the features in detail here on Tech in Style before: notably the Core Unlocking technology and Turbo Key II features, but what about the board itself? 

Designed For Gamers

Well it may not be the elite Republic of Gamers Crosshair IV Formula, but the M4A89TD Pro is still built for ATI CrossFire with its dual PCI-E 16x lanes providing the full bandwidth potential for the latest Radeon HD 5000 series cards, compared to the 890GX – M4A89GTD Pro – which only offers 8x. You’ll notice the two slot gap as well – this is important, because it allows the hot graphics cards more air. Other boards often only leave a one slot gap, which means a much greater likelihood of overheating and suffering a PC crash, or worse, a dead graphics card. 

In addition, ASUS drops in a pair of PCI slots and a PCI-E 1x slot for upgradability, and the slightly longer PCI-E 4x in the middle is there for professional applications, such as high end RAID cards. If you’re a workstation user then – the 890FX is clearly more suited to your build. 

ASUS M4A89TD Pro

ASUS M4A89TD Pro connectivity

 

Designed For Workstations

At the bottom there are six SATA slots for oodles of hard drives, and an IDE slot for those who still carry the odd legacy drive or optical storage. The new SB850 southbridge includes the latest SATA 6Gbps standard, so they are upgrade-proof too. The performance of these slots is far better than the tapped on “SATA 6Gbps” on Intel boards, because the connection is native to the chipset. Right now, compatible SSDs are very limited and extremely expensive, but the SSD industry is fast paced and that will change soon. 

The blue and black pin-outs to the side of the SATA are for USB and Firewire: these can be plugged into the front of a PC case to enable extra ports. 

ASUS M4A89TD Pro

ASUS M4A89TD Pro CPU socket and power hardware

 

Designed For Overclockers

Under the ‘Hybrid Technology’ heatsink, there’s an upgraded set of power hardware for the CPU – 10 phases of power in total allow even the mightiest 6-core CPUs plenty of overclocking headroom. This heatsink is then connected to the 890FX heatsink below via a heatpipe to distribute the heat generated efficiently. Moving the 890FX upwards allows more space for the peripheral slots below. 

The AM3 socket in the centre is compatible with all AMD AM3 processors – old and new, so even if you’re upgrading from last year you can keep the same CPU. That’s most useful – and better than Intel’s persistent socket changes! Finally there are also four DDR3 slots for a mountain of memory: up to 16GB! 

M4A89TD Pro peripheral slots support ATI CrossFire technology

M4A89TD Pro peripheral slots support ATI CrossFire technology

 

Designed For Enthusiasts

ASUS kits the board out with the latest Gigabit Ethernet standard and 7.1 channel High Definition audio, with both digital outputs via S/PDIF that can connect to HiFi amps and TVs, or analogue outputs via the set of 3.5mm stereo jacks. There’s also more USB ports than you can shake an arm full of mice, webcams, keyboards, phone chargers, memory sticks and whatever else at. 

While USB 3.0 is missing on this board in the photos, it’s because I bought the slightly cheaper version. Personally I don’t need it for the build I have planned, but if you do want it, keep an eye out for the “/USB3″ version in your local retailer. 

Then throw in some more ASUS Engineering…

ASUS has dropped in its own engineering to beef up the spec’s too: in addition to the Turbo Key II and CPU Core Unlocking technology, there’s also the MemOK! button. If you’ve bought brand new memory and unfortunately the BIOS doesn’t support it yet – the MemOK! button calls on a set of algorithms to test a range of settings in order to get the system to boot. 

On the software side, there’s also ExpressGate for a 5 second OS boot-up, the ASUS EPU (that works with the onboard hardware chip) to regulate system power use, and TurboV software tuning to make overclocking and system tweaking far more intuitive. 

Is it worth it?

The 890FX itself isn’t a cheap chipset because it’s AMD’s highest performance “AMD Vision Black” category, so the 890FX motherboard range retails for a considerable price. That’s not to say it isn’t competitive though, and remember the cheaper 890GX or 880G alternatives if you don’t require all the features here: not everyone will use the second PCI-E x16 slot, or needs the heavy duty power hardware for example. Those who consider themselves hardcore gamers, overclockers or professionals looking to put together a more expansive build, then the ASUS M4A89TD Pro is definitely worth looking at.

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