AMD’s 890GX Chipset: Low-End Price, High-End Features

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     March 1, 2010

Introducing the Leo and Dorado Platforms

With the release of the 800-series chipsets, AMD is now moving away from their older “Dragon” and “Pices” platforms towards what they call “Leo” and “Dorado”. Leo will basically be the all-encompassing name for their high end and upper mainstream products while Dorado will end up targeting entry level consumers. Let’s take a look at how these new platforms compare to their predecessors.

Looking at the chart above, it should be come apparent that the new SB8xx-based boards aren’t really going to offer anything revolutionary but will rather evolve AMD’s platforms to fit better with today’s market trends. The most important move in our opinions from a compatibility standpoint is the omission of DDR2 support from the newer platforms. It was only a matter of time until the move to a DDR3 / AM3-exclusive platform was made and make no mistake about it; we feel this has been a long time in coming.

Much like the 790GX and 785G from the last generation, the lower-end 800-series boards will feature integrated graphics but we will go into more about that a bit later. One of the more interesting things about the graphics aspects for these chipsets is the fact that yet another mid-range GX-series board from AMD will feature dual 8x PCI-E lanes for Crossfire use. However, it should be noted that it is up to the board manufacturer to implement the necessary on-board automatic switch to ensure full 16x operation if only the first PCI-E slot is populated. Also of note is the fact that none of these boards will be SLI certified for the time being. The 800G on the other hand makes due with a single 16x PCI-E slot.

890GX: Gigabyte and ASUS

One of the most significant evolutions between the 700-series and 800-series is the addition of SATA 6Gb/s compatibility to the southbridge. This could give AMD a serious leg up on Intel who would have had to change their CPU dies in order to support this new standard since all of their I/O functions are now controlled through the CPU package. Instead, all AMD had to do was add the functionality to their southbridge and it was off to the races. Unfortunately, while the number of USB 2.0 ports was increased on the SB800-series, SuperSpeed USB (or USB 3.0) will not be natively supported but can be added through a controller chip. Just remember that the 880G will not have support for SATA 6Gb/s.

AMD’s new line-up does look quite strong and it is great to see pricing won’t see significant upwards movement when going from one generation to the next. We have to applaud AMD for this price stagnation and there is no doubt in our minds the new features will entice quite a few people to make the jump to a non-Intel platform.

These will basically be the last major revisions to AMD’s current chipset architecture before the release of the Scorpius and Lynx platforms in 2011. While not much is known about either of these platforms, we can tell you that they will offer the first brand new x86 architecture from AMD in quite some time. Basically, Scorpius will use a 32nm Zambezi CPU with up to 8 physical Bulldozer cores while Lynx will encompass 32nm dual, triple and quad core Llano CPUs. All in all, it looks like AMD will have a strong line-up far into the future.

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