AMD Phenom II X6 1055T & 1090T Six-Core Processors Review

Author: MAC
Date: April 26, 2010
Product Name: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T & 1090T Processors
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AMD 890FX Chipset Revealed

AMD’s new range of 800-series motherboards spans nearly every single pice range but even the high-end 890FX deftly avoids a price range that will earn it a “very nice but too expensive” comment from consumers. But what makes this chipset tick?

Yes, we know this is the customary and somewhat cliché block diagram that will surely be seen in an untold number of articles but it does go a long way into explaining the functionality aspects of the 890FX / SB850 combination. We have commented that the overall layout of the 890FX was introduced and later refined. Let’s start at the top of this diagram and make our way down.

One of AMD’s most distinguishing features over the last few product generations is their commitment to offering backwards compatibility for their motherboards and forwards compatibility on the processor end of things. Basically, even though the 890FX series boards will feature an AM3 socket making them compatible with all current processors as well as upcoming Phenom X6 products. This will in effect also allow older AM2+ processors to be used on these boards for those of you who may only want to upgrade one component at a time.

While Intel has transferred most of their Southbridge functionality to their processor die, AMD has staunchly adhered to a two-part chipset configuration consisting of a Northbridge and a Southbridge. While this may change in the future, for the time being all AMD AM3 processors only feature on-chip DDR3 memory controllers while all the I/O and expansion slot functions are handled through the chipset. With the 890FX and AM3 processors, we also get native support for DDR3 1333Mhz memory while the processor and Northbridge communicate through a Hypertransport 3.0 link at 5.4 GT/s which should eliminate any bottlenecks.

The Northbridge of AMD’s two-chip solution acts as a controller hub for most of the board’s PCI-E 2.0 lanes and facilitates any communication between the SB850 and the processor. The 32 dedicated graphics card lanes are split up into either two 16x slots or can be evenly dispersed for up to a quartet of 8x slots which gives the 890FX incredible flexibility for Crossfire setups. Meanwhile, the remaining ten PCI-E 2.0 lanes are divided up into one grouping of four lanes while an additional six lanes 1x lanes can be dispersed as needed for integrated components like audio and networking controllers.

Moving on down to the shiny new SB850, we see that AMD has updated the chipset interconnect and is now using a 2GB/s interface dubbed “Alink Express III”. Although we’re not sure exactly what has changed, the older Alink Express II was essentially a 4x PCI-Express 1.1 lane, so bandwidth appears to have been increased – likely to a 4x 2.0 lane - for improved chipset to chipset communication performance.

Speaking of the Southbridge, the most significant new feature that is has been brought to the table is 6Gbps SATA support. That’s right, those lucky enough to own one of the new Sandforce 1500 based SSDs can now enjoy Read/Write performance well beyond 300MB/s. Aside from updated SATA support, the remainder of the Southbridge is consistent with the older SB750. We unfortunately don’t get to enjoy integrated USB 3.0 support at this point in time, as the SB850 remains a USB 2.0 controller.

On the topic of USB 3.0, we should note that AMD was very careful to point out that USB 3.0 controllers can be interfaced to the chipset using the 1x PCI-Express 2.0 lanes for a maximum theoretical throughput of 500MB/s. Coincidentally, Intel’s new H55 and H57 are limited to half bandwidth lanes and a maximum of 250MB/s to off-chip USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 controllers. This likely won’t be of concern for USB 3.0, but having on-chip SATA 3.0 support is certainly a benefit as the only bottleneck is the 2GB/s Alink interface between the chipsets and the 1x component interface lanes don’t need to be used at all.

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