ASUS Sabertooth 990FX AM3+ Motherboard Review
By now everyone reading this article should know that AMD is on the cusp of releasing their eagerly anticipated Bulldozer architecture. On the desktop side of things, Buldozer will be released as processors with the Zambezi designation. Naturally, these new 8-core CPUs and their derivatives will use the AM3+ socket so new motherboards will be released to support them. Enter the 990 series of chipsets, a slightly different spin on the outgoing 890 series. For the purposes of this article we will be concentrating upon the enthusiast-oriented 990FX chipset.
The differences between the 890FX and the new 990FX chipsets are much less significant than the name change would have you believe. Truth be told, the 990FX Northbridge is basically a carbon copy of its predecessor with a slight change in the microcode structure in order to support the unique needs of AM3+ CPUs. It is paired with a 950 Southbridge which is nothing more than a rebadged SB850 chip. Luckily, the SB850 was forward looking enough that changes weren’t necessary as it already supports SATA 6G. Combined, the “new” Northbridge / SouthBridge combination has more enough PCI-E 2.0 lanes to support any current third party USB 3.0 controller as well.
As with almost every past AMD isn’t about to let their clientele out in the cold so the 990FX is backwards compatible with current AM3+ CPUs. So you can buy in confidence without worrying about any upgrade paths closing a few months down the road.
It seems like this new chipset and the upcoming Bulldozer processors have sparked quite a bit of interest among certain industry circles. Some motherboard manufacturers like ASUS will be adding features to their 990FX boards which weren’t seen on previous generations. Things like UEFI support, SLI certification (with NVIDIA’s blessing) and dynamically expanded overclocking options were all MIA from the 890FX boards but will now be included alongside an AM3+ socket.
An expanded set of capabilities doesn’t necessarily mean that 990FX boards will begin edging up in price either. Take the subject of today’s review for example: the ASUS 990FX Sabertooth. It sports a laundry list of features alongside components which are durable enough that ASUS gives it a 5-year warranty. It’s price? $209 before rebates. If that isn’t tempting, we don’t know what is…
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