ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 review
Creative, sensible design and plenty of features, although its quirks and price could put some off
ASRock's 890FX Deluxe3 motherboard is, in many ways, a unique proposition. For a start, this is the first time we've seen AMD's top-end 890FX chipset, and it's one of the rare boards we've seen to boast a north-bridge heatsink topped off with a fan in this case, a 40mm unit that helps keep things chilled.
The 890FX chipset supports current Athlon II and Phenom II processors and the newer SATA/600 interface, and it underpins a powerful specification, even if there's no integrated graphics chip. There are three PCI Express x16 sockets, with two running at x16 speed and the third at x4, alongside two PCI Express x1 slots and a pair of PCI sockets. Four DIMM slots accept up to 16GB of 1,800MHz DDR3 memory.
While we've yet to see a hard disk or SSD saturate the SATA/300 interface in our tests, we expect they'll begin to soon, so the eight SATA/600 ports are a welcome inclusion, and they support RAID 0, 1 and 5. There are the usual 24 and 8-pin power sockets, too, alongside IDE and floppy connectors.
ASRock has arranged this into a sensible layout. While six SATA/600 ports sit on the right-hand side of the board, two are harboured at the bottom-left, ripe for use in an eSATA-extending PCI blanker. USB 2, FireWire and system panel headers sit beside the DIMM slots, perhaps to make it easier to connect to ports at the top of a chassis.
In the space where these connectors would ordinarily reside, ASRock has fitted a couple of features designed to appeal to enthusiasts, with onboard power and reset buttons sitting alongside a two-character LED POST display that can be used to diagnose problems. This corner also houses the second USB 2 header, a couple of fan connectors and a clear CMOS jumper.
The backplate is also well-stocked. The 890FX chipset doesn't support USB 3, but ASRock has kitted its board out with a separate NEC USB 3 controller to include four ports on its backplate. It's the first time we've seen a quartet of USB 3 ports on a motherboard, and these sit beside four USB 2 ports, a USB 2/eSATA combo socket, FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, six audio jacks and pairs of PS/2 and S/PDIF ports. There's also a clear CMOS button, which tinkerers will appreciate.
The ASRock is undoubtedly well equipped, but it does have its quirks. For a start, the tiny fan atop the chipset's heatsink has little effect on cooling: the motherboard idled at 36ûC with the fan enabled, and 40ûC with it removed. The most obvious effect was noise; while the fan's high-pitched whine won't be audible above the average CPU cooler or graphics card, it won't be suitable in a quiet media PC.
The fan can be removed easily enough, but when it's installed the board only boasts four free fan jumpers; with one occupied by the processor heatsink and only one of the remaining three boasting PWM, it could restrict those with cases equipped with multiple fans.
And then there's the price. At £115 exc VAT, the ASRock board isn't cheap, especially when compared to the A-Listed Asus M4A88TD-V EVO, which includes SATA/600 and USB 3 for just £88 exc VAT. If you really want the enthusiast features, this ASRock won't disappoint, but it's hard not to conclude that most people will find the Asus plenty for their needs.
|Price ex VAT||£115|
|Price inc VAT||£135|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||3|
|Motherboard form factor||ATX|
|Motherboard integrated graphics||no|
|Processor/platform brand (manufacturer)||AMD|
|Motherboard form factor||ATX|
|Motherboard chipset||AMD 890FX|
|South bridge||AMD SB850|
|Number of Ethernet adapters||1|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|Audio chipset||CH HD Audio|
|CPU power connector type||8-pin|
|Main power connector||ATX 24-pin|
|Memory sockets total||4|
|Internal SATA connectors||0|
|Internal PATA connectors||1|
|Internal floppy connectors||1|
|Conventional PCI slots total||2|
|PCI-E x16 slots total||3|
|PCI-E x8 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x4 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x1 slots total||2|
|USB ports (downstream)||4|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||1|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||1|
|3.5mm audio jacks||6|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Extra port backplane bracket ports||N/A|
Diagnostics and tweaking
|Motherboard onboard power switch?||yes|
|Motherboard onboard reset switch?||yes|
|SATA cables supplied||4|
|Molex to SATA adaters supplied||1|
|IDE cables supplied||1|
|Floppy cables supplied||0|