The Bulldozer FX series CPU’s have been with us since late 2011. Updates to the FX series were brought to us with the release of the Vishera architecture. That was in late 2012. Rumors were abundant in 2012 that AMD would release a new chipset with the release of Vishera. That did not happen however. The AM3+ socket and 900 series chipset is now coming up on 5 years old. Motherboard manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to freshen up their products and offer new value to the aging platform, thus several new AM3+ motherboards have been released recently.
Gigabyte has decided to expand their Gaming line to the AMD 900 series AM3+ platform. Our first sample of this new line was the 970-Gaming SLI we reviewed a short time ago. Now we have an opportunity to review the flagship of the Gigabyte AMD 900 series AM3+ Gaming line the 990FX-Gaming. Like all the AMD Gaming line, new red and black details adorn it. Many of the Gaming line features that we have seen on their Intel platform motherboards have found their way to these new AMD motherboards.
The 990FX-Gaming supports all AMD AM3 and AM3+ socket processors. 2-Way Graphics Support is available over the dual metal shielded PCI-E 16x slots. There is a PCI-E Gen2 x4 M.2 connectors with up to 20Gb/s data transfer. Audio is powered by the Realtek ALC1150 audio processor with a TI Burr Brown OPA2134 operational amplifier with replaceable OP-Amps. Gigabyte has also included dual USB 3.1 ports, one Type-A and one Type-C. Gigabyte’s APP Center software that has been so popular on their Intel motherboards is also included. All in all there are quite a few new features to get excited about, many of which are common to recent Intel motherboards, but are new to the world of AMD motherboards.
Gigabyte’s take on the 990FX-Gaming
Fast USB 3.1 Solution
The latest USB 3.1 offers a staggering 10Gb/s transfer speed, 2x faster than USB 3.0 and backward compatibility with existing USB devices
Fast Onboard Storage with 20 Gb/s M.2
GIGABYTE 22110/2280/2260/2242 M.2 solution offers considerably faster storage performance and support for both PCIe and SATA interface for M.2 SSD devices.
2-Way CrossFire™/2-Way SLI™ Multi-Graphics
Multi-graphics configuration offers better graphics performance for gaming enthusiasts who demand the highest frame rates without compromising on resolution.
Industry Leading Ultra Durable™ PCIe Metal Shielding
The innovative one piece stainless steel shielding design from GIGABYTE reinforces the PCIe connectors to provide the extra strength required to support heavy graphics cards.
High Definition Audio Design
The Realtek ALC1150 is a high-performance multi-channel high definition audio codec that delivers an exceptional audio listening experience with up to 115dB SNR, ensuring users get the best possible audio quality from their PC.
High Quality audio capacitors deliver the highest quality sound resolution and sound expansion to create the most realistic sound effects for professional gamers.
GIGABYTE motherboards feature LED lighting for the audio guard path, providing a cool, custom look to your rig. Not only does the Audio Noise Guard protect the board’s sensitive analog audio components, but its LEDs can also be programed to beat at the rhythm of the music you are listening to, or pulse at a soothing pace to create a great atmosphere to enhance the environment of your game, movie or music.
GIGABYTE Exclusive : Upgradable OP-AMP
- Users can choose audio quality based on individual listening preferences.
- Wide availability of additional OP-AMPs.
Low Cost way to dramatically improve audio quality
- Improve audio dynamics and overall sound-quality with little cost.
- No need for expensive speakers or high-end audio equipment.
Exclusive onboard ‘Gain Boost’ selector switches
- Select either standard 2.5x or high-amplification 6x mode.
- 6x mode is ideal for high impedance speakers and headphones.
Clean, low-noise power for your Digital-to-Analog Audio converter. GIGABYTE USB DAC-UP provides clean, noise-free power delivery to your Digital-to-Analog Converter. DACs can be sensitive to fluctuations in power from the other USB ports, which is why GIGABYTE USB DAC-UP takes advantage of an isolated power source that minimizes potential fluctuations and ensures the best audio experience possible.
Killer™ E2200 Gaming Network
GIGABYTE G1™ Gaming motherboards feature the Killer™ E2200, a high-performance, adaptive gigabit Ethernet controller that offers better online gaming and online media performance compared to standard solutions.
GIGABYTE Patented DualBIOS™ (UEFI) Design
GIGABYTE Ultra Durable™ motherboards feature GIGABYTE DualBIOS™, an exclusive technology from GIGABYTE that protects arguably one of your PC’s most crucial components, the BIOS. GIGABYTE DualBIOS™ means that your motherboard has both a ‘Main BIOS’ and a ‘Backup BIOS’, making users protected from BIOS failure due to virus attack, hardware malfunction, improper OC settings or power failure during the update process.
GIGABYTE App Center Including EasyTune™ and Cloud Station™ Utilities
GIGABYTE APP Center gives you easy access to wealth of GIGABYTE apps that help you get the most from your GIGABYTE motherboard. Using a simple, unified user interface, GIGABYTE APP Center allows you to launch all GIGABYTE apps installed on your system.
GIGABYTE EasyTune ™ App
GIGABYTE’s EasyTune™ is a simple and easy-to-use interface that allows users to fine-tune their system settings or adjust system and memory clocks and voltages in a Windows environment. With Smart Quick Boost, one click is all it takes to automatically overclock your system, giving an added performance boost when you need it the most.
GIGABYTE Cloud Station™ APP
GIGABYTE Cloud Station™ is composed of several GIGABYTE’s unique apps that allow your smart phones/tablet device to communicate, share resources, and control desktop PCs via wireless connection.
Let us take a look at the product packaging and full specifications next.
Packaging and Specifications
The Gigabyte 990FX-Gaming comes in a bright black and red box with the Gigabyte “Gaming G1” logo on the front
The rear of the box features several detailed pictures showcasing the motherboard’s features. Some of the motherboard’s basic specifications are included as well.
Once the box is opened, we get a much better of the 990FX-Gaming nestled in its cardboard tray.
With the tray removed, the included accessories are revealed. The dividers keep everything well organized.
(Please refer “CPU Support List” for more information.)
|Hyper Transport Bus|
(Please refer “Memory Support List” for more information.)
|Storage Interface||South Bridge:|
VIA® VL805 chip:
ASMedia® USB 3.1 Controller:
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
Up next a Closer Look
A Closer Look
The 990FX-Gaming sports a black and red color scheme. Many of the cosmetic features found on other Gigabyte Gaming motherboards have made their way here as well.
A quick walk around the motherboard shows there is certainly no shortage of connectors. We will get to those in detail later. The heatsinks are mostly black with subtle logs.
The heart of any AMD 900 series motherboard, the AM3+ socket.
The lower end of the motherboard contains most of the front panel connections. The M.2 socket resides below the top PCI-E 16x slot. Red LED audio trace lighting is present. The Amped-Up Audio is powered by the Realtek ALC1150 audio processor with a TI Burr Brown OPA2134 operational amplifier with replaceable OP-Amps. This first time we have seen this high of a level of audio solution on an AMD motherboard.
There are 6 SATA ports.
The four DDR3 memory slots support up to 32GB of memory. The 24 pin power connector resides in the typical location here. There is also a lit power button, the same as we have seen used on Gigabyte’s more recent Intel motherboards. This is another first for an MAD motherboard. Next to it power reset and CMOS reset buttons.
The rear I/O has quite a few ports. There are four USB 2.0 and four USB 3.0 ports, as well as a Type-A USB 3.1 port and a Type-C USB 3.1 port. A PS/2 keyboard/mouse port allows for legacy input device connectivity. The one RJ-45 port is driven by a Killer Networks E2201 chip. A S/PDIF Out and 5 audio jacks provide option for audio connections.
Gigabyte has included standard driver/software disc package. The manual is as colorful as the box. A door sign is also included.
The rear I/O panel has red lettering to match the motherboard. An installation guide, Gigabyte’s G Connector, and an SLI bridge.
There are also 4 SATA cables
System Configuration and BIOS are up next.
System Configuration and BIOS
- Gigabyte 990FX-Gaming Motherboard
- AMD FX 8350 Processor
- Kingston HyperX Fury 1866MHz DDR3 Memory
- PowerColor Radeon R9 285 TurboDuo Graphics Card
- Crucial M550 256GB 3.5″ SATA Solid State Drive
- Kingston SSDNow SM2280S3G2/256G 256GB M.2 SATA Solid State Drive
- Spotswood Small Tech Station
- XFX PRO850W XXX Edition 850w Silver Power Supply
- Radeon Catalyst 15.7
- XSPC X20 750 pump/reservoir combination
- XSPC RS360mm Radiator
- 6 Corsair 120MM .38A fans in push/pull configuration
Testing Operating System:
- Microsoft Windows 10 Home
General System Benchmarks:
- PCMark 8
- Super Pi
- Fritz Chess
- Cinibench R15
- AIDA64 Engineer
- Passmark Performance Test 8.0
- SiSoft Sandra
- ATTO Disk Benchmark
- CrystalDiskMark 3.0
- AS SSD
- Passmark Performance Test 8.0
- Bioshock: Infinite
- Metro: Last Light
- Tomb Raider
All the basic, as well as some more advanced settings are here. It operates very much like the arrow key operated BIOS of not too long ago. I found the BIOS to be flexible and easy to use. Most of the time I did not have any difficulty finding the settings that I wanted to change and everything seemed to be logically laid out. I did miss the search feature that was found on many of the newer Gigabyte motherboards, as I found it useful.
Up next, software.
Gigabyte has unified their included utility software under what is called APP Center. APP Center is a one stop source area for almost every setting and feature the 990FX-Gaming has to offer.
The APP Center is controlled by a menu that is nested in the lower right hand corner of the desktop.
The color of the APP Center menus can be easily changed to suit the user’s taste.
A software update feature is also included.
@BIOS allows for simple and easy updating of the BIOS via Windows.
Ambient LED allows you to enable or change the display mode for the onboard audio LEDs while in the Windows.
USB Blocker provides you with an easy-to-use interface that allows you to block certain USB device types on your PC. Devices classes that are blocked will be ignored by the operating system.
Cloud Station Server is composed of HomeCloud, Gigabyte Remote, Remote OC, and HotSpot, which allow your smart phone, tablet device, and remote computer to communicate, share resources, and control the host computer via wireless connection. Cloud Station allows your computer to share files with another computer that has Cloud Station (Server) installed.
Designed to create easily create mouse and keyboard macros.
Through the Fast Boot interface, you can enable or change the Fast Boot or Next Boot After AC Power Loss setting right in the operating system.
Smart Recovery 2
Smart Backup allows you to back up a partition as an image file every hour. You can use these images to restore your system or files when needed.
Smart TimeLock allows you to effectively manage computer or Internet usage time with simple rules and options.
System Information Viewer
System Information Viewer allows you to monitor and adjust the fan speed in the operating system. You can also display the hardware monitor information on the desktop to view the system status at any time.
EasyTune is a simple and easy-to-use interface that allows users to fine-tune their system settings or do overclock/overvoltage in Windows environment.
V-Tuner is a simple graphics card overclocking utility.
Now onto Performance Testing.
General Performance Testing
All performance testing was done with the FX 8350 clocked to 4.0 Ghz. The PowerColor Radeon R9 285 TurboDuo was clocked with +20 MHz on the core and +25MHz on the memory. This was done to match the clocks of the Sapphire Dual-X R9 285 OC we’ve previously used for motherboard testing and to ensure consistency in the scoring. The Kingston HyperX Fury memory was set to XMP Profile 1. Games where ran at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and higher settings enabled.
“Use the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to test the performance of SSDs, HDDs and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games. You can test the system drive or any other recognized storage device, including local external drives. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.”
We tested the Gigabyte 990FX-Gaming against three other AM3+ motherboards we had on-hand. The performance differences in PCMark 8 are not very wide.
Super PI Modded 1.5
“In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi in collaboration with Dr.Y.Kanada at the computer center. This record should be the current world record. (Details are shown in the windows help.) This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95. In order to calculate 33.55 million digits, it takes within 3 days with a Pentium 90 MHz, 40 MB main memory and 340 MB available storage.”
The 990FX-Gaming had a strong showing in Super Pi.
CPU Performance Testing
“HandBrake is a tool for converting video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs.”
The workload video file is a ~6.27 GB, 3840 x 1714, 73.4 Mbps, 24fps, H.264, .mov video file that is transcoded to a ~1480 MB, 1920×858, ~17.1 Mbps, 24fps, H.264, .mp4 video file. Transcoding is done using Intel Quick Sync.
The performance in Handbrake is good.
Fritz Chess is a benchmark in which a fictitious game of chess is played. As each move has to be calculated by the computer, it is an excellent test of CPU muscle.
The 990FX-Gaming follows just behind the 970-Gaming SLI here as well.
“CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Life of Pi or Prometheus and many more.
CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.”
The differences in scores here is minimal too. There is only two points separating the 990FX-Gaming from the top spot.
The benchmark shows a rating in MIPS (million instructions per second). The rating value is calculated from the measured speed, and it is normalized with results of Intel Core 2 CPU with multi-threading option switched off. So if you have modern CPU from Intel or AMD, rating values in single-thread mode must be close to real CPU frequency. There are two tests, compression with LZMA method and decompression with LZMA method. Once the total passes reaches 100, the score is taken.
The 990FX-Gaming has a strong showing in all the CPU oriented benchmarks and 7-Zip was no exception.
Memory Performance Testing
AIDA64 Engineer Edition
“FinalWire Ltd. today announced the immediate availability of AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.50 software, a streamlined diagnostic and benchmarking tool for home users; and the immediate availability of AIDA64 Business Edition 1.50 software, an essential network management solution for small and medium scale enterprises. The new AIDA64 update implements AVX-optimized benchmarks for the upcoming Intel Sandy Bridge processors, adds a brand new video encoding benchmark, and supports the latest AMD and nVIDIA graphics processors.”
Passmark Performance Test – Memory Mark – Threaded
“Fast, easy to use, PC speed testing and benchmarking. PassMark PerformanceTest ™ allows you to objectively benchmark a PC using a variety of different speed tests and compare the results to other computers.”
“SiSoftware Sandra provides a robust package of diagnostic tools for testing your system and teasing out its problems–or potential headaches.”
The memory performance of DDR4 definitely exceeds the lower speed DDR3. Speeds up to 4000MHz are currently available with DDR4. This makes the AMD platform seem a bit dated.
The 990FX-Gaming features both standard SATA and M.2 storage connections, so both will be included here.
ATTO Disk Benchmark
“As the industry’s leading provider of high-performance storage & network connectivity products, ATTO has created a widely-accepted Disk Benchmark freeware utility to help measure storage system performance. As one of the top tools utilized in the industry, Disk Benchmark identifies performance in hard drives, solid state drives, RAID arrays as well as connections to storage. Top drive manufacturers, like Hitachi, build and test every drive using the ATTO Disk Benchmark”
“CrystalDiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds.”
There does not seem to be any issues with SATA performance here.
“Test the sequential or random read/write performance without using the cache. AS SSD Benchmark reads/writes a 1 GByte file as well as randomly chosen 4K blocks. Additionally, it performs the tests using 1 or 64 threads and it determines the SSD’s access time.
Two extra benchmark tests examine the drive’s behavior when (1) copying a few big files, a lot of small files and a mixture of file sizes by using cached copy functions of your OS as well as (2) reading/writing data depending on the data’s compressibility.”
The 990FX-Gaming scores here are among the best that I’ve seen while using and AMD motherboard with these drives.
“SiSoftware Sandra provides a robust package of diagnostic tools for testing your system and teasing out its problems–or potential headaches.”
The test results from Sandra were exactly what were expected. Drive speed is consistent across the entire storage media
To the next page, gaming performance.
Performance Testing Continued and Overclocking
3DMark – Firestrike
“The new 3DMark includes everything you need to benchmark your hardware. With three all new tests you can bench everything from smartphones and tablets, to notebooks and home PCs, to the latest high-end, multi-GPU gaming desktops. And it’s not just for Windows. With 3DMark you can compare your scores with Android and iOS devices too. It’s the most powerful and flexible 3DMark we’ve ever created.
Fire Strike is a showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for today’s high-performance gaming PCs. It is our most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today”
This score is extremely good for this combination and the best of the four.
“Indebted to the wrong people, with his life on the line, veteran of the U.S. Cavalry and now hired gun, Booker DeWitt has only one opportunity to wipe his slate clean. He must rescue Elizabeth, a mysterious girl imprisoned since childhood and locked up in the flying city of Columbia.”
Bioshock: Infinite, developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games, is the third iteration of the Bioshock franchise. It uses the extremely popular Unreal 3 game engine and is one of the best looking games of 2013.
Metro: Last Light
“It Is the Year 2034. Beneath the ruins of post-apocalyptic Moscow, in the tunnels of the Metro, the remnants of mankind are besieged by deadly threats from outside – and within. Mutants stalk the catacombs beneath the desolate surface, and hunt a midst the poisoned skies above.”
Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, Metro: Last Light uses the 4A game engine. At it’s highest settings, the 4A game engine is capable of bringing all but the most extreme gaming systems to their knees.
“Garrett, the Master Thief, steps out of the shadows into the City. In this treacherous place, where the Baron’s Watch spreads a rising tide of fear and oppression, his skills are the only things he can trust. Even the most cautious citizens and their best-guarded possessions are not safe from his reach.”
Thief was developed by Eidos-Montréal and published by SQUARE ENIX, Eidos Interactive. The newest game in our benchmark suite, Thief is also one of the most demanding and has the highest recommended system requirements. Those heavy requirements allow it to use the Unreal 3 game engine to great effect. It also features AMD’s Mantle API, as well as Microsoft’s common DirectX 11 API.
“Tomb Raider explores the intense and gritty origin story of Lara Croft and her ascent from a young woman to a hardened survivor. Armed only with raw instincts and the ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, Lara must fight to unravel the dark history of a forgotten island to escape its relentless hold.”
Tomb Raider was developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by SQUARE ENIX, Eidos Interactive. It features a modified version of the Crystal game engine and was the first game to integrate AMD’s TressFX 2.0, which adds hair, fur and grass physics.
All of these games score show how capable the 990FX-Gaming is. The 990FX-Gaming would make a great foundation for an AMD based gaming build.
The Gigabyte 990FX-Gaming is buillt with a robust power delivery design, so expectations are high. I started out configuring FX 8350 at its default settings.
Once the default settings were in, it was now time to see how high I could push the CPU with our water cooling system and have it still be 100% stable. All cores were still enabled. The memory settings were entered manually, but at the XMP Profile 1 defaults. All setting was done from inside the BIOS.
5.0 GHz is a great clock, but this was at a voltage (1.5v) that was much higher than we felt comfortable with. In reality, 4.6GHz is a far more realistic daily overclock, as the voltage requirements are much more reasonable.
Let us conclude this review on the next page.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
We are glad to see Gigabyte expand their Gaming line to the AMD AM3+ socket platform. It is something we think is long overdue. Most of the features you would come to expect in a gaming motherboard are here. It also looks the part, with the red trim and red LED lighting.
The Gigabyte 990FX-Gaming is a thing of beauty. The addition of a true high end audio solution is something that AMD motherboards have needed for some time now. All the key gaming features are here and work just like they are supposed to. This is something that has also been lacking in many AMD motherboards and we are glad that Gigabyte paid extra attention here.
There is also impressive performance to back up those looks as well, as the 990FX-Gaming consistently performed above average in our field of benchmarks. The overclocking ability is is spot-on for a motherboard of this caliber. Most overclockers will be quite satisfied with its ability to get big numbers with the 990FX-Gaming. We actually hit the limitation of our voltage comfort zone before we hit the limit of the motherboard. I would be quite interested to see what it will do with the 220w TDP FX 9590.
- Great Overclocking Features and Ability
- Logical Layout
- True High-End Audio Solution
- Reasonable Price
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