AMD Phenom II X4 975 Black Edition and ECS A890GXM-A2 Review
Looking first at the new AMD Phenom 2 X4 975 Black Edition we have a processor which shares the same good build quality as previous models. On a design level there are two ways to look at the Deneb core and more specifically the 975 BE. The first approach is that it is a very fast quad core chip, AMDs fastest to date and it has the potential to outperform the X6 models in a number of scenarios. On the other hand the X4s, at least in the enthusiast segment, are starting to show their age. The lack of a Turbo mode makes it less desirable than the newer models and of course this CPU has fewer cores.
AMD are also now in a difficult situation because of the impressive performance of the Sandy Bridge CPUs from Intel. The quad core 2500K is often faster than the latest AMD processor and in a surprising turn of events Intel has also managed to surpass AMD in on-board GPU performance. AMD still have a better driver than Intel though and more frequent updates thanks to monthly Catalyst postings.
Looking next to the A890GXM-A2 we were very impressed with the latest board from ECS. It looks great, performs well and has all of the features which consumers expect from a high end board. We were pleased to see the inclusion of core unlock functionality and there were some nice touches such as the padded IO shield which is very clearly based on the model ASUS use. Speaking of ASUS, it is very clear that ECS are going after their consumers with recent products and there is a real feel of quality about the board’s as a result. That said, a few minor issues need to be resolved before ECS can truly compete. The first is to add a better BIOS flashing tool to the board (like EZ-Flash/Q-Flash), the second is to move to better voltage tweaking options (using real values such as 1.4v, 1.425v rather than +xxxMv) and the final change would be the use of high quality components throughout the board. The use of an EtronTech USB 3.0 controller rather than NEC was disappointing in an otherwise very impressive product.
The X4 975BE is an ideal way for a consumer who already has an AMD system to upgrade their performance. It isn’t however one of the best options available for a new build, for those we recommend the AMD X6 range or Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPUs.
The ECS A890GXM-A2 is a very impressive AM3 motherboard which is packed with features and performs well.
Last month Intel launched their Z97 chipset, essentially an evolution of Z87, which in many cases brought new features such as SATA Express and M.2 compatibility to the mainstream desktop market. There was of course no new CPU at that time with the existing socket 1150 processors working without issue in the new boards. Since then though Intel launched (along with some lower spec models) the Core i7-4790K, a model which sits at the top of their mainstream platform. Today we see how it compares to various other models when installed on Gigabytes Z97X Gaming 5 and paired with PowerColors new dual core 290X Devil 13.
Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming G1 WiFi-BK vs. MSI Z97 Gaming 5 vs Asus Maximus VII Hero
It is probably fair to say that Intel don't stealth launch their products... sure they have NDAs but by the time those expire we know pretty much everything about a new product. Part of this is of their own...