Upgrading to AMD's latest and greatest platform doesn't have to mean shunning potentially free performance. Asus tells us it has implemented core unlocking functionality in its M4A89GTD Pro and M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 motherboards, potentially allowing users to unlock all four cores in Phenom II X3, Phenom II X2, and Athlon II X3 processors.
As you might recall, mobos based on AMD's 700-series chipsets provided similar functionality using either the built-in Advanced Clock Calibration feature or, once AMD closed that loophole, a reverse-engineered version of older firmware with preserved unlocking hooks. Asus now claims AMD has removed ACC from its new 890GX chipset, yet Asus' own Core Unlocker Technology "intelligently scans the installed processor to properly determine which cores and cache can be unlocked."
Asus adds that previous core unlocking implementations "did not always unlock the core and cache intelligently," so paradoxically, the loophole-free 890GX may provide a better unlocking experience—at least in these two mobos. Unlocking cores or cache on those offerings is purportedly as simple as "sliding a switch on the motherboard, changing a BIOS setting, or simply pressing the '4' key when the machine first starts."
Now, as before, core unlocking remains a gamble. Users have no guarantees AMD didn't lock cores in their dual- or triple-core CPUs for good reason, like because of a defect. Only certain chips may have had fully functional cores disabled to meet demand for cheaper, slower processor models.
In any case, the M4A89GTD Pro and M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 look reasonably well-endowed, with dual PCI Express x16 slots (capable of running in an 8/8-lane configuration), six 6Gbps Serial ATA ports, DD3 memory slots, and integrated Radeon HD 4290 graphics with a choice of DVI, VGA, or HDMI display outputs. Asus also boasts about its Fan Expert software that lets users fiddle with CPU and case fan speeds. The two boards are selling now for $139.99 and $149.99, respectively—not much pricier than other 890GX offerings. (The only cheaper alternative we can see on Newegg is the MSI 890GXM-G65 at $129.99.)
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