Single page Print

Gigabyte's GA-K8VT890-9 motherboard

PCI Express for penny pinchers

Price (MSRP)$82

PCI EXPRESS IS undoubtedly the future of PC peripherals, and with even budget motherboards hopping on the PCI-E train, upgrading to support the new standard doesn't have to be an expensive proposition. Gigabyte's new GA-K8VT890-9 carries a suggested retail price of only $82—30-120% less than other PCI Express Athlon 64 platforms we've reviewed. $82 obviously doesn't buy a peripheral-packed board loaded with extra goodies, but if you're looking for a no-frills package at a budget price, the GA-K8VT890-9's intelligent spec might just be good enough. Read on to see what the board has to offer and how it compares with more expensive Athlon 64 platforms.

The specs
As always, we'll kick things off with a quick look at the GA-K8VT890-9's spec sheet.

CPU supportSocket 939-based Athlon 64 processors
ChipsetVIA K8T890
North bridgeVIA K8T890
South bridgeVIA VT8237
Interconnect8x V-Link (533MB/sec)
Expansion slots1 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
3 32-bit/33MHz
Memory4 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 4GB of DDR266/333/400 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
2 channels ATA/133 via VT8237
2 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1 support via VT8237
Audio6-channel audio via VT8237 integrated audio and ALC850 codec*
Ports1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
2 serial
1 parallel
USB 2.0 with headers for 4 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via Marvell 8053

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog line in (shared with bass/center  out)
1 analog mic in (shared with rear out)
BIOSPhoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speedsCPU: 200-255MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM: 100, 133, 166, 200MHz
HT: 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000MHz
Bus dividersNone
VoltagesCPU: default, +5, 7.5, 10%
DDR: default, +0.1, 0.2, 0.3V
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed controlNone

The GA-K8VT890-9's specs are unremarkable overall, but there's only so much that can be expected from an $80 motherboard. That said, the board does have a number of key features, many of which it owes to its VIA K8T890 chipset. The K8T890 north bridge handles all of the board's PCI Express connectivity, including two x1 slots and a single x16. Gigabyte pairs the K8T890 north bridge with VIA's venerable VT8237 south bridge, a chip that's been making the rounds for well over a year now. The VT8237 is certainly capable, but its feature set is a little dated. For example, although the VT8237 supports Serial ATA RAID, it only does so for two SATA drives. The VT8237 also lacks support for "parallel" ATA RAID and SATA Native Command Queuing.

In addition to having a dated storage controller, the VT8237's networking capabilities are a little behind the times. However, Gigabyte nicely makes up for this deficiency by equipping the GA-K8VT890-9 with a PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet chip from Marvell. The PCI-E GigE controller should offer superior performance to PCI-based solutions, something we'll test a little later.

Although PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet might be considered lavish for a budget motherboard, the GA-K8VT890-9's audio capabilities are considerably more frugal. The board sports an eight-channel Realtek ALC850 codec, but only comes with audio jacks for six-channel output. Those who wish to take advantage of all eight output channels will have to pay a couple of dollars extra for a rear surround audio bracket. Selling the eight-channel bracket separately makes the board a little bit cheaper, and in this case, that makes perfect sense. After all, how many budget-conscious users are running eight-channel speaker systems?

One last item of note on the GA-K8VT890-9's spec sheet is the board's lack of Firewire. It's actually been a while since we've seen a board without Firewire support, but the GA-K8VT890-9's budget price point only allows for so many perks.