Intel might have the most efficient and best-performing CPUs out there at the moment, but AMD offers a few significant advantages. The first of these is value, as at the budget end AMD processors hold the price versus performance crown. The second is processor socket continuity: whereas Intel has restricted upgrade options by using different socket-types for its latest CPUs, you can buy an AMD motherboard safe in the knowledge that any current (and near-future) processor from the company will fit. So, if you're looking for some of the latest features like USB 3.0 yet want a smooth upgrade path and value for money, the Asus M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 might be a good bet.
As well as support for superfast USB 3.0, the M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 offers features such as CPU core unlocking, integrated graphics with an automatic overclocking utility, one-touch CPU overclocking, CrossFireX and more, all of which we'll look at in due course.
The M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 uses AMD's new 890GX IGP, which combines an 890GX Northbridge with the latest SB850 Southbridge. 890GX features the new ATI Radeon HD4290 integrated graphics chip (basically an overclocked HD4200 though this new solution offers and DirectX10.1 and HDMI 1.3 video out compared to its predecessor's DX10 and HDMI 1.2) and has 24 PCIe lanes. AMD's latest Southbridge integrates native SATA 6Gb/s support and increases the number of available USB 2.0 ports from the 12 found on its previous generation chipset to 14. Unfortunately, there is no native USB 3.0 support, but like most motherboard manufacturers Asus has gotten around this by using a NEC USB 3.0 controller, which offers two ports.
Asus' included bundle is fairly standard, consisting of a manual and driver CD; an EIDE cable; four SATA cables (two SATA 3Gb/s and two SATA 6Gb/s); and two pin extenders for the company's Q-Connector system, which allows you to connect all those fiddly case wires to these extenders before inserting them into the appropriate pin header set.
Onto the board itself, the M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 is one very attractive piece of kit. While it lacks the edginess of MSI's P55-GD65 or even Asus' own P7P55D-Deluxe, its combination of light and dark blues with cream, white, brown and black is certainly attractive. What really stands out is the impressive cooling setup on the mosfets around the CPU socket, with heatsinks that are almost abstract pieces of art.