At first glance the 890FX Deluxe3 immediately revealed a feature we're not too pleased with: active cooling on one of the motherboard's heatsinks. This ASRock is the only 890FX board we've seen to sport active cooling, which is a shame as it's neither as durable nor as quiet as the passive solutions on competing boards.
To be fair to ASRock, its use of a Sunon MagLev fan ought to improve both noise-performance and longevity over cheaper fans thanks to a magnetically suspended 'zero friction' design. However, in practice the fan was far from silent, and though it's unlikely to be audible over other fans in your system (we're looking at you, video card), at the same time it's still added noise. Thankfully, we found the heatsink didn't get too hot with the fan disconnected, so if you're not into hardcore overclocking you could try leaving it off altogether - just make sure the heatsink gets good airflow.
Layout is generally very good, though there are a few minor issues. For example, we prefer a staggered approach to RAM installation which leaves room for better memory cooling, and one of the board's PCIe x1 slots can't accommodate full-length cards because of the heatsink. At 1,800MHz, overclocked memory speed is also slightly lower than the 2,300MHz Asus manages to guarantee on its boards, but it's in line with many competitors and plenty for most users.
Speaking of slots, the 890FX Deluxe3 offers more expansion than any other sub-£150 890FX motherboard we can think of. No less than three well-spaced PCIe 2.0 16x slots are available, though 'only' two will run at full speed with the third running at a 4x maximum. AMD chipsets don't support SLI natively and at this board's low price point we weren't expecting it to be added, but all the various forms of CrossFireX are available - including using a pair of AMD/ATI Radeon 5970s for quad CrossFireX. Both full-speed slots are colour-coded blue, with the third slot dressed in white. We like the unique slider system ASRock uses to secure the graphics cards, though it's inferior to Asus' implementation of a double-sided hinged clip.
Aside from the graphics card slots, you get two PCIe slots - though one will be obscured if installing a dual-slot card in the primary slot, a bit of an oversight as dual-slot cards are the minimum we would expect to find in an enthusiast setup these days. You also get two older PCI slots, one of which will again be obscured if you install a second full-width graphics card.
Joining the generous slot selection are no less than eight SATA 6Gb/s (also known as SATA3) ports with six angled towards the right of the board and two facing up on the other side - though the last of these shares bandwidth with the eSATA port so don't use it if you plan to hook up external storage. All ports support the full gamut of RAID configurations.
With faster SSD controllers coming onto the market SATA 6Gb/s may actually start to show a noticeable advantage over its predecessor, and unlike Intel chipsets - which still require a separate third-party controller and somewhat confusingly offer both types of ports, not to mention competing for the limited available bandwidth – AMD's latest chipset simply offers native support. Ironically in the face of this cutting edge connectivity, for the legacy-loving crowd we still have an angled EIDE and vertical floppy port.