Fancy a quad-core CPU for the price of a three-core chip? Then look no further than Asus’ new M4A89GTD Pro motherboard, which the company proudly claims can turn a Phenom II X3 into as Phenom II X4.
Of course, Phenom tweakers have been unlocking the disabled cores in AMD CPUs for a while now, using the ACC (advanced clock calibration) feature in the BIOS. However, AMD was hoping to put a stop to this by disabling ACC on its new 890GX chipset. Asus’ technical PR guru Iain Bristow explained to THINQ that "on the 7-series chipset, AMD allowed in the BIOS to turn dual-cores and tri-cores into tri and quad-core CPUs respectively."
He added that "AMD has stopped this on 8-series chipsets, but we’ve engineered a method of allowing this." It’s a feature that Bristow says will be “great for the consumer!”
With the imaginative name of Core Unlocker, Asus says that the feature can simply be enabled by flicking a switch on the motherboard.
After activating the switch, Asus says that the motherboard "activates the latent AMD CPU cores and maximises processing to triple- or quad-core for extreme performance."
As with any way of enabling latent features, however, bear in mind that it won’t always work flawlessly. That extra core may have been disabled because the CPU didn’t quite make the grade required for a quad-core CPU during manufacturing. Even so, it’s great to have the option.
As well as Core Unlocker, Asus is also including a GPU Boost tool with the board, which has the thankless task of overclocking the chipset’s integrated Radeon HD 4290 GPU. The tool enables you to adjust the frequency and voltage of the cut-down graphics chip, and store overclocking profiles. Asus says that this will enable the board to render “high-definition images at smooth frame rates,” although we suspect that this is a bit of an exaggeration.
Two versions of the board are available. The vanilla version has 14 USB 2 ports, while the M4A89GTD Pro/USB 3 features the NEC USB 3 controller that AMD recommends using with its chipsets. The latter features two USB 3 ports, and 12 USB 2 ports. Also on the board is the full allocation of six 6Gb/sec SATA 3 connectors, two PCI slots, one single-lane PCI-E slot and an IDE connector.
Meanwhile, two PCI-E graphics slots can accommodate two ATI graphics cards in CrossFireX configuration, and four DIMM slots can house up to 16GB of RAM. The board is already available in the shops now, and you can pick up the USB 3 version for £116.33 inc VAT.