Mvix Minix 890GX Motherboard Review

Since the dawn of computers, one goal has always been to stuff more power into a smaller space. The mini-ITX form factor, and the Mvix Minix 890GX specifically, allow you to run a standard desktop processor on a motherboard not much larger than a grown man’s hand. Even more impressive is that almost every feature of a full sized ATX motherboard has been crammed into the miniature footprint of the Minix 890GX…and it can overclock, too.

Historically, mini-itx boards were reserved for industrial applications but have become more mainstream due to modders placing them in non-standard-like toasters. These systems are great for firewalls, routers, and file servers or combining all three into one server for your local LAN. Now, with manufacturers like Mvix using the powerful AMD 890GX, HTPC builders can create tiny systems that can still handle heavy loads, like playing 1080p video, flawlessly.

Features and Specifications

The features that stick out to me start with the 890GX northbridge.  I’ve seen several submissions to HWBot with motherboards based on this chipset. I was extremely excited that this tiny motherboard was using it to test it’s on-board video.  Next, I was impressed that Bluetooth and Wireless-N were included with the dual Gigabit LAN, giving excellent connectivity possibilities.  I immediately dreamed of replacing my current Linksys WRT54G and using this bad-boy as my firewall and router.  After that, everything is standard in my eyes as to what a motherboard should have these days, including the USB3 and SATA6 ports.  The only thing missing is a header to connect a front panel 1394a Firewire port.  I don’t miss it myself, but I’m sure there is someone out there that has a use for one.

Model No: Minix 890GX-USB3
Chipset: Northbridge: AMD 890GX
Southbridge: AMD SB850
Processor: Socket AM3 for AMD Phenom™ II / Athlon™ II / Sempron -100 series
Support max 95W TDP Processors
Support AMD Cool’n’Quite!™ Technology
AMD x6 CompatibilityAM3 Phenom II X6 HDT45TWFK6DGR , Phenom II X6 HDT35TWFK6DGR , Phenom II X6 HDT55TWFK6DGR
HyperTransport: HyperTransport 3.0, 5200MT/s
Memory: 128-bit Dual Channel Memory Architecture
2 x SODIMM Slots (upto 8GB of Systems Memory)
DDR3 1333/1066/800Mhz memory modules (Processor dependent)
Integrated Memory: 128MB High Speed DDR3 Sideport Memory
Onboard Graphics: Built-in Radeon HD4290 Graphics UVD 2.0, DirectX 10.1 Ready
Expansion Slots: 1 x PCIe x 16 Gen.2 Slot (ATI Hybrid Crossfire Technology running @ x16)
1 x mini-PCIe Slot
Audio: Realtek ALC889/892 8-Channel HD Audio Codec with Content Protection
LAN: 2 x Broadcom™ 57788 PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet Controllers
Internal I/O Connectors: 1 x 20-pin ATX power connector
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (Support RAID 0,1,5,10)
1 x CPU Fan connector (4-pin PWM)
2 x System fan connectors (1×4-pin PWM, 1x 3-pin)
1 x Front panel header
1 x Front audio header
1 x COM port header
2 x USB2.0 header for additional 3xUSB2.0 ports (by cables)
1 x Speaker header
1 x S/PDIF In/Out header
Rear Panel I/O: 2 x USB3.0 Ports (NEC D720200F1 Chip)
1 x HDMI Port
1 x Dual Link DVI-D Port
1 x D-Sub VGA Port
4 x USB 2.0 Ports
2 x RJ-45 GigaLAN Ports
5 x Audio Ports
1 x Optical S/PDIF Out Port
I/O Controller: Fintek F71808E Chip
Form Factor: Mini-ITX
170×170 mm
BIOS: 16 Mbit Flash ROM, licensed AMI BIOS

In The Box

The retail box includes a manual, driver cd, I/O cover, two SATA power adapters, and two SATA data cables.  What is unique to this motherboard are the two wireless antennas and extensions wires.  These are for the Wireless-N and Bluetooth radios.

Manual and driver cd

Manual and driver cd

Included accessories

Included accessories

BIOS

I won’t bore you with the standard options but it is important to note that there are overclocking settings available on the “JUSTw00t!” tab.  Regretfully, Mvix decided to remove the CPU/HT Reference Clock setting so only processors with an unlocked multiplier (Black Edition) can overclock on it right now.  Their reasoning is they wanted the board to be stable for server applications.  What I find odd about this is the “JUSTw00t!” tab is still present and every other overclocking option you’d expect to find is available.  Maybe it’s just me, but who cares if the end-user wants to overclock their system?  I’m used to voiding my warranties already.  I guess there is still hope that some one will take the chance to mod the BIOS and unlock the hidden settings but that may be a long shot.

You can change the graphics clock speed

You can change the graphics clock speed

It's best to choose AHCI or RAID mode before installing the operating system.

It's best to choose AHCI or RAID mode before installing the operating system.

JUSTw00t!

JUSTw00t!

Processor settings

Processor settings

DRAM settings

DRAM settings

DRAM Options

DRAM Options

As you can see, there are options available to change the GFX clock speed, CPU core voltage, NB voltage, CPU/NB voltage, NB Frequency, HT Link speed, DRAM voltage, and DRAM timings.  There is a Core Unlock option, too, and it’s noteworthy that I was not able to successfully unlock the two hidden cores on the 560 BE like I could on the Biostar TA890FXE.  Luckily this processor is a Black Edition, so I was able to increase the multiplier to overclock it. I reached a maximum of 4200 MHz.  After that, I was able to run all of the benchmarks at a respectable 4000 MHz.

Another interesting tidbit is that the motherboard is equipped with 3 video out ports (VGA, DVI, and HDMI) but only one digital may be used at a time.  So, you can either use HDMI+VGA or DVI+VGA for dual monitor connections.  Also, the digital ports do not carry any analog signal so no DVI-to-VGA adapters can be used.  If you want to connect two analog VGA monitors you are out of luck.

Retail box front

Retail box front

Retail box back

Retail box back

Under the lid

Under the lid

Top of the motherboard

Top of the motherboard

View of the I/O Panel

View of the I/O Panel

Bottom of the board with antenna extension wires installed

Bottom of the board with antenna extension wires installed

Sitting happy in a HTPC case

Sitting happy in a HTPC case

Standard Benchmarks

Here at Overclockers.com, we like to focus on the benchmarks that matter: those which will get you points on HWBot.  We run a few others, like Everest, to round things out but 3DMark, Aquamark, SuperPi, Wprime, and PiFast are our staples.

Test Setup

  • Motherboard: Mvix Minix 890GX-USB3
  • Processor: AMD Phenom II 560 BE
  • Heatsink: CoolerMaster Vortex Plus
  • Memory: ADATA Supreme 2x2GB DDR3-1333
  • Power Supply: Silverstone NightJar ST40NF

Results

Minix stock Minix overclocked
Everest CPU AES 11852 14467
Everest CPU Photoworxx 18150 21847
Everest CPU Queen 12124 14719
Everest CPU zlib 43664 53721
Everest FPU Julia 4787 5828
Everest FPU Mandel 2862 3474
Everest FPU SinJulia 1434 1743
Cinebench 10 – 1 CPU 3777 4611
Cinebench 10 – 2 CPU 7279 8895
Cinebench 11.5 1.93 2.35
Pifast 33.98 27.8
SuperPi 1m 21.232 17.395
SuperPi 32m 1318.562 1091.082
Wprime 32m 23.992 19.922
Wprime 1024m 755.713 629.477
3DMark01 15509 16772
3DMark03 5560 6002
3DMark05 4879 5337
3DMark06 2089 2276
3DMark Vantage 408 458
Aquamark 49165 53031

Relative Performance Chart

Relative Performance Chart

Cinebench 11 Overclocked

Cinebench 10 overclocked

Cinebench 10 overclocked

Aquamark Overclocked

Aquamark Overclocked

3DMark Vantage overclocked

3DMark Vantage overclocked

3DMark06 overclocked

3DMark06 overclocked

3DMark05 overclocked

3DMark05 overclocked

3DMark03 overclocked

3DMark03 overclocked

3dMark01 overclocked

3dMark01 overclocked

Pifast overclocked

Pifast overclocked

SuperPi 1m overclocked

SuperPi 1m overclocked

SuperPi 32m overclocked

SuperPi 32m overclocked

Wprime overclocked

Wprime overclocked

Phoronix Test Suite

Since this board is mainly aimed at HTPC builders and I personally love running Linux on my HTPCs, I thought I’d give the Phoronix Test Suite (PTS) a go to run some benchmarks.  I ran the tests both at stock and overclocked, and I ran them on my current HTPC for reference.  My current HTPC isn’t exactly modern, it’s a socket 775 based Intel mATX, but it certainly gives some perspective on how performance has changed in the past few years.

Mvix Minix stock Mvix Minix overclocked Biostar G31D-M7
Processor AMD Phenom II X2 560 @ 3.30GHz (Total Cores: 2) AMD Phenom II X2 560 @ 4.00GHz (Total Cores: 2) Intel Xeon CPU 3050 @ 2.12GHz (Total Cores: 2)
Motherboard MINIX 890GX-USB3 MINIX 890GX-USB3 BIOSTAR Group G31D-M7
Chipset AMD RS780 Alternate AMD RS780 Alternate Intel 82G33/G31/P35/P31 + ICH7
Memory 3710MB ADATA DDR3-1333 3710MB ADATA DDR3-1333 1999MB GeIL DDR2-800
Disk 1500GB Seagate ST31500341AS 1500GB Seagate ST31500341AS 1500GB Seagate ST31500341AS
Graphics ATI Radeon HD 4290 384MB ATI Radeon HD 4290 384MB Intel 82G33/G31 Express IGP 256MB
Audio Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC662
Monitor SyncMaster SyncMaster SyncMaster
OS Ubuntu 10.10 Ubuntu 10.10 Ubuntu 10.10
Kernel 2.6.35-22-generic (x86_64) 2.6.35-22-generic (x86_64) 2.6.35-22-generic (x86_64)
Desktop GNOME 2.32.0 GNOME 2.32.0 GNOME 2.32.0
Display Server X.Org Server 1.9.0 X.Org Server 1.9.0 X.Org Server 1.9.0
Display Driver fglrx 8.78.30 fglrx 8.78.30 intel 2.12.0, OpenGL: 1.4 Mesa 7.9-devel
Compiler GCC 4.4.5 GCC 4.4.5 GCC 4.4.5
File System ext4 ext4 ext4
Screen Resolution 1680×1050 1680×1050 1680×1050
PTS Version 2.8.0 2.8.0 2.8.0
Test Notes Disk Scheduler: CFQ. Compiz was running on this system. Disk Scheduler: CFQ. Compiz was running on this system. Disk Scheduler: CFQ. Compiz was running on this system.

Results

Mvix Minix stock Mvix Minix overclocked Biostar G31D-M7
OpenArena 88.53 96.43 17.53
World of Padman 107.07 114.4 5.43
Loopback TCP Performance 23.32 18.97 (error)
Apache Benchmark 15983.4 19658.48 7643.18
PostgresSQL pgbench 105.16 102.52 104.65
OpenSSL 62.55 75.68 31.25
C-Ray 208.7 172.29 245.24
7-Zip Compression 5135 6250 3063
LZMA Compression 186.12 155.77 254.48
FFmpeg 18.36 15.24 23.61
x264 23.06 27.74 16.74
Himeno Benchmark 176.78 214.35 148.17
TTSIOD 3D Renderer 35.94 43.56 28.63
PostMark 1064 1665 868
Unpacking the Linux Kernel 12.79 10.75 21.43

(hover for test description)

To see full results and individual graphs of each test, check out the Phoronix Global page.  If you want to compare your system directly with these results, simply type phoronix-test-suite benchmark overclockers-21181-4702-28538 in a terminal window (after installing phoronix-test-suite, of course).  To see other tests we’ve run that you can also compare to, check out our Phoronix Global User Page.  Remember that the running environment can influence test results, so try to match things like the kernel version and compiler version exactly for best results.

Relative Performance Graph

PTS tests combined on a relative performance graph (percentages)

PTS tests combined on a relative performance graph (percentages)

Not surprisingly, the Minix with the 560 BE overclocked wins just about every test.  What is surprising is that it loses in the pgbench test.  Unfortunately, I’m not familiar enough with the benchmark to begin to speculate on what is going on, but it is certainly odd.  Also, it is interesting to see just how much the Socket 775 Core2Duo based computer lags behind the newer AMD Phenom II platform.

Conclusion

The Mvix Minix 890GX-USB3 can certainly play with the big dogs.  It holds it’s own at stock speeds for HTPC, server, and general computing tasks.  With the ability to overclock, this little board makes a fun toy.  I wouldn’t look to it for gaming with the on-board graphics but the PCI-e 16x slot will let you add-on any graphics card you want.  It can also handle most processors in the AMD line-up, including the 1055T (stay below 95W).  So, this is the little board that can, it packs a hefty punch in a small package, and is Overclockers Approved.

- splat

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Discussion
  1. Constantinos
    Great review! I have been looking into building an HTPC on the mini-ITX and an intel i3 but this seems like a better alternative being an AMD man myself. How do the graphics on this hold up for 1080p video streaming and encoding and stuff? Would it close to an i3 with onboard video?


    I don't have any data on i3's myself so I can't personally compare them, and I don't have another AMD processor to see if that makes a difference, but this 890gx onboard video has no problems with 1080p video. I ran out of time on this one, but if i do another miniitx/htpc review soon i'll be sure to get some processor usage numbers.

    and thanks guys, glad you like the review.
    Great review! I have been looking into building an HTPC on the mini-ITX and an intel i3 but this seems like a better alternative being an AMD man myself. How do the graphics on this hold up for 1080p video streaming and encoding and stuff? Would it close to an i3 with onboard video?