Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H Review

ajmatson - 2007-07-17 16:49:43 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: April 16, 2008
Price: $94.99

Introduction:

With the explosion of new processors, video cards, and other equipment came the increased standards for speed and quality. Multi-Core CPUs are now standard and over 1GHz speeds for memory and video cards are low compared to the limits being reached everyday. But with all of these fast components you need a strong foundation to operate them efficiently, right? Just like our parents have kept us running at optimum speeds and smartness, every computer needs a "Mother" to do the same for it. That is what the motherboard does, it keeps our hardware operating at the correct speeds and optimizes the transfer of data between the components. Just as the component market has been flooded with new technology, the motherboards that support them have been growing too.

ATI has released a fairly new chipset which brings a new technology called Hybrid Crossfire to the table. This enables the Integrated Graphics from the motherboard to be paired with a discrete graphics card to increase the performance without an increase in expense. This chipset is the 780G, which is designed for AM2 and AM2+ processors, and one of these new motherboards is the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H. The Gigabyte 780G board offers the new technology paired with older proven technology to bring you the ultimate platform for your new components to push the envelope of performance.

 

Closer Look:

The Gigabyte board comes packaged nicely in a box with plenty of information right on the outside. Like I said above, the Gigabyte 780G board supports AM2 and AM2+ processors, including the Semprons, Athlon X2s, and the Quad Core Phenoms. There is also a claim that you can reach 1500 marks in 3DMark06 using only the onboard graphics, though I guess we will have to see about that. The back of the packaging does a very good  job at bringing to light some of the features that the GA-MA78GM-S2H has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gigabyte always does well with giving you the accessories you need and none of the ones you don't. That is no exception here. Included with the Gigabyte 780G motherboard is the manual, driver CD, I/O panel, one floppy cable, one IDE cable, and two SATA cables with 90 degree connectors on one end to help in installation.

 

 

Now that we have everything out of the box, let's take a better look at the board itself.

Closer Look:

Gigabyte chose to go with an mATX design for the GA-MA78GM-S2H, unlike ECS who went for the full size design on the A780GM-A board reviewed previously. The PCB is the same bluish color that Gigabyte uses for the majority of its boards. This allows room for expansion without taking up the whole case, but can be limiting on the number of expansion cards that you can add. The back has the standard backplate that is used to support the heatsinks for the CPU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gigabyte has always done well with the abundance of connections available on its motherboards. The back panel has everything that you could ever need and then some. On the GA-MA78GM-S2H motherboard, Gigabyte has included the two PS2 ports for older keyboards and mice, a VGA D-Sub port, a DVI port, an HDMI port for high definition video, one optical S/PDIF Out port, an eSATA port, a Firewire port, four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and audio ports.

 


The Gigabyte 780G board, despite being an mATX board, has a very non-cramped design. Starting at the top, this board has a socket AM2 design which supports AM2 and AM2+ processors. The capacitors used around the CPU are all solid caps. This board only requires a 4-pin power plug for the CPU instead of an 8-pin like most other boards. There are four memory slots which support up to 16GB of Dual Channel DDR2 1066MHz modules, one floppy and an IDE slot, an LPT header, and the 24-pin ATX power plug. One thing I would like to point out is the small chip above and between the RAM slots and the ITE I/O chip is the BIOS. The BIOS on the GA-MA78GM-S2H board is non removable and features an 8Mbit capacity with the AWARD BIOS loaded on it.

 

 

Moving on down to the lower part of the board you can see the 780G Northbridge which is where most of the magic happens. There is one PCI Express x1 slot, one PCI Express x16 slot which can be utilized for the Hybrid Crossfire setup, and two PCI slots for audio cards and more. Like I said earlier, Gigabyte does not skimp on the headers available either. Along the bottom of the board is a CD in header, SPDIF IO header, COM header, TPM (Trusted Platform Module) module header, clear CMOS jumper, Firewire header, system fan header, front panel header, four USB 2.0 headers, and five SATA II ports.

 

 

Now that we have gotten a look at the board and what it has to offer, let's swing on over to the Operating System and install the drivers and software.

Configuration:

Gigabyte uses a really great piece of software, called Xpress Install, which will check for what software and drivers are needed by the type of hardware and install them all with only one button. To start Xpress Install, insert the CD into the drive and there will be a pop up box asking what you would like to do with the CD. Click Run and Xpress Install will start. Check the software and drivers you wish to be installed and click the Xpress Install button. The program will run and then it will prompt you to restart your computer. Click "OK" and reboot your computer to finalize the installation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The installation CD also has a slew of other software programs for you such as Anti-Virus and utilities to use with your new motherboard. It also has a nice feature that will provide you with information about the drivers on the CD and about your system hardware.

 

 

 

One thing I immediately installed is the @-BIOS utility. This allows a user to do a BIOS update or save the current one all from within Windows. Another great feature about @-BIOS is that it will search the Gigabyte servers for the most current BIOS for you and download it automatically so there are no mistakes.

 

 

Well, we installed the hardware and updated the BIOS, so let's reboot and see what the BIOS has in store for us.

Closer Look:

Now that we have taken a look at the hardware and software sides of the Gigabyte 780G platform, let's get in to the heart of where the tweaking takes place. The BIOS is always overlooked for the usefulness it provides. Sure, it gets our computers up and going, but there is so much more to it than that. I am going to show you the parts of the BIOS of the GA-MA78GM-S2H and will emphasize more on the sections that allow you to tweak the hardware to get the most performance for your dollar.

The first thing you will see when you enter the BIOS is the main menu. This is where all of the tools are broken down into sections so that you find what you are looking for more easily. Here is also where you can select other options like entering the Q-Flash program or save and load BIOS settings that you have for different setups. Q-Flash is a BIOS program that lets you save and load new BIOS firmware files easier without requiring a floppy drive. You can load from CDs, disks, or thumb drives. I updated the BIOS of the Gigabyte board using a 16GB flash drive with the update thrown in with a bunch of other documents and files and Q-Flash had no trouble picking it out. The update took only two minutes and I was set to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard CMOS & Advanced BIOS Features:

The next two sections are pretty straightforward. In the Standard CMOS section, you are able to control the system date and time as well as change information about the drives attached to the system. In the Advanced BIOS Features section there is more control on features of the Gigabyte 780G, including Cool & Quiet, boot sequence, the onboard video adapter out, and the Frame Buffer (memory amount) for the integrated graphics (this allows you to choose preset amounts on 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, or to let the system automatically set it), and what graphics system will display first, either onboard, PCI, or PCI Express.

 

 

 

Integrated Peripherals & Power Management Setup:

This section allows you to control the peripherals attached to the board including USB, Firewire, LAN connections, and SATA connections. The Gigabyte 780G supports three modes for SATA, which are Native IDE, RAID for the hardware RAID features built in, and ACHI, which stands for Advanced Host Controller Interface, which allows the SATA drives to use features such as Hot Plugging and Native Command Queuing.

 

 

PnP/PCI Configurations & PC Health Status:

The PnP/PCI section allows you to control the IRQ assignments for the two PCI slots on the board. This also allows you to disable them if not being used and assign the IRQ to another piece of hardware if needed. The PC Health Section is where you can monitor the system temperatures and voltages, as well as set speeds and alarms for the fans attached to the motherboard.

 

 

Closer Look:

M.I.T (Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker):

Finally, we move on to the last and most important section of the BIOS. This is where most of the hardware tweaking for the GA-MA78GM-S2H takes place. The Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker allows you to control the speeds and voltages of everything for the CPU, memory, north and southbridge, PCI Express frequency and more. One great thing with the GA-MA78GM-S2H is the ability to overclock the Integrated Graphics from right within the BIOS. The CPU can be increased from 200 to 500MHz and the multiplier increased to push the limits of the processor. The memory can be set to run in ganged, the same clocks as the CPU, or unganged in multiples of 2.66x to 5.33x the CPU speeds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The voltages for the Gigabyte 780G board makes it so easy to choose the right voltages when placed in manual mode. What it does is take the stock voltage and lets you add in increments to it, raising the voltage without having to guess. For instance, DDR3 memory has a JEDEC voltage of 1.8v. You can choose to add +0.1v, +0.2v, or +0.3v, making your final voltage either 1.9v, 2.0v, or 2.1v to add power to those faster sets of RAM. You can also do the same for the Northbridge and the CPU to increase performance while overclocking.

 

 

 

 

Now that we have the BIOS down, let's see how the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H performs in the testing phase.

Specifications:

 

CPU
1. Support for Socket AM2+/ AM2 processors: AMD Phenom™FX processor/ AMD Phenom™ processor/ AMD Athlon™ 64 FX processor/AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core processor/AMD Athlon™ 64 processor/AMD Sempron™ processor
Hyper Transport Bus
1. 5200/2000 MT/s
Chipset
1. North Bridge: AMD 780G
2. South Bridge: AMD SB700
Memory
1. 4 x 1.8V DDR2 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory (Note 1)
2. Dual channel memory architecture
3. Support for DDR2 1066 (Note 2)/800/667 MHz memory modules
Audio
1. Realtek ALC889A codec
2. High Definition Audio
3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
4. Support for DTS (dts NEO:PC)
5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
6. Support for CD In
LAN
1. Realtek 8111C chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots
1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot (The PCI Express x16 slot conforms to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
2. 1 x PCI Express x1 slot
3. 2 x PCI slots
Storage Interfaces
South Bridge:
   1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
   2. 5 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATAII0, SATAII1, SATAII2, SATAII3, SATAII4) supporting up to 5 SATA 3Gb/s devices
   3. 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port on the back panel supporting up to 1 SATA 3Gb/s device
   4. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10

iTE IT8718 chip:
   1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
IEEE 1394
T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
   1. Up to 2 IEEE 1394a ports (1 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)
USB
Integrated in the South Bridge
   1. Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 on the back panel, 8 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
2. 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
3. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
4. 1 x IDE connector
5. 5 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
6. 1 x CPU fan header
7. 1 x system fan header
8. 1 x front panel header
9. 1 x front panel audio header
10. 1 x CD In connector
11. 1 x S/PDIF In/Out header
12. 1 x IEEE 1394a header
13. 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
14. 1 x parallel port header
15. 1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
16. 1 x serial port header
17. 1 x chassis intrusion header
18. 1 x power LED header
Back Panel Connectors
1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
2. 1 x PS/2 mouse port
3. 1 x D-Sub port
4. 1 x DVI-D port (Note 3)
5. 1 x HDMI port
6. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
7. 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
8. 1 x IEEE 1394a port
9. 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
10. 1 x RJ-45 port
11. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller
1. ITE IT8718 chip 
H/W Monitoring
System voltage detection
   1. CPU/System temperature detection
   2. CPU/System fan speed detection
   3. CPU overheating warning
   4. CPU/System fan fail warning
   5. CPU/System fan speed control (Note 4)
BIOS
1. 1 x 8 Mbit flash
2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
3. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
1. Support for @BIOS
2. Support for Download Center
3. Support for Q-Flash
4. Support for EasyTune (Note 5)
5. Support for Xpress Install
6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
7. Support for Virtual Dual BIOS
Bundle Software
1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version) 
Operating System
1. Support for Microsoft Windows Vista/ XP
Form Factor
1. Micro ATX Form Factor; 24.4cm x 24.4cm
Remark
1. Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors' website or 3rd party website.
2. Due to most hardware/software vendors no longer offer support for Win9X/ME. If some vendors still has Win9X/ME drivers available, we will publish on website.
Note
(Note 1) Due to Windows XP 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than 4 GB.
(Note 2) Whether 1066 MHz memory speed is supported depends on the CPU being used.
(Note 3) The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
(Note 4) Whether the CPU/system fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU/ system cooler you install.

 

 

Features:

Testing:

Now we get to what we have all been waiting for. To test the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H, I will run a series of scientific and gaming benchmarks to see how it stacks up and performs. I will also be making a side by side comparison with another AMD 780G based motherboard reviewed earlier by OverclockersClub, the ECS A780GM-A. Doing this will give us a direct chipset comparison to see if the Gigabyte board is a better performer with no variances for using a different chipset. The Science tests will be run using the onboard graphics only, and the gaming benchmarks will be split up with the integrated graphics tests on one graph together and the discrete cards on another, that way you have a better idea of the performance. All other hardware will be run at stock speeds and voltages so that any variances will be eliminated from affecting the scores.

  

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Motherboards:


As I mentioned before, this board supports Hybrid CrossfireX when paired with a compatible discrete card like an ATI HD3400 series card. Here is a shot of the ATI Control Panel, Device Manager and GPU-Z showing the two video devices enabled in Hybrid CrossfireX.

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Overclocking the board was a dry wall just like in the ECS A780GM-A review. The combination of the board and the Phenom CPU does not like to go above 200 on the HyperTransport clock. The computer just blue screens or will not boot at all. Also, like in the ECS review, the highest I could push the multiplier on the 780G chipset was 13.5x before it became unstable. I upped the multiplier in the BIOS to 13.5, booted into Windows and verified it in CPU-Z, as well as the AMD Overdrive utility. This proved to be the best stable combination, so the final result of 200x12.5 (2.700GHz) is what the overclocked tests will be run at. Also as I mentioned before, the integrated graphics also have the ability to be overclocked either in the BIOS, AMD Overdrive or with 3rd party programs such as RivaTuner to increase operating performance. I used all three and successfully pushed the IGP clockspeed to 725MHz stable; however, the Northbridge heatsink is not enough to cool the chip at these speeds, so I did have to actively cool it during the review. I would keep this in mind when overclocking your board.

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SpecviewPerf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02 Final
  7. Cinebench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.54
  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  7. 3DMark 06 Professional

Testing:

First up are the system specific benchmarks that will test overall scientific performance.

 

To get things stated I will begin with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB files, as well as test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

ZIP:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAR:

 

 

 

For the first part of the science tests the Gigabyte board is a clear winner.

Testing:

Specview 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Specview it was close, but the GA-MA78GM-SH2 pulled ahead overall.

Testling:

Sisoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of the key areas of the motherboards.

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

In Sandra's extensive system benchmarks, again the Gigabyte board performed slightly better than the ECS board.

Testing:

Sciencemark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinebench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

 

 

Sciencemark was a dead heat at the stock speeds ,but overclocked gave the Gigabyte a great advantage. Cinebench for the Gigabyte was behind when using only one core but then slammed the ECS board when all cores were put in. HDTune brought the Gigabyte board to its knees, though being beat by the A780GM-A.

Testing:

Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games in the market right now. The Crysis single player demo includes a GPU benchmark to test the performance of the video card installed in the system. 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow, in the first round of gaming tests the Integrated and Hybrid bench's did well, but the discrete 8800GT was almost half of the ECS board's scores.

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of real-time strategy and simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

The settings we will use are below:

 



  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, what an upset for the discrete card tests. The integrated and Hybrid cards still running strong though.

Testing:

Bioshock is one of the newest games on the market. It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played.

 

Settings:

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Bioshock, the 8800GT finally pulled through.

Testing:

Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.

 

The settings used are listed below:

   

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like in Bioshock, the Gigabyte board puled through with the fastest numbers.

Testing:

World In Conflict is a newly released DX10, real-time strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a streak, the GA-MA78GM-S2H failed to pull ahead in the discrete card tests but held strong for the integrated and Hybrid tests.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DX10, first-person shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

The settings we will use are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Call of Juarez, the Gigabyte board did strong at lower resolutions but was finally taken over at the highest one.

Testing:

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This real-time strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In one of the newest benchmarks at OCC, the Gigabyte board did not give up without a fight when using the discrete card, but fell in the integrated tests.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a test long considered to be a bragging test, the Gigabyte pulled it off by a hair, beating the ECS board. It also looks like the boast of 1500 3DMarks has been eclipsed by 31 marks. Gigabyte backs up this claim with the performance of the IGP.

Conclusion:

I went into this review with a mindset that this board is geared to being used in a workstation or Home Theater PC and at that, it does very well. In the science benchmarks, the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H pulls off some impressive numbers compared to competing boards using the same chipset. The Gigabyte board has an array of features and capabilities that would make any system like this drool for more. I liked how Gigabyte included all three video ports for this board because if you are like me and lose adapters easily, you will not be left out from using them down the road. Another feature of note i absolutely loved is the number of USB headers available. For a media PC or workstation, that is a great move. I am always using USB for my external drives, keyboards, mice, Thumb Drives, and all sorts of things, so it is nice to have the ability to add more ports without having to buy expansion cards to do it. It would have been nice to have included a bracket or two to use the headers, but that is a personal preference. I also like that Gigabyte went with the mATX design, which makes this a great board for those cramped HTPC cases.

I was surprised, that with all of the buzz Gigabyte puts out about having the most durable boards using its Durable 2 technology, to see that it was left out on the GA-MA78GM-S2H . Even buying a mid-range board such as this you want it to last as long as another board you would purchase, especially with the heat that gets generated in a cramped HTPC style case. Some sort of heatpipe or other cooling method should have been used so that you do not have to place fans all over the case. Another drawback was the performance while using a high-end graphics card. The hybrid and integrated scores pulled high numbers, but when paired with a faster card, the GA-MA78GM-S2H was only slightly faster in about 50% of the tests performed and in the other 50% some of the scores were poorly low. The Integrated graphics and Hybrid graphics are not good if you are into gaming, especially if you want detail in those games you play. Overclocking was also hit or miss. Overclocking the GPU, I was able to get 125MHz over stock, but overclocking the CPU causes a lot of instabilities when changing anything but the multiplier. If you are looking for a motherboard for a workstation or that home theater PC you have always wanted, then the GA-MA78GM-S2H is a great choice, but if you do any gaming, I would look for something more geared toward gamers.

 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: