Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P Motherboard Review

ajmatson - 2009-05-20 19:07:05 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: June 18, 2009
Price: $179.99

Introduction:

These days, there are so many chipsets to choose from when it comes to purchasing a motherboard. For the AMD followers, motherboard chipsets have really advanced in the last few years, and it is just getting better. One of the top performing chipsets for AMD processors, such as the Phenom II, is the 790FX series. The 790FX was an enthusiasts dream for some time, and now with DDR3 memory support, the 790FX chipset is making another stand when paired with the SB750 Southbridge and it is becoming unstoppable. One manufacturer that is known for their motherboards is Gigabyte, and now they bring you the Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P motherboard. This board is based off of the 790FX/SB750 chipset, and offers a wealth of expansion and performance for your every need. Gigabyte also takes this board a step further, adding features such as Ultra Durable 3, Gigabyte SATA II, and more. The design of the MA790FXT-UD5P makes one drool with the amount of detail and abilities that went into it. Gigabyte made sure that you were not left needing things, like enough USB ports, enough SATA ports, and even legacy support for devices such as a COM port. This board was designed to appeal from everyone down to gamers, enthusiasts, and businessmen alike. With DDR2 starting to fall out and DDR3 making its stand in the computing world, the new MA790FXT-UD5P is here and ready to show what she has and then some. So, will it stand up to Gigabyte's history of rock solid products and wow us? There is only one way to find out, so let's dig in.
 

Closer Look:

The packaging is Gigabyte's signature design, showing off its technologies and designs. Displayed on the front are some of the features that the MA790FXT-UD5P offers to its users, as well as showing off the two ounce copper layers that help cool the board. On the back of the packaging are expanded views of the features, as well as the specifications for the board, such as CrossFire capabilities and RAID features. The biggest display you see on the front is the Ultra Durable 3 logo which Gigabyte has introduced, showing how well its products are made and stand up to the abuse of an enthusiast. Gigabyte has doubled the amount of copper they place in the PC board, which is designed to spread the heat through the board and increase the lifespan of the components. They also use solid Japanese capacitors, which are claimed to be good for 50,000 hours before failure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

Once the inner box is removed, you get your first glimpse of the accessories that are included with the MA790FXT-UD5P. The accessories are what Gigabyte generally includes with all of its mainstream boards. Included are the manual, installation guide, I/O shield, case badges, four SATA cables, one IDE cable, one floppy cable, and the eSATA kit which consists of the bracket, power cord, and eSATA cables.

 

 

Now that we have everything unpacked, let's move on over and take a better look at the board up close.

Closer Look:

At first glance, the Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P has a very pleasing appearance. Gigabyte chose to use a blue-ish colored PC board, with a white and blue color scheme for the slots and brackets. This gives the board a nice look when you're inside your case, especially if you have a side window on it. One feature that you cannot see on the nicely colored PC board is the two ounces of copper that Gigabyte incorporates into the design to aid in cooling the components more quickly. This also improves durability and efficiency of the motherboard, allowing for better overclocking. In addition to the copper, the Ultra Durable 3 design also uses solid Japanese manufactured capacitors, lower RDS(ON) MOSFETs, and Ferrite core chokes. All of these features are designed to help you get the most out of your system, with better stability and cooling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving to the back panel, again Gigabyte gives you all that you need. Starting from the top, there are the two legacy PS/2 ports for your keyboards and mice, an optical S/PDIF connector, a coaxial S/PDIF connector, 4-pin and 8-pin FireWire ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, two LAN ports, and the audio ports - which are driven by the Realtek ALC889A codec. The LAN ports are the Realtek 8111C/DL chips, for speeds up to 1Gb/s, and also support teaming, which allow both to operate as a single connection providing increased bandwidth and fault tolerance.

 

 

Below the back panel connections are the expansion slots. There are more than enough slots for any use, from newer current PCI-Express cards to the legacy PCI interfaced cards that you still might have lying around your house. Included on the MA790FXT-UD5P are three PCI-Express x1 slots, two PCI-Express x16 slots, and two legacy PCI slots. The PCI-Express x16 slots support ATI CrossFireX for multi-GPU systems and run at x16 speeds each, whether using one card or two in CrossFireX mode.

 

The CPU area looks crowded; however, there is plenty of room to work around it and I had no issues installing aftermarket CPU coolers, such as the Thermaltake ISGC-300 and ISGC-400 coolers, as well as the stock AMD cooler. The only complaint I have is that it is hard to plug and unplug the 8-pin CPU power lead with big fingers like I have, and I actually nicked my finger on the heatsink near it. The socket supports only AM3 processors up to 140 watts, so your DDR2 CPUs will not work here. There are four DIMM slots which support up to 16GB of DDR3 memory up to 1666MHz overclocked. 

 

On the bottom are the headers which allow you to expand your system as needed. Starting from the left, there is a COM port header, a parallel port header, a FireWire header, two USB 2.0 headers, front panel headers, and two fan headers. Flipping up to the right side of the board, you will notice there are 10 SATA ports, four of them being white. The six blue SATA ports are controlled via the SB750 Southbridge, and support SATA 3.0Gb/s speeds with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, and JBOD. The two white ports are also SATA 3.0Gb/s, however these are controlled via the Gigabyte SATA II chipset, which includes the JMicron JM322 chips. The JM322 chips provide smart backup capabilities, as well as hardware based RAID 0, 1, and JBOD. Past the SATA ports, there is a Clear CMOS button with a protective cover. I recommend removing this cover because a long card, such as a GTX260, will block it partially - not allowing you to remove the card to press the button if needed. Above the Clear CMOS button are the floppy and IDE ports, as well as the Power and Reset buttons.

 

 

 

To keep the cool design of the board and add to the Ultra Durable 3 design, Gigabyte has used a heatsink and heatpipe combination designed to lower the temperatures for the critical parts of the board. There is a large heatsink that covers the voltage area of the board by the CPU, and it connects down to the heatsink over the Northbridge and Southbridge chips. The design uses aluminum for efficient cooling. You might have also noticed the fourth heatsink on the board below the Southbridge. This is for the SATA II chip which keeps it cool also during operation.

 

 

 

Now that we have had a good look at this baby, let's plug her in and start the computer up.

Closer Look:

To run this board and get the most out of it, Gigabyte has included a CD with a wealth of drivers and applications for you to use. To install the software, all you need to do is pop the CD into the drive and the Autorun feature will bring up a box for you to run the installer. Once the installer starts, you will be sent to the main installation screen. This screen has several tabs which will allow you to install drivers, software, view the manuals for the programs, contact Gigabyte support, check your system's specifications, and access the download center for updated drivers, BIOS, and software. For the drivers, there is a button for Xpress Install, which will install all of the drivers automatically, rebooting when necessary on its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@BIOS & Easy Energy Saver:

Two of the utilities included with the MA790FXT-UD5P are designed to keep you up to date and save you energy. The @BIOS program allows you to update your BIOS in Microsoft Windows from either a disk or from Gigabyte's online servers. This makes keeping your BIOS updated easier than ever. The Easy Energy Saver utility allows the user to set energy saving settings, such as CPU throttling and Dynamic Voltage, so that power is not wasted when the computer is not being used at its fullest potential.

 

 

Easy Tune 6:

The Easy Tune 6 utility allows you to seamlessly overclock and tweak your system without having to restart and enter the BIOS every time you want to make a change. There are several tabs on the top which allow you to change and monitor your system. The CPU tab gives you current specifications and information for your system. The Memory tab does the same as the CPU tab, but for your memory, showing you speed and latencies. The Tuner tab has two sub menus, for Frequency and Voltage. These sections let you adjust bus speed, multipliers, and system voltages for overclocking. The Graphics tab allows you to overclock your video card as well, if it is supported. The Smart tab allows you to control the smart fan settings and adjust the C.I.A. 2 settings for instant overclocking based on system loads. Lastly we have the Hardware monitor tab, which gives you the ability to view incoming power currents and set warning limits.

 

 

 

 

Now we have the software set, let's look at the options available to us in the BIOS.

Closer Look:

When it comes to the overclocking magic, all of it is done in a little known part of the computer called the BIOS. The BIOS, which stands for Basic Input/Output System, is a small chip on your board that tells your hardware how to act on startup, such as clock speeds, voltages, and more. Gigabyte chose to go with the Award BIOS for the MA790FXT-UD5P board. The Award BIOS has many features that allow you to tune and tweak your system, with easy navigation and quick save/load profiles. This BIOS also features an advanced overclocking section called the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker, or M.I.T. for short. We will look at the M.I.T. closer in the next page of the review. To give you a look of the options available, I will break the BIOS down in sections and explain a little of what each one has to offer.

 

Main Screen, Standard CMOS, & Advanced BIOS:

When you first boot into the BIOS, you are presented with the main screen, which is designed to help you easily navigate the BIOS without wasting time searching for the areas you need to change. This screen also gives you quick access to saving profiles and entering Q-Flash, which I will touch on below. The Standard CMOS Features section is basically where you set the drive parameters and the BIOS time. Underneath the Standard CMOS Features is the Advanced BIOS Features section, where you have control over advanced features such as C1E Support, Cool 'n' Quiet, Boot Priority, and Display Priorities for the graphics cards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Integrated Peripherals & Power Management:

The Integrated Peripherals Section is where you change settings for the IDE and SATA ports, such as running in RAID, or ACHI mode - which is a hot swap setting for your drives. You can also make changes to the onboard devices such as the FireWire port, USB controllers, legacy devices, and LAN ports. I mention the LAN ports as well because the two jacks on the MA790FXT-UD5P support teaming, which allows them to share bandwidth as a single connection adding to redundancy and increased performance. In this section is Smart Backup as well, which is controlled by the SATA II feature from Gigabyte, and allows you to setup the hardware RAID and backup settings for each channel.

 

 

 

 

PC Health Status, Profiles, & Q-Flash:

Next up is the PC Health Status screen, which displays the current system voltages coming into the motherboard from the power supply, as well as the CPU VCore and DDR3 voltage. It will also show you the CPU and system temperatures, as well as the fan speeds. You can set warning levels for the temperatures and fans, which will alert you to an error or shut the system down. When you set up your BIOS you do not want to have to redo it for a bad overclock each time, so you can save profiles to load later. There are eight slots that you can save to and name whatever you desire. Last up here is Q-Flash, which is a BIOS based utility that allows you to flash your BIOS to a newer version. When you press F8 and enter the Q-Flash utility, a menu will come up letting you update or save the BIOS from CDs or even thumb drives.

 

 

 

Now we move on to the second part of the BIOS, which is where the overclocking takes place.

Closer Look:

Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker:

Now we get to the overclocking section of the BIOS. This section is called the M.I.T., or Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker. This section is where all of the voltage changes, clock speeds, and latencies get set to push your system to the limits. The top part of the M.I.T. is where you set the CPU specs, such as the clock speed, CPU multiplier, and the Northbridge frequency. The CPU multiplier can be set in x0.5 increments, and the HT link can be changed in x1 increments. There is also a selection for ACC, or Advanced Clock Calibration. ACC allows you to simply overclock the CPU, either one core or all cores, to a percentage which is 12% of the stock clock speeds. Near the bottom is where you change the voltages for the components such as the CPU, Northbridge, and memory to achieve stability and greater performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The memory portion of the BIOS for the MA790FXT-UD5P has many features as well. The memory speed can be changed using preset straps based on the CPU speed. The options are x4, x5.33, x6.66, and x8. At the default CPU speed of 200MHz, the x6.66 setting will yield a memory speed of 1333MHz, which is native for most Phenom II processors using DDR3 memory. The DRAM Configuration sub-menu is where you can set the latencies and memory settings to achieve tighter timings and stable overclocks. You can choose to run the memory Ganged or Unganged with the CPU, as well as change just about every option possible allowing for maximum memory bandwidth.

 

 

 

Now that we have the BIOS configured, we can move on to the testing.

Specifications:

CPU
Support for Socket AM3 processors: AMD Phenom™ II X4 processor / AMD Phenom™ II X3 processor
Front Side Bus
5200 MT/s
Chipset
North Bridge: AMD 790FX
South Bridge: AMD SB750 
Memory
4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory (Note 1)
Dual channel memory architecture
Support for DDR3 1666(OC)/1333/1066 MHz memory modules 
Audio
Realtek ALC889A codec
High Definition Audio
2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
Support for S/PDIF In/Out
Support for CD In 
LAN
2x Realtek 8111C/DL chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Support for Teaming
Expansion Slots
2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (The PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX16_2 slots support ATI CrossFireX technology, and conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
3 x PCI Express x1 slots
2 x PCI slots 
Storage Interface

South Bridge:
   1x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
   6x SATA 3Gb/s connectors supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
   Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID5, RAID 10 and JBOD

GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
   2 x JM322 chips (Smart Backup):
   4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_0, GSATA2_1, GSATA2_2, GSATA2_3) supporting up to 4 SATA 3Gb/s devices (Note 3)
   Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD

ITE 8720 chip:
   1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive 

IEEE 1394
T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
    Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header) 
USB Integrated in the South Bridge
    Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (8 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
1x 24-pin ATX main power connector
1x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1x floppy disk drive connector
1x IDE connector
10x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
1x CPU fan header
2x system fan header
1x power fan header
1x North Bridge fan header
1x front panel header
1x front panel audio header
1x CD In connector
1x S/PDIF In/Out header
1x IEEE 1394a header
2x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
1x serial port header
1x parallel port header
1x chassis intrusion header
1x power LED header
1x power switch
1x reset switch
1x clearing CMOS switch 
Back Panel Connectors
1x PS/2 keyboard port
1x PS/2 mouse port
1x optical S/PDIF Out connector
1x coaxial S/PDIF out connector
2x IEEE 1394a port
8x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2x RJ-45 port
6x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone))
I/O Controller
ITE IT8720 chip
H/W Monitoring
System voltage detection
    CPU/System temperature detection
    CPU/System fan speed detection
    CPU overheating warning
    CPU/System fan fail warning
    CPU/System fan speed control (Note 6) 
BIOS
2 x 8 Mbit flash
Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
Support for DualBIOS™
PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
Support for @BIOS
Support for Q-Flash
Support for Virtual Dual BIOS
Support for Download Center
Support for Xpress Install
Support for Xpress Recovery2
Support for EasyTune (Note 5)
Support for Easy Energy Saver
Support for Time Repair
Support for Q-Share 
Bundle Software
Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Operating System
Support for Microsoft® Windows Vista/XP
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm
Notes
(Note 1) Due to Windows Vista/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) A JM322 chip supports two SATA 3Gb/s connectors, so the four SATA 3Gb/s connectors are divided into two pairs: GSATA2_0 and GSATA2_1 as one pair and GSATA2_2, GSATA2_3 as another pair.
(Refer to Chapter 2, “Integrated Peripherals” and Chapter 5, “Configuring SATA Hard Drive(s),“ for how to enable the Smart Backup function.)
(Note 3) Whether the CPU/system fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU/ system cooler you install.
(Note 4) Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.
Remarks
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.

 

Features:

 

All information gathered via the Gigabyte website at: http://www.gigabyte.us/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ClassValue=Motherboard&ProductID=3007&ProductName=GA-MA790FXT-UD5P

Testing:

Now we get to what we have all been waiting for, the testing phase of the review. To test the Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P motherboard, I will be running it through a series of benchmarks designed to stress the scientific and video capabilities of the system. Pushing it to the limits will give us a good idea of the quality and overall performance of the board. I will also be comparing it to another 790FX/SB750 based motherboard, to see how it stacks up against other boards in its league. All hardware, unless otherwise noted, will be run at its stock speeds, timing, and voltages to eliminate any variables from interfering with the scores and throwing off a side by side comparison.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Motherboard:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

When it came to overclocking, the Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P was a breeze. Because of the options available and the tweaking control, I was able to push every ounce that I could get out of it - which was pretty decent. By just playing with the multiplier and bus speed, I was able to push the Phenom II X4 955 processor to just under 3.9GHz at the maximum voltage of 1.5 volts. I started by pushing the multiplier to the maximum I could get stable, which was x18.5 and then started upping the Bus speed 1MHz at a time until I became unstable. Ultimately I ended up with a 650MHz increase with little effort at all. I was also able to get the memory to just under 1400MHz with low timings of 7-7-7-20-1T and everything was benchmark stable. So the overclocked tests will be run at 3.858GHz.

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SPECviewperf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02
  7. CineBench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty: World at War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Fallout 3 
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started 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.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

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

 

ZIP:

   

 

 

RAR:

 

 

 

In Apophysis, which is mainly based on CPU speed, both boards were evenly matched. However, in the WinRAR tests, the results were mixed for each board.

Testing:

SPECviewperf 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

 

PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual motherboard to see which board, if any, rises above the others.

 

In SPECviewperf, the Gigabyte board was a little behind, but bounced back and both boards were dead on in PCMark Vantage.

Testing:

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 key functions of each system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

Again, both boards were pretty well matched, however the MA790FXT-UD5P did have the edge in a few of the runs.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Higher is Better

 

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.

 

Higher is Better

 

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

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

In ScienceMark and CineBench, the Gigabyte board was a hair behind the ASUS offering, but made up in HD Tune, where overall it was better - especially killing in the Burst speed test.

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km squared of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both boards were just about dead on.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way, there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, close with the Gigabyte board - a frame quicker at the max resolution.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies." 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. The environment, as well as the story line, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In BioShock, the Gigabyte 790FX was faster in every resolution.

Testing:

Activision's Call of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a high resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these motherboards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here again, faster in just about every resolution.

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion, you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse, starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS board started in the lead for Dead Space, but was overtaken as the resolution grew.

Testing:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks, since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fallout 3 was mixed, with the Gigabyte board falling behind half of the time.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters, and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the lower resolutions, the Gigabyte board dominated. However, the spread was short lived as the resolution grew.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here the ASUS board has a slight lead over the Gigabyte 790FX.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again in this 3DMark install, the Gigabyte board was slightly behind.

Conclusion:

The Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P was a joy to test. This board offers plenty of options and advancements to push my system to the maximum, and give me that speed that my inner enthusiast desires. I love to tinker with my hardware and see how much I can get out of it, and with the options available here, I have the ability to tweak and push every ounce from my components. Not only does it have a lot to offer, but it also makes it as easy as possible with the utilities and hardware shortcuts that the MA790FXT-UD5P has. The Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P performed quite well, matching or leading in over 65% of the benchmarks - making it a top contender for the 790FX/SB750 chipset series boards. Compared to the ASUS M4A78T, which is a bit more expensive than the Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P, the performance was just about on par or better for the price. When it came to overclocking, the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker section of the BIOS made it easy. With the vast amount of settings I was able to control, my overclock became stable as could be.

Gigabyte has done it well with a rock solid board that offers a lot of features for your hard earned cash. If you are a gamer, the LAN teaming feature will let you have an edge over your online opponents, and if you are an enthusiast, you can beat the life out of your system knowing it will remain cool and intact with the Ultra Durable 3 design. Whether you are designing a new system or looking for a nice board to upgrade your AM3 CPU to DDR3, you will not go home with a sour face from the Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P motherboard. I recommend it, and for the price it will make you smile.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: