Gigabyte AMD Motherboard Roundup Reviewajmatson - September 16, 2009
Price: $90 - $124
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With new processors usually come new motherboards. AMD has been releasing many new CPUs lately – dual, triple, and quad core – and thus new motherboards are necessary to take advantage of the faster and better technology. There have been several new chipsets released recently, which are aimed at the mid range market. Some use integrated graphics, while others are geared to the budget-minded enthusiast. Today we are going to be taking a look at four new boards from Gigabyte, which include the 770 chipset, the 785G chipset, and the 790X chipset. These boards represent the main chipsets being used by the mid range market today, so the combination of the four boards will give you a good idea of where each one sits based on the chipset design to help you make an informed decision on the chipset that is right for you.
The particular boards that we will be taking a look at are the Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P (790X board), the Gigabyte MA770T-UD3P (770 board), the Gigabyte MA785GMT-US2H (785G board), and the Gigabyte MA785G-UD3H (785G board). All the boards support AM3 processors, including the Phenom II and Athlon II CPUs up to 140 watts. However, the MA785G-UD3H is an AM2+ board, which will support both AM2+ and AM3 processors up to 140 watts, as well as only DDR2 memory. All these chipsets are designed for the mainstream user who wants performance without breaking the bank. This review will put each chipset and version up against each other to show you the better sector to choose for your needs.
Closer Look (MA790XT-UD4P):
The MA790XT-UD4P is a step down from the flagship chipset, the 790FX. It offers a lot of the same features, such as the Ultra Durable 3 design and multiple PCI Express x16 slots for multi-GPU card solutions. The MA790XT-UD4P supports AM3 processors, such as the Phenom II and Athlon II series, including the 140 watt processors. Coupled with the 790X Northbridge is the SB750 Southbridge, which supports a wide array of features for your every need.
Once the inner box is removed, you get your first glimpse of the accessories that are included with the MA790XT-UD4P. 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.
The Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P 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 it's inside your case, especially if you have a side window. 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 faster. 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 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 keyboard and mouse, an optical S/PDIF connector, a coaxial S/PDIF connector, 4-pin and 8-pin FireWire ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, a LAN port, and the audio ports, which are driven by the Realtek ALC889A codec. The LAN port is the Realtek 8111C/DL, for speeds up to 1Gb/s.
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 MA790XT-UD4P 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 for the blue slot and X8 speeds for the orange slot.
The CPU area looks crowded, but there is plenty of room to work around it and I had no issues installing aftermarket CPU coolers and a water block for better cooling. 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 only supports 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. The MA790XT-UD4P has an 8+2 power design for more efficient power delivery to the CPU and the rest of the components. Another perk for the MA790XT-UD4P is that it will accept ECC memory with a processor that supports it. As such, this would make a great high end workstation or server board.
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 eight SATA ports, six blue and two purple. 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 purple 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.
To keep the cool look 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.
Now that the MA790XT-UD4P is out, let's move over to the next board.