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ASRock M3A785GMH/128M Motherboard

DDR3 support and unusually rich overclocking features.

February 10, 2010



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Overclocking

Testbeds:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 810
  • RAM: 2 x 2GB Apacer DDR3-1333 CL9 9-9-9-24-1T for Socket AM3 boards; 2 x 2GB GoodRAM PRO DDR2-1066 CL5 5-5-5-15-2T for Socket AM2+ boards
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200rpm)
  • Graphics card: ATI RADEON HD4850, 512 MB GDDR3
  • PSU: AcBel ATX-550CA-AB8FB
  • OS: Windows Vista SP1 64-bit, Catalyst 9.2, latest chipset drivers

Benchmarks:

  • 7-Zip 4.65 x64
  • WinRAR 3.80
  • XviD 1.2.1
  • x264 r1129 x64
  • FarCry 2 (Ranch Medium)
  • Crysis (DX10, HOCbenchmark, VGA test, built-in demo)
  • Devil May Cry 4 (built-in benchmark)
  • World in Conlict (built-in benchmark)

To assess performance we measure time required to archive a 297MB set of 277 files of various types and convert a 636MB MPEG2 video using XviD and x264. We also measure frames per second in game demos. In FarCry 2 we run tests in 4 modes: low, medium, high and very high quality. The first three modes imply the aforesaid quality level, 1280x720 resolution, DX9 rendering, High Performance. The last mode implies: 1680x1050 resolution, Very High setting for both graphics and system, DX10 rendering. In Crysis we also use 4 modes at 1024x768 and 1280x1024 and run tests at Low and High quality in each mode. In Devil May Cry 4 we run two tests: 1280x720 (High DX9) and 1680x1050 (Super High DX10). In World in Conlict we run test in 4 modes: 1280x720 Low, 1280x720 Medium, 1680x1050 High, 1680x1050 Very High.

It's obvious which modes should be used with integrated graphics and which, with discrete graphics. Note that if a motherboard has no integrated graphics, performance tests are only used to check for serious layout or BIOS flaws and can be reduced to minimum. Vice versa, performance tests are indicative for motherboards with integrated graphics. And if a certain motherboard review lacks certain details, we might add respective test results to make up for it.

To assess capabilities of a motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock test CPUs (which ones depends on board's market segment) to a stable maximum with the help of Zalman CNPS9700 AM2 and Cooler Master Hyper Z600 coolers. At that we use all motherboard features, like CPU core voltage adjustments and, if needed, bus multiplier and clock adjustments (Hyper-Transport, CPU NB, etc.) For RAM we select a clock rate typical for this class of modules by adjusting its multiplier, or clock rate needed to maximize CPU core clock rate. The stability of an overclocked machine is assessed in Windows Vista with the help of AMD OverDrive stability test (all tests are run for 5 minutes). Note that since overclocking potential somewhat varies from one board to another, we are not focused on finding board's exact overclocking potential accurate to 1MHz. We just try to find out if a board hampers in CPU overclocking (due to insufficient voltage stabilizer power, etc.) and see how it performs in atypical modes, including automatic BIOS recovery in cases of overclocking issues (not requiring CMOS reset) and such.

Power consumption is assessed in the light mode (with text editor running) and in the heavy mode (FarCry 2, high quality, 1280x720). At that we enable processor's standard power-saving features. Also, if a board has proprietary power-saving features, we examine their efficiency separately.


BIOS overclocking settings Availability Notes
Memory timings +  
Memory frequency + DDR3-800 to DDR3-1600
HT bus frequency (multiplier) +  
CPU reference frequency + 150-500 MHz
CPU multiplier + Cores and CPU NB
Advanced Clock Calibration + Auto, -12% to +12% (for each core)
CPU voltage + 0.6000-1.6125 V (CPU)
0.6000-1.6125 V (CPU NB)
Memory voltage + 1.48-2.40 V
Graphics core frequency + 350-2000 MHz
Graphics core voltage + 1.10-1.45 V
Video buffer frequency + DDR3-533 to DDR3-1700 MHz
Video buffer voltage + 1.5-1.8 V

The BIOS adjustment ranges of the CPU multiplier and voltage, as well as the HT bus, depend on the given processor. We publish results for our Phenom II X4 810. We used BIOS 1.40 dated 03/12/2009.

Memory voltage increments are too large: 1.88 V is followed by 2.00 V, while the average increment is 0.5 V. But the selection of parameters is very rich for a motherboard of this class. It's very similar to that of the full-size counterpart, including overclocking presets and three user profiles. By the way, ASRock motherboards now have the Instant Flash feature for upgrading CMOS from flash dongles or HDDs.


CPU Phenom II X3 720 (2.8 GHz) Phenom II X4 810 (2.6 GHz)
CPU frequency, MHz 3700 3705
CPU reference frequency (multiplier), MHz 200 (x18.5) 285 (x13)
Core/CPU NB voltage (according to BIOS), V 1,50/1.30 1.47/1.30
CPU NB frequency (multiplier), MHz 2600 (x13) 2565 (x9)
HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz 2000 (x10) 1995 (x7)
Memory frequency, MHz DDR3-1333 DDR3-1140
Notes Increased core and CPU NB multipliers Increased reference frequency, reduced CPU NB and HT bus multipliers

The motherboard did a good job overclocking by means of both multipliers and reference frequency. The results are similar to those of the full-size solution. However, the CPU voltage stabilizer was very hot. Obviously, this motherboard cannot provide stability working in such a mode all the time. You'll have to do with lower clock rates, like 3.2-3.4 GHz, or provide additional cooling for power circuitry. However, in terms of moderate overclocking typical for motherboards of this class, such capabilities are excellent.

Performance and efficiency

We have been comparing the reviewed motherboard with its full-size counterpart ASRock M3A785GXH/128M, so let's do it again.


Radeon HD4850 ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:24 2:24
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:17 1:17
HDPlay (DXVA Off/On), CPU load 26%/3% 26%/3%
Crysis (High @ 1280x1024) 41 42
World in Conflict (Very High @ 1680x1050), fps 29 29

Int. graphics ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:26 2:28
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:17 1:17
HDPlay (DXVA Off/On), CPU load 30%/3% 30%/3%
Crysis (Low @ 1280x1024), fps 28 28
World in Conflict (Low @ 1680x1050), fps 25 24
FarCry 2 (Low @ 1280x720), fps 28.2 28.0

Enclosure power consumption

We measured power consumption with the wattmeter built into the PSU.


Phenom II X4 810 + Radeon HD4850 ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 84 73
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 96 96
FarCry 2, W 149-177 153-201

Phenom II X4 810 + int. graphics ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 30 20
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 45 42
FarCry 2, W 65-82 65-77

The compact motherboard is traditionally more power-efficient than the full-size counterpart. But we can't say that ASRock M3A785GMH/128M has a record efficiency in its class. For example, MSI 785GM-E65 based on the 785G chipset was way better in these terms. Though it was more expensive at that. Considering absolute values, perhaps, any motherboard on this chipset can be used to build a power-efficient rig. Even in games it consumes as much as your average lightbulb.

Conclusions

ASRock M3A785GMH/128M offers nice value for its price -- which is rather low, traditionally for ASRock products. The motherboard also has a good set of peripheral interfaces. Like all motherboards on this chipset, it has basic capabilities in terms of 3D graphics, which are enough for a number of games, as well as video decoding and transcoding (and don't forget the video buffer). You should also note the surprisingly rich set of overclocking options which actually work, letting you overclock CPUs to levels unusual for motherboards of this class.

Check this motherboard at Newegg, Amazon.

The motherboard was provided by the manufacturer.


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