The motherboard is based on the AMD 790X chipset (AMD 790X Northbridge and SB750 Southbridge). It supports processors for Socket AM2+/AM3 and can accommodate up to 8 GB of DDR2-800/1066 memory. There are six SATA/300 ports (drives connected to these ports can form RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5). Just like all motherboards with modern chipsets for the AMD platform, this model has a single chipset-based IDE channel supporting two PATA/133 drives. Functionality of the chipset is supplemented with the following controllers:
- Integrated audio (8-channel HDA codec Realtek ALC885), optical and coaxial S/PDIF Outs on the rear panel
- Gigabit Ethernet (Marvell 88E8056, PCIEx1).
- FireWire (VIA VT6307, PCI) supporting two IEEE 1394a 100/200/400 Mbps ports (one on the rear panel and one on the bracket).
- System monitoring (ITE IT8716F-S), BIOS allows automatic speed control for a CPU, system, and chipset fans depending on temperature readings (in case of the chipset, it's the Northbridge). You can specify a range of temperatures for smooth fan speed control, and the minimum temperature, below which a fan stops. In fact, this algorithm also depends on peculiarities of a given fan. In our case a boxed fan rotated slowly even when the temperature dropped below the minimum threshold. But if you want more than this BIOS can offer, you can use Smart Guard in Windows. Unfortunately, a CPU cooler can be controlled, only if it has four pins.
We assessed the analog output quality of the integrated audio system in the 16 bit 44 kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.3 and the ESI Juli@ sound card.
|Frequency response (40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
|Noise level, dB(A):
|Dynamic range, dB(A):
|Harmonic distortion + noise, dB(A):
|Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
|Channel crosstalk, dB:
|IMD at 10 kHz, %:
General performance: Very good.
It's a praiseworthy result for this relatively old codec. However, we have no doubts that a true advocate of the classic approach to PC configurations shall have a good PCI sound card. And the integrated audio system will be used only for voice communications in corresponding programs.
- 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
- 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
||DDR2-400 to DDR2-1066
|HT bus frequency (multiplier)
|CPU reference frequency
||Cores and CPU NB
|Advanced Clock Calibration
||Auto, -12% to +12% (each core)
||-775 to +800 mV (CPU)
00 to 7F (CPU NB VID hexadecimal)
||1.8 to 3.2 V
||1.15 to 1.50 V (Northbridge)
1.20 to 1.55 V (HT bus)
1.10 to 1.40 V (PCIE bus)
1.20 to 1.50 V (Southbridge)
Adjustment ranges of the CPU multiplier and voltage, as well as HT bus in BIOS, depend on a given processor. We publish results for our Phenom II X4 810. We used BIOS dated 21/08/2009.
It would have been a sufficient set of parameters with wide ranges of some options, but for one shortcoming: CPU NB voltage can be increased only by tinkering with the hexadecimal VID parameter, which is far from convenient. Even if engineers designed this motherboard for professional overclockers, they should have at least allowed to specify voltage directly like in most other motherboards. To be consistent, the other VID and FID (for cores) should have been moved to a special section, which is also available in some motherboards for overclockers -- let gurus play with them. We were even ready to adjust VID manually. But we found out that this option tended to disappear after rebooting (and to return after resetting all parameters with a jumper), so we gave it up. As this motherboard does not allow to change the multiplier and voltage of CPU NB even with AMD OverDrive, overclocking results below are published for the nominal CPU NB voltage, multiplier selected in BIOS.
In other respects, this model offers average overclocking convenience. It's allowed to save four profiles (to replace automatic ones, which can be loaded and used as a starting point for tweaking). Automatic booting with default parameters failed to work, so we had to clear CMOS with a jumper. It wouldn't have hurt to highlight resulting frequencies of a processor, buses, and memory, taking into account the selected reference frequency and multipliers, which is implemented in some BIOS.
By the way, BIOS from DFI (the code itself, not user settings) is known to be incompatible with hacked loaders of Windows Vista that imitate this or that OEM configuration. The same concerns this motherboard as well. But judging by users' feedback, this problem can be solved by upgrading to Windows 7.
||CPU Clock, MHz
||Reference clock (multiplier), MHz
||Core/CPU NB voltage (according to BIOS), V
||CPU NB frequency (multiplier), MHz
||HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz
||Memory frequency, MHz
|Phenom II X3 720 (2.8 GHz)
||Increased multipliers (CPU core and CPU NB)
|Phenom II X4 810 (2.6 GHz)
||Increased reference clock and reduced CPU NB/HT multipliers
It's a very good result for a processor with an unlocked multiplier, and just good for a standard model. But the overall impression is spoiled by the problem with increasing CPU NB voltage.
Performance and power saving
We decided to compare our motherboard under review with the Biostar TA785GE-128M based on the AMD 785G. It's an arbitrary choice (we haven't tested that many motherboards supporting DDR2 by the new test procedure). Anyway, theoretically performance differences between any motherboards with a discrete graphics card should be purely nominal. So this test checks for any apparent flaws in motherboard design or BIOS.
||DFI DK 790X-M2RS
|Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
|Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec
|FarCry 2 (Highest@1680x1050), fps
|World in Conflict (High@1680x1050), fps
Enclosure power consumption
We measured power consumption with the built-in wattmeter.
|Phenom II X4 810 + Radeon HD4850
||DFI DK 790X-M2RS
|Text editing, W (Cool'n'Quiet ON)
||83 (Green Power ON)
88 (Green Power OFF)
|Text editing, W (Cool'n'Quiet OFF)
|Playing FarCry 2, W
The compact motherboard (this time from Biostar) usually consumes less power when idle or under low load. But the DFI motherboard demonstrates a typical result for a full-size model.
This motherboard produces mixed impressions. On the one hand, we have found out that modern products from DFI, including the mid-end DK series, still offer high technical quality. On the other hand, if the company decided to cater for overclockers, they should have done it properly. That is, in addition to the motherboard hardware, they should have provided all of the necessary overclocking tools. Automatic overclocking would be one of the less important features at that. As for the most important ones, the direct control of the CPU NB voltage in BIOS would be nice, as well as the reliable reset-to-defaults feature (for failed overclocking attempts) and displaying CPU, memory, bus frequencies and voltages right where they are being adjusted. This can be done in a new BIOS version, but we are not sure if this is going to happen. This model is almost seven months old, and engineers have had enough time to fine-tune everything.
Users which are not interested in overclocking should also check similar competing products, as there are lots of them actually. Solutions from Gigabyte, ASUS, and others can objectively be a better choice. However, we are not going to draw any general conclusions about all products from DFI. On the contrary, if the company gains ground in our market, we'll be eager to test other motherboards as well.
ATI RADEON HD4850 provided by HIS, GoodRAM PRO DDR2-1066 provided by Wilk Elektronik S.A..
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