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Gigabyte GA-790XTA-UD4 Motherboard

Supporting SATA 3.0 and USB 3.0.

March 2, 2010



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Shortly after there was information that the next generation of SSD drives might be bottlenecked by SATA 2.0 throughput in some modes, we already had controllers and motherboards supporting the twice as fast SATA 3.0. As for USB 3.0, aside from the tenfold speed, the new standard can provide thrice as more power. This is considered serious progress already. Of course, if we disregard eSATA offering similar performance and, more importantly, the existence of peripheral devices supporting it.

From a user's point of view, newer interfaces are always a plus, providing better expandability in the future. But this is not the only factor there is, so we shall test today's motherboard as strictly as ever.

Design





The layout is almost typical for Gigabyte's higher-end motherboards. Installing dual-slot graphics leaves you with 2 x PCI and 1 x PCIe x1 as well as access to all drive interfaces and additional peripheral ports onboard. The pins of the header to which you connect front-panel LEDs and buttons are conveniently colored and labeled. The motherboard has two BIOS chips: the primary and the secondary. The latter helps if firmware upgrade goes wrong. The borders of peripheral connectors are also labeled, the distinctive feature of Gigabyte motherboards. The two white SATA ports are the ones supporting SATA 3.0. Combining those into a RAID 0 configuration, you get the fastest storage available in desktops today.



In turn, the two blue USB ports on the rear panel are the ones supporting USB 3.0, including the increased requirements for current strength which might be needed by future devices. It's nice that newer interfaces do not limit the support for regular ones: there are both 6 and 4-pin FireWire ports, as well as both coaxial and optical S/PDIF Out connectors.



The cooling system is typical for upper mid-end motherboards, featuring two heatsinks connected by a heatpipe. This is efficient, because it lets any CPU cooler cool the chipset as well. The fancy covers which are obviously in these days reduce the cooling efficiency, though. On the other hand, both the low-power Northbridge and the multi-channel stabilizer emit less heat than such a cooling system can deal with.



The CPU voltage stabilizer has 10 channels, 2 FETs with Low RDS (on) per channel, and features choke coils with ferrite cores. There are 11 x 820µF and 4 x 270µF capacitors, all solid, made in Japan. The motherboard has twice as thicker copper voltage and ground planes. In other words, everything meets the high Ultra Durable requirements. Does this motherboard support processors with up to 140W TDP? You bet it does.



The bundle includes 4 x SATA cables with metallic latches for more secured connection. By the way, SATA 3.0 works with the same old cables, unlike USB 3.0 which requires newer ones. Also supplied is a quick start guide in various languages.

Speaking of useful software, there is EasyTune for monitoring, fan control and such, Face-Wizard for changing the BIOS splash screen, Q-Share for sharing files in a local area network, @BIOS for searching for and upgrading firmware, and Update Manager for searching for and upgrading drivers. Third-party utilities include Norton Internet Security and Kaspersky Anti-Virus.

Features

The motherboard is based on the AMD 790X chipset (the AMD 790X Northbridge + the SB750 Southbridge). It features 8 internal ports, including 6 x SATA 2.0 provided by the chipset. The latter support RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5. The 2 x SATA 3.0 ports are provided by the external controller, and yet another controller provides 2 x eSATA 2.0 ports on the rear panel. In total, there are the following additional controllers on board:

  • 8-channel HDA codec (Realtek ALC889) supporting Dolby Home Theater, optical and coaxial S/PDIF Out on the rear panel;
  • Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek 8111D, PCIe x1);
  • FireWire (TI TSB43AB23, PCI) supporting 3 x IEEE 1394a ports, including 1 x 4-pin and 1 x 6-pin on the rear panel;
  • SATA 3.0 (Marvell 9128, PCIe x1) supporting 2 x SATA 6 Gbps ports, RAID 0, 1;
  • eSATA 2.0 (JMicron JMB362, PCIe x1) supporting 2 x eSATA 3 Gbps ports, RAID 0, 1;
  • USB 3.0 (NEC D720200FI, PCIe x1) supporting 2 x USB 3.0 ports;
  • System monitoring (ITE IT8720F) supporting automatic CPU and system fan control in BIOS (manual controls provided by EasyTune); both 3 and 4-pin fans are supported.

We assessed the analog output quality of the integrated audio system in the 16-bit/44kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.3 and the ESI Juli@ sound card.


Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB: +0.04, -0.17 Very good
Noise level, dB(A): -89.8 Good
Dynamic range, dB(A): 89.6 Good
THD, %: 0.0081 Very good
THD + noise, dB(A): -78.0 Average
IMD + noise, %: 0.012 Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB: -89.2 Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %: 0.012 Very good

Total score: Very good.

The distortions are typical for a medium-quality motherboard, though Gigabyte could have done better. But, subjectively, the quality is decent. And don't forget the two digital outputs for your home theater.


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Page 2: O/c, efficiency, power consumption



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