iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Gigabyte MA78G-DS3H Motherboard

Full ATX and rich features, including multi-GPU support.

August 28, 2008

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Jumpers and switchesClear CMOS jumper There are two contacts that you can short with a metal object like screwdriver or jumper
Award BIOS 6.00PG Allows to disable specific CPU functions +

K8 Cool'n'Quiet
Away Mode

Memory timings + 1T/2T Memory Timing, CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, Row Precharge Time, Min RAS Active Time, RAS to RAS Delay, Write Recovery Time, Precharge Time, Row Cycle Time, TwTr Command Delay
Memory frequency selection + 400, 533, 667, 800, 1066 MHz, you actually specify a multiplier to the HTT frequency
HT bus setup + Frequency: 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1600, 1800, 2000, 2200, 2400, 2600 MHz
Integrated GPU frequency control + 200-2000 MHz at 1 MHz steps
Peripheral bus frequency control + PCI-E = 100--200 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 200-500 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + from x5 at 0.5x steps
CPU core voltage control + 0.800-1.900 V at 0.025 V steps
Memory voltage control + +0.1-0.5 V at 0.1 V steps
Chipset voltage control + +0.1-0.3 V at 0.1 V steps (for Northbridge and Southbridge)

We used BIOS F4, the latest release at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

As usual with Gigabyte motherboards, you can open full settings by pressing Ctrl+F1 in the main BIOS Setup menu. Quite decent overclocking options, voltage ranges are also sufficient. If you wish, the motherboard can read memory voltage values, recommended for overclocking, from the EPP profile, if available in installed memory modules. If you have more than 4 GB of memory and use a 32-bit operating system, you will be pleased to have the IGX Configuration menu with Frame Buffer Location option, which allows to use memory unavailable to OS as a video buffer.

The motherboard supports configuration and overclocking using AMD OverDrive, which allows to adjust frequency of the GPU integrated into a chipset (since Version 2.00.17). By the way, BIOS allows to control this parameter within an impressive range -- up to 2000 MHz. Perhaps, extreme overclockers should move on from top hardware to modest but overclockable integrated graphics from AMD?


In order to evaluate motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock our testbed processor to a maximum stable level. We use all features of the motherboard in this test, including raising CPU voltage and adjusting multipliers and frequencies of system and peripheral buses, if necessary. But if, for example, reducing Hyper-Transport frequency does not improve overclocking, we leave the default multiplier. Memory is set to the standard frequency for a given memory module (multiplier correction), if a manufacturer does not publish any ways to improve memory overclocking. Otherwise, we analyze their efficiency as well. In order to evaluate stability of the overclocked system, we load Windows XP and run WinRAR performance test for 10 minutes (Tools -- Benchmark and hardware test). As overclocking potential is an individual property of a given motherboard sample to some degree, we don't set the task to determine overclocking potential to within a single MHz. In practice, we are to find out whether CPU overclocking will be limited by a motherboard as well as to evaluate its behavior in non-standard modes, including automatic restoration of a correct frequency after a failed overclocking attempt, etc.

  Clock, MHz FSB Clock, MHz Core voltage (according to system monitoring in BIOS), V HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz
Athlon 64 X2 4000+ (Windsor, 2.0 GHz, TDP=89 W) 3150 315 1.57 1260 (x4)

This result is close to the maximum value for this CPU, so the motherboard is full of pleasant surprises.

We are also pleased that the graphics core can be overclocked two-fold: from 500 MHz to 1000 MHz, although it all depends on a given sample rather than on a motherboard model. However, we've come across many posts boasting of even higher overclocking results. To all appearances, our result won't break any records. And if we take into account the option to raise voltages, BIOS settings offered by this motherboard do not look like just a marketing move.

AMD 780G is really unique. Overclocking GPUs integrated into chipsets used to be out of the question, especially that high. On the contrary, integrated graphics cores always limited overall overclocking results, when core frequency was increased synchronously with FSB and CPU clock rates. In this case such overclocking is possible even without raising chipset voltage, and the heat sink remains just warm.


Testbed configuration

  • Processors: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+
  • Memory: 2 x 1 GB Kingston KHX7200D2K2/1G (DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15)
  • Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD 3870, 512 MB GDDR3
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
  • PSU: Chieftec CFT-560-A12C
  • OS: Windows XP SP2.

We compared our motherboard under review with both previously tested full-size motherboards on this chipset: ECS A780GM-A and ASUS M3A-H/HDMI.

Test Integrated graphics Discrete graphics
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 2:44 2:41 2:47 2:40 2:41 2:41
MPEG4 (DivX) encoding, min:sec 4:40 4:36 4:41 4:36 4:36 4:34
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480), fps 54.5 55.3 55.1 59.4 58.1 58.0
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024x768), fps 37.5 37.8 38.1 56.4 54.9 54.9
Doom3 (Low@640x480), fps 58.7 59.3 59.9 137.4 138.4 137.0
Doom3 (High@1024x768), fps 29.2 29.4 29.5 135.0 135.1 134.8

There are practically no performance differences, so your choice of a motherboard depends solely on their functionality, design, and prices.


This motherboard has produced a positive impression on us -- it's rigged very well (it's even equipped with FireWire, which is a rare feature in relatively inexpensive full-size motherboards), it has an excellent overclocking potential and a relatively powerful voltage regulator (supporting processors with TDP up to 125 W, which is also important for overclocking). In our opinion, Gigabyte's decision to offer users an unexpected feature for such a motherboard -- CrossFire -- deserves a corresponding award.

Note that after the arrival of Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 graphics cards, CrossFire became more attractive. Perhaps, its popularity reached the peak (it's no secret that SLI has used to be more popular, but current top GeForce cards are too hot and voracious, and Mid-End cards are outperformed by the new Radeons). As for the asymmetric configuration of graphics ports, four PCI Express lanes for the second graphics card look like an acceptable compromise -- we deal with PCI Express 2.0 here, that is its throughput equals that of eight PCI Express 1.1 lanes, which was recently considered a sufficient solution even for gaming cards. However, we are planning to publish a separate article with the performance analysis of CrossFire on various platforms with the above-mentioned graphics cards, because it's a very interesting topic.

Motherboard provided by the manufacturer.
ATI Radeon HD 3870 provided by PowerColor.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, design

Page 2: Interfaces, package, controllers

Page 3: BIOS, overclocking, performance

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