iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Gigabyte MA78GPM-DS2H Motherboard

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System monitoring (ITE IT8718F-S, BIOS Setup)

  • CPU and memory (1.8 V) voltage, +3.3 V, and +12 V
  • RPM of three fans
  • CPU and system temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)
  • Smart FAN Control -- fully automatic speed control for CPU and system fans (manual control is available in Easy Tune utility) depending on readings of corresponding sensors. Two modes are supported -- changing voltage (for 3-pin and 4-pin fans) and more accurate speed control via the Power Management pin (4-pin coolers only). Fan speed was controlled during our tests to maintain CPU temperature at 43°C, system temperature was kept at 38°C.

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket AM2+, officially supports all Phenom, Athlon 64/X2/FX, and Sempron processors for Socket AM2 and Socket AM2+, the list of products, tested for compatibility, is published on the web site)
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 16 GB of DDR2-400/533/667/800/1066, dual-channel mode in case of symmetrically filled slots, the list of compatible devices is published on the web site)
  • 1 x PCIEx16 2.0 for a graphics card
  • 1 x PCIEx1 2.0
  • 2 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins) and 4-pin ATX12V to power a processor
  • 1 x FDD
  • IDE (Parallel ATA) for two ATA133 devices -- "chipset-based"
  • 5 x chipset-based SATA-II (Serial ATA II) for five SATA300 devices, connected disks can form RAID 0, 1, and 0+1
  • 4 connectors for rear panel brackets with 8 x USB
  • Connector for a rear panel bracket with an additional FireWire
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • Connector for a bracket with S/PDIF-In/Out
  • LPT port connector
  • COM port connector
  • Connector for a Chassis Intrusion sensor
  • Three fan headers with rpm control. Two of them are 4-pin headers, backward compatible with 3-pin fans, allowing automatic fan speed control.

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)

Click for the isometric view.

  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • VGA, DVI-D
  • HDMI
  • S/PDIF-Out (optical)
  • 2 x USB, FireWire 400 (6-pin), eSATA II
  • 2 x USB, 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 6 x Analog Audio (Center/Sub, Side-Out, Rear-Out, Line-In, Front-Out, Mic-In).

Package contents

  • Package: a small box of the S-Series design in a light-gray palette
  • Documentation: User Manual in English
  • Cables: 2 x SATA (with convenient metal latches), 1 x ATA66, 1 x FDD
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers, Gigabyte utilities, and Norton Internet Security 2005 (antivirus and firewall).

The set of proprietary utilities includes standard tools to flash BIOS in Windows and search/download the latest BIOS version on the official web site (@BIOS), Face-Wizard to change the boot logo, I-COOL to manage power saving modes, C.O.M. (Corporate Online Manager) to monitor system parameter via LAN, and EasyTune5 Pro for local system monitoring, overclocking (it works with fewer overclocking parameters than AMD OverDrive) and managing SmartFan modes (you can choose fan speed from 0 to 100% and temperature thresholds).

Integrated controllers

  • Audio, based on the chipset support for High Definition Audio and Realtek ALC889A codec, 7.1 channel audio, separate HDA stereo output for the front panel and S/PDIF In/Out
  • SATA-II, supporting 6 x Serial ATA II, RAID 0, 1, and 0+1, as well as an external SATA device
  • Network, based on PCIE controller Realtek 8111C supporting 10/100/1000 MBps
  • FireWire 400, based on the Texas Instrument TSB43AB23 chip, supporting three ports (there are only two ports on the motherboard).

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16 bit 44 kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0.5 and the ESI Juli@ sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB: +0.02, -0.16 Very good
Noise level, dB (A): -75.7 Average
Dynamic range, dB (A): 75.8 Average
THD, %: 0.012 Good
THD + Noise, %: -69.6 Average
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %: 0.042 Good
Channel crosstalk, dB: -76.7 Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %: 0.041 Good

General performance: Good. Not very high results for such a good codec, which performs well in many Gigabyte motherboards. But they can be explained with a relatively low signal level specified in volume levels. It was an unexpected nasty peculiarity of this motherboard. So, users will have to increase the volume of their speakers and suffer from higher noise and distortions. Compared to Gigabyte MA78GM-S2H, qualitative audio results of our motherboard under review are always one step lower.

Proprietary technologies and peculiarities

  • Q-Flash -- flashing BIOS by pressing F8 at startup (BIOS image can be saved on a floppy, flash drive, or a hard drive (but only formatted to FAT/FAT16/FAT32); in this case you don't need to boot up to your operating system, which may be problematic in case your boot sector is damaged)
  • Virtual Dual BIOS -- booting up from a backup BIOS version and then restoring damaged contents of the chip
  • Xpress Recovery 2 -- backing up hard drive partitions and restoring them using a built-in BIOS utility. The difference from the traditional utilities (like Acronis True Image) is that you don't have to boot up from a CD to restore data. But its functions and interface are certainly more unassuming: in particular, you can keep only one backup image.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, design

Page 2: Interfaces, package, controllers

Page 3: BIOS, overclocking, performance

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