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Gigabyte MA78GPM-DS2H Motherboard

A feature-rich microATX board with 128MB SidePort memory.

September 5, 2008



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Settings


Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper To be more exact, the motherboard has two contacts, which should be closed with a metal object, a screwdriver or a jumper
Award BIOS 6.00PG Allows to disable specific CPU functions + K8 Cool'n'Quiet
Virtualization
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 FSB 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 + 0.1-0.3 V at 0.1 V steps (and similar settings for the SidePort memory chip)
Chipset voltage control + 0.1-0.3 V at 0.1 V steps (for Northbridge and Southbridge)

We used BIOS F1, 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. This motherboard offers everything necessary to raise frequencies and voltages. Only the memory voltage range may be insufficient. But our tests show that modern DDR2 modules often don't need raising voltages, they overclock well at the nominal voltage level owing to the streamlined technology and modern fabrication processes.

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.

Overclocking

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, we expected it considering the on-board voltage regulator. We'd have taken this result for granted in case of an expensive full-size motherboard, but it's a pleasant surprise here. There is one more feature that will please overclockers, especially those who don't practise the scientific approach, but adjust all available settings instead and then try to boot up -- when the system hangs up, the motherboard not only loads default BIOS settings, but also offers a user to restore the last good settings.

The integrated graphics system also overclocked well. We managed to raise core frequency to 950 MHz without raising the voltage, which is almost twice as high as the standard clock rate (500 MHz). Memory was operating as DDR3-1333. No additional cooling was required, even though the heat sink got noticeably warmer. But we still recommend at least to provide ventilation for the chipset heat sink from the CPU cooler. And it's simply a must, if you raise voltages.

Performance

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)
  • Power supply unit: Chieftec CFT-560-A12C
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

In order to evaluate the effect of discrete video, we used results of the recently tested MA78G-DS3H.


Test Integrated graphics Discrete graphics
Gigabyte MA78G-DS3H Gigabyte MA78GPM-DS2H Gigabyte MA78G-DS3H Gigabyte MA78GPM-DS2H
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 2:47 2:44 2:41 2:42
MPEG4 (DivX) encoding, min:sec 4:41 4:37 4:34 4:34
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480), fps 55.1 55.4 58.0 57.9
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024x768), fps 38.1 41.2 54.9 54.9
Doom3 (Low@640x480), fps 59.9 68.9 137.0 134.0
Doom3 (High@1024x768), fps 29.5 35.8 134.8 136.5
FarCry (Low@640x480), fps 137.6 132.4 155.7 147.9
FarCry (High@1024x768), fps 47.3 54.7 111.4 105.0

At first thought, the video buffer installed should have affected results of computing tests in the integrated graphics mode (CPU doesn't have to get distracted to refresh the frame buffer in system memory). Indeed, we noticed a little positive effect. It must be stressed though that it's a synthetic difference -- even the most sensitive applications, like archivers and encoders, show the difference of just several percents.

What concerns gaming tests, improvements are more noticeable here. But don't expect that the video buffer will open new graphics quality levels or resolutions, which used to be too slow without it. At least in the nominal mode. It just makes available modes more comfortable.

However, we cannot ignore the overclocking capacity of the integrated graphics system, as it may extend comfortable gaming modes. We decided to try Company of Heroes and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. So we have selected practically all possible graphics quality settings (you can judge settings and graphics quality on the screenshots, click them to open images of the original size).

Company of Heroes



S.T.A.L.K.E.R.



We've got the following performance test results:


Test Nominal clock (500/1066 MHz) Overclocked (950/1333 MHz)
average fps min fps average fps min fps
Company of Heroes (800x600), fps 40.6 20.0 57.5 30.2
Company of Heroes (1024x768), fps 28.1 13.8 40.7 22.6
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (800x600), fps 68.0 22.5 91.9 24.2
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (1024x768), fps 46.0 18.2 63.2 18.2

Indeed, overclocking yields good results here, you may often choose a higher resolution or significantly increase graphics quality. I repeat that we reached such overclocking results without raising voltage. Besides, it's possible without additional cooling for the chipset.

Conclusions

Success of the MA78GM-S2H universal microATX motherboard apparently inspired Gigabyte engineers to a more daring experiment, a more feature-rich motherboard. While the video buffer does not increase the prime cost much, the voltage regulator does. Nevertheless, we are sure that users will be interested in this original motherboard.



However, in the course of our tests we got an answer to the question why video buffers are not used in all motherboards. Perhaps, manufacturers decided not to make their products more expensive, because performance gains in the nominal mode are not very high, while almost all motherboards based on the AMD 780G chipsets support GPU overclocking. So if you are interested in raising 3D performance, you may use this feature. Besides, characteristics of competing chipsets are weaker. So AMD can compete only with itself in this segment. That's why motherboard manufacturers are not motivated to squeeze all chipset potential with any available tools.

However, the above-said does not at all belittles Gigabyte engineers' services, who decided to implement all features this chipset has to offer.


Motherboard provided by Gigabyte.
ATI Radeon HD 3870 card 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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