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Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P Motherboard

Company's top solution.

December 21, 2009



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Features



The motherboard is based on the AMD 790FX chipset (AMD 790X Northbridge and SB750 Southbridge). Only Socket AM3 processors are supported, the list is available at the official website. The board supports up to 16 GB of DDR3-1066/1333/1600 memory. There are ten internal SATA/300 ports for storage devices. Six of them are connected to the chipset controller. Hard drives plugged to these ports can form RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5. Another four SATA/300 ports are based on two additional controllers. These drives can form RAID 0 and 1, and two ports can be installed on the rear panel as eSATA ports. There is also a single chipset-based IDE channel supporting two PATA/133 drives.

The board also has the following additional controllers:

  • Integrated audio based on the Realtek ALC889A 8-channel HDA codec, optical and digital S/PDIF outputs on the rear panel, Dolby Home Theater support.
  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet controllers (Realtek 8111C, PCIEx1) supporting link aggregation (requires a hub or a switch supporting IEEE 802.3ad Link Aggregation).
  • FireWire (TI TSB43AB23, PCI) supporting three IEEE 1394a ports, two on the rear panel with 4- and 6-pin connectors.
  • SATA2 (integrated RAID controller and two JMicron JM322 controllers, PCIEx1) supporting four SATA/300 ports.
  • System monitoring (ITE IT8720F), fully automatic fan speed control in BIOS (CPU and system fans) depending of sensor data. Manual control is available via Easy Tune. Speed control is available for 3- and 4-pin fans.

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 (40Hz to 15kHz), dB: +0.01, -0.05 Excellent
Noise level, dB(A): -88.0 Good
Dynamic range, dB(A): 88.4 Good
Total harmonic distortion , %: 0.0033 Very good
Total harmonic distortion + noise, dB(A): -81.6 Good
Intermodulation distortion + noise, %: 0.011 Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB: -90.6 Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %: 0.011 Very good

General performance: Very good.

The typically high quality for this codec, one of the most advanced from Realtek. Also note that there are S/PDIF outputs of both types on the rear panel.

Overclocking

Testbeds:

  • 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

Benchmarks:

  • 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 o/c settings Availability Notes
Memory timings +  
Memory frequency + DDR3-800 to DDR3-1600
HT bus frequency (multiplier) +  
CPU reference frequency + 200-500 MHz
CPU multiplier + Cores and CPU NB
Advanced Clock Calibration + Auto, -12% to +12% (for each core), Hybrid Firmware
Core voltage + -0.600 to +0.600 V (separately for CPU and CPU NB)
2.50--3.10 V (CPU PLL)
Memory voltage + +0.050 to +0.750 V
Chipset voltage + +0.1 to +0.3 V (separately for North and South bridges)

The CPU voltage adjustment range, as well as some other BIOS parameters, depend on the given processor. We publish results for our Phenom II X4 810. We used BIOS F7. As usual with Gigabyte motherboards, you can open full settings by pressing Ctrl+F1 in the main BIOS Setup menu.

It's an optimal choice of overclocking settings, including a very useful parameter to control CPU PLL voltage: raising voltage by several tenths of a Volt comes in handy for overclocking using the reference frequency. All necessary parameters are conveniently grouped in one section, which also displays resulting frequencies and voltages, which will be used after reboot. Automatic restoration of default parameters works like a charm. Users are given a traditional choice: to startup with standard parameters or load BIOS settings from the previous good start, or open BIOS to adjust current parameters that caused the problem. BIOS of top motherboards from Gigabyte is probably the most convenient solution from the point of view of overclocking experiments. Except for one strange shortcoming in this model: we haven't found an option to save user profiles. This is not critical, considering that automatics works well, of course, but still.


CPU 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 Notes
Phenom II X3 720 (2.8 GHz) 3700 200 (x18.5) 1.45/1.30 2600 (x13) 2000 (x10) DDR3-1333 Increased multipliers (CPU core and CPU NB)
Phenom II X4 810 (2.6 GHz) 3796 292 (x13) 1.48/1.30 2628 (x9) 1168 (x4) DDR3-1168 Increased reference clock and reduced CPU NB, HT multipliers
Phenom II X4 965 (3.4 GHz), Revision C2 3800 200 (x19) 1.50/1.30 2600 (x13) 2000 (x10) DDR3-1333 Increased multipliers (CPU core and CPU NB)
Phenom II X4 965 (3.4 GHz), Revision C3 4100 200 (x21) 1.55/1.30 2600 (x13) 2000 (x10) DDR3-1333 Increased multipliers (CPU core and CPU NB)

We decided to use this motherboard to compare overclocking potentials of Phenom II X4 965 processors - old (C2) and new (ะก3) revisions. We already noticed that the stable maximum frequency for practically all processors (Revision C2) working in Windows 64-bit (no matter XP or Vista) was 3800 MHz, higher results could be obtained only in 32-bit versions. The new revision overcomes this restriction.

Another interesting fact: overclocking with the reference clock (in case of the X4 810) is magically stabilized with the x4 multiplier for the HT bus. In case of x5, the motherboard starts up every other time. Higher multipliers make automatics fail. This is especially true about motherboards from Gigabyte and MSI. However, as reducing HT frequency to 1000 MHz practically doesn't affect performance, you should just keep it in mind.

Performance and power saving

We compared our motherboard under review with a lower ranking model from Gigabyte: MA790XT-UD4P with AMD 790X.


Test Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:17 1:16
x264 encoding, min:sec 1:26 1:26
Crysis (High@1280x1024), fps 42 40
FarCry 2 (VeryHigh@1680x1050), fps 55.0 53.8
World in Conflict (VeryHigh@1680x1050), fps 29 28

Computing tests demonstrate nearly equal results. Formally, the higher-end model performs better in games.

Enclosure power consumption

We measured power consumption with the built-in wattmeter.


Phenom II X4 810 + Radeon HD4850 Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 96 (EES Off)
84 (EES On)
86 (EES Off)
74 (EES On)
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 101 98
Far Cry 2, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 149-202 158-197

The higher-end model is consumes more in the idle mode. In particular, the result it demonstrates with the dynamic VRM phase control enabled is the same as that of the other model with EES disabled. However, the absolute difference is not that big. And these motherboards demonstrate similar results under load, which are typical values for this configuration.

Conclusions

This is a classic top model, as its status is maintained primarily by the lavish set of peripheral interfaces. Indeed, one can hardly add anything else to the abundance of interfaces on the rear panel (including the eSATA bracket). This motherboard also comes up to overclocking expectations, providing enough BIOS settings, as well as the praiseworthy stability of the overclocked system.

ATI RADEON HD4850 provided by HIS, DDR3-1333 memory modules provided by Apacer


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