Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H Motherboard
A lot of interesting motherboards from various manufacturers were based on AMD 780G, the predecessor of AMD 790GX. However, if there had existed a nomination for the most interesting product range, it would have been Gigabyte to win it. We've tested three motherboards (MA78GM-S2H, MA78GPM-DS2H, and MA78G-DS3H), and awarded two of them. It goes without saying, we couldn't pass the only 790GX-based model from this manufacturer.
All outward signs indicate a 'pre-top' model, its functionality is only insignificantly lower than in models for enthusiasts (DQ6), coming with a relatively affordable price tag. As in most motherboards on this chipset, the graphics ports here are installed at a double distance, so you can install graphics cards with dual-slot cooling systems and still have some clearance between the cards for ventilation. But unfortunately, the board has a traditional SATA port layout, and the second card with a bulky cooling system may thin down the number of available ports to minimum. Besides, connectors for additional USB ports are placed too close to the graphics port, so they may be blocked by elements of non-standard cooling systems installed on both sides of a card (it happens rarely though).
However, if you are satisfied with the integrated graphics core in 790GX (as we found out with our tests, it performs very well), or you want to use only one graphics card (of any dimensions), you will certainly like the design. Absolutely all ports are bordered (so they have to be spaced out more than usual), which wins our sympathy. Besides, USB, FireWire, and COM ports are colored differently and labeled. SATA ports have special grooves to latch cables to (the bundled cables have metal latches, so they won't disconnect accidentally, when you transport your system unit or upgrade some card).
There is almost a full set of ports on the rear panel and a full set of video connectors, we can only complain about the lack of eSATA. The motherboard even comes with an additional bracket. But Gigabyte decided to install a couple of USB ports here (it's OK, but it would have been ideal to install eSATA as well).
The cooling system is one of the most imposing devices we've seen on AMD 790GX-based motherboards. Two efficient plate heat sinks are installed at a straight angle and at an optimal distance from the processor socket. Apparently, temperature of such system hardly surpasses the temperature inside a PC enclosure. However, overclocking may require this efficiency, considering that the integrated graphics core overclocks well as well as a CPU, owing to Advanced Clock Calibration in the new Southbridge. Elpida J1116BASE-DJ-E memory chip (128 MB DDR3-1333) is partially hidden under the heat sink on the Northbridge, but there is no thermal contact between them, which is not even required: it does not grow very hot, and BIOS does not allow to raise its frequency above the nominal value.
The voltage regulator complies with Ultra Durable requirements, set by Gigabyte for motherboards designed for hardcore users: five channels, each equipped with four highly efficient field-effect transistors (and ten transistors marked A2724 U815 and A2726 U821), 9 x 820 uF and 3 x 470 uF solid capacitors from the leading Japanese brands. The board uses only molded chokes, so we heard no unwanted noise from the motherboard during our tests. Motherboard dimensions -- 305x245 mm (standard ATX), nine-screw mount, all edges of the board are fixed.
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