iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H Motherboard

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System monitoring (ITE IT8718F-S, BIOS Setup)

  • Voltages of a processor, memory (1.8 V), +3.3 V and +12 V
  • RPM of four fans
  • CPU and system temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)
  • Smart FAN Control -- fully automatic control of fan speed (CPU and two system fans) depending of their sensor readings. Manual control is available via Easy Tune. Two modes are supported for the CPU fan -- changing voltage (suits both 3-pin and 4-pin fans) and more accurate fan speed control using the Power Management pin (4-pin fans only). In our tests fan speed was controlled continuously, CPU temperature was maintained at 32°C, system temperature -- at 34°C

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket AM2, Socket AM2+ compatible, 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 is available if memory slots are filled symmetrically, the list of compatible devices is published on the web site)
  • 2 x PCIEx16 2.0 (the first slot always operates in x16 mode, the second works as x1 by default; when the second graphics card is installed, they are automatically reconfigured to x8+x8)
  • 3 x PCIEx1 2.0
  • 2 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins) and 8-pin EPS12V to power a processor
  • 1 x FDD
  • IDE (Parallel ATA) for two ATA133 devices -- chipset-based
  • 6 x SATA II (Serial ATA II) for six SATA300 devices, chipset-based, connected drives can form RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5
  • 4 connectors for rear panel brackets with 8 x USB
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 2 additional FireWire ports
  • 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
  • Connector for an LPT port
  • Connector for a COM port
  • Connector for a Chassis Intrusion sensor
  • Four fan headers supporting fan speed monitoring and automatic control. CPU and system fan headers support 4-pin fans (backward compatible with 3-pin models)

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)

  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • VGA, DVI-D
  • HDMI
  • S/PDIF-Out (optical)
  • 2 x USB, 1 x FireWire 400 (6-pin)
  • 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 familiar light-gray colors;
  • Documentation: User Manual in English and an abridged Install Guide in 25 languages
  • Cables: 4 x SATA, 1 x ATA66, 1 x FDD
  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x USB
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers, Gigabyte utilities, and Norton Internet Security 2005 (antivirus and firewall)

The bundle of proprietary utilities includes standard tools to flash BIOS in Windows and download the latest version from the official web site (@BIOS), Face-Wizard to change the bootup image, I-COOL to manage power saving modes, C.O.M. (Corporate Online Manager) to monitor system parameters via LAN, and EasyTune5 Pro for local monitoring of system parameters, overclocking, and SmartFan control (you can choose fan speed from 0% to 100% and threshold temperatures).

Integrated controllers

  • Audio, based on the chipset support for High Definition Audio and Realtek ALC889A codec, 7.1 channel audio, Dolby Home Theater, separate HDA stereo output on the front panel, and S/PDIF In/Out jacks
  • Network, based on PCIE controller Realtek 8111C, supporting 10/100/1000 Mbps
  • FireWire 400 controller, based on Texas Instruments TSB43AB23, supporting three ports

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): -76.6 Average
Dynamic range, dB (A): 76.5 Average
THD, %: 0.018 Good
THD + Noise, %: -70.4 Average
IMD + Noise, %: 0.045 Good
Channel crosstalk, dB: -81.0 Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %: 0.047 Good

General performance: Good. We've overpraised Gigabyte engineers for the progress they made in integrated audio with advanced audio codecs and high-quality implementation. We've come across several motherboards already, integrated audio quality of which is lower than Gigabyte standards. In this case, there are no subjective reasons to complain, we haven't heard any noticeable distortions. And relatively low results are demonstrated in tests that have to do with the dynamic range, which is not very critical by ear. It goes without saying that users are gradually migrating to various digital connections (via HDMI, S/PDIF). However, it does not mean that the analog section should have less attention paid to.

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)
  • Dual BIOS -- loading a backup BIOS version in case of emergency from the second chip, where the current BIOS version is recorded automatically before updating the main BIOS version with Q-Flash or Windows @BIOS
  • 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
  • Support for Dolby Home Theater, when your 'home theater' is plugged to the on-board S/PDIF Out

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Page 1: Introduction, design

Page 2: Interfaces, package, controllers

Page 3: BIOS, performance, conclusions

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