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Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P Motherboard

High functionality for an average budget.

June 25, 2009



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AMD 790X is less popular than its more functional modification 790FX, which allows to install up to four graphics cards, and the 770 chipset, limited to a single graphics port. Even though it's two graphics cards that is the usual CrossFire configuration. So motherboards with two graphics ports are the most popular choice in gaming systems (on the other hand, the second port is often regarded as a reserve for upgrades, and only one graphics card is installed at first).

The reason for this situation is the 790GX chipset with similar functionality, which supports CrossFire, plus it can boast of a very good integrated graphics system. However, if you know for sure that you will install a graphics card, a discrete chipset with several graphics ports is a more adequate choice, and such users may prefer AMD 790X. Gigabyte caters for such users as well, as this motherboard will be the fifth product with this chipset from this manufacturer. All previous models were designed for Socket AM2+, and this one supports AM3 and DDR3 already. By the way, this support is indicated by the letter 'T' in the index. If you are not sure that you need DDR3 memory, or you want to buy a processor that does not support this memory type, you may take a look at the identical motherboard for Socket AM2+ -- the MA790X-UD4P motherboard with DDR2 support.

Design





This motherboard has a praiseworthy layout, its arrangement of ports and slots is optimal for a full-size motherboard with a discrete chipset. It may seem that the motherboard lacks eSATA ports at first glance, as there are no such ports on the rear panel. However, it's just a 'misunderstanding' -- the bundle includes a bracket with two eSATA ports to be plugged to the internal ports (with vertical connectors, supported by an additional controller, so the chipset-based ports are always available). Like most Mid- and Hi-End models from Gigabyte, this motherboard has two BIOS chips: a primary chip and a backup one that safeguards users against flashing failures.



A cooling system on this board is of the classic type for modern motherboards from Gigabyte with AMD 790 chipsets, it's designed for overclockers and hard-driving users. It's a really optimal solution to connect heatsinks on Northbridge and VRM with a heat pipe, because it lets any CPU cooler take part in indirect ventilation of this system regardless of its onboard orientation. It's not a mandatory feature for nominal frequencies, but it comes in handy when you need higher overclocking stability.



The onboard voltage regulator is designed to comply with the well known Ultra Durable canons, their ultimatistic version. Each phase contains two modern Low RDS (on) MOSFETs, chokes with ferrite cores, as well as 11 x 820 uF and 4 x 270 uF solid capacitors from leading Japanese manufacturers. It supports processors with TDP up to 140 W. When the Easy Energy Saver technology is enabled, the number of phases used is determined dynamically depending on the load. Unfortunately, the EES utility is not stable, and its operation depends on a given BIOS version.

The motherboard has a proprietary feature typical of many modern models from Gigabyte: twice as thick copper layers in power and ground circuits, which contributes to even heat distribution in the first place. Thicker layers may let pass higher currents with lower losses, which also reduces operating temperatures and will benefit CPUs overclocked with raised voltage. Gigabyte notes that the strongest effect from this technology is demonstrated with passive and liquid cooling systems that do not ventilate near-socket components. VRM usually grew very hot in this case, but now it can channel the heat away more effectively at least to the PCB, which will distribute it across it surface and will dissipate it.



We like the bundle very much. Along with the full set of cables that includes four SATA ones with metal latches, the box also contains an eSATA set with a bracket for two ports and a power connector as well as cables (for power and data) for one external device.



As we already mentioned, Gigabyte has recently started to bundle its products with nice proprietary and third-party utilities. EasyTune for system monitoring, fan speed control, etc; Face-Wizard for BIOS splash screen editing; Q-Share for convenient file sharing in a local area network; @BIOS to download the latest BIOS version at the Gigabyte server and flash it; and Gigabyte Online Manager for remote monitoring of the configuration. Third-party utilities include Norton Internet Security, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, COREL MediaOne, and Roxio Buzz. It's enough to give our Excellent Package award to this motherboard.


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