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Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P Motherboard

High functionality for an average budget.

June 25, 2009



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Features



The motherboard is based on the AMD 790X chipset (AMD 790X Northbridge and SB750 Southbridge). Only Socket AM3 processors are supported, their list is published on the official website. It's possible to install up to 16 GB of DDR3-1066/1333/1600 memory. There are eight 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, and 0+1. Another two SATA/300 ports are based on an additional controller. They can be installed on the rear panel as eSATA ports on a bundled bracket. These hard drives can form RAID 0 and 1. Just like all motherboards with modern chipsets for the AMD platform, this model has a single chipset-based IDE channel supporting two PATA/133 drives.

The board also has the following additional controllers:

  • Integrated audio (8-channel HDA codec Realtek ALC889A), optical and digital S/PDIF Outs on the rear panel, Dolby Home Theater.
  • Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek 8111C, PCIEx1) 10/100/1000 Mbps.
  • FireWire (TI TSB43AB23, PCI) supporting three IEEE 1394a ports: two of them are installed on the rear panel as 4- and 6-pin connectors.
  • SATA2 (remarked JMicron JM322, PCIEx1) supporting two SATA/300 ports; both can be installed as eSATA on the bundled bracket.
  • System monitoring (ITE IT8720F), fully automatic fan speed control in BIOS (CPU and system fans) depending of their sensor readings. 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 (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB: +0.03, -0.05 Excellent
Noise level, dB (A): -83.6 Good
Dynamic range, dB (A): 83.7 Good
THD, %: 0.0058 Very good
Harmonic distortion + noise, dB(A): -79.3 Average
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %: 0.015 Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB: -89.9 Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %: 0.016 Very good

General performance: Very good.

Average quality: we saw better and worse results in motherboards with the same codec. But the situation is significantly smoother in case of subjective audition. Not because integrated codecs have reached some special heights, they have just similar audio quality. At least when they don't suffer from apparent problems, such as higher noise or interference levels. In this case we can say that the test has been passed. If you want higher audio quality without installing a sound card, you may use SPDIF Outs of both types on the rear panel.

Overclocking

Testbeds:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 810
  • RAM: 2 x Apacer DDR3-1333 CL9 (4 ++, DDR3-1333, 9-9-9-24-1T)
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200rpm)
  • Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD4850, 512MB 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 12801024 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.


Overclocking settings in BIOS Availability Notes
Memory timings +  
Memory frequency + DDR3-800 - DDR3-1600
HT bus frequency (multiplier) +  
CPU reference frequency + 200 - 500 MHz
CPU multiplier + Cores and CPU NB
Core voltage + -0.600 - +0.600 V (CPU and CPU NB separately)
-0.600 - +0.600 V
Memory voltage + +0.050 - +0.750 V
Chipset voltage + +0.1 - +0.3 V (Northbridge and Southbridge separately)

Adjustment range of CPU voltage as well as some other parameters in BIOS depend on a given processor. We publish results for our Phenom II X4 810. We used BIOS F4A. As usual with Gigabyte motherboards, you can open full settings by pressing Ctrl+F1 in the main BIOS Setup menu.

It's an optimal range of overclocking settings. All necessary parameters are conveniently grouped in one section. When you change any setting, you immediately see resulting frequencies and voltages. Automatic restoration of default settings or last good settings works like a charm. You can also look into BIOS to adjust parameters.


  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) 3705 285 (x13) 1.43/1.30 2556 (x9) 1995 (x7) DDR3-1519 Increased reference clock and reduced CPU NB/HT multipliers

The results are standard. On one hand, no records are broken for our processors. On the other hand, these are smooth results, no drops in any frequency ranges. That is this motherboard is fit for moderate overclocking with multipliers or the reference frequency.

Performance and power saving

We decided to compare our motherboard under review with the previously tested Gigabyte MA770-UD3 based on AMD 770.


Test Gigabyte MA770-UD3 Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:19 2:18
x264 encoding, min:sec 1:28 1:26
Crysis (High@1024x768), fps 42 42
Crysis (High@1280x1024), fps 40 40
FarCry 2 (Highest@1680x1050), fps 55.4 53.8
Devil May Cry 4 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 85 86

Power consumption (entire system unit)


Phenom II X4 810 + Radeon HD4850 Gigabyte MA770-UD3 Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P
Text editing, W (Cool'n'Quiet ON) 82-86 86 (EES Off)
74 (EES On)
Text editing, W (Cool'n'Quiet OFF) 100 98
Playing FarCry 2 (Cool'n'Quiet OFF), W 177-213 158-197

The top model benefits from power saving functions enabled in Easy Energy Saver along with the natural decrease in power consumption due to lower CPU frequency and voltage (which can be also done in Cool'n'Quiet and with third-party utilities). But in our case this utility worked in a strange way. In particular, it did not measure the current power consumption. We should mention noticeably lower power consumption under load, perhaps better power circuits deal with higher currents more efficiently.

Conclusions

This motherboard is a good choice for home gaming computers with rich functions, powerful processors and graphics cards (probably even two cards). Two graphics ports are sufficient in most cases. What concerns other parameters, including VRM, this motherboard is no worse than top models in principal matters. We are pleased that Gigabyte does not force its users to upgrade to DDR3, as the company also offers the same motherboard with DDR2 support.


The motherboard provided by the manufacturer.

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