Chipsets with integrated graphics from AMD are definitely an inspiration for motherboard manufacturers, who try new exotic combinations of formats and bundles. With the rollout of 780G we noticed expansion of microATX motherboards, relatively inexpensive, their functionality looking practically complete. Their sets of peripheral interfaces on the rear panel are much better than on many full-size models. They allow to plug two monitors and offer basic 3D acceleration, sufficient for most quiet and casual games. This combination of features apparently satisfies a lot of home users, so these motherboards are quite successful. Gigabyte MA78GM-UD2H is a typical example.
Later on, when AMD 790GX appeared, we got used to full-size ATX motherboards with two graphics ports for CrossFire, substantial power supply systems, and massive heatsinks. Besides, they had a couple of integrated video outputs. For example, MSI DKA790GX or ASUS M4A78T-E, and most other motherboards on this chipset. On one hand, market positions become a little blurry because of this universality: gamers, who consider installing two graphics cards at least in future, will certainly install one card at once, so why do they need integrated graphics? However, it turns out that a lot of users want to have integrated graphics in their sleeve -- it will come in handy, when you upgrade your graphics card, which happens more often with active gamers than platform upgrades. And this is a perfect situation for users, who had to buy motherboards with a discrete chipset and supplement them with the cheapest graphics cards, because they need expandability and overclocking potential of full-size motherboards, but don't want games. Along with saving the budget (money for a graphics card can be spent better for other components), users get power efficiency, because even the weakest graphics card consumes much more than the integrated graphics core. So it becomes easier to build a low-noise computer.
Now we are going to examine another interpretation of the chipset with integrated graphics, this time based on 785G. How do you like a microATX motherboard equipped with practically all possible interfaces (as in the first example), but rigged with a cooling system with a shiny heat pipe, a quick overclocking switch right on the board, and other attributes of motherboards from the second paragraph? In other words, it's a compact integrated motherboard, positioned by the manufacturer for enthusiasts and overclockers. We'll see how promising this line will be.
It must be noted that along with the mentioned red block of switches that allow to raise the base clock rate of a CPU (by 10-20%) without entering BIOS Setup, this motherboard has more substantial signs that engineers did not resort to petty economy cuts. Unfortunately, this policy is typical of microATX motherboards. For example, such boards are often cut from one side to save on PCB. In this case, however, we can see that the board is really of the sterling microATX format, so it's secured well in a PC case. The edge with a power connector does not hang poised in the air. IDE and floppy connectors are placed in the most convenient zone. By the way, owners of old peripheral devices won't be disappointed either -- the motherboard offers connectors for brackets with COM and LPT ports.
However, the main highlight of the motherboard is its target audience -- it can be recommended to those users who want a promising extensible product in the first place. Engineers installed the entire set of up-to-date peripheral interfaces on the rear panel (6 x USB, FireWire, eSATA, optical S/PDIF Out) plus a traditional combo of graphics ports (VGA+DVI+HDMI). What concerns installation of a discrete graphics card, it won't be a problem even with a bulky model. That is it won't interfere with installation of other components, because SATA ports behind the graphics slot occupy corner locations.
The onboard cooling system features an imposing heatsink on MOSFETs in the VRM circuit, which may be very useful in case of overclocking top CPU models. The 785G Northbridge itself does not need any cooling excesses, unless a user decides to overclock the graphics core and increase its voltage. Nevertheless, this assembly with a heat pipe looks useful for spreading the heat and so for indirect cooling of the entire system from a CPU cooler regardless of the airflow direction.
The motherboard is equipped with a video buffer: 128MB Elpida J1116BASE-DJ-E DDR3-1333.
The 5-phase switching voltage regulator incorporates four MOSFETs per channel in four channels responsible for supplying power to processor cores and three MOSFETs in a channel catering for CPU NB, ten 820-uF and six 270-uF solid-state capacitors. Considering the installed heatsink, this solution should cope not only with 140-TDP processors, but also with their overclocking.
Interestingly, MSI has another motherboard with a similar name in its product line: 785G-E65. But it's a full-size ATX model. It offers a similar set of ports on the rear panel and similar PCB layout (in the part limited by microATX dimensions). So it may interest those users, who like this motherboard, but who want to have more expansion slots, a couple of available PCI slots in particular regardless of dimensions of the installed graphics card. And those who want to save on a motherboard and are not going to overclock the system, may take a closer look at the 785GM-E51, which mostly differs in a weaker cooling system and no video buffer. However, it also supports processors with TDP=140 W. Can you find ten or at least five differences between the full-size 785GM-E53 and the 785G-E65. We should have gone through the motions to grumble about identical models. But we don't want to do it, because the traditional marketing policy to divide motherboards into different segments implies different peripheral ports on the rear panel, for example. Say, no eSATA in budget models, fewer USB ports. In this case positioning becomes more distinct. However, is it really necessary? Especially considering that the cost difference is measly, while usability suffers greatly. There are many motherboards with minimal functionality based on older chipsets after all.
However, MSI also has a budget microATX motherboard with 785G, which implements only chipset functionality, and its rear panel offers a minimum set of ports. But his model (785GTM-E45) is designed for DDR2 memory. It's most likely intended for those system integrators, who save every cent and wish to boast of a respectable chipset in their specifications. The full-size model for DDR2 memory (785GT-E63) lacks only FireWire, being similar to its DDR3 colleagues in other respects. It also makes sense, because motherboards for DDR2 will soon have nothing to do with economy for individual users, who assemble their computers on their own. On the contrary, such motherboards will be chosen by people, who already own good DDR2 memory kits and who just want to prolong their service life. Such users are usually technically savvy (for example, they are well aware that Phenom II 700 and 900 processors with full cache size can demonstrate excellent results with DDR2, not any lower than with DDR3). Such users may be quite particular about motherboard specs.
However, it's time to get back to the MSI 785GM-E65 review. Several twins of this motherboard do not diminish its originality.
We didn't see anything special about its bundle, which could have been expected from a serious microATX model. There is just one SATA cable with a power converter and an IDE cable.
MSI software includes a windows utility to flash BIOS and Overclocking Center (a counterpart of AMD OverDrive). This motherboard is also bundled with Norton Internet Security.
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