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AMD 785G Motherboard Roundup

Eight solutions compared.

March 5, 2010



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Since we have already described the AMD 785G chipset in detail in the corresponding review, we'll just briefly introduce it this time. This chipset is positioned between the previously announced 780G and 790GX. It has the same clock rate as 780G, but supports the newer DirectX 10.1. It also supports hardware transcoding, for example, in MediaShow Espresso or the proprietary AVIVO encoder, part of ATI Catalyst drivers. According to our tests, this feature is quite efficient, doubling the performance in typical transcoding tasks. Especially, if you have a lower-end dual-core CPU, like an Athlon II X2, X3 or X4 model priced below $100.

As we suspected, the rollout of this chipset allowed to expand the family of integrated Socket AM3 motherboards significantly. Manufacturers like to produce motherboards on new chipset. Though, of course, you can't say that 780G, and particularly 790GX, are old. These two are a quite good foundation for new DDR3 motherboards. Anyway, it's interesting that a few DDR2 motherboards have been made based on 785G, including a very original one from ASUS.

We have tested most motherboards on this chipset, so it's time for a summary roundup

Motherboards:

Specifications:


Motherboard Biostar TA785GE-128M Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H MSI 785GM-E65 ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
Form-factor mATX ATX mATX mATX
Supported CPUs AM2+/AM3, up to 125W TDP AM3, up to 140W TDP AM3, up to 140W TDP AM3, up to 125W TDP
Supported RAM DDR2 DDR3 DDR3 DDR3
Video interfaces DVI, VGA DVI, VGA, HDMI DVI, VGA, HDMI DVI, VGA, HDMI
SidePort memory 128MB, DDR2-1000 - 128MB, DDR3-1333 128MB, DDR3-1333
Expansion slots 1 x PCIe x16, 2 x PCI 2 x PCIe x16 (CF x16 + x4), 2 x PCI, 3 x PCIe x1 1 x PCIe x16, 2 x PCI, 1 x PCIe x1 1 x PCIe x16, 2 x PCI, 1 x PCIe x1
SATA/eSATA 6/0 6/0 5/1 5/1
USB (rear panel/aux.) 4/6 6/6 6/6 4/6
FireWire (rear panel/aux.) 0/0 1/2 1/1 0/0
Audio codec ALC662 ALC889A ALC889 ALC888
Optical S/PDIF Out - + + +

Motherboard ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO ECS A785GM-M ASUS M4A785G HTPC/RC
Form-factor ATX ATX mATX mATX
Supported CPUs AM3, up to 140W TDP AM3, up to 140W TDP AM3, up to 140W TDP AM2+/AM3, up to 125W TDP
Supported RAM DDR3 DDR3 DDR3 DDR2
Video interfaces DVI, VGA, HDMI DVI, VGA, HDMI DVI, VGA, HDMI DVI, VGA, HDMI
SidePort memory 128MB, DDR3-1333 128MB, DDR3-1333 - -
Expansion slots 3 x PCIe x16 (CF x8 + x8), 2 x PCI, 1 x PCIe x1 3 x PCIe x16 (CF x16 + x4), 2 x PCI, 1 x PCIe x1 1 x PCIe x16, 1 x PCI, 2 x PCIe x1 1 x PCIe x16, 1 x PCI, 2 x PCIe x1
SATA/eSATA 6(5)/0(1) 5/1 6/2 5/1
USB (rear panel/aux.) 6/6 6/6 6/6 4/6
FireWire (rear panel/aux.) 1/1 1/1 1/1 1/1
Audio codec ALC888 VT1708S ALC888S VT2020
Optical S/PDIF Out + + + +

Speaking of typical features, note three primary video outputs, traditional for modern integrated products from AMD. Just the cheapest model from Biostar only has DVI and VGA.

Similar to motherboards on 780G and 790GX, these boards can output video to two monitors simultaneously. Of digital outputs only one can be used, that is the content output to DVI would be duplicated via HDMI.

Though AMD 785G has no official support for CrossFire, certain manufacturers added this feature to their products by means of reserve lanes, since all of those used in AMD chipsets meet the version 2.0 requirements. So even 4 lanes should be enough for a couple of mid-end graphics cards. ASRock even implemented a symmetrical configuration with 8 lanes per each graphics slot -- by means of a special daughterboard. Like this wasn't enough, they even used the 4 reserve lanes for the third graphics slot! This is mostly found in top chipsets like AMD 790FX.



Quite a lot of motherboards have own video buffers. This boosts performance further, especially in video decoding tasks. This is a plus, comparing to motherboards based on 780G. Only a few of those had own memory -- more like an exception.

Moreover, many of these motherboards have solid power circuitry, easily supporting even 140W TDP CPUs. Of course, it doesn't mean that people install such processors into such motherboards a lot, but this reserve can be useful in overclocking. Besides, the reliability and life cycle are also better. We must say that it's probably the first time that mainstream mATX motherboards got such serious power circuitry, often is on a par with that of full-size products. The board from MSI also features a cooler too powerful for such an energy-efficient chipset. This increased the price, so the niche, as well as the target audience, for such a product is still questionable.



It's good that manufacturers do not treat eSATA as auxillary exotics anymore. Really, such hard drives are quite popular these days. Since the chipset has six SATA ports, it's only logical to make at least of those external. It's also too early to write off FireWire, because many users still have video cameras, sound cards and other devices with this interface. Of all the reviewed motherboards, the one from ECS surprisingly offers the richest selection of interfaces. Something that hasn't happened often before.



Speaking of bundles, note ASUS M4A785G HTPC/RC, aimed at home theaters. The motherboard has a high-quality audio codec, and even a remote control.




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