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AMD 785G Motherboard Roundup

Eight solutions compared.

March 5, 2010



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Performance

The detailed tests are also described in the baseline review.

Testbeds:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 810
  • RAM: 2 x 2GB Apacer DDR3-1333 CL9 9-9-9-24-1T for Socket AM3 boards; 2 x 2GB GoodRAM PRO DDR2-1066 CL5 5-5-5-15-2T for Socket AM2+ boards
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200rpm)
  • Graphics card: ATI RADEON HD4850, 512 MB 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 1280x1024 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.


Int. graphics Biostar TA785GE-128M Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H MSI 785GM-E65 ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:20 2:18 2:17 2:28
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:16 1:15 1:15 1:17
Crysis (Low @ 1024x768), fps 28 27 28 28
World in Conflict (Low @ 1680x1050), fps 24 23 24 24
Far Cry 2 (Low @ 1280x720), fps 28.3 28.0 28.5 28.0
HDPlay (DXVA Off/On), CPU load 30%/3% 41%/10% 29%/3% 30%/3%

Int. graphics ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO ECS A785GM-M ASUS M4A785G HTPC/RC
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:26 2:21 2:18 2:19
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:17 1:15 1:15 1:15
Crysis (Low @ 1024x768), fps 28 28 27 27
World in Conflict (Low @ 1680x1050), fps 25 25 22 23
Far Cry 2 (Low @ 1280x720), fps 28.2 28.7 24.0 26.2
HDPlay (DXVA Off/On), CPU load 30%/3% 29%/3% 39%/11% 38%/11%

The most noticeable difference are introduced by the 7-Zip archiver, the most sensitive to operation modes. These can be explained by different algorithms for determining secondary memory timings. The primary timings are set to those recommended for the memory kits we use in our tests: 9-9-9-24-1T for DDR3-1333 and 5-5-5-15-2T for DDR2-1066. Typically, there is almost no difference between memory type (DDR2 or DDR3). One reason is that DDR3 timings are not the best, while the DDR2 timings are the best possible. However, the motherboard itself has a certain effect as well. For example, the motherboard from ASRock, featuring mediocre memory modes, performs worse with DDR3 memory than other motherboards do with both DDR3 nad DDR2. Again, the effect of memory type is not significant.

The results of the HD video decoding test can be easily divided into two groups: 30% and 40% load. The former has motherboards with video buffers, the latter has those without it.


Radeon HD4850 Biostar TA785GE-128M Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H MSI 785GM-E65 ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:15 2:14 2:16 2:24
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:14 1:14 1:15 1:17
Crysis (High @ 1280x1024), fps 41 41 41 42
World in Conflict (Very High @ 1680x1050), fps 29 29 30 29

Radeon HD4850 ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO ECS A785GM-M ASUS M4A785G HTPC/RC
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 2:24 2:15 2:17 2:14
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:17 1:15 1:15 1:14
Crysis (High @ 1280x1024), fps 41 42 41 41
World in Conflict (Very High @ 1680x1050), fps 29 30 29 29

No need to expect surprises from discrete graphics performance tests. Formally, we can just state that both motherboards from ASRock lag behind in the most sensitive computing tests.

Enclosure power consumption

We measured power consumption with the wattmeter built into the PSU, with the Phenom II X4 810 CPU.


Int. graphics Biostar TA785GE-128M Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H MSI 785GM-E65 ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 20 (GP On) / 32 (GP Off) 26 10 20
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 32 43 30 42
FarCry 2, W 61-78 59-85 39-56 65-77

Int. graphics ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO ECS A785GM-M ASUS M4A785G HTPC/RC
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 30 25 13 25
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 45 42 25 42
FarCry 2, W 65-82 55-90 35-60 60-80

The most noticeable results are those of the MSI and ECS motherboards, which, obviously, have the best means for reducing idle power consumption. This difference may seem significant, if you are keen on saving power. But remember that regular PSUs often have very low efficiency at low load, so the difference in power actually consumed from your wall outlet may be considerably negated. In other words, if you want to actually save power, get the most efficient PSU.

The Biostar motherboard is the only one in this group that has official support for disabling inactive voltage stabilizer phases dynamically. However, this only helps to become the second, with the idle power consumption of about 20W.


Radeon HD4850 Biostar TA785GE-128M Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H MSI 785GM-E65 ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 83 (GP On) / 88 (GP Off) 76 69 73
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 95 89 81 96
FarCry 2, W 167-208 156-201 134-189 153-201

Radeon HD4850 ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO ECS A785GM-M ASUS M4A785G HTPC/RC
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W 84 81 67 67
Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W 96 84 79 96
FarCry 2, W 149-177 161-185 132-196 161-197

The discrete graphics tests indicate the leaders are the same, but the worst and the best results are closer.

Overclocking


Radeon HD4850 Biostar TA785GE-128M Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H MSI 785GM-E65 ASRock M3A785GMH/128M
AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition 2.8 GHz 3700* 3618 3800 3700
AMD Phenom II X4 810 2.6 GHz 3769* 3419 3640 3705
Can store BIOS profiles + - + +
Emergency recovery of BIOS defaults + + +(-) -

Radeon HD4850 ASRock M3A785GXH/128M ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO ECS A785GM-M ASUS M4A785G HTPC/RC
AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition 2.8 GHz 3700 3700 3600 3600
AMD Phenom II X4 810 2.6 GHz 3705 3770 3380 3250
Can store BIOS profiles + - - -
Emergency recovery of BIOS defaults - + - +

* Only with a discrete graphics card.

Inexpensive integrated motherboards do not win overclocking competitions often. However, there are some exceptions to this rule as well: the result the MSI motherboard achieves with an unlocked CPU is very close to what the same CPU has demonstrated with the best enthusiast motherboards. In its turn, the full-size ASUS overclocks the regular X4 810 processor well.

The general conclusion may sound trivial: all motherboards (except from Biostar's that can only be overclocked if a discrete graphics card is installed) do really good in the most typical tasks -- "moderate overclocking". In other words, even the worst results are still higher than values most regular users are pleased with.

It's interesting that many motherboards can store custom BIOS profiles, a feature previously found in some overclocker solutions. However, the emergency recovery of BIOS defaults doesn't work well in all of the boards, though it's formally supported by most of them. For example, the MSI motherboard only did the trick occasionally. In general, motherboards have the biggest trouble determining memory "overoverclocking", so it's a good idea to reduce memory multiplier during overclocking experiments, even you have high-end modules.

Conclusions

Integrated motherboards have stepped beyond cheap office PCs. Even without discrete graphics (which is still a plus, especially for boards equipped with higher-end coolers), the features of AMD's integrated graphics core are quite enough for a lot of less action-packed and more casual games. If you're not into gaming, or if you're building a second PC for work, there's very little sense in buying a discrete motherboard and an entry-level graphics card. Such a configuration will at least consume more power. It may also be more expensive.

The AMD 785G chipset expands the application of integrated graphics core in video transcoding tasks. Considering that it can still decode HD content, a compact motherboard with this chipset is one of the most attractive foundations for an inexpensive and energy-efficient home theater PC.


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