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AMD 790GX Motherboard Roundup

Comparing 6 boards from major vendors.

February 5, 2009



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Performance

Detailed performance analysis of the AMD 790GX chipset in modern games is published here.

Testbeds:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom X4 9550
  • RAM: 2 x Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 (2GB, DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15-2T)
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200rpm)
  • Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD3870, 512 MB GDDR4
  • PSU: AcBel ATX-550CA-AB8FB
  • OS: Windows XP SP2 32-bit, Catalyst 8.5, latest chipset drivers

Benchmarks:

  • WinRAR 3.70
  • XviD 1.0.2 (29.08.2004)
  • Doom 3 (v1.0.1282)
  • FarCry (v1.1.3.1337)
  • Unreal Tournament 2004 (v3339)

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; we also measure frames per second in game demos run at 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768 and 1600x1200 (DOOM3 - built-in demo, FarCry - Regulator second run, Unreal Tournament 2004 - ONS_dria). 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 cooler. At that we use all motherboard features, like CPU core voltage adjustments and, if needed, bus multiplier and clock adjustments. At that, if changing a certain option (e.g. reducing Hyper-Transport clock) doesn't improve overclocking, the multiplier is left default. For RAM we select a clock rate typical for this class of modules by adjusting its multiplier. The stability of an overclocked machine is assessed in Windows XP 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.


Int. graphics ASUS M3A78-T Biostar TA790GX A2+ ECS A790GXM-A Foxconn A7DA-S Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H MSI DKA790GX
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:37 1:35 1:38 1:38 1:35 1:33
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 4:43 4:40 4:44 4:45 4:40 4:38
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600), fps 54.5 53.8 54.2 55.6 54.0 53.8
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024x768), fps 50.3 48.4 48.6 49.4 49.2 47.9
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 30.3 28.2 28.5 29.8 29.8 27.3
FarCry (Medium@800x600), fps 107.0 100.3 102.4 105.9 109.7 99.0
FarCry (High@1024x768), fps 78.2 72.0 72.6 76.2 76.5 69.4
FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps 36.0 32.9 33.2 35.0 35.1 31.4
DOOM III (Medium@800x600), fps 72.7 65.4 66.9 71.2 70.8 63.3
DOOM III (High@1024x768), fps 52.0 46.8 47.8 50.8 50.6 45.0
DOOM III (Highest@1600x1200), fps 25.3 22.4 22.8 24.5 24.5 21.3

Tests with the integrated graphics enabled rank the cards in the natural order: motherboards with the fastest video memory from ASUS, Gigabyte, and Foxconn are in the lead. Products from ECS and Biostar are a tad slower. And the MSI board without a video buffer is predictably outperformed in games, even though it unexpectedly demonstrates the best result in arithmetic tests.


Discrete graphics ASUS M3A78-T Biostar TA790GX A2+ ECS A790GXM-A Foxconn A7DA-S Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H MSI DKA790GX
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:37 1:33 1:37 1:37 1:35 1:33
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 4:43 4:39 4:42 4:43 4:39 4:39
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 59.0 59.3 59.0 58.9 59.6 59.7
FarCry (Medium@800x600), fps 135.4 138.9 136.1 136.9 136.3 137.7
FarCry (High@1024x768), fps 134.7 138.7 135.1 136.1 137.3 138.5
FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps 134.7 138.5 134.5 135.4 137.9 138.3
DOOM III (Medium@800x600), fps 161.7 163.7 163.0 162.4 157.2 164.8
DOOM III (High@1024x768), fps 162.1 161.7 162.3 161.4 160.9 165.6
DOOM III (Highest@1600x1200), fps 157.2 157.1 155.8 156.7 158.1 157.5

After we updated BIOS in motherboards from Foxconn and ECS, their performance lag from the other motherboards (especially noticeable in FarCry) disappeared, and they demonstrated almost identical results. However, if we take a closer look, we may still single out two leaders -- MSI (that was clear after arithmetic tests with integrated graphics) and Biostar (totally unexpected). It's a formal victory, of course, the difference between the worst and the best result in any test falling within several percents, and these applications are most sensitive to system performance.

Power consumption

Power consumption is specified for the entire system unit with Phenom X4 9550, Cool'n'Quiet OFF.


Int. graphics ASUS M3A78-T Biostar TA790GX A2+ ECS A790GXM-A Foxconn A7DA-S Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H MSI DKA790GX
Text editing, W 50 44 45 54 43 32-47
Playing FarCry, W 73-90 73-95 77-98 78-95 76-96 71-86

It's difficult to single out a winner here. The board from MSI consumes a little less power, which is not surprising considering its original power circuit. Gigabyte also demonstrates better results. The other boards show similar results: relative power efficiency under minimal load and higher power consumption under load. Design of their voltage regulators explains everything. As a rule, more reliable power circuits with more phases provide higher efficiency under load, but simple power circuits consume less when idle.

Meanwhile, our main conclusion has nothing to do with motherboard comparison, but with power efficiency of the Low-End quad-core processor from AMD plus the 790GX chipset in general. Power efficiency of this combo is very high -- this computer consumes less than 100 W even in a game. And when idle, it consumes less than a desk lamp.


Discrete graphics ASUS M3A78-T Biostar TA790GX A2+ ECS A790GXM-A Foxconn A7DA-S Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H MSI DKA790GX
Text editing, W 70 68 72 61 71 62
Playing FarCry, W 107-124 104-121 108-137 102-126 100-124 98-139

A graphics card (Radeon HD3870 in this case) does not increase power consumption proportionally. For example, MSI leads in idle mode, but it's hard to say about its average power consumption in a game (this motherboard demonstrates maximum spread of power consumption results). In general, the motherboard from Foxconn looks like a winner here. ASUS, Biostar, and Gigabyte are "snapping at its heels", and ECS is the last to finish.


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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, motherboards

Page 2: Performance, power consumption

Page 3: Overclocking, audio, conclusions



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