AMD 785G Motherboard Roundup

Author: Carl Poirier
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/amd_785g_roundup/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

We had taken a look not so long ago at the 785G IGP video performance, in a two part article (Pt. I and Pt. II). Motherboard manufacturers obviously released products based on this brand new chipset as soon as the NDA was lifted.

This release is more oriented toward the mainstream and HTPC market though, so this is a little bit different than the high-end video card reviews we often publish. In fact, none of these motherboards support CrossfireX setups, even though the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO and the Gigabyte MA785G-UD3H have two PCI-E x16 slots. The others only have one PCI-E x16 slot since they are mATX-sized. These are the MSI 785GM-E65, the ECS A785GM-M and the Gigabyte MA785GMT-UD2H. All of them support Hybrid Crossfire, which makes the integrated HD 4200 working with the low-end dedicated card for a substancial boost.

Furthermore, the dedicated graphics card can be disabled to save energy when performance is not needed. The HDMI output also makes them very suitable for an HTPC build; they can be hooked to an HDTV when running on the HD 4200.

They all feature an AM3 socket ready for the latest Athlon II & Phenom II processors and the faster DDR3 memory, except the ATX board from Gigabyte, which still has an AM2+ socket, meaning DDR2 memory must be used.

So I will put these five motherboards in direct comparison to determine which one is the best option for a given use.

As of now, they all retail for $90 dollars except the ASUS board. There is also a Mail-In rebate available on the ECS A785GM-M, bringing the cost down.

Let's now look carefully at each of them.

Closer Look:

The ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO is an ATX motherboard. What first gathered my attention is the color theme. All these tones of blue were never seen on an ASUS motherboard. The heatsink also has a unique design, which we will look at later. With two PCI-E x16, it can run CrossfireX by splitting the 16 lanes into two x8. The back of the board has nothing new. A metal backplate in which the retention system is screwed ensures the most robustness in the socket area.

Look at these stylized heatsinks. The one over the voltage regulators is not that impressive compared to the one over the 785G chip, which is made out of two parts. The blue one is inserted in the small rail carved in the larger grey piece. During testing, this design proved to be efficient, except once I overclocked the HD 4200, it needed increased airflow. There is a 3-pin fan connector on its left that can be used for this purpose.

The power circuitry is an 8+2 phase power design. It is powered by a P4 connector only, although the board supports 140W processors. There was no issue at all, even when running an overclocked Phenom II X4 965. Right beside the power connector is a jumper labeled "OV_CPU". By shorting the right pins, it will allow the CPU voltage to be set at up to 1.90V, unless it would be limited to 1.70V which honestly is already much higher than what a Phenom II needs. Even on extreme cooling, they run better on lower voltages.

The other power connector is beside the DDR3 memory slots. In this picture, one can also see the 128MB sideport memory chip, on the side of the northbridge heatsink. Below the memory slots is the SB710 chip and its heatsink. Five SATA 3Gb/s and one IDE connector are present on the M4A785TD-V EVO. Another 3-pin fan connector can be found right beside them.

This board features the standard ASUS front panel header and Q-connector, which simplifies connecting the different LEDs and buttons. There are also three internal USB 2.0 headers as well as one Firewire. The battery and the CMOS clear jumper are also located in this area. Further to the left are the parallel port, the SPDIF out and the front panel audio header. There is a COM port a tad higher.

The I/O panel comprises six USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire, one Gigabit LAN and one eSATA which is the sixth SATA managed by the SB710. As for the audio connectivity, there are the six standard analog connectors as well as one optical output. Adds to that the VGA, DVI and HDMI output, since the 785G has an integrated graphics processor. With the M4A785TD-V EVO is provided a generous four SATA cables, one IDE cable, the I/O shield obviously, the driver CD and user manual, the Q-connectors I mentioned earlier, and a little sticker.

Specifications:

CPU
AMD Socket AM3 ;Phenom™II /Athlon™II /Sempron™ 100 Series Processors
AMD Cool 'n' Quiet™ Technology
Supports 45nm CPU
Chipset
AMD 785G/SB710
System Bus
Up to 5200 MT/s HyperTransport™ 3.0
Memory
4 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB, DDR3 1800(O.C.)*/1600(O.C.)/1333/1066/800 ECC,Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
*Due to OS limitation, when installing total memory of 4GB capacity or more, Windows® 32-bit operation system may only recognize less than 3GB. Install a 64-bit WindowsWindows® OS when you want to install 4GB or more memory on the motherboard.
Expansion Slots
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (blue @ x16 mode,gray @ x4 mode)
2 x PCIe x1
3 x PCI
VGA
Integrated ATI Radeon™ HD 4200 GPU
SidePort Memory - onboard 128MB DDR3 1333 memory
- Supports HDMI™ Technology with max. resolution up to 1920 x 1200 (1080P)
- Supports Dual-link DVI with max. resolution up to 2560x1600 @60Hz
- Supports D-Sub with max. resolution up to 2048x1536 @85Hz
- Hybrid CrossFireX™ Support
- Dual independent displays support with HDMI / DVI and D-Sub
- Supports Microsoft® DirectX 10.1, OpenGL 2.0, Shader Model 4.1
- Hardware Decode Acceleration for H.264,VC-1, and MPEG-2
- Maximum shared memory of 512MB
Storage
SB710 Chipset
1 xUltraDMA 133/100/66 for up to 2 PATA devices
5 xSATA 3 Gb/s ports Support RAID 0,1,10,JBOD
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
LAN
RTL8112L Gigabit LAN controller featuring AI NET 2
Audio
VT1708S 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-Streaming, and Front Panel Jack-Retasking
- Optical S/PDIF Out ports at back I/O
IEEE 1394
VT6308P controller supports 2 x 1394a ports (1 at mid-board; 1 at back panel)
USB
12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at back panel)
ASUS Unique Features
ASUS Power Solutions:
- 8+2 Phase Power Design
ASUS Green Design:
- EPU
Express Gate
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution:
- ASUS Fanless Design: Stylish heat sink solution
- ASUS Q-Fan
ASUS EZ DIY:
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS MyLogo 2
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
Overclocking Features
Intelligent overclocking tools
- Turbo V
- GPU NOS
- Turbo Key
SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)
- FSB tuning from 200MHz up to 550MHz at 1MHz increment
- PCI Express frequency tuning from 100MHz up to 150MHz at 1MHz increment
Overclocking Protection
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special Features
100% All High-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
AMD OverDrive Support*
*Advanced cooling system is required when advanced overclock functions of AMD OverDrive are enabled.
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo port
1 x DVI
1 x D-Sub
1 x HDMI
1 x External SATA
1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 x LAN(RJ45) port
6 x USB 2.0/1.1
8 -Channel Audio I/O
Internal I/O Connectors
3 x USB connectors (6 ports)
1 x COM connector
1 x IDE connector
5 x SATA connectors
1 x CPU Fan connector
1 x Chassis Fan connectors
1 x Power Fan connector
Front panel audio connector
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 x S/PDIF Out Header
1x LPT connector
24-pin ATX Power connector
4-pin ATX 12V Power connector
System Panel
BIOS
8 Mb Flash ROM AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, ACPI 2.0a, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
Manageability
WOL by PME,WOR by PME,WOR by Ring,PXE
Accessories
User's manual
1 x I/O Shield
1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
4 x SATA cable(s)
1 x Q-Connector
Support Disc
Drivers
ASUS PC Probe II
Express Gate
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
ASUS Update
AMD OverDrive Utility (AOD)
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

Closer Look:

The MSI 785GM-E65 is mATX-sized. It has only one PCI-E x16, so it cannot run CrossfireX with two dedicated graphics cards, which would have been great. Packing two PCI-E x16 slots could have been done by replacing the x1 slot. It would not have been a limitation since PCI-E x1 devices can be run in larger slots anyway. At the back, we can see the backplate made out of plastic. Steel nuts have been used though. All three heatsinks are attached with metal screws, which is less frequent on mainstream motherboards.

The MSI 785GM-E65 has a P4 CPU power connector, nevertheless it can run 140W TDP processors. No one can miss that; It is written in white on the voltage regulators heatsink. The board is also equipped of a 4+1 phase power design. At the top right corner of the motherboard, one can find the chassis intrusion connector, the serial port connector, the parallel port connector as well as the outdated floppy disk drive connector, which might still be useful in rare circumstances.

Below that are the IDE connector and five angled SATA 3.0Gb/s connectors. They are controlled by the SB710 southbridge present under the heatsink near them. This is also where the 24-pin power connector can be found. As for the front panel connectors, there are the usual power and HDD LEDs, power and reset buttons, as well as three USB 2.0 headers. One good thing is the speaker soldered directly on the motherboard so there is no need for its connector. The header below the power connector is for installing a Trusted Platform Module.

Further to the left are the CMOS clear jumper, the SPDIF out connector, the Firewire header, the CD in header and finally the front panel audio header. As I was saying, there is ony one PCI-E x16, accompanied by one x1 and two legacy PCI slots. The red switch is for overclocking the HT reference clock. There are four different positions possible which relate to the default 200MHz, a 10%, 15% and 20% overclock.

Finally, the I/O panel is composed of six USB connectors, one Firewire, one LAN and one PS/2 port. For the audio, it boasts the six colored analog connectors and one optical output. As usual, the HD 4200 has a VGA, a DVI and a HDMI output. The sixth SATA connection managed by the SB710 is in the form of an eSATA connector, also located on the I/O panel. As for the accessories, the 785GM-E65 comes with an IDE flat cable, only one SATA cable and a Molex to SATA power connector. Obviously there is an I/O shield, a driver CD and some paper documentation.

Specifications:

Socket AM3
CPU (Max Support) Phenom II
AM3 CPU Ready Y
FSB / Hyper Transport Bus up to 2.6GHz
Chipset AMD® 785G+SB710
DDR2 Memory N/A
DDR3 Memory DDR3 800/1066/1333
Memory Channel Dual
DIMM Slots 4
Max Memory (GB) 16
PCI-Ex16 1
PCI-E Gen Gen2 (1x16)
PCI-Ex4 N/A
PCI-Ex1 1
PCI 2
IDE 1
SATA 5
RAID 0/1/0+1/JBOD
LAN 10/100/1000*1
TPM 1
USB ports (Rear) 6
Audio ports (Rear) 6+Optical SPDIF
Serial ports (Rear) N/A
Parallel ports (Rear) N/A
1394 ports (Rear) 1
eSATA 1
VGA 1
DVI 1
HDMI 1
Display Port N/A
DirectX DX10
VGA Share Memory (MB) 512
Form Factor M-ATX
DrMOS N/A
APS Y
Sideport Memory Y
SLI N/A
3-way SLI N/A
Hybrid SLI N/A
CrossFire N/A
Hybrid CrossFire Y
D-LED2 N/A
Green Power Genie N/A

Closer Look:

This ATX Gigabyte motherboard does not share the same blue-theme as its AM3 cousins. The reason is simple; it has an AM2+ socket instead of an AM3. It is the only board in the roundup that still uses DDR2. In fact, the yellow and red theme was used on AM2+ motherboards such as the MA790GP-DS4H. It also has two PCI-E x16 slots so it can run CrossfireX in x8 mode.

The back of the board is like every other. A metal backplate has been used for the socket. The processor is fed by a P8 connector and a 4+1 phase power design. The voltage regulators do not have an heatsink.

The other power connector is beside the DDR2 RAM slots, along with the 3-pin "PWR_FAN" connector. Below the RAM slots is the southbridge. It is accompanied by the different interfaces it controls, being the IDE connector and the the six SATA 2.0 connector.

At the complete bottom is the parallel printer port, the 4-pin "SYS_Fan1"  header, the chassis intrusion header and the usual front panel connectors. These include a power and reset button, connections for a message LED, power LED and hard drive activity LED, and a speaker. Further to the left are two Firewire internal headers, followed by the floppy disk drive connector and the COM port.

Below the northbridge are three USB 2.0 internal headers. Beside is the CMOS battery and the CMOS clear jumper. There is also the SPDIF, the CD in and the system fan 3-pin connector. Its I/O panel is exactly the same as the MSI 785GM-E65. It has six USB ports, on LAN, one Firewire, one PS/2 port, the analog and optical audio outputs, and the VGA, DVI and HDMI video output from the IGP, which come protected by a plastic cap.

The last things in the cardboard box are two SATA cables, one IDE flat cable, the usual I/O shield, driver CD and manual. The user also gets two little stickers to show off that quality components, being Gigabyte, have been used.

Specifications:

CPU
  1. Support for Socket AM3 / AM2+ / AM2 processors: AMD Phenom™ II processor/ AMD Phenom™ processor/ AMD Athlon™ II processor/ AMD Athlon™ processor/ AMD Sempron™ processor
Hyper Transport Bus
  1. 5200/2000 MT/s
Chipset
  1. North Bridge: AMD 785G
  2. South Bridge: AMD SB710
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.8V DDR2 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory (Note 1)
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR2 1333(O.C.) /1066/800 MHz memory modules (Note 2)
Onboard Graphics Integrated in the North Bridge:
  1. 1 x D-Sub port
  2. 1 x DVI-D port (Note 3)(Note 4)
  3. 1 x HDMI port (Note 4)
Audio
  1. Realtek ALC889A codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for Dolby Home Theater
  5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  6. Support for CD In
LAN
  1. Realtek 8111C chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots
  1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1) (Note 5)
  2. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1) (Note 6)
    (The PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX4_1 slots support ATI Hybrid CrossFireX technology and conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  3. 3 x PCI Express x1 slots (The PCIEX1_2 and PCIEX1_3 slots share the same PCIe bus with the PCIEX4_1 slot.) (Note 6)
  4. 2 x PCI slots
Storage Interface South Bridge:
  1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  2. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10 and JBOD
iTE IT8718 chip:
  1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
IEEE 1394 T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  1. Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (1 on the back panel, 2 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)
USB Integrated in the South Bridge
  1. Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 on the back panel, 6 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  4. 1 x IDE connector
  5. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  6. 1 x CPU fan header
  7. 2 x system fan header
  8. 1 x power fan header
  9. 1 x front panel header
  10. 1 x front panel audio header
  11. 1 x CD In connector
  12. 1 x S/PDIF In/Out header
  13. 2 x IEEE 1394a header
  14. 3 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  15. 1 x parallel port header
  16. 1 x serial port header
  17. 1 x chassis intrusion header
  18. 1 x power LED header
  19. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard or PS/2 mouse port
  2. 1 x D-Sub port
  3. 1 x DVI-D port (Note 4) (Note 5)
  4. 1 x HDMI port (Note 5)
  5. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  6. 1 x IEEE 1394a port
  7. 6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  8. 1 x RJ-45 port
  9. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller
  1. ITE IT8718 chip
H/W Monitoring System voltage detection
  1. CPU/System temperature detection
  2. CPU/System fan speed detection
  3. CPU overheating warning
  4. CPU/System fan fail warning
  5. CPU/System fan speed control (Note 7)
BIOS
  1. 2 x 8 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Virtual Dual BIOS
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune (Note 8)
  8. Support for Easy Energy Saver (Note 9)
  9. Support for Time Repair
  10. Support for Q-Share
Bundle Software
  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Operating System
  1. Support for Microsoft® Windows Vista/ XP
Form Factor
  1. ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 22.9 cm
Note (Note 1) Due to Windows Vista/XP 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than 4 GB.
(Note 2) Whether 1066MHz or above memory speed is supported depends on the CPU being used.
(Note 3) The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
(Note 4) Simultaneous output for DVI-D and HDMI is not supported.
(Note 5) If you are installing a PCI Express graphics card, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16_1 slot.
(Note 6) The PCIEX1_2 and PCIEX1_3 slots share bandwidth with the PCIEX4_1 slot. When the PCIEX4_1 slot is populated with a x4 card, the PCIEX1_2 and PCIEX1_3 slots become unavailable.
(Note 7) Whether the CPU/system fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU/ system cooler you install.
(Note 8) Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.
(Note 9) Due to the hardware limitation, you must install an AMD AM3/ AM2+ series CPU to enable support for Easy Energy Saver.
Remark
  1. Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors' website or 3rd party website.
  2. Due to most hardware/software vendors no longer offer support for Win9X/ME. If some vendors still has Win9X/ME drivers available, we will publish on website.

Closer Look:

The MA785GMT-UD2H is very different than the other Gigabyte motherboard. This one has traded DDR2 for DDR3, and is mATX-sized instead. The color theme is the same as the AM3 motherboards such as the MA770T-UD3P or MA790FXT-UD4P. It also has only one PCI-E x16 like the MSI 785GM-E65, accompanied by a x1 slot and two legacy PCI slots.

Like most of the time, there is nothing exciting at the back. The only thing I can say is that Gigabyte used a steel backplate.

The board is equipped of a 4+1 phase power design, powered by a P8 connector. Obviously, 140W processors can be run without any glitch. Below the power circuitry is the 4-pin CPU fan header. Both the IDE and FDD connectors have been conserved. They are right beside the 24-pin power connector. The parallel printer port is also there.

The southbridge controls five internal SATA connectors as well. Due to their location, they are all blocked by a large graphics card such as our GTX 260. The only solution is to use SATA cables with angled connectors, but unfortunately only one of the two provided cables is made this way. In this area can also be found the standard front panel connectors, three USB headers, the 4-pin system fan and the battery. There is also one Firewire header, one COM port, one SPDIF and one CD in. The northbridge 3-pin fan can be found between the two PCI-E slots.

Once again, this 785G board features the exact same I/O panel as the others. There are six USB ports, one LAN, one Firewire, one eSATA, one PS/2, everything that is needed to build a 7.1 surround audio setup, one VGA, one DVI and one HDMI. The same stuff is bundled with the GMT as with the DDR2 ATX version. That is two SATA cables, one IDE flat cable, the I/O shield, the driver CD, the manuals and stickers.

Specifications:

CPU
  1. Support for AM3 processors: AMD PhenomTM II processor/ AMD Athlon™ II processor
Hyper Transport Bus
  1. 5200 MT/s
Chipset
  1. North Bridge: AMD 785G
  2. South Bridge: AMD SB710
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory (Note 1)
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 1800 (OC)/1666/1333/1066 MHz memory modules
Onboard Graphics Integrated in the North Bridge:
  1. 1 x D-Sub port
  2. 1 x DVI-D port (Note 2) (Note 3)
  3. 1 x HDMI port (Note 3)
Audio
  1. Realtek ALC889A codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for Dolby Home Theater
  5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  6. Support for CD In
LAN
  1. Realtek 8111C chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots
  1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)
    (The PCI Express x16 slot conforms to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  2. 1 x PCI Express x1 slot
  3. 2 x PCI slots
Storage Interface South Bridge:
  1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  2. 5 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors supporting up to 5 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port on the back panel supporting up to 1 SATA 3Gb/s device
  4. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10 and JBOD
iTE IT8718 chip:
  1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
USB Integrated in the South Bridge
  1. Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 on the back panel, 8 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
IEEE 1394 T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  1. Up to 2 IEEE 1394a ports (1 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  4. 1 x IDE connector
  5. 5 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  6. 1 x CPU fan header
  7. 1 x system fan header
  8. 1 x North Bridge fan header
  9. 1 x front panel header
  10. 1 x front panel audio header
  11. 1 x CD In connector
  12. 1 x S/PDIF In/Out header
  13. 3 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  14. 1 x IEEE 1394a header
  15. 1 x parallel port header
  16. 1 x serial port header
  17. 1 x chassis intrusion header
  18. 1 x power LED header
  19. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard port or PS/2 mouse port
  2. 1 x D-Sub port
  3. 1 x DVI-D port (Note 3)(Note 4)
  4. 1 x HDMI port (Note 4)
  5. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  6. 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
  7. 1 x IEEE 1394a port
  8. 6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  9. 1 x RJ-45 port
  10. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller
  1. ITE IT8718 chip
H/W Monitoring
  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
  6. CPU/System fan speed control (Note 4)
BIOS
  1. 2 x 8 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune (Note 5)
  8. Support for Easy Energy Saver
  9. Support for Time Repare
  10. Support for Q-Share
Bundle Software
  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Operating System
  1. Support for Microsoft Windows Vista/ XP
Form Factor
  1. Micro ATX Form Factor; 24.3cm x 24.3cm
Note (Note 1) Due to Windows Vista/XP 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than 4 GB.
(Note 2) The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
(Note 3) Simultaneous output for DVI-D and HDMI is not supported.
(Note 4) Whether the CPU/system fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU/system cooler you install.
(Note 5) Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.
Remark
  1. Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors' website or 3rd party website.
  2. Due to most hardware/software vendors no longer offer support for Win9X/ME. If some vendors still has Win9X/ME drivers available, we will publish on website.

Closer Look:

The ECS Black Series boards have a unique look. On the black PCB are yellow, orange and red slots. Compared to the other boards, it has two PCI-E x1 slots and only one legacy PCI slot. I prefer this over the inverse since PCI devices are slowly disappearing. There are already many motherboards without any of these slots.

The back of the board is much more brown than black, but that will not be seen when installed in a case. A plastic backplate with steel nuts has been used.

It uses a P8 CPU power connector. There is a massive heatsink over the voltage regulators. Everything was kept very cool during testing. Beside the DDR3 memory slots is the other power connector. There is also an IDE connector for those who want to keep their older drives, but the floppy disk drive connector has disappeared. Who would use such a device anyway when today we have 128GB USB thumb drives?

The six SATA connections controlled by the SB710 are onboard. The usual front panel connectors are also located in this corner of the board, except for the speaker which is soldered direclty onto the board. One great thing is the onboard power and reset buttons, which can be very useful when having an open-air setup. The third button is the CMOS clear, in case the overclocking goes wrong. The header above the reset button concerns the BIOS programmation and thus the end-user has nothing to do with it. Another header, this time for a fan, is located below the SATA slots. The display shows at which stage the motherboard is in the post and boot process, but sincerely it is not much useful since we are not provided with the meaning of each code.

Two other internal USB ports are located farther on the left, for a total of three. There is also a header for the Firewire, the front audio jacks and the SPDIF out. Another fan header can be found right above the first PCI-E x1 slot.

The I/O panel of the A785GM-M is different than the other boards. First of all, it has only five analog audio connectors, but an 8-channel only requires four jacks. All five plugs including the microphone in and line in can be configured to any device, so the 785GM-M can manage a 7.1 analog setup without any problems. It also has two eSATA connectors. Since there are already six onboard SATA connectors, these are provided by the JMicron JMB362 controller. Finally, ECS took the decision to not put the old PS/2 port in there.

Bundled with the board are four SATA cables which is more than the other boards we took a look at. There is also an IDE cable, an I/O shield, two guides and a driver CD. The blue CD is for installing eJIFFY, a Linux-based small operating system meant to provide instant access to web, music and online chat without booting into Windows

Now that we have examined all five motherboards, let's get to testing!

Specifications:

 

CPU
  • Socket AM3 for AMD Phenom II processors
  • High-performance HyperTransport 3.0 CPU Interface
  • Support transfer rate up to 5200 mega-transfers per second
Chipset
  • Northbridge: AMD 785G
  • Southbridge: AMD SB710
Graphics
  • On Chip (AMD 785G-based with ATI Radeon HD4200 graphics)
  • Integrated DirectX 10.1 graphics processor
Memory
  •  Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
  • 4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 32GB*
  • Support DDR3 1333/1066/800 SDRAM
  • *(Due to the DRAM maximum size is 4GB at present, the memory maximum size that has been tested is 16GB)
Expansion Slots
  • 1 x PCI-Express x16 slot
  • 2 x PCI-Express x1 slots
  • 1 x PCI slot
Storage
  • Support by AMD SB710
    • 2 x Ultra DMA 100/66/33 devices
    • 6 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s devices
  • Support by JMicron JMB362
    • 2 x eSATAII 3.0Gb/s devices
Audio
  • Realtek ALC 8885 supports 8-channel HD audio
  • Compliant with HD audio specification
LAN
  •  RealTek 8111DL Gigabit Fast Ethernet NIC
Rear Panel I/O
  • 6 x USB ports
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet Port
  • 1 x 1394a port
  • 2 x e-SATA ports
  • 1 x Audio port (1x Line in, 4x Line out, 1x Optical SPDIF Out)
  • 1 x VGA port
  • 1 x DVI connector
  • 1 x HDMI Port
Internal I/O Connectors and Headers
  • 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply Connector & 8-pin 12V Connector
  • 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power Connector
  • 1 x CPU_FAN connector
  • 1 x PWR_FAN connector
  • 1 x SYS Fan header
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 6 x Serial ATA 3Gb/s connectors
  • 1 x 7S-LED Display
  • 1 x Buzzer
  • 1 x Front panel switch/LED header
  • 1 x Front panel audio header
  • 1 x Power on LED (Green light)
  • 1 x Stand by LED (Red Light)
  • 1 x SPDIF out header
  • 1 x 1394a header
  • 3 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 6 USB ports
  • 1 x Power button/1 x Reset button
  • 1 x Clear CMOS button
System BIOS
  • AMI BIOS with 8Mb SPI ROM
  • Supports Plug and Play, STR/STD, Hardware monitor, Multi Boot, DMI, HDCP
  • Supports ACPI 3.0 revision
  • Support ECS M.I.B II Utility
    • CPU voltage adjustable
    • Memory voltage adjustable
    • NB Chipset Voltage Adjustable
    • SB Chipset Voltage Adjustable
    • HT Voltage Adjustable
    • External Clock Adjustable
    • Multiple Frequency Adjustable
  • ECS eJIFFY utility
    • Instant access to the internet
    • Leaves away from virus attacks under Windows
    • An alternative interface when Windows crashes
    • FREE and UPGRADABLE tool
    • Just download the application & BIOS from ECS
Form Factor
  • Micro-ATX Size, 244mm*244mm

Since this is a motherboard roundup, I will obviously compare our subjects head to head. They will run AMD's flagship and the NVIDIA GTX 260, as always. I will also quickly test the integrated graphics but it will not be the main attention since we previously took a look at it in a two-part article.

As for the benchmarks, there will be a set of system benches and another set of gaming benches. Two of them require custom runs as they have no benchmarking tool. So for Bioshock and Call of Duty: World at War, Fraps will be used to record the FPS, whereas for all other gaming tests, the built-in benchmarking tool will be used. For all of these, the tests will be run at 3 different resolutions: 1280x1024, 1680x1050 and 1920x1200.

Test Setup

Benchmarks

This program includes benchmarks for most hardware. The CPU arithmetic and multi-core efficiency benchmark will be run as well as memory bandwidth and latency.

At stock, the Gigabyte boards won the arithmetic tests since they overclock the processor a few MHz at stock. It's the DDR3 version that also won the memory bandwidth test, both at stock and overclocked. The UD3H with DDR2 lost both memory benchmarks, obviously. As for the multi-core efficiency, ECS' solution won the benchmark. Since the M4A785TD-V EVO yielded the highest frequency, it won the overclocked CPU arithmetic. The 785GM-E65 was the only board able to get the memory latency under 70ns, thanks to the good integrated memory controller overclock.

HandBrake is an application that converts sound and video files to other formats. Compared to TMPG we used in previous reviews, this one is multi-threaded so it can use the processor to its full potential.

POV-Ray, for Persistence of Vision Raytracer, is a 3D rendering software that has impressive photorealistic capabilities.

In Handbrake, the shortest time was achieved by the UD2H. In the overclocked testing phase, the ASUS board matched it. The UD3H once again seemed to be a bit limited by its low memory bandwidth.

POV-Ray does scale very well with processor frequency. Both Gigabyte motherboards got at the top because they overclock the HT link reference frequency a bit at stock, as I was saying. It is the inverse for the ECS board which runs it at around 199.5MHz; it finished last. Once overclocked, the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO got in first place.

Everyone knows WinRAR, so no need to explain what it is. I will compress our custom 100MB, 500MB and 1000MB using the greatest compression setting, in the ZIP format.

Cinebench 10 is another rendering program. I will run both the single-threaded benchmark as well as the multi-threaded.

In WinRAR, the top dog was once again the MA785GMT-UD3H and the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO, in both the stock and overclocked testing phases.

I don't know why, but I always have a hard time getting good  Cinebench results on Gigabyte motherboards. Both of them finished last, but I would not worry with that. We can see in other benchmarks that in general they are great performers. Having said that, it is the ASUS and MSI board that won.

HDTune is a benchmarking program for hard drives. Their speed also depends on the chipset so this is why I run such a benchmark.

In case PCMark is unknown to you, it is pretty much the same as the 3DMark suite except the fact that it includes many other tests like hard drive speed, memory and processor power, so we consider it as a system benchmark and not just a gaming benchmark.

The MSI 785GM-E65 performed very well when it came down to data storage; it finished second and first in the stock and overclocked testing phases, respectively. Also, somehow I could not get normal burst speeds on the A785GM-M.

Surprisingly, in PCMark, the DDR2 motherboard finished first at stock, followed by its DDR3 counterpart. Once overclocked, the amazing overclock on the ASUS board allowed it to finish first, followed once again by the UD2H. The MSI, being approximately 30MHz lower, lost this round.

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack of the original Crysis. It uses an enhanced version of the same engine.

Bioshock is a creepy first person shooter. It is the oldest of the games in our benchmarking suite, hence the high FPS.

The scores were pretty much even in Crysis Warhead, at stock. The memory sub-system seemed to have a great effect in the overclocked testing phase, in which the DDR2 board finished last and the MSI board got first, most probably due to its high overclock on the IMC.

In Bioshock, it's once again the two MA785GMT-UD2H and the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO which won in the stock and overclocked testing, respectively.

World at War is the fifth of the Call of Duty series. This time, the game is back to the Second World War, even if the fourth of the same series was futurist.

Far Cry 2 is another first person shooter. It has been developed by Ubisoft compared to the first one who has been made by Crytek. The story takes place in Africa, where the ultimate goal is to assassinate an arms dealer.

Once again, the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO revealed itself to be a great performer, leading in Call of Duty: World at War, both at stock and overclocked. Besides it, all other motherboards were equal.

In Far Cry 2, one more time it was ahead at stock, on par with the MA785GMT-UD2H, which won the overclocked phase, followed by the MSI 785GM-E65.

Left 4 Dead is a first-person shooter developed by Valve. It uses the Source Engine. Four survivors must fight against infected people in order to reach a safe area.

Mirror’s Edge is referred by some as a first-person runner. It is a game powered by the Unreal Engine 3 but with the addition of a new lighting solution. What is great of the PC version is that it supports NVIDIA PhysX, which a very few games do.

In Left 4 Dead, all motherboards scored the same, except the MA785G-UD3H which lost the overclocked phase due to its lower memory bandwidth. This benchmark at 1280x1024 is very dependent on that.

The winner in Mirror's Edge is the Gigabyte motherboard sporting DDR3. It beat every other board when overclocked, followed by the MSI one.

It can be interesting to see which motherboard performs best when running on the HD 4200. I expect the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO and the MSI 785GM-E65 to be much stronger than the three others since they have a 128MB DDR3 sideport memory. That's what we will see. For this test, I am using the Catalyst drivers release 9.8.

Street Fighter IV is a game made by Capcom. It has a free benchmarking tool that I will be using to test the HD 4200 capabilities. World in Conflict is developed by Massive Entertainment and it also has a benchmarking tool, accessible in the game settings. Both games will be tested at 1280x1024. For World in Conflict, the graphics details will be set as "Very Low", and for Street Fighter IV they will be at the lowest settings.

As I had expected the boards featuring a DDR3 sideport memory just smashed the competition. It's the MSI 785GM-E65 which pulled ahead in both tests, with the ASUS board not far behind. In third position was the 785GMT-UD3H. Last was the board featuring DDR3.

Overclocking

Both Gigabyte motherboards performed the same when it came to overclocking, and in fact they did as well as the MA790FXT-UD5P. They all maxed the processor at 3914MHz, with the only difference being the voltage needed. For the MA785GMT-UD2H, I had to set the voltage to 1.50V. For the others, I set it to 1.475V in the BIOS, and then used AMD Overdrive to increase it another 0.0125V since Gigabyte BIOSes only have 0.025V increments. The UD2H has only a 4+1 phase power design so that might be why it required the extra voltage.

Next was the MSI 785GM-E65. Sincerely, I did not know what to expect from this board also equipped of a 4+1 phase power design. I would qualify its overclock as being medium to good. It was quite a few MHz short of the Gigabyte and ASUS boards, but still it achieved a very reasonable frequency. I did not really like though the unpreciseness of the reference clock. It was pretty much always half a MHz higher than what is set in the BIOS. However, it achieved a good integrated memory controller frequency.

With the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO, I reached the highest stable frequency I ever did on the Phenom II X4 965. If we recall the article about it, I was able to go up to 3914MHz on the core. Anything higher than that would cause a blue screen during the OCCT stress testing test. Well, on the ASUS board, I was able to go 5.5MHz higher, for a final speed of 3919.5MHz. However, when I overclocked and overvolted the integrated memory controller afterwards, the processor run hotter. You probably know that Phenom IIs are affected very much by temperatures. Thus, its cores were not stable anymore. For this reason, I limited my IMC overclock so that I could keep my extra 5.5MHz. I must however share something else with you. At first, when I overclocked the CPU-NB, there seemed to be no change applied. So I let ASUS be aware of my issue, and very quickly, I was provided with an updated BIOS that fixed my issue. A few days later, that version 0405 made its way on ASUS' website, so anyone having this issue can fix it, although I was the first to report it. Moreover, by the time Neoseeker published this article, I see another version, the 0410, has been published and is supposed to increase performance when overclocking. That means one could possibly reach even better frequencies than I did.

Here is a summary of the settings changed:

Furthermore, ASUS provides a utility called GPU NOS which allows altering the frequency and voltage of the IGP, for a substancial performance boost. If we recall the article on the 785G IGP video performance, the M4A785TD-V EVO reached a whole 1Ghz easily.

Lastly, for the ECS A785GM-M, I had a few issues. First of all, at the beginning, I could not even get the RAM to run at 1600MHz. When that frequency was set, the board would just post and boot into Windows, running it at a lowly 800MHz. I was then provided a new BIOS which fixed this issue, so I would be able to run the benchmarks at stock, since 1600MHz DDR3 is part of our testing platform. The main overclocking issue was not resolved though. As soon as I would enable manual control over the frequencies, the board would not post, no matter the settings I put. The numerical LED display on the board would just hang on error code "d0". I was not provided with a solution yet, except overclocking via AMD Overdrive, which anyway would not even let me increase the HT reference clock, voltages and memory controller multiplier. That is why there are no overclocked scores of the A785GM-M, but as soon as I am provided with a solution, I will update this article.

Update 2009/10/04: As requested by a reader, I tested which board would be better for pure HT link reference clock overclocking. Whereas the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO could not go over 240MHz, the Gigabyte MA785GMT-UD2H easily hit 260MHz. Therefore, if one plans on overclocking a low-end Athlon II, I would suggest a Gigabyte board. There are some models on the market with a sideport memory, which the ones tested here did not have. They will provide similar IGP performance to the ASUS or MSI boards.

Update 2010/02/02: The BIOS posted on ECS' website one week ago resolved the overclocking issue mentioned in this article. AMD processors can now be overclocked without any limitation.

Power Consumption

The lowest power usage at idle was won by the MSI board, although it did in the average at load. It's the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO which was the best at load, and by far. Oddly enough it was also the loser at idle. The MA785GMT-UD2H I think has a good equilibrium, but it really depends what one intends to do with it. For example, in a folding rig, I would wholeheartedly go with the ASUS one since the computer would be loaded practically 100% of the time. Moreover, it has two PCI-E x16 slots so it can run the GPU clients on two graphics cards, and a maximum of five GPUs, considering the IGP.

Conclusion

All of the tested motherboards have their pros and cons. First of all, if one plans to run on the integrated graphics processor, I highly suggest the MSI 785GM-E65 or the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO since they have a 128MB sideport memory which substantially boosts their performance. The ASUS is ATX-sized, whereas the MSI, which did provide the best IGP performance, will fit in small mATX cases used for HTPC builds.

Next, if one is upgrading his already existing computer, the Gigabyte MA785G-UD3H might be the right choice. Since it has DDR2 slots, it will allow the user to keep his DDR2 memory sticks, while having the latest IGP on the market, and using either the new Phenom IIs/Athlon IIs or the older ones. The other motherboards all require DDR3 memory sticks and the latest processors from AMD. However there are many other 785G boards on the market using DDR2 so it really comes down to what features and price one is searching for.

However this DDR2 also has its cons. As seen in the benchmarks, the MA785G-UD3H had a hard time beating the other motherboards. In fact, it did not win any benchmark. The top dogs were the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO and the Gigabyte MA785GMT-UD2H, followed not far behind by the MSI 785GM-E65.

The ECS A785GM-M is great for having an extra SATA controller. The JMicron chip allows it to have two eSATA connectors at the back while still having six internal SATA ports. This can be useful if one needs many SATA ports as well as eSATAs, for example in a home server. The SB710 supports RAID 0, 1 and 10. And who knows, maybe it will be able to overclock higher than the M4A785TD-V EVO once I am provided with a solution to the issue I have!

Overall, it is great to see all the different flavors available on the market built around the 785G chipset. It really comes down to what the user wants. Is power consumption important for you? What about performance? Size? Cost? Everyone can find what he needs. There are many great boards in the bunch, but in the ones I have tested here, the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO is my very favorite. There is also its mATX counterpart available for those in need of a smaller board.


Update 2010/02/02:
The BIOS posted on ECS' website one week ago resolved the overclocking issue mentioned in this article. AMD processors can now be overclocked without any limitation.

»Neoseeker.com

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