Author: William Henning
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, July 1st, 2008
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/ga-ma790fx-ds5/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Today we are looking at an AMD790FX based board - the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5.
This is a great looking board with plenty of expansion capabilities - two PCIe 2.0 16x slots, three PCIe 2.0 1x slots and two PCI slots give plenty of room for expansion cards; six internal SATA2 and two eSATA connectors, 10 USB 2.0 channels, three FireWire channles and a Gigabit ethernet - not to mention the audio ports - give you many I/O options.
The solid state capacitors, plenty of ferrite cores and low RDS MOSTFET design contribute to a beefy power section that should have no problem running Phenoms without letting loose the 'magic grey smoke.'
But the real question is: how will it perform?
|CPU||Support for Socket AM2+/ AM2 processors:
AMD Phenom™FX processor/ AMD Phenom™ processor/ AMD Athlon™ 64 FX processor/AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core processor/AMD Athlon™ 64 processor/AMD Sempron™ processor
|Hyper Transport Bus||5200/2000 MT/s|
|Storage Interface||South Bridge:
|IEEE 1394||T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
|USB||Integrated in the South Bridge
|Internal I/O Connectors||
|Back Panel Connectors||
|H/W Monitoring||System voltage detection
|Note||(Note 1) Due to Windows 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 1066 MHz memory speed is supported depends on the CPU being used.
(Note 3) Use of a CPU that supports ECC is required if you wish to install ECC memory.
(Note 4) Available functions in Easytune may differ by motherboard model.
Before talking about the board, let's see what else comes in the retail package.
The bundle is a little light, I'd have liked to see two more SATA2 cables as well as a couple of Molex-to-SATA2 power cables; and I/O slot covers for the additional FireWire and USB ports would also have been welcome.
As you can see below, the northbridge and the VRM's are cooled by heatpipes and heatsinks, and there are a couple of more cooling plates on the bottom of the motherboard.
I like how the slots are laid out - even if you use two double-slot cooler GPU's, you'll still have two PCIe 1x and one PCI slot usable.
Here's a closer look at the CPU socket - note the silk screening on the motherboard proclaiming HT3.0 support.
Dual memory channels are supported, of course, however watch out for using large third party heatsinks and memory with oversize heatsinks - the two are not compatible with at least the uppermost yellow slot.
Here you can see six of the SATA2 ports - there are two more on the back I/O panel. I wish the purple SATA ports were closer to the four orange ones.
Here's the back IO panel
The board uses a nice standard Award BIOS, however I ran into a problem with the BIOS originally loaded into the board - the board would not even POST with the Corsair PC2-8888 modules I normally use for motherboard testing.
Fortunately using some PC2-5400 modules I downloaded and flashed the latest BIOS, and upped the memory voltage to what the 8888's expected.
I really like how the latest BIOS puts the "Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker" menu as the first option. As with other Gigabyte motherboards, pressing "CTRL-F1" enables other tweaking options.
The MIT menu does not quite fit on one screen, you have to scroll down to see the last two options.
Pretty much anything you need to overclock is here; processor clock speed, multiplier, memory speed, memory timings, PCI speed, HyperTransport channel width and speed, processor, memory chipset, PCIe and HyperTransport voltages are all tweakable.
The "Standard CMOS Features" menu is pretty standard.
The individual drive screens are pretty basic, but really, nothing else is needed.
The "Advanced BIOS Features" is another useful screen, here you can enable/disable some more of the processor features and control the boot process.
The "Advanced Chipset Features" let's you control HyperTransport, PCIe and SpreadSpectrum functions.
HT Controls live here.
Interesting - you can enable/disable PCIe 2.0 speeds on an individual slot basis.
The "Integrated Peripherals" screen is quite comprehensive.
You also have good control over power management.
The PnP/PCI configuration screen is pretty basic, but who really uses it?
I like it that the"PC Health" screen shows the DDR2 voltage as well, but it would be even nicer if it also showed the chipset voltage.
I really like how you can store eight different BIOS profiles in the flash.
The load profile screen could use some work, it should let you choose any of the eight profiles in addition to the "Last Known Good" profile.
The Q-Flash Utility works! That's good to see.
Due to the many requests from readers, we are changing our AMD motherboard tests to use a Phenom 9900 processor with the "AMD Patch" disabled. This does mean that the results are not totally comparable to the other motherboards tested; however motherboards tested from now on will be tested with the Phenom 9900 - at least until our readers demand switching to a Deneb based processor after it is released.
In order to keep the testing as fair as possible, we will use the following test platforms:
Software used during testing consisted of the following:
Please note that we are showing overclocked results in all the charts - we are not holding you in suspense until the end of the article. The chart labels incorporate a lot of information about the test configuration.
The second line shows the "FSB/HT clock rate" x "CPU multiplier" followed by the effective memory speed. All DDR2 tests were run at 4-4-4-12 timings unless otherwise specified.
The Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 does well at Business Winstone both at stock and overclocked.
The Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 also does well at Content Creation, particularly at stock speeds - however the overclocked results show that a higher clocked X2 can still beat an X4 for single-threaded applications.
Not very surprisingly the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 with the Phenom dominates the multi-threaded WinRAR test, with the stock Phenom beating much higher clocked 5000+ X2's by quite a margin.
The Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 does not do as well for HDTach; the burst speeds are lower than the other boards, however the average speed is very close. CPU utilization is average.
Even though LAME is pretty clearly only dual-threaded, the architectural improvements of the Phenom allow the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 to take the top spots for LAME, stock and overclocked.
Again, the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 beats the competition thanks to the improved IPC of the Phenom.
Call of Duty
The Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 does not fare as well for the single-threaded Call of Duty - at stock it got the lowest result here, this chart clearly correlated with absolute clock speed.
The Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 fared much better with Commanche, taking the top spot at stock speeds and above; with the stock Phenom beating a highly overclocked 5000+ X2 thanks to the improved IPC.
The Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 did very well for Doom 3 at stock, beating a 20% higher clocked 5000+ X2 on the Asus M3N-HT, and took the top two spots when overclocked.
It was more of a mixed bag as far as results went for the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 in Quake 4 - the stock result was beaten by a 5000+ X2 on an MSI KA92 Platinum, however the overclocked results were pretty much as one would expect by pure clock speed - with higher clocked X2's taking the top two spots.
The Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 did very well in Halo, with the stock Phenom beating some overclocked X2's, and the overclocked Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 taking the top two spots on the chart.
Jedi Knight was not as kind to the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5, with the stock result coming in second, and the overclocked results not faring well at all.
The Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 fared much better at UT, taking the top stock score, and the top overall score when overclocked.
I really doubt that anyone will be surprised that the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 took the top Sandra CPU scores as it used a Phenom for testing.
The Sandra memory scores hurt; I suspect further BIOS and/or silicon revisions will improve the memory performance of the he Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 with a Phenom.
The Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 latency figures were not great.
The RightMark Read benchmark confirms what Sandra showed - the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 with a Phenom gets significantly lower memory performance than a 5000+ X2.
Same story for writes.
Due to the Phenom, the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 places last for RightMark Latency... what is it about the Phenom memory controller that causes this loss in performance? The L3 cache?
In a surprising turn, the Phenom on the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 turned in the best RightMark Bandwidth scores here - stock or overclocked.
Overclocking the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 was a letdown after the overclocks I've been achieving with Penryn based cores, however I was able to obtain some decent results.
First, I wanted to see the maximum speed I could run the processor at.
By raising Vcore to 1.5V, I was able to run the Phenom 9900 at 2.9GHz - less than the 3.0GHz I was able to obtain on the Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe motherboard during our Phenom 9900 review, but not too far behind. For both overclocking venutres, I used our effective Noctua NH-U 12 cooler.
Next, I wanted to see the maximum "FSB" (really, HyperTransport) speed I could run the board and chipset at. I was able to achieve 235MHz stably, and 245 would get to the Windows desktop, but was too unstable to use. Again, I used 1.5V for testing.
These days, AMD motherboard overclocking potential seems to be limited by three things:
Until AMD shifts to 45nm with the upcoming Deneb core I doubt we will see significantly better overclocking without extreme measures such as liquid nitrogen.
As the other motherboard results presented in this review used an AMD X2 5000+ the power consumption figures are not comparable with the Phenom 9900, however here are the results we obtained for the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 in the course of this review:
The 12.5x235 overclock test gave the same results as the 14.5x200 test.
There is a great deal to like about the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5: you can run CrossFire on two PCIe 2.0 16x slots and still have plenty of expansion capability left; it overclocks decently; the enthusiast centric M.I.T. screen is easier to find in the BIOS; and there are eight BIOS configuration save areas.
But there are a few drawback as well. One of the memory slots - possibly two - will be blocked if you use oversize coolers. And the current 65nm Phenom limits its overclocking capabilities and memory bandwidth - I am sure the board is capable of more. The package is also a bit light on SATA cables - but that's nitpicking.
Basically, the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 is a good board for both business and gaming use - the benchmark results clearly showed that. Selling at approximately $200, it is a good value, and lets you overclock power hungry Phenoms without a great risk of frying VRM's.
Please do not redistribute or use this article in whole, or in part, for commercial purposes.