Roundup: Four 790FX Socket AM3 Motherboards

Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P

Features and Layout

Knowing that a pair of dual-GPU graphics cards is the most popular method for configuring four-GPU CrossFireX, Gigabyte reduced its x16 slots to only two and added other features instead.

For a slightly lower price than the competing Asus model, Gigabyte buyers get four extra SATA ports, dual-Gigabit network controllers, and an extra FireWire port. Buyers lose the ability to run more than two graphics boards, but also lose the higher price that accompanies Asus’ 10 electronic PCIe pathway-selector switches.

That makes the UD5P a more cost- and space-efficient design for single or dual graphics card configurations, all the way up to a pair of Radeon HD 4870 X2s. Gigabyte even cut away a portion of its northbridge sink to make room for full-length PCIe x1 expansion cards in the top slot, which is a great place for a discrete audio card upgrade. Ironically, the most likely add-in here would be Asus' Xonar.

What’s old is new again, at least when it comes to adding convenience to the MA790FX6-UD5P layout. For example, the ports that hardly anyone uses—legacy serial and parallel—have been moved to the bottom rear corner where they can be more easily accessed with a rear-panel breakout plate. Meanwhile, IDE and floppy connectors are both found above the centerline of the board’s front edge, for easier cabling to upper bays of full-tower cases.

Gigabyte knows that builders no longer rely on slot brackets to connect USB and FireWire breakout cables, so it moved these headers forward for easier cabling to front-panel ports. The front-panel audio header resides in front of rear-panel jacks for a similar reason.

We have no layout complaints, but builders should be aware that all four of the MA790FX-UD5P's add-in SATA ports (white) share a single PCIe pathway through the JMicron JMB363 controller, for a maximum combined throughput of 250 MB/s. That’s far short of the 1,200 MB/s combined bandwidth that four 3.0 Gb/s ports are theoretically capable of supporting.

BIOS

A comparison of frequency and voltage range for today’s motherboards can be found in this article’s overclocking section.

Gigabyte's M.I.T menu provides a fairly large selection of clock and several voltage controls.

The DRAM Configuration sub-menu contains all popular timings, along with several not-so-popular sub-timings. “Automatic” mode is not available for individual settings, but two columns to the left of these show what would have been used in Automatic or SPD mode. The less-initiated can simply copy values from one of these two columns into each manual register as needed.

Accessories

Our MA790FXT-UD5P sample arrived white-boxed without a manual or DVDs, but Gigabyte did include the cable pack. With no eSATA ports on the motherboard’s I/O panel, Gigabyte includes a SATA to eSATA breakout plate with four-pin power, a four-pin-to-two-drive SATA power adapter cable, and two eSATA to SATA data cables. Gigabyte is also the first of only two companies in today’s comparison to include a floppy cable, as associated drives are still useful for adding AHCI or RAID drivers during Windows XP installations.

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  • Anonymous
    i like that dial on the MSI... mmm.
    -1
  • NitroSuperSonic
    AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition
    (2.80 GHz, 86.0 MB Cache)

    I never knew any AMD processors had that much cache!
    4
  • judeh101
    NitroSuperSonicAMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition(2.80 GHz, 86.0 MB Cache)I never knew any AMD processors had that much cache!


    Super CPU!
    4
  • ifko_pifko
    "Asus has clear performance leadership,..." :-)))
    1.66% better than the worst performer in the tests. :-)
    6
  • tacoslave
    who said Phenom II has low cache size i think with those 86mb you can do amazing things!!
    1
  • tacoslave
    sorry about the double post but i would have liked to have seen these benchmarked with two 4870x2's... since they keep talking about them so much.
    1
  • cangelini
    Super CPU fixed ;)

    Not much point in throwing that much GPU horsepower at a motherboard review; the card Thomas used is our current reference--and it's more than ample for showcasing the differences between these boards.

    If you want to see quad-CrossFire for any specific reason, feel free to let us know and we can put together a story idea!
    1
  • EQPlayer
    I think people would like to see a dual-295/dual-4870x2 series of benches if only for the "OMG BEASTLY!" factor. I dunno. XD
    1
  • Crashman
    ifko_pifko"Asus has clear performance leadership,..." :-)))1.66% better than the worst performer in the tests. :-)


    Consistent would have been better if not for the fear of people pointing out ever tiny inconsistency. Just remember, if you're 5'11" tall it's clear to just about everyone that you're not 6'!!!
    -1
  • Proximon
    cangelini...the card Thomas used is our current reference--and it's more than ample for showcasing the differences between these boards.


    Could you clarify that a bit Chris? Are you saying you would not expect any difference in crossfire between the MBs? If so, that's OK. However, if there's going to be a difference, that is the main reason to buy a 790FX. If you aren't going to crossfire might as well get a GX.

    I suspect the chipset isn't the whole story and the various manufacturers could still screw up the PCI-E voltages or something :p
    1
  • cangelini
    Prox,

    It depends on the numbers you're looking for. I interpreted the OP's request to mean he wanted performance results with 4870 X2s, which are overkill for comparing these boards. If it's a matter of comparing PCI Express scaling (the reason for going FX instead of GX), check out this piece: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/crossfire-pci-express,2095.html. It isn't on the AMD platforms, but it still illustrates fairly well how much/little performance you'd lose with PCIe 2.0 x8 vs. x16.
    1
  • wira020
    i think comparing dual gpu and single gpu would be a great idea... there could be inconsistency between the motherboards at crossfire setting... i mean u did test using 2 ram and 4 ram rite... and there's a difference in performance... hope this makes sense.. and yeah it's also bout the beastly impact and stuff... ;)
    2
  • SpadeM
    I think that a quad crossfire would be of interest to a motherboard review. Just to answer questions like: Are two 4870X2 better then 4 x 4870 or 4890 or 4850? Does the PCIe pathways bottleneck (if it happens) the GPUs when running in 8x mode? How about the stability of the system with 4 physical cards instead of 2 or just 1 ... and so on.

    Granted my request isn't based on the real needs of the consumer, it's more of a scientific curiosity behind it. But I remember a while back tom's had an article about nvidia's SLI with 2, 3 or 4 cards in different configurations and that was an interesting read.

    PS: Just to clear something up in the 2 x 4870X2 vs. 4 x 4870 or other versions. I know that 4x4870 are more $$ then 2x4870X2 but if you buy a 4 slot PCIe motherboard what if you start out with a single 4870 or 4890 and just add in cards over the period of a year since prices change and people might not have all the cash to get 4 cards at the same time.
    0
  • coolgod
    phenom ii out for testing tomorrow we hope :)
    0
  • EQPlayer
    The Editor's Note kinda confirms that theory, yeah. ;)
    0
  • Anonymous
    They are using a 260 for the video card. Will these boards SLI as well as Crossfire?
    0
  • curnel_D
    Lol, basically these guys want an article that would have taken another day or two to write, and a thick stack of video cards so they could see the performance differences between 2x 4870X2's, 4x 4870's, and then perhaps any combination of 4870's and an 8800gt thrown in the mix for physiX. :P
    3
  • sublifer
    To avoid confusion with the AM2+ based 790FX boards they ought to call it 793FX or something different...
    0
  • monkeysweat
    I just question why you would buy a board for AMD's spider platform,,then use a Nvidia product?? seems kinda weird to me,, if i was buying something "high end", I'm not going to buy an accessory whether it works properly or not from a competitor to complement it. I would have liked to at least see the comparison using AMD products.
    1
  • SpadeM
    cangeliniIf you want to see quad-CrossFire for any specific reason, feel free to let us know and we can put together a story idea!


    "We guys" just made a suggestion since Chris stated he's opened to ideas. The asrock X58 article a few days back is another good example of a story that can be looked at from a more technical perspective. Since that board and these two AMD ones share 4 PCIe ports and ATI & Nvidia cards support ATI STREA/CUDA one would be inclined to have a look beyond the "can it run crysis" comment. And I'm sure finding 4 identical cards isn't an issues since the time that takes to right an article wasn't up for debate.
    0