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Asus M3A79-T Deluxe

Does 790FX + SB750 = High-End Overclocking?

If the M3A79-T Deluxe looks familiar, it’s probably because the layout is nearly identical to that of its predecessor, the M3A32-MVP Deluxe. It would have been possible for Asus to use the same circuit board since AMD’s SB750 southbridge is pin-compatible with the earlier SB600 version, but we did notice that the USB header in the upper rear corner has fewer pins than the earlier WiFi mini-card-enabled version. A few smaller devices have also been moved around, but without altering the position of major components.

It appears that Asus even used the earlier product’s heat pipe assembly on this improved version, but without the additional memory cooler. Threaded bolt holes for attaching the device are still found on the northbridge sink.

The heat pipe assembly still provides passive cooling to 10 voltage regulator phases, supporting the high-wattage needs of overclocked quad-core Phenoms. Asus divides its power phases as eight for core processing and two for the processor’s integrated memory controller, allowing separate voltage changes within BIOS.

Layout remains solid overall, with power and SATA connectors within easy reach of top-mounted power supplies and bottom-mounted hard drive cages. That’s not to say everything is perfect, since long cables will be needed to reach SATA optical drives in the upper bay of tower cases. Also, the hard drive cage of certain case designs will block access to the forward-facing SATA ports—a problem that builders must remember when choosing components.

Forgivable shortcomings include an Ultra ATA connector located below the motherboard’s center line but which is still on the front edge and a floppy header near the rear of the motherboard beneath the lowest expansion slot. Associated devices are rarely used in new builds, so we aren’t too worried about them.

One thing that might prove particularly frustrating to high-end gaming system builders is that the bottom two PCI-Express 2.0 slots are only one space apart. This eliminates the possibility of two double-thickness cards such as the HD 4870 being used in both slots, in effect limiting CrossFireX configurations to a maximum of three high-end or four mid-range cards.

The M3A79-T Deluxe’s revamped circuit board now includes power and reset buttons near the front of the bottom edge. This addition forced Asus to move several smaller features, such as the removable BIOS IC and communications port, to alternative locations.

Onboard Devices

Asus M3A79-T Deluxe (Revision 1.02G)
Northbridge AMD 790FX
Southbridge AMD SB750
Voltage Regulator Ten Phases
BIOS 0403 (09/16/2008)
200.0 MHz (HT 2000) 200.7 MHz (+0.35%)
Clock Generator ICS 9LPRS477CKL
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard 4x PCIe 2.0 x16 (Modes: Two x16 or Four x8)
2x PCI 2.2
3x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)
1x IEEE-1394 FireWire
1x Serial Port Header
1x Floppy
1x Ultra ATA (2 drives)
6x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
1x Front Panel Audio
1x CD-Audio In
1x Fan 4 pins (CPU)
3x Fan 3 pins (Chassis/Power)
1x Internal Power Button
1x Internal Reset Button
IO panel 1x PS2 (keyboard or mouse )
6x USB 2.0
2x Digital Audio Out (S/P-DIF optical + coaxial)
1x IEEE-1394 FireWire
1x External SATA
1x RJ-45 Network
6x Analog Audio (7.1 Channel + Mic-In + Line-In)
Mass Storage Controllers
AMD SB750 1x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)
6x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0,1,5,10)
Marvell 88SE6111-NAA1 PCI-E 1x External SATA 3.0Gb/s
2x Marvell 88E8056-NNC1 PCI-E Gigabit LAN Connection
ADI AD2000B HD Audio Codec Eight-Channel (7.1 Surround) Output
LSI L-FW3227-100 PCI 2x IEEE-1394a (400 Mbit/s)

Asus targets the mid-priced gaming crowd by increasing support for mid-range graphics cards and eliminating a few unused features. Buyers won’t find Asus’ Draft-N wireless card or a second Gigabit network controller, as many would rather not pay for these two rarely used features. However, Asus does include the multimedia-centric FireWire controller.

Also missing is any internal connection for the eSATA controller. This could be important to some buyers, since so many bay devices now support a single front-panel port.

Asus has only provided a single PS/2 device on most of its motherboards for a few product cycles, but has recently improved the port’s compatibility to include keyboards and mice. Other ports are typical for an upper-to-mid-range product, including six USB 2.0 ports, coaxial and optical digital audio connectors, IEEE-1394 FireWire, and eSATA.

Asus doesn’t list as many features for the M3A79-T Deluxe’s AD2000B codec as it did for the AD2000BX of some higher-priced models, but buyers still get a few extras such as multi-streaming of separate audio sources and virtual surround sound.

Unfortunately, the motherboard’s front-audio cable header is located just about as far as it can be from the front-panel jacks of typical cases, and “everybody’s doing it” isn’t a good-enough excuse for putting this important connector in the lower-rear corner.

With its added-in SATA controller providing only one rear-panel eSATA port, it made sense for Asus to put the Marvell 88SE6111 on the motherboard’s rear edge, just below the 88E8056 Gigabit network controller.

FireWire isn’t needed by most gamers, but is probably one of the least-expensive added features Asus could use to boost the apparent value of its product. A PCI interface has more than enough bandwidth for two 400-megabit ports.

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