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Conclusion

Seven AMD 785G-Based Motherboards Rounded Up
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With performance so very close, benchmark results aren't much of a differentiator. The best thing we can hope to accomplish is to help you sift through the different features these boards boast in order to see what suits your needs the best. Here's the breakdown:

ASRock M3A785GXH/128M

Easily the most unique board in the roundup, ASRock's offering is the only 785G board able to offer eight PCIe lanes of bandwidth to each graphics cards in a CrossFire configuration. This is also the only board that features a triple-CrossFire option for three graphics cards, although the third card is limited to PCIe x4 signaling rates. The M3A785GXH/128M is a fully-featured AM3-based ATX board with good BIOS control for the enthusiast. At $100 online, it's not the cheapest or the most expensive 785G platform you can buy, but it's a compelling choice for anyone who can make use of what it offers: the best CrossFire options in its class.

Asus M4A785TD-V EVO

The Asus M4A785TD-V EVO is a full-sized AM3 board targeted at the enthusiast with advertised DDR3-1800 overclocking support and a 10-phase voltage regulator. While you won't find some legacy connectivity options on this board (no serial, parallel, or floppy option here) you will find a solid backbone with the ability of running at least 1,600 MT/s memory and potentially even more, which is a rare capability among 785G products. Even though the board lacks enthusiast-class features like BIOS profiles and a clear CMOS button, it does offer the capability of unlocking dormant CPU cores in conjunction with the ACC function. The M4A785TD-V EVO remains a solid choice for the Phenom II overclocker on a $100 budget.

Biostar TA785GE 128M

This microATX Biostar board is an excellent upgrader's choice, supporting the AM2+ socket interface in conjunction with DDR2 memory and allowing for compatibility with older Athlon X2 and Phenom processors. Without CPU multiplier control in the BIOS, this might not be ideal for the enthusiast, but it's still quite capable of handling most overclocking settings. This microATX board isn't as fully featured as some of its competitors, given a 5.1 channel audio codec, no on-board FireWire, no PCIe x1 slots, and no eSATA ports. But at about $80 online, it's a gem of a board for those with an older CPU or memory who want a future upgrade path.

Foxconn Cinema Premium

The only other AM2+/DDR2 board in our roundup, the Foxconn Cinema Premium is targeted at home theater enthusiasts who desire both DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live support. However, if audio capabilities are this board's focus, we're not sure why Foxconn passed over the premium Realtek ALC889 codec and instead opted for the ALC888. It's also a little puzzling that this upgrade-friendly AM2+ board is missing an IDE hard drive option. Having said all that, it works well and has a solid base of BIOS options for the tweakers. At about $110 online, the Cinema Premium will likely appeal to specific home theater enthusiasts who want both DTS and Dolby Digital options.

Gigabyte GA-MA785GT-UD3H

Gigabyte's entry is the most fully-featured ATX AM3-based board in the 785G roundup. It is the only board that supports all legacy connectivity, such as floppy, serial, and parallel ports (although the serial and parallel ports require cables not included in the bundle). The enthusiast will appreciate the flexibility of eight BIOS profiles, good BIOS control, and the ability to choose ACC modes that will either unlock disabled CPU cores or just allow ACC to work normally. The board also sports the premium Realtek ALC889 codec. It's not the most memory overclocking-friendly option, but at $80 online, there is a lot of value here for folks who want a solid AM3 platform.

ECS A785GM-M

There is little to complain about on the hardware side when considering the A785GM-M, which is a forward-looking AM3 piece featuring a lot of enthusiast-friendly features, such as on-board power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons, as well as a diagnostic panel. This board has the distinction of being only one of two in our roundup able to run our Mushkin memory at 1,600 MT/s.

The hardware is willing, yet the BIOS is restrictive as though they were designed by two separate teams with different goals. There is no BIOS-profile feature, PCIe clock control, or memory command rate control.  And worst of all, there is no ACC option. If ECS publicly released the special testing BIOS it let us use, we could recommend the A785GM-M wholeheartedly as a fantastic enthusiast board for a very reasonably-priced $90 online. But with the stock BIOS, we're not nearly as enthusiastic.

MSI 785GM-E65

MSI supplies both rich features and the small microATX form factor with the 785GM-E65. With all the trimmings, excellent legacy connectivity options, the premium Realtek ALC889 audio codec, and SidePort memory, the MSI board only gives up a secondary PCIe slot compared to its ATX competitors, while offering good BIOS control for the enthusiast including the choice to unlock dormant CPU cores in conjunction with the ACC function. At $90 online, this is a great option for folks who value the microATX size and don't want to give up the trimmings.

In the final analysis, we can see that the 785G chipset isn't limited to just one kind of budget machine. There's an entire spectrum of platforms that utilize this chipset in different ways to really suit different users. Choice is always good, and there's no lack of that in the 785G offerings on the market today.

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  • 3 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , October 27, 2009 2:04 PM
    Very informative article. Nice to see there are motherboards with different features for different users/tasks.
  • 5 Hide
    LATTEH , October 27, 2009 3:24 PM
    Just what i needed to see thanks toms!
  • 6 Hide
    bpdski , October 27, 2009 3:41 PM
    Great article, I think this shows pretty conclusively that there is no benefit to upgrading to an AM3 based system. If you already have an AM2+ system, you can easily just drop in a new CPU and you system will be every bit as good as a brand new system with DDR3. You just need to make sure your motherboard supports the power requirements of whatever you want to drop in.
  • 7 Hide
    jonpaul37 , October 27, 2009 4:13 PM
    Hooray AMD for having cheap solutions in these hard-economic times!

    Boo @ Intel! i like the product, but my wallet & Girl do not like the cost!
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , October 27, 2009 4:33 PM
    jonpaul37Hooray AMD for having cheap solutions in these hard-economic times!Boo @ Intel! i like the product, but my wallet & Girl do not like the cost!

    +1
    Girl has more money for clothes!
  • 5 Hide
    ominous prime , October 27, 2009 4:37 PM
    Well bpdski there is no point upgrading if you're AM2, but if you're building a new PC AM3 is the way to go in terms of your computers longevity. Very informative article.
  • 1 Hide
    sonofliberty08 , October 27, 2009 5:30 PM
    thanks alot for the info , my first choice was allways asus , but now i now what i need when im going to unlock core , and now i saw the benefits of sideport memory .
  • 1 Hide
    duzcizgi , October 27, 2009 5:33 PM
    Quote:
    We were successful in achieving a 900 MHz stable overclock with the integrated graphics chipset by setting the BIOS to increase northbridge voltage by +.210mV.

    Well, .210 mV = 210 microvolt. I don't think it would make much of a change. Maybe it is 210 mV or, .210 V. :) 
  • 2 Hide
    doron , October 27, 2009 6:36 PM
    "Now we're seeing another benefit for the AM2+/DDR2 boards: both the Foxconn Cinema Premium and Biostar TA785GE 128M are drawing less power than their AM3/DDR3 counterparts."

    How comes? Didn't we all agree a long time ago that ddr3 supposed to be more energy efficient out of the two? (Lower voltage and stuff?)
  • 2 Hide
    DarkMantle , October 27, 2009 6:45 PM
    Great article, this will help a lot of people to make their AMD budget motherboard choice easier, thank you Don.
  • 0 Hide
    nforce4max , October 27, 2009 7:19 PM
    Ah nice line up and a good review. AMD has a better platform when factoring in cost and durability compared to Intel war I end up replacing the board after a few months to a year once the cpu power stage begins to degrade. Then there is performance on the I/O end and stable and steady stream to the cpu that is unaffected by other devices compared to FSB but on the cpu end need to be improved and same for INTEL.
  • 2 Hide
    haplo602 , October 27, 2009 7:32 PM
    before reading the article ... THANK GOD errr... TOM's ... I have been waiting for a 785G mobo test since release ... all I got was crap load of P55 ...
  • 0 Hide
    haplo602 , October 27, 2009 8:01 PM
    so after reading the article, nice work. I have the cheaper MSI 785GM-E51 in my build atm, but the E65 looks very solid and worth the cost.
  • 0 Hide
    Kohlhagen , October 27, 2009 11:09 PM
    Does the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO have x8/x8 support or x16/x4? on newegg it says x16/x4
  • 0 Hide
    msroadkill612 , October 27, 2009 11:34 PM
    Early adopters of usb 3.0 may wish to note that cards will probably be pcie x 4 (to cope with the bandwidth). Those extra slots may be good even w/o a neeed for crossfire.
  • -2 Hide
    msroadkill612 , October 27, 2009 11:35 PM
    Early adopters of usb 3.0 may wish to note that cards will probably be pcie x 4 (to cope with the bandwidth). Those extra pcie slots may be good even w/o a need for crossfire.
  • 1 Hide
    autoboy , October 28, 2009 12:00 AM
    "The irony is that Foxconn chose Realtek's ALC888 codec to drive the Cinema Premium instead of the ALC889, which has a better signal-to-noise ratio and can be found in the Gigabyte and MSI 785G boards in this roundup."

    Actually, it makes perfect sense to use a subpar codec when the intention of the board is to use digital audio which will never touch the Realtek codec. When you use analog outputs, the benefits of DD live and DTS connect are worthless because whatever audio format the content is in will be decoded in surround sound and output over the analog outputs.

    DD Live and DTS connect are simply transcoding AAC or game surround sound into Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound where it is passed as DD or DTS over the spdif or HDMI port, never touching the realtek codec making it's quality a non-issue. The purpose of the board is digital connections only and the codec was simply added because all boards need one.

    DD Live and DTS connect are simply transcoding schemes for PC digital audio into a format that receivers can understand. If you think of it that way it is easy.
  • 1 Hide
    dragoon190 , October 28, 2009 3:57 AM
    +1 to Kohlhagen's question. It does state that the board is x16/x4 on Ausu's website, though...
  • 1 Hide
    dark_lord69 , October 28, 2009 1:15 PM
    jonpaul37Hooray AMD for having cheap solutions in these hard-economic times!Boo @ Intel! i like the product, but my wallet & Girl do not like the cost!

    Dito.
  • 1 Hide
    nafhan , October 28, 2009 1:40 PM
    Just bought the ECS board from newegg... it's $70 (after rebate) right now.
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