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ASRock M3A785GXH/128M: Features And Hardware

Seven AMD 785G-Based Motherboards Rounded Up
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We'll begin with a look at ASRock's ATX flavor of 785G. The M3A785GXH/128M appears to be aimed squarely at the enthusiast market with 140W CPU support, 1,600 MT/s (overclocked) DDR3 support, 128MB of SidePort on-board memory, and enthusiast-class BIOS control. Despite all of this build-up, the bundle is a little Spartan. It includes an IDE cable, floppy cable, two SATA cables, a manual, two driver CDs, and an I/O panel shield.

The board comes with ASRock's Overclocking Tuner software, Instant Boot functionality (combines the benefits of a total system shutdown with the recovery speed of sleep mode), Intelligent Energy Saver (an AM2+/AM3 feature that disables extra power phases under light loads to save power), and Hybrid Booster (ASRock claims this is a safe overclocking feature because of an integral thermal monitor that protects the CPU from overheating).

I must admit, I'm always a little curious to see what sort of concoction the mad scientists as ASRock will come up with. The M3A785GXH/128M didn't disappoint:

Yes, the board employs three x16 PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 slots. It relies on the stock 785G/SB710 combo, and the 785G chipset is limited to 16 lanes for graphics. Therefore, available PCI Express connectivity must be shared between the top two PCIe x16 slots for single x16 or dual x8/x8 operation. The third x16-sized slot is limited to four lanes. Single x16x or dual x8 modes for the top two slots are selectable through the use of a switch card, which saves money on automatic switching.

The dual second-gen x8 slots shouldn't have too dramatic an impact on CrossFireX performance, but the x4 slot will most certainly slow down triple-CrossFireX. Either way, the board gives users a lot of nifty options on the graphics card front. Kudos to ASRock for having a budget board that can handle three dual-slot graphics cards.

This board takes power usage seriously, with a eight-pin auxiliary ATX 12V power connector and a four-pin Molex-style connector, in addition to the standard 24-pin ATX power connector. However, the four-pin Molex plug is only necessary for CrossFire operation.

Speaking of power, ASRock claims to be the first manufacturer to support the European Union's Energy Using Product (EuP) standard, which specifies that a system can use no more than one watt of power while turned off.

ASRock also chose a unique way to allow users to opt for either a sixth internal SATA 3 Gb/s port or an external eSATA port--the eSATA port in the I/O panel is disabled unless the sixth internal SATA port is dedicated to its operation via an included cable. It might not be the cleanest or most elegant solution, but I can tell you from personal experience that it can be frustrating when you could use another internal SATA port that a vendor dedicated to an external eSATA plug.

We found the configuration and placement of components to be a little odd, but serviceable. The 24-pin ATX power plug is on the very top of the board, which might be a problem in enclosures where the power supply is mounted on the bottom. If CrossFire is used, the Molex-style power connector is in an inconvenient place. The IDE connector is oddly-mounted perpendicular to the edge of the board. The floppy connector is on the bottom-left, which makes for messy cable management when legacy devices are used.

Finally, it's nice to see two of the six SATA connectors facing outward from the board. However, they're placed below the panel connectors. The remaining four SATA connectors are placed out of the way on the bottom-right of the board, but they face outward, which, for this writer, was not ideal.

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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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