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A Chipset With its Own Software?

AMD 790GX: RV610 For Enthusiasts?
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If 790GX were a three-part harmony, the chipset’s northbridge would be a tenor, the southbridge would lay down bass, and AMD’s updated software package would be the up-in-your-face soprano.

Why the big focus on an application? Well, hardware vendors generally exhibit a fair bit of trepidation when it comes to running their products out of spec. After all, when a piece of hardware gets pushed too far and snaps, neither enthusiast nor manufacturer wants to pay for the replacement. Consequently, companies like AMD, Intel, and Nvidia have historically taken an externally conservative approach to overclocking.

Wishing to better align themselves with enthusiasts, both AMD and Intel have slowly inched their way closer to the high-end customers buying the Extreme Edition CPUs and X2 graphics cards. The result now is almost a full-fledged effort to arm the community with tools to make overclocking as accessible as possible; hence AMD’s OverDrive and Intel’s Desktop Control Center.

You’ve Done Something Different With Your Hair

The first thing you’ll notice about OverDrive is that it’d been redesigned. A little less AMD corporate; a little more enthusiast-chic. Nevertheless, it incorporates similar functionality. You get four tabs up at the top for relaying System Information, viewing the Status Monitor, altering performance characteristics, and defining preferences. As expected, each page looks remarkably similar to the previous build.

The System Information page is viewable in a Basic, Detailed, or Diagrammed window — the former two carry-overs from AMD’s existing OverDrive utility and the latter a brand new top-down view of each platform component and attached peripheral. The Status Monitor tab offers a breakdown of processor status, GPU status, and board status, with real-time frequency, voltage, temperature, and utilization data.

Performance Control is where enthusiasts are naturally going to gravitate. You’ll find five tabs there, so long as you’re using the app in Advanced mode: Clock/Voltage, Memory, Benchmark, Stability Test, and Auto Clock. Access to the new Advanced Clock Calibration feature is available under the first tab, Clock/Voltage. Also under that menu are the processor multiplier, HyperTransport multiplier, HT reference clock, PCI Express clock, and voltage settings across the board. If you’re using integrated graphics, the GPU and side-port memory frequencies can also be tweaked using a slider on the same page. Flip to the Memory tab and you’ll be greeted with a list of settings more detailed than any motherboard BIOS. Everything from basic timings to drive strength settings to cycle times are there — 52 total settings to configure in the beta build of the software we’re using. Benchmark and Stability Test tabs let you evaluate the effects of your performance tweaks and stress the new settings to ensure you’re still working with a stable platform. Finally, an Auto-Clock menu gives OverDrive control of the overclocking process.

The last sub-menu is Preferences. Naturally, you can switch between Novice and Advanced modes, save and load profiles, and open the RAIDXpert and Catalyst Control Panel apps. A Page List facilitates control over which of the OverDrive pages actually show up and define which can be changed by the user. A Device List serves as reference to the components installed.

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  • 6 Hide
    kitsilencer , August 6, 2008 4:47 AM
    Great review, and it's good to see that AMD is at last able to target more enthusiast markets competitively.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , August 6, 2008 5:38 AM
    kitsilencerGreat review, and it's good to see that AMD is at last able to target more enthusiast markets competitively.


    Thanks for the feedback Kit.
  • 1 Hide
    eklipz330 , August 6, 2008 6:19 AM
    ^^^iseriously thought that was sarcasm, until i saw the authors name
  • 0 Hide
    waffle911 , August 6, 2008 7:01 AM
    So... why does a page 15 and 16 of this article exist if there is no page 15 or 16 to the article?
    Take a closer look. What happened?
  • 2 Hide
    YYD , August 6, 2008 7:15 AM
    PCMark seems Intel biased, please read this:
    http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/atom-nano-review.ars/6

    Please change this benchmark suite or check if PcMark Vantage is unbiased.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , August 6, 2008 7:23 AM
    waffle911So... why does a page 15 and 16 of this article exist if there is no page 15 or 16 to the article?Take a closer look. What happened?


    That was strange. Should be fixed now.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , August 6, 2008 7:24 AM
    YYDPCMark seems Intel biased, please read this:http://arstechnica.com/reviews/har [...] view.ars/6Please change this benchmark suite or check if PcMark Vantage is unbiased.


    Fortunately, with no Intel platforms tested, this should be a non-issue for the current situation ;-) In the future, you'll be seeing SYSmark, though.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 6, 2008 7:30 AM
    Seems past page 8 or something the links are corrupt.. can't fully read this article and getting error 404 - page not found.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 6, 2008 7:32 AM
    .. and now the article seems to be removed even from the main page!?!?!
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , August 6, 2008 7:51 AM
    lacrits.. and now the article seems to be removed even from the main page!?!?!


    Alright, mystery solved. It's back up, sans the blank page. Thanks for pointing that out lacrits!
  • 2 Hide
    nickchalk , August 6, 2008 9:31 AM
    Hi, i wanted to ask something aout the article.
    why you use 3470 and 8500 for the tests?
    hybrid crossfire and nvidia boost don't work with faster cards?
    is the performance gain not big with 3870 or 9600gt?
    thanks
  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , August 6, 2008 9:36 AM
    Hybrid CrossFireX uses alternate frame rendering, as does GeForce Boost, I believe. As a result, both technologies are best complemented by discrete boards evenly matched to the integrated core. In the case of the GeForce 8300, that'd be an 8500 GT. For the 790GX, AMD recommends the 3470. To spend any more money on discrete graphics for either platform would be a waste of money even if you could use faster cards.
  • 1 Hide
    nickchalk , August 6, 2008 9:42 AM
    thanks for responding so fast.
    so what if i use a 3650 with this board? or why will i buy a quad core and dont spend some more for a 3850?
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , August 6, 2008 9:54 AM
    Unfortunately, performance won't scale with the 3650. With that said, you'll still see reasonable gaming performance in Hybrid CrossFireX. The beauty of this board is that you CAN drop in a 3850, 3870, 4850, etc. and then add a second one later for CrossFireX.
  • 0 Hide
    zenmaster , August 6, 2008 11:20 AM
    cangeliniUnfortunately, performance won't scale with the 3650. With that said, you'll still see reasonable gaming performance in Hybrid CrossFireX. The beauty of this board is that you CAN drop in a 3850, 3870, 4850, etc. and then add a second one later for CrossFireX.


    Nice Review, However I would like to see how well SLI scales on this board using a 4850 and 4870 vs another AMD Board with full Duel 16x PCIE 2.0 Slots.

    I've seen some other reviews where Dual 8x PCIE 2.0 Slots start having scaling issues on the 4850 at are not seen on the 3800 Series.
  • 1 Hide
    computerfarmer , August 6, 2008 11:20 AM
    Thank you for this excellent article.
    Does the 128mb side-port limit the on board video to that amount of memory? Does this affect Vista Areo?
  • 1 Hide
    jimmysmitty , August 6, 2008 1:13 PM
    Good article. Phenom can finally OC. I wounder if the mobo makers are going to make them with higher quality voltage regulators so it can support the 9850BE and higher across the selection.
  • 1 Hide
    cshorte , August 6, 2008 1:47 PM
    good review,

    i have a question why do you recommend ddr1066 over 800? i thought there wasn't a huge difference.

    also im a bit confused about this 16x, vs. 8x 8x...
    if i use a single card (for now) which motherboard (790g, 790gx) will produce more graphixs capabilities?
  • 1 Hide
    ltcommander_data , August 6, 2008 2:03 PM
    It would have been interesting to see a comparison between the GMA X4500 and the 790GX.

    http://www.hkepc.com/?id=1510&page=5&fs=idn#view

    The GMA X4500 seems to be much faster than the GMA X3500 and within 10-30% of the 780G in actual games. I guess the 790GX was a timely addition and with it being 20% faster than the 780G, that should open up the lead over the GMA X4500 to 30-50%.
  • 1 Hide
    kenyee , August 6, 2008 2:08 PM
    and which of these upcoming 790GX motherboards are microATX?
    The only one I know of is the DFI one...
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