AMD 790GX: RV610 For Enthusiasts?

Gigabyte’s MA790GP-DS4H

Originally, this story was slated to be a round-up of four 790GX-based boards AMD claimed would be available at launch. It was to be glorious, we swear. Unfortunately, the stars did not align as we had expected, and only one motherboard made it to our facilities for testing: Gigabyte’s MA790GP-DS4H. The ASUS, Foxconn, and MSI boards simply were not ready in time.

As a matter of fact, we actually received two Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4Hs — one from Gigabyte and another that had gone through AMD’s own QA lab. The first Gigabyte board was based on PCB revision .2 and had some noticeable teething problems. In a number of 3D apps, the screen would scramble, sometimes righting itself and other times requiring a reboot. As expected, the revision 1.0 board behaved in a much more civilized manner. We have to wonder if some of the other vendors’ offerings experienced similar issues.

4+1-phase power for 140W Phenoms

Mainstream For Enthusiasts

The MA790GP-DS4H is probably the highest-end mainstream platform you’ve ever seen. We already know it was built to be a value-oriented offering (hence the integrated graphics, 4+1 phase power, and VGA output). But there are more performance indicators here to tantalize a more affluent customer: copper cooling, dual graphics slots, 128 MB of onboard DDR3, for instance.

Clearly, AMD’s partners have learned from their experiences with 780G. Early in 2008, AnandTech’s Gary Key reported on issues he experienced testing 780G-based board with 125 W quad-core Phenom processors. The problem turned out to be power circuitry on the mainstream boards that wasn’t sufficient for higher-end CPUs, leading to premature board failure. This time around, those same vendors aren’t “going cheap,” instead beefing up power circuitry to cope with everything right up to the 140 W Phenom X4 9950 Black Edition. Gigabyte’s 790GX board features a 4+1-phase configuration, and we suspect other third-party vendors will follow suit.

A passive copper cooler sits atop the MA790GP-DS4H’s power circuitry and connects via heatpipe to another copper sink responsible for cooling AMD’s northbridge. Under that cooler (but not touching it) is a 128 MB module of Elpida DDR3-1333 memory — the side-port cache used to improve integrated graphics performance. If you plan on adding a Radeon HD 3450 or 3470 to the board (harnessing the Hybrid CrossFireX feature), use the blue PCI Express x16 slot. Should you instead opt for straight CrossFireX, circumventing the onboard core altogether, a pair of similar cards plugged into the blue and orange slots will get eight lanes of PCIe 2.0 connectivity each.

There are actually a reasonable number of integrated extras — as well there should be for the cost difference between 780G and 790GX. Gigabyte includes Realtek’s 8111C Gigabit Ethernet controller (good, since the 790GX doesn’t have its own networking link), a Realtek 889A codec (Dolby Home Theater is offered, including Dolby Digital Live encoding), and a Texas Instruments FireWire controller. There aren’t any extra storage controllers, but because AMD now supports RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5 through the six SATA ports originating from its SB750, we’re hardly concerned with additional storage on a mainstream platform.

The board’s back panel plays host to standard PS/2 ports, VGA, HDMI, and DVI outputs (remember, only one analog and one digital output can be used at a time), four USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire connector, Gigabit Ethernet, optical audio output, and enough 1/8” analog jacks for 8.1-channel connectivity. Gigabyte goes the extra mile by also including its DualBIOS feature — a lifesaver if you ever hose the update procedure — and solid capacitors across the entire board.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
71 comments
    Your comment
  • kitsilencer
    Great review, and it's good to see that AMD is at last able to target more enthusiast markets competitively.
    6
  • cangelini
    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.
    0
  • eklipz330
    ^^^iseriously thought that was sarcasm, until i saw the authors name
    1
  • waffle911
    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?
    0
  • YYD
    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.
    2
  • cangelini
    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
  • cangelini
    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.
    0
  • Anonymous
    Seems past page 8 or something the links are corrupt.. can't fully read this article and getting error 404 - page not found.
    1
  • Anonymous
    .. and now the article seems to be removed even from the main page!?!?!
    1
  • cangelini
    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!
    0
  • nickchalk
    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
  • cangelini
    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.
    2
  • nickchalk
    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?
    1
  • cangelini
    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
  • zenmaster
    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.
    0
  • computerfarmer
    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
  • jimmysmitty
    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
  • cshorte
    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
  • ltcommander_data
    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
  • kenyee
    and which of these upcoming 790GX motherboards are microATX?
    The only one I know of is the DFI one...
    1