Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P Mainboard
Frankly speaking, we got the impression that they didn’t prepare for the Socket AM3 platform launch well enough. The infrastructure is not quite ready yet, and that is why we also faced certain problems during our test session. For example, it was really hard to find a suitable platform for testing new Socket AM3 processors. Mainboard makers evidently didn’t expect AMD to be launching their Socket AM3 processors in a month after the first Phenom II came out. That is why they couldn’t finish the development and production of their corresponding products in time. Therefore even AMD representatives encouraged us to test the new Phenom II X4 810 CPUs on a Socket AM2+ platform with DDR2 SDRAM.
Nevertheless, we managed to get our hands on a Socket AM3 mainboard. The day was saved by Gigabyte Company who kindly offered us their newest GA-MA790FXT-UD5P Socket AM3 mainboard. This solution is going to be the new flagship product in Gigabyte’s lineup for AMD CPUs that is why it definitely deserves our special attention.
Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P continues the lineup of Gigabyte mainboards for AMD processors that is why it has a lot in common with the previous Socket AM2+ solutions. However, it is not surprising at all, since GA-MA790FXT-UD5P is based on the AMD790FX North Bridge and SB750 South Bridge. In fact, the major peculiarities of this mainboard are all connected to the Socket AM3: there are four DDR3 SDRAM DIMM slots that haven’t been supported by AMD CPUs before.
Since this mainboard is designed for high-performance systems, it is equipped with two PCI Express x16 2.0 slots that can work with two graphics cards in full-speed CrossFireX configuration.
The market positioning of this board explains why it belongs to the Ultra Durable 3 series. This series contains all Gigabyte’s most interesting products. First of all, it means that the board is built with high-quality electronic components: Japanese solid-state capacitors, low RDS(on) MOSFET and ferrite core chokes. Secondly, GA-MA790FXT-UD5P mainboard uses a unique PCB with thicker copper layers for the “ground” and power. This improvement allows Gigabyte to improve signal quality and reduce EMI as well as improve the mainboard thermals.
Processor voltage regulator circuitry uses four-stages and is powerful enough for Gigabyte to promise stability even with CPUs consuming up to 140W of power. Transistors used in this circuitry are topped with the largest heatsink on the entire board that is connected to the chipset North and South Bridge heatsinks via heatpipes. I have to stress that these heatsinks are not very tall and are moved away from the CPU socket to provide enough room for large CPU coolers. However, memory DIMM slots may still pose some problems during massive coolers installation: they are placed so close to the CPU socket that you may not be able to install some DDR3 modules with tall heat-spreaders into the DIMM slots closest to the CPU.
Gigabyte engineers installed Power, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons onto their board. Unfortunately, the convenience they have been trying to achieve is eliminated by the location of these buttons: the first two of them are locked between the connectors, while the Clear CMOS button may be blocked by a long-bed graphics card. However, Gigabyte engineers used a unique solution preventing Clear CMOS button from accidental hits: it is covered with a clear plastic cap.
Another remarkable thing about Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P is 10 Serial ATA-300 ports turned parallel to the board. Six of them are implemented in a standard way via the SB570 South Bridge, while the other four are delivered by JMicron controllers. The ports connected to the chipset South Bridge support RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5, while the additional ports can only work as RAID 0 or 1.
The mainboard back panel carries eight USB 2.0 ports, two Gigabit network ports, two Firewire ports, PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse, analogue SPDIF audio-Ins and Outs. Note that the sound is implemented via eight-channel Realtek ALC889A codec providing 106dBA SNR. Besides the ports on the back panel, GA-MA790FXT-UD5P has a few pin-connectors for another 4 USB 2.0 and one IEEE1394 port.
The BIOS Setup of this mainboard is designed for enthusiasts therefore it has the entire “MB Intelligent Tweaker” section of overclocking-related settings besides standard parameters. It traditionally allows changing all multipliers and base frequencies alongside with flexible tools for voltage management.
You can set DDR3 memory voltage at 2.35V maximum, while the processor Vcore can be increased by 0.6V over its nominal value. You can also adjust the voltage of the North Bridge in the CPU and voltage of the chipset Bridges.
The mainboard also offers extensive functionality for memory settings adjustment:
Overall, Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P mainboard made a very good impression. Of course, BIOS version F4D that we used during our test session has not yet been polished off to perfection, but nevertheless, we managed not only to complete all tests in the nominal mode, but also performed a few successful overclocking experiments.