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Monday, 01 June 2009 15:01

Gigabyte 790FXT-UD5P reviewed

Written by Eliot Kucharik

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Review: A good board, but no match for MSI


Two weaks ago
we reviewed the first 790FX board for AM3. Today we have the second incarnation in our labs which comes from Gigabyte. While only offering two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, it has ten SATA connectors. Now it's time to look what this board is made of.

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Features:
AMD 790FX/SB750
4+1 phase VRM, dual lane design
Realtek ALC889A
2x Realtek RTL8111DL PCIe Gb LAN controller
2x JMicro JMB322 SATA II RAID 0, 1 port multiplier
Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 PCI Firewire controller
ITS IT8720F super I/O controller
ICS 9LPR5477CKL clock generator
passive cooling of chipsets/VRM
8Mb BIOS, version: F3L, F5C
Mainboard Revision: 1.00


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Click here for a high-res picture.


Slots:
2x PCIe 2.0 x16
3x PCIe x1
2x PCI

Memory:
4x Dual-Channel DDR3-slots for PC2-10667U memory up to 8GB

Storage:
6-Port SATA II featuring RAID 0, 1, 5, 0+1, JBOD
1-Port IDE
2x 2-Port SATA II RAID 0, 1, JBOD
1-Port Floppy

Backpanel ports:
1x PS/2 keyboard
1x PS/2 mouse
2x Gb LAN
8x USB 2.0
1x Firewire 400
1x Firewire mini 400
7.1 analog output
1x digital audio optical out
1x digital audio coaxial out


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Click here for a high-res picture.


Accessories:
2x SATA cable with clips
2x SATA cable with 90° connectors with clips
1x IDE cable
1x 2-port eSATA bracket
2x eSATA cable
2x HDD-power to SATA-power


BIOS features:
Bus Speeds: Auto, 200MHz to 500MHz in 1MHz increments
Memory Ratios: Auto, 4x, 5.33x, 6.67x, 8x
HT Link Speeds: Auto, x1 to x10 in x1 increments
Adjust PCIe Speed: 100MHz to 200MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM command rate: Auto, 1T, 2T
DRAM timing control: Auto, manual
CPU Clock Multiplier: Auto, 4x to 32.5x in 0.5x increments
CPU NB Clock Multiplier: Auto, 4x to 10x in 1x increments
CPU Voltage: Auto, -0.600 to +0.600V in 0.025V increments
CPU VDD Voltage: not avaiable
CPU PLL Voltage:  various
CPU NB Voltage: Auto, 1.100V to 1.600V in 0.02V increments
CPU NB VID: Auto, -0.600V to +0.600V in 0.025V increments
DRAM Voltage: Auto, +0.050V to +0.750V in 0.05V increments
Northbridge Voltage: Auto, 1.10V to 1.60V in 0.05V increments
HT Link Voltage: Auto, +0.1V, +0.2V, +0.3V


Testbed:

Motherboard:
Gigabyte GA-790FXT-UD5P (provided by Gigabyte)
AMD 790GX/SB750
MSI 790FX-GD70 (provided by MSI)
AMD 790GX/SB750
AMD 790GX/SB750MSI DKA790GX (provided by MSI)
AMD 790GX/SB750
ECS Elitegroup A790GXM-AD3 (provided by Elitegroup)
AMD 790GX/SB750

CPU:
AMD Phenom II 720BE (provided by AMD)
AMD Phenom II 810 (provided by AMD)
AMD Phenom II 940BE (provided by AMD)
AMD Phenom II 955BE (provided by AMD)

CPU-Cooler:
Scythe Andy Kabuto (provided by Scythe-Europe)

Memory:
Kingston 3GB Kit (only 2 used) PC3-16000U KHX16000D3T1K3/3GX (provided by Kingston)
CL7-7-7-20 CR1T at 1.50V or mainboard default

Graphics Card:
MSI R4850-2D1G-OC (provided by MSI)

Power supply:
PC Power & Cooling Silencer 500W (provided by PC Power & Cooling)

Hard disk:
Western Digital WD4000KD (provided by Ditech)

Case fans:
SilenX iXtrema Pro 14dB(A) (provided by PC-Cooling.at)
Scythe DFS122512LS

Case:
Cooler Master Stacker 831 Lite (provided by Cooler Master)

OS:
Because we don't like broken operating systems such as Vista, all tests are performed with XP SP3. While 64-bit software is still not very common, we also stick with the 32-bit version.





Layout:

This board surely deserves the attribute "high-end". It comes with the typical blue Gigiabyte PCB with white and light-blue slots. The blue aluminium cooling solution with heatpipe gives it a nice touch.


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Click here for a high-res picture.

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The VRM is an analog 4+1 phase design but with a dual lane approach. Each phase is built up as pair, which should improve stability, but in our opinion it's waste of money and creates a considerable increase in power consumption. It's driven by an Intersil ILS6324. This is a controller made for AMD split-plane CPUs, so you won't find this on any Intel board.


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Click here for a high-res picture.

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The memory slots are too close to the CPU socket. beneath you find PATA, Floppy and Power connectors. Also, all the buttons are located in this area which makes them pretty user-unfriendly. It's the first time the buttons are lit with a LED which cannot be disabled.


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Click here for a high-res picture.

The slot design is very straight forward. Two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots give you the capability to use Crossfire. At least one PCIe x1 slot is always available, so you can at least upgrade with one card if you are using two three-slot PCIe graphics cards.


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For some reason all vendors go for the cheapest PCIe Gb LAN solution on the market, which is the newly introduced Realtek RTL8111DL. It's an improvement over the RTL8111C and now supports 9k Jumbo Frames, but still Realtek is not known for very good performance, especially the I/O load is quite weak. A Marvell, Broadcom or Intel chip would have been a better choice, but of course opting for a better chip would also have increased costs. At least on high-end boards we should expect something better. This board features two of this chips. Also Gigabyte opted to use two JMB322 RAID 0,1 SATA port multipliers. Even on a high-end board nobody needs that many SATA-ports, but because the board does not feature native eSATA ports on the backpanel, you can use two of the ports to connect with the eSATA bracket. Of course we are not fans of such solutions because it's troublesome to have some cables crossing the board. Also the JMB322 is not an host controller, it multiplies existing ports from the south-bridge. Audio is also provided by a Realtek chip: the ALC889A. The ITE chip is a super I/O controller, for all legacy devices, such as floppy, LPT and COM ports and system fan/temperature management. An TI PCI Firewire controller give you high throughput for video cameras or even external hard-drives but will put a heavy strain on the PCI bus, an PCIe solution would have been the smarter choice.


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Click here for a high-res picture.


The SATA connectors are on the edge of the board and all of them are angled at 90°. This is the best solution available because the connectors won't interfere with any cards. Sadly the PATA connector was not done in such way.






BIOS:

As always Gigabyte uses an Award BIOS and also they do set up stupid things like serial and parallel ports and floppy by default. Gigabyte promised some time ago they will not hide the overclocking features and they kept their promise. The first item in the menu is all about overclocking. It has a nicer organization compared to MSI because you have not to switch screens. Still the + and - keys are reversed except memory voltage, increasing voltages by pressing - and decreasing them when pressing + which is annoying.

While overclocking the virtual FSB disables the Cool'n'Quiet feature. This has a massive impact on power-consumption which we will show you later. Also the BIOS does not report the actual speeds while overclocking, resulting in showing "1066MHz" while you have reached 1550MHz. This is quite lame.

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FSB-Overclocking:
The F5C bios did not work out well for us, so we focused on the F3L bios which gave us the same results compared to the MSI board. 

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CPU-Overclocking:

With a Black Edition you don't need to overclock via FSB, just increase the multiplier and there you go. But even if you choose to get a standard edition, you can combine higher FSB to achieve impressive results.

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Memory:

The board auto-detects 1333MHz with our ram modules, but you should set the timings yourself. We tried if we could run the board with 1600MHz memory, but the board always crashed regardless of timings. The printing of "1666+" on the board is more than optimistic. Our modules were stable at the 1550MHz mark.


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Temperature:

There are no concerns about temperatures, the board always stayed in safe limits.


 



Multimedia:

The most important x264 changes took place late last year and early this year. While you would expect they would optimize for the new i7 platform, they also did this for the new Phenom II. And the results speak for themselves. It's the first time AMD can keep up at the same pace as any Core 2 Duo/Quad and now even with i7 not running in HT and/or Turbo mode. So software optimization does matter, but there are no other programs we are aware of they do optimizing for AMD, as you can see with CineBench R10. Of course Intel E7200 and E8400 are not triple-core, but to keep charts simpler, we did it this way. To make the comparability more fair, we decided that the Intel i7 series have to run with only their native cores and Turbo disabled.


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3DMark & FarCry 2:

3DMark 2003 run at 1600x1200, 3DMark 2006 used defaults. As you can see, more CPU power does not really help. AMD has positioned the Triple-Cores against Intel's Dual Core offers, and as you can see in FarCry2 the third CPU does help to keep Intel in check, even when this game is clearly not optimized for AMD.

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Power Consumption:

To merely test power consumption is not enough any more and because you dear readers gave us positive feedback. So we measured power-consumption with CineBench and set them in perspective with the results. Please note our results are peak values but that's ok for comparison purposes. Power-Consumption tests for overall consumption were made with Cool'n'Quiet enabled, which does not work on this board if your FSB exceeds 220MHz. Compared to MSI who did built in this option on our (!) request, you see a huge impact at idle powers. Also the VRM layout proves it does not safe energy even at full load.

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Conclusion:

In terms of speed this board equals or exceeds the MSI counterpart. There is not much wrong with the layout, besides the buttons, which we would like to see on the "outside" and we don't think it's a smart solution to have cables crossing the board to install eSATA. While we have no critics about a 2oz layer board to keep all parts cool, we don't think the dual lane approach for each phase is a good one. Some years back it was a nice idea to keep voltages stable, but meanwhile with highly integrated parts which can deliver voltages very stable, it's not any more necessary. As we have shown it does not give you any benefit but does increase power consumption. 

We think the BIOS can still be enhanced, by removing useless settings such as floppy, COM1 and LPT1 - as long as they are disabled by default. Also the memory did not work with 1600MHz with our modules which of course have not been tested by Gigabyte, because we are using an i7 kit. But they worked with MSI better. And the most important point, to let the users decide if they want to enable Cool'n'Quiet when overclocking.

The board is already available for about €138,- which is about €10,- less compared to the MSI offering.

Overall the board will not disappoint, because it's stable and gives you much room for overclocking. But as the power-consumption tests have proved, one board is still superior to it. But maybe Gigabyte will improve the BIOS, and if they do so, we will report it.





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Last modified on Tuesday, 02 June 2009 15:47
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