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Frontpage Slideshow | Copyright © 2006-2010 orks, a business unit of Nuevvo Webware Ltd.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 00:40

MSI and ECS 785G tested

Written by Eliot Kucharik

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Review: Upgraded 780G

This review is also available in German.


After some CPU tests, we finally have time to take a look at the 785G platform. Unfortunately some BIOS bugs and Chinese holidays prevented us to post this review earlier.

This is an upgraded 780G with DX10.1 support, which is not important at all, and with the UVD2 stream engine. This will allow the 785G to stream Blu-ray content with picture in picture functionality. We have two boards to check out, the MSI 785GM-E65 and the Elitegroup A785GM-M.

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Testbed:

Motherboard:
MSI 785GM-E65 (provided by MSI)
AMD 785G/SB710
Elitegroup A785GM-M (provided by Elitegroup)
AMD 785G/SB710
MSI P55-GD80 (provided by MSI)
Intel P55
MSI 790FX-GD70 (provided by MSI)
AMD 790FX/SB750
MSI DKA790GX (provided by MSI)
AMD 790GX/SB750
Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P (provided by Gigabyte)
Intel P45/iCH10R
Intel DX58SO "Smackover" (provided by Intel)
Intel X58/iCH10R

CPU:
Intel Core i5 750  (provided by Intel)
Intel Core i5 870  (provided by Intel)
AMD Athlon II X4 620 (provided by AMD)
AMD Phenom 9650 (provided by AMD)
AMD Phenom II 810 (provided by AMD)
AMD Phenom II 905e (provided by AMD)
AMD Phenom II 955 Black Edition (provided by AMD)
AMD Phenom II 965 Black Edition (provided by AMD)
Intel Q9450 (provided by Intel)
Intel Q(X)9650  (provided by Intel)
Intel Core i7 920  (provided by Intel)
Intel Core i7 975XE  (provided by Intel)

CPU-Cooler:
Scythe Kabuto (provided by Scythe-Europe) for AMD and Intel E/Q
Thermalright Ultra 120 eXtreme 1366 (provided by Thermalright) for Intel 1366
Thermalright MUX-120 1156 (provided by Thermalright) for Intel 1156

Memory:
Kingston 2GB Kit PC2-9600U KHX1200D2K2/2G (provided by Kingston)
1066MHz CL5-5-5-15 CR2T at 1.90V for AMD DDR2
Qimonda 3GB Kit PC3-8500U (provided by Qimonda)
1066MHz CL7-7-7-20 CR1T at 1.55V for Intel i7
Kingston 3GB Kit PC3-10600U KHX1600D3K3/2GX (provided by Kingston)
1333MHz CL7-7-7-20 CR1T at 1.50V for AMD DDR3 and Intel P55
1440MHz CL7-7-7-20 CR1T at 1.50V for Intel P55
1600MHz CL8-8-8-23 CR1T at 1.60V for AMD DDR3 FSB overclocking
1644MHz CL9-8-8-23 CR1T at 1.60V for Intel P55
1800MHz CL9-8-8-23 CR1T at 1.65V for Intel P55

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

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

Hard disk:
Samsung F1 1000GB (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:
Since we are still not fans of Vista, all tests are performed with XP SP3. As 64-bit software is still not very common, we stick with the 32-bit version.






Features:
AMD 785G with 128MB DDR3 sideband memory/SB710

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4+1-phase VRM
ISL 6326A VRM controller

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Realtek RTL8111DL PCIe Gb LAN controller

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VIA VT6315N firewire PCIe controller

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Realtek ALC889

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Realtek RTM880N clock generator

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passive cooling of chipsets/VRM
8Mb BIOS, version: 1.3b7
Mainboard Revision: 1.0

Slots:
1x PCIe 2.0 x16
1x PCIe x1
2x PCI

Memory:
4x Dual-Channel DDR3-slots for PC3-10667U memory up to 16GB


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Storage:
6-Port SATA II featuring RAID 0, 1, 5, 0+1, JBOD
1-Port PATA


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Backpanel ports:
1x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port 
1x Gb LAN
7x USB 2.0
1x eSATA II/USB combo port
1x Firewire port
7.1 analog audio
1x optical audio out

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Accessories:
1x SATA cable with clips
1x HDD to SATA power-cable






Features:
AMD 785G/SB710
4+1-phase VRM
Richtek RT8855 VRM controller

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Realtek RTL8111DL PCIe Gb LAN controller

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VIA VT6315N firewire PCIe controller

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Realtek ALC888S

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ICS 9LPRS471CKL clock generator

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JMicron JMB362 dual-port SATA II controller
Debug diagnostic LED
passive cooling of chipsets/VRM
8Mb BIOS, version: 1.2b2
Mainboard Revision: 1.0

Slots:
1x PCIe 2.0 x16
2x PCIe x1
1x PCI

Memory:
4x Dual-Channel DDR3-slots for PC3-10667U memory up to 16GB


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Storage:
6-Port SATA II featuring RAID 0, 1, 5, 0+1, JBOD
1-Port PATA


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Backpanel ports:
1x Gb LAN
6x USB 2.0
2x eSATA II ports
1x Firewire port
7.1 analog audio
1x optical audio out

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Accessories:
4x SATA cable angled with clips
1x HDD cable







Both boards had their difficulties to match the nominal speed. While we could convince MSI to fix the clock programming, we are not so fortunate with ECS, their board does slightly underclock.


MSI 785GM-E65
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Elitegroup A785GM-M
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While the MSI board supports 128MB DDR3, Elitegroup thought they can save $0.80 and do overclock the IGP by 200MHz. The downside is, that they also over-voltage the IGP by 0.05V. The latest GPU-z could not handle the Elitegroup board, so we had to use a previous version to get a valid screenshot. The DKA790GX is clocked with 700MHz and doesn't support sideport memory.

MSI 785GM-E65
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Elitegroup A785GM-M
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MSI DKA790GX
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Overclocking MSI 785GM-E65:

As you can expect from MSI overclocking the CPU is a no brainer. But as you can imagine, this board was not designed to allow top notch overclocking. We managed 3.77GHz which is only 0.07GHz shy of what our CPU can do. With 1.4625VCore we achieved a stable overclock.

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The IGP is not going very high. Because due to a design problem, IGP voltage and HT link voltage are linked, so increasing one, also increases the other. We increased the IGP to 1.226V which results in over 1.32V for the HT which is quite high. But we ony got a mere 750MHz

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Overclocking Elitegroup A785GM-M:

The Elitegroup was able to boot up with even 3.84GHz, but during our Prime95 test, even the core-temperatures exceeded 80°C so we had to abort the test. We used 222MHz reference clock to end up with 3.77GHz at +75mV VCore. The BIOS does feature a CPU Frequency control, but enabling it caused the board to fail booting, regardless of the settings. Also we noticed elevated CPU temperatures, but we are not sure if the board shows correct temperatures. We also noticed a quite high voltage drop of about 0.035V which is atypical for AMD boards.

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The IGP is already overclocked to 700MHz, but we still managed to get it to 900MHz with 140mV more voltage for the IGP. The cooler is not really suited for such high clocks, so we advice to use an additional fan.

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Undervoltaging:

While the whole CPU frequency is broken with our latest beta-BIOS, Elitegroup is not able to undervoltage any CPU. On the MSI board, undervoltaging works like a charm.

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For our benches we used an AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition, so the graphics-intense benches would not suffer by CPU limitation that much.

Our benchmarks are quite self-explanatory. Intel i5/i7 CPUs are benched without HT and without Turbo to get a clock by clock comparison. While we would also expect that any AMD board should perform at the same level, which is now true on the i5/i7 boards, there are some small differences. Of course you won't noticed them.  

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Here it gets quite interesting especially with FarCry2. We were quite sure that the 128MB Sideport memory does have a huge impact on the results and even a 200MHz IGP overclock would not catch it. But the astonishing thing is, that the old DKA790GX which clocks the IGP the same as Elitegroup with 700MHz and doesn't feature any sideport memory does beat the newcomer. We have no explanation for that fact, maybe it has something to do with driver-optimizing. Of course we tested only the IGP boards, so 3DMark03 is running with 1024x768 setting.

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While we did believe we will see some new lows on idle-power consumption, MSI has set a new milestone. With about 13W less compared to their old DKA790GX board and also beat Elitegroup by about 11W, this is the first board to manage an idle power of under 50W with the most power-hungry AMD CPU.

Under load of course the AMD CPU is not really great. Please notice we only tested the first three boards with IGP, while all other benches include a HD 4850 graphics-card. So even with a graphics card installed which will draw about 50W in idle, the efficiency on Intel CPUs is unmatched.

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The new 785G chipset is just an evolutionary step from the 780G. With the UVD2 it now also features Picture in Picture for Blu-Rays which is especially important for HTPCs.


Conclusion:


Elitegroup A785GM-M:

The Elitegroup board features the best layout and the best backpanel with all the features you can wish for. Sadly, that is ruined by a very weak VRM implementation and a disappointing BIOS. We are in constant mail-contact with Elitegroup and the person on the other end is very helpful and understanding, but that will not help if the BIOS team is unable to fix problems soon. It took them two weeks to fix a bug with the memory timing when set manually. Looking on the website a fixed BIOS is still not available for the end-user. When Elitegroup is serious with the retail-market they need to put much more effort for their customers and have a own team which is seperated from the OEM guys. The board is an all solid capacitor design, but still have cheaper chokes and other design issues, such as sensors not connected, so you have no control for the +3.3V, +5V and +12V rails which is helpful when your system is not running stable. The board is available in Europe for €68.34 while in US you have to pay $89.99 but you get back $18 with mail-in-rebate which will reduce the price to $71.99. As usual we Europeans have to pay more. (That's what we call Liberation Tax. sub.ed.)

MSI 785GM-E65:

MSI can't match the design of the Elitegroup board, having only one PCIe x1 slot and missing the debug led. Also a second eSATA port on the back-panel would not have hurt. In contrast you get a heat-piped cooling system and a much more efficient VRM. While we have tested we got several BIOS upgrades, now even officially unlocking cores. For some unknown reasons this board is not available in Europe, only the downsized E53 version which does neither feature 128MB Sideport memory nor the nice heat-pipe cooling. In US you get the board for $89.99 which is quite competitive. With mail-in-rebate it costs you only $74.99. This deserves our Top Value Award for the most power efficient AMD mainboard so far.

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Last modified on Friday, 24 September 2010 22:30
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