Mainstream AM3 - AMD 790GX Motherboard Showdown


The Mainstream AM3 Shootout

The Mainstream AM3 Shootout

With the recent launch of the Phenom II X4 955, AMD has arguably its strongest processor lineup in years. Able to stand toe to toe with Intel's Core 2 Quads and even dent some of the slower Core i7s, this processor is the latest Socket AM3 Phenom II CPU. To complement these new processors that work with either DDR3 or DDR2 memory, motherboard vendors have been rushing out the AM3 versions of the performance mainstream AMD chipset, the 790GX.

When the AMD 790GX was first introduced, the media's attention (including ours), focused on the Advanced Clock Calibration (ACC) feature on its new Southbridge - SB750, which allows for a better chance of attaining higher overclocks over the rather limited Phenom processors. The integrated graphics on the 790GX made it suitable for the mainstream while the option of having dual CrossFireX graphics cards in addition to the overclocking potential managed to snag the interest of enthusiasts too.

The AMD 790GX is a chipset with broad appeal that has lived up to its mainstream billing. But some things have changed slightly since, with AMD's enthusiast oriented 790FX recently getting a makeover of its own and gaining ACC too. Hence, it was about time that motherboard vendors started issuing AM3 updates of the 790GX. The easy part for them is that nothing has changed with the chipset except for the socket switch. It's essentially the same chipset with the integrated Radeon HD 3300 graphics engine and dedicated SidePort memory that we have all seen before.

Just like our previous shootout where we compared some of the latest AMD 790FX motherboards, we'll be going through some of the best 790GX models that you can find on the market now with boards from ASUS, BIOSTAR and MSIthat managed to survive our stringent testing. Here's how they stack up against each other in features:-

AMD AM3 790GX Motherboards Compared
  ASUS M4A78T-E BIOSTAR TA790GX A3+ MSI 790GX-G65
CPU Support AMD Socket AM3 Processors
Chipset AMD 790GX + SB750
System Bus HyperTransport 3.0, up to 5200MT/s
Graphics
  • Integrated ATI Radeon HD 3300 GPU
  • SidePort Memory (128MB DDR2/DDR3)
  • Maximum shared memory - 512MB
Memory
  • Up to 4 x DDR3-1600 (O.C)
  • 16GB Maximum
  • Up to 4 x DDR3-1333
  • 16GB Maximum
  • Up to 4 x DDR3-1666(O.C)
  • 8GB Maximum
Storage
  • 5 x SATA 3.0Gbps
  • 1 x eSATA 3.0Gbps port
  • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD configurations
  • 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices
  • 6 x SATA 3.0Gbps
  • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD configurations
  • 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices
  • 5 x SATA 3.0Gbps
  • 1 x eSATA 3.0Gbps port
  • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD configurations
  • 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices
Audio
  • VIA VT1708S HD Audio CODEC
  • Optical S/PDIF output at rear
  • Realtek ALC888 HD Audio CODEC
  • Realtek ALC889 HD Audio CODEC
  • Optical S/PDIF output at rear
Networking Atheros L1E Gigabit LAN Realtek 8111DL Gigabit LAN Realtek 8111DL Gigabit LAN
IEEE 1394
  • VIA VT6315N
  • 2 x 1394a ports (1 header, 1 rear)
  • LSI FW322
  • 2 x 1394a ports (1 header, 1 rear)
  • VIA VT6315N
  • 2 x 1394a ports (1 header, 1 rear)
Rear I/O
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 1 x DVI port
  • 1 x VGA port
  • 1 x eSATA port
  • 6 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x RJ45 (LAN) port
  • 1 x FireWire port
  • Optical S/PDIF
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 1 x DVI port
  • 1 x VGA port
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x RJ45 (LAN) port
  • 1 x FireWire port
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x PS/2 port
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 1 x DVI port
  • 1 x VGA port
  • 1 x eSATA port
  • 6 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x RJ45 (LAN) port
  • Optical S/PDIF
  • 6 x audio jacks
Internal Connectors
  • 3 x USB headers (6 ports)
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  • 1 x COM connector
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 5 x SATA connectors
  • 1 x 1394a connector
  • 1 x S/PDIF out connector
  • 3 x fan connectors
  • 3 x USB headers (6 ports)
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 6 x SATA connectors
  • 1 x 1394a connector
  • 1 x S/PDIF out connector
  • 2 x fan connectors
  • 3 x USB headers (6 ports)
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  • 1 x serial port connector
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 5 x SATA connectors
  • 1 x 1394a
  • 1 x S/PDIF out connector
  • 3 x fan connectors
Expansion Slots
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (full x16 or dual x8 modes - CrossFireX)
  • 2 x PCIe x1
  • 2 x PCI 2.2
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (full x16 or dual x8 modes - CrossFireX)
  • 2 x PCIe x1
  • 2 x PCI 2.2
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (full x16 or dual x8 modes - CrossFireX)
  • 2 x PCIe x1
  • 2 x PCI 2.2
Special Features
  • Express Gate
  • ASUS Green Design
  • ASUS Power Solution
  • ASUS EZ DIY
  • ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution
  • ASUS O.C features
  • Overclocking Navigator Engine (O.N.E)
  • Memory Integration Test (M.I.T)
  • BIO-Flasher
  • Self Recovery System (S.R.S)
  • Active Phase Switching
  • EZ OC Switch
  • M-Flash
  • Auto Overclocking
  • Winki
Form Factor ATX (30.5 x 24.4cm)

Other motherboard vendors didn't have an appropriate model to send in for this shootout, such as Gigabyte for example which doesn't have a Socket AM3 based AMD 790GX board. While some others didn't yet have their kinks sorted out such as the promising ECS A790GXM-AD3 which we'll take a look at it separately in the near future.