ECS A790GXM-AD3 (Socket AM3) DDR3 motherboard review
Posted by Hilbert Hagedoorn on: 04/02/2009 01:00 PM [ 0 comment(s) ]
So then, the motherboard we are reviewing today, might look familiar to you. Correct, as in essence it is the basis of the ECS A790GXM mainboard we reviewed back in October last year. And despite minor subtle changes, the motherboard looks and feels very similar. The biggest change of course is support for DDR3 memory and thus Phenom II Socket AM3 processors. Next to that we have the black edition in house, that means pimping the product ECS style - with a bucketload of features like integrated graphics, dual PCIe graphics ports for Crossfire, HDMI connector, passive cooling, micro-switches, 8-channel sound, GigE ethernet, Crossfire ready... and fairly decent tweakability.
Obviously I am talking about a mainboard based on AMD's latest 790GX chipset. A mainboard chipset that proves its strength and by all means is really fun to work and play around with, a motherboard in the 125-150 USD segment offering a stackload of features alright.
But surely, the chipset is a bit difficult to position. It's feature rich, but what is it? A high-end board or a gamer's mainstream chipset? We think it's both as it is extremely flexible and can be used in many segments.
When we break down the chipset we see that the AMD 790GX Northbridge is coupled to the AM3 socket through a HyperTransport 3.0 link. The AMD 790GX core logic is built upon a 55nm fabrication process, which seems to be the key to AMD's motherboard chipset success lately. It actually has a GPU embedded (Radeon HD 3300 Graphics Processor (IGP)) and includes support for DirectX 10, ATI Avivo HD, Unified Video Decoder (UVD).
It supports MPEG-2, VC-1, and H.264 playback, and the HDCP compliant output ensures Blu-ray/HD-DVD output for your PC or big screen. Introduced with the 780G, the 790GX also supports Surround View, for dual monitors in standard mode, or up to four displays using a dedicated graphics card. Therefore often these motherboards will have support for DisplayPort, DVI and HDMI.
The graphics core is virtually identical to the one found in the 780G chipset based products, but in the 790GX, it is clocked higher (700MHz) for up to 33% better performance. New is the presence of 128MB of onboard display 'cache' memory, which AMD has labeled as sideport memory. This actually is an option on the 780G, but you'll find it much more widespread on the 790GX motherboards, such as the ECS A790GXM-AD3 board we test today. It features 128MB of DDR3-1333 memory - on a 128-bit memory bus.
The 790GX supports ATI Hybrid CrossFireX that makes it possible to combine the integrated graphics with discrete ATI Radeon HD 3400 or ATI Radeon HD 2400 cards, which obviously is extremely low end. In its favour, the supported CrossFireX technology supports multi-GPU configurations based on ATI Radeon HD 4800 series just as well. We spot PATA, 6 SATA ports, HD audio, and 12 USB ports supported by the SB750 Southbridge. When you look a bit closer you'll see a new feature called ACC, or Advanced Clock Calibration. More on ACC later though.
When we focus on the new SB750 Southbridge chip then we see a new A-Link Express II interface that the SB750 Southbridge uses to communicate with the Northbridge.
Traditionally a Southbridge chip always offers support for both SATA RAID and IDE drives. The SB750 supports 6x SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports that can be setup in IDE, AHCI, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 or RAID 10 modes, 12x USB 2.0 and 2x USB 1.1 ports, 6x PCI slots, HD Audio, IDE, and Serial and Parallel ports.
A nice improvement in the SB750 (Southbridge chip) over the SB600 is the increase in USB 2.0 performance and the number of ports available. You now have a dual-channel controller sporting 12 USB 2.0 capable ports.
When we reviewed the 1st batch of AM3 processors, we did so on Socket AM2+ to prove how sound that chipset really is. We also promised to review a Phenom II AM3 processor on the new DDR3 (AM3) platform. And that's what we'll be doing today. We will review the A790GXM-AD3 motherboard from the folks at ECS Elitegroup. This article will entail two primary focuses. The first being a review on this motherboard, the second... to observe if we actually see a performance increase from DDR2 over DDR3 memory.
ECS A790GXM mainboard review
A790GXM mainboard test - ECS is trying get a more reach in the enthusiast market, I wasn't surprised to see them release the product as shown today. A mainboard in the 100-125 USD range, yet ECS style - with a bucket load of features like integrated graphics, HDMI connector, passive cooling, 8-channel sound, dual GigE ethernet, Crossfire ready ... and decent tweakability.