Gigabyte AM3 Motherboard Roundup
As long time readers know, we weren't happy with AMD's original Phenom CPU on launch day. Instead of launching at clock speeds of 2.6GHz as expected, the first Phenom chips arrived at speeds of 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz. Phenom CPUs also consumed more power than equivalent processors from rival Intel, barely scaled at all when it comes to OC'ing, and offered lowered IPC than the competition.
IPC (instructions per clock) was once the hallmark of AMD CPU architectures -- during the Pentium 4 era AMD execs preached on and on about the value of IPC over clock speed -- yet here we were with a chip that was clocked slower than expected, and performed worse per clock than the competition. To add insult to injury, the chip's performance was also slightly crippled thanks to a patch to fix the now infamous TLB erratum that affected close to noone.
And donít forget that we were told that the chipís launch was delayed to the end of 2007 in order to address some of these issues (mainly clock speeds).
Considering all that went wrong with Phenom, itís amazing that AMDís refresh part, the Phenom II line, is such a hit.
Armed with up to three times more L3 cache than Phenom, dramatically higher clock speeds, a few IPC tweaks, and a smaller, more energy efficient 45-nm manufacturing process thatís better designed for OCíing, the new Phenom II processors from AMD deliver a dramatic step up in performance in comparison to their predecessors. AMDís Phenom II pricing isnít ridiculous either, with CPUs starting as low as $175 for the quad-core Phenom II X4 810, or just $125 and $102 if youíre willing to step down to triple and dual-core processors respectively.
Our favorite bang-for-the-buck Phenom II CPU at the moment though is the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition. Clocked at 2.8GHz with three processing cores, 6MB of L3 cache, and an unlocked clock multiplier, the chip blends the performance of AMDís more expensive Phenom II CPUs with excellent pricing, the X3 720 BE sells for just $145 officially, with street prices as low as $139. The chip is an excellent OCíer too, we managed to get our CPU sample up to 3.8GHz.
If youíre in the market for an AMD-based CPU, AMD offers two paths for consumers when it comes to Phenom II-compliant motherboards. If you picked up an AM2+ motherboard in the last year for your Phenom or Athlon X2 processor you can go that route, and use your existing motherboard with AMDís latest Phenom II CPUs, including the X3 720 (all youíll need is a BIOS update that supports the new processors), or if you want a little more performance you can opt for AMDís newer AM3 platform with DDR3 memory.
AMDís AM3 platform consists of the same chipset options as AM2+ (790FX, 790GX, etc), only chipsets on the AM3 platform have been updated to support DDR3 memory. DDR3 memory runs at lower voltage and offers higher memory speeds than DDR2: officially DDR2 memory on AMDís AM2+ platform tops out at 1066MHz, while DDR3 speeds of up to 1333MHz are offered standard on AM3, and even higher if youíre willing to splurge on faster memory modules that are certified compatible with AMDís recently announced Black Edition memory program. (The only caveat being that only 2 DIMMs are supported for these higher speeds.)
The AM3 socket is the future for AMD. Going forward, all processor releases will be AM3-based. With DDR3 memory modules falling rapidly in price, the AM3 platform is primed to take the baton from AMDís venerable AM2 infrastructure.
With this in mind weíre going to be taking a look at AM3 motherboards in the coming months. Up first is motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte, who offers a wide range of AM3 boards. Today weíre going to be taking a look at their flagship and entry-level AM3 offerings, the GA-MA790FXT-UD5P and the GA-MA770T-UD3P. Priced between $80-$180, these boards are proving to be pretty popular so far on Newegg