GA-MA790FXT-UD5P layout and BIOS
Gigabyteís really done a fine job with the layout of the GA-MA790FXT-UD5P. On the board youíll find a plethora of SATA ports (10 to be exact), and theyíre all oriented parallel to the edge of the PCB, so you can house all 10 SATA ports with drives if you wish while also running a long dual-slot GPU like the Radeon 4870 X2 without any of the components interfering with each other. A lot of times motherboard manufacturers stick with the standard SATA ports that can get in the way of long GPUs like the 4870 X2.
The IDE and floppy drive connectors are tucked behind the RAM slots too; again, excellent choices on Gigabyteís part in our opinion. Youíd really be surprised how often manufacturers get the location of these connectors wrong and donít really care, assuming most users are running SATA drives by now anyway. Not so with Gigabyteís GA-MA790FXT-UD5P.
The motherboard cooling Gigabyte has implemented is good too. A heatpipe is used to cool the boardís power circuitry as well as the North and South Bridge of the system chipset. Gigabyteís cooling here isnít overly large or ornate, but this is honestly because AMDís 7-series chipsets are known for being very low on power consumption, and thus also generate very little heat. Thereís really no reason to go overboard with multiple heatpipes and/or copper cooling, as it simply isnít needed to keep the chipset cool. This chipset is known for its ability to get by with simple passive cooling.
While the GA-MA790FXT-UD5P may not have four PCI Express graphics (PEG) slots, Gigabyte wisely places two x1 PCIe expansion slots between the motherboardís PEG slots, giving you plenty of room to run two dual-slot cards like the Radeon 4890. This is yet another good move on Gigabyteís part. Obviously some users will be disappointed with having just two PEG slots when most high-end 790FX boards ship with four, but we honestly donít know anyone running 4-Way CrossFire with Radeon 4850s right now anyway: besides, as hot as ATIís single-slot reference boards run, weíre not even sure how long you could keep a 4-Way setup running stable at any rate.
Another nice touch Gigabyte includes on the GA-MA790FXT-UD5P are its buttons. Gigabyte integrates physical buttons for power, reset, and clearing BIOS. The power and reset buttons are backlit with a blue LED, allowing them to also function as a power LED also. Simply press the button to turn the system on or reset it, or if you just unsuccessfully attempted to OC the board and you arenít getting a video signal, you can press the clear CMOS button to reset the boardís BIOS to its default settings. This button in particular definitely came in handy for us when OCíing.
Our only real gripe with the board takes us north, to the area surrounding the AM3 CPU socket. The area immediately surrounding the CPU is fine, with plenty of room for oversized coolers. The problem is the AM3 socket is located too close to the DDR3 RAM slots. Large CPU coolers like our Zalman CNPS9700-Cu bump into equally tall RAM modules like Corsairís Dominator modules or OCZís Reaper HPC when the first memory slot is occupied. You can run the two components together just fine, but that first RAM module must be bent ever so slightly in order to get everything to fit. Itís fine in the short term, but over time this slightly bent module could get damaged. In order for everything to fit properly youíll have to trade down to a memory module with a more conventional heatspreader like the OCZ Platinum line or Corsair with traditional XMS3 black heatspreader.
We should point out that this problem isnít unique to Gigabyteís GA-MA790FXT-UD5P. Itís a problem weíve encountered on all the AM3 motherboards weíve seen so far. It looks like AMD loosened the keep out space a hair too much for the AM3 socket spec, as this wasnít a problem for AM2+ motherboards.
The BIOS of the GA-MA790FXT-UD5P wonít disappoint enthusiasts planning to OC their processor. Gigabyte includes all the major settings youíll need to get up and running in no time. All the speeds and feeds youíll need for OCíing the processor can be found in one handy menu, with little scrolling and flipping from page to page to get to the settings youíll need. All the clock speeds, multipliers, and voltages can be found on one large page.
For less experienced users who have no clue how far to experiment when it comes to clock speeds and voltages, Gigabyte color codes everything. This is important, as applying to much voltage in BIOS can damage or even kill components if youíre too aggressive. Safe settings are colored with the stock white lettering, while intermediate settings are colored yellow. Finally, red is used to indicate settings which are dangerous and could potentially lead to damage if youíre not careful. We actually feel Gigabyteís a bit aggressive with some of their decisions when it comes to voltages and speeds, AMD recommends voltages donít exceed 1.55V when OCíing on air, yet the Gigabyte board suggests voltage above 1.65V are safe.
Another feature we also like about the GA-MA790FXT-UD5P is that the BIOS includes the target frequencies for the CPU, HT link, DRAM, and memory controller. As a result, when you dial up the CPU multiplier, or the HT frequency for example, you can see the target clock speed of these vital components before you actually apply them in BIOS. Itís especially handy for the multipliers in particular, as you donít have to whip out a calculator to get these values beforehand.
The following chart summarizes the key settings available in BIOS:
|GA-MA790FXT-UD5P BIOS Features|
|HyperTransport Speeds||200-500MHz in 1MHz increments|
|PCI Express Speeds||100-200MHz in 1MHz increments|
|DDR3 Memory Multipliers||4.0x, 5.33x, 6.66x, 8.0x (800-1600MHz)|
|HT Link Multipliers||x1-x13 (200-2600MHz)|
|CPU Clock Multipliers||x5.0-x35.0 in 0.5X increments|
|CPU NorthBridge Multiplier||x5-x20 (100-4000MHz)|
|DDR3 Voltages||+0.05V-+0.75V (1.65V-2.35V) in 0.05V increments|
|SB/HT Voltage||+0.1V, +0.2V, +0.3V|
|NB/PCIe/PLL Voltage Control||+0.1V, +0.2V, +0.3V|
|CPU PLL Voltage Control||2.5V-3.1V in 0.04V increments|
|DDR VTT Voltage Control||0.8V-1.1V in 0.025V increments|
|CPU Voltages||-.60V - +.60V in 0.025V increments|
|NB Voltages||1.10V-1.60V in 0.02V increments|
One feature that the GA-MA790FXT-UD5P BIOS lacks is profiles. It would be nice if you could save your own custom BIOS profiles, say for instance you want a BIOS profile that undervolts the CPU for HTPC use, and another gaming profile that OCs the CPU for maximum performance.
Speaking of profiles, the other surprising feature missing from the GA-MA790FXT-UD5P BIOS is support for Black Edition Memory Profiles. This feature was just recently added to the latest version of AMD Overdrive and requires proper motherboard BIOS support in order to function properly. Fortunately this is something Gigabyte can easily add to the board in the future, but for the time being youíll have to manually dial in the timings, speeds, and voltages if you plan to use high-speed DDR3 memory modules.
We decided to use our Phenom II X4 955 sample for all of todayís testing, as itís AMDís highest performing processor and also happens to OC better than other chips weíve received. Our particular sample was able to run at speeds up to 3.7GHz with complete stability at stock voltage Ė this is the max speed we achieved with the ASUS M4A79T Deluxe also. When going all-out with unlimited voltage, we hit a max speed of 3.826GHz at 1.53V. Thatís comparable to the speed we hit with the M4A79T Deluxe also.
The maximum HT link speed we could hit with complete stability was 232MHz.