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Mainstream AM3 - AMD 790GX Motherboard Showdown

Mainstream AM3 - AMD 790GX Motherboard Showdown



The ASUS M4A78T-E

The ASUS M4A78T-E

Unlike some of its other chipsets where there are numerous models, there are only two 790GX chipsets on ASUS' website. And of the two, just one, the ASUS M4A78T-E is a Socket AM3 board. Perhaps we are used to the premium, deluxe motherboards from ASUS. But the M4A78T-E certainly seems like a step down from the usual ASUS motherboard that lands in our lab.


For one, we didn't find any onboard power and reset buttons. There's no clear CMOS switch either (rear I/O panel or otherwise) and we had to make do with an 'old-school' jumper. Yes, we are pampered like that. In any case, the manual reassuringly had multi-page descriptions of the many ASUS proprietary features found on this board.

So we can assure you that features like 8-phase variable phase power design, ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit), a system power management tool and even Express Gate, ASUS' Linux-based OS are all present. Its appearance may not be anything special but those handy overclocking tools (TurboV, Turbo Key, etc) are all here, though software installation is required before using them.

The hardware onboard features the standard integrated audio, eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet and FireWire besides the Radeon HD 3300 graphics engine (with 128MB DDR3 SidePort memory) from the 790GX chipset. All these features are accompanied with solid polymer capacitors of course for the added assurance in reliability where power regulation is concerned. The motherboard heatsinks are modest and rather understated, which says as much about the heat generated by this chipset and the processor that is easily controlled.

The integrated audio is a new VIA VT1708S HD audio CODEC that we haven't seen before but we aren't too picky about onboard audio unless it fails completely. An optical S/PDIF is present at the rear I/O panel for those who need a digital connection. Other features that you may want to know is that CrossFireX is supported and despite ASUS dropping one legacy PS/2 port, the company has stuck with a floppy drive connector. There's even a COM port present!

We were generally pleased with the layout of the board, since both connectors lined the edges of the board. The orientation of the SATA ports was not exactly optimal but we could ignore that since there are few PCI expansion cards that are of a length to be affected.