Motherboard Guide

Battling for the AM3 Crown - AMD 790FX Motherboard Shootout

Battling for the AM3 Crown - AMD 790FX Motherboard Shootout



The Spider AM3 Makeover

The Spider AM3 Makeover

Launched initially along with the original AMD Phenom as part of the Spider platform, AMD's enthusiast chipset, the 790FX remains the only one capable of supporting quad CrossFireX configurations. Yet its standing among enthusiasts has diminished due to the arrival of the AMD 790GX chipset, which besides the integrated graphics, supports the more typical dual CrossFireX setup and includes the newer SB750 Southbridge with SATA ports. More importantly, it has Advanced Clock Calibration, the secret sauce that was exclusive to the 790GX and meant to help improve the overclocking limits on the Phenom.

To add to this perception that the 790FX is old news, AMD recently came out with the Dragon platform for the Phenom II launch and this time, there was no place for the 790FX, with the 790GX now replacing it as the 'official' chipset in its marketing efforts. Of course, the reason for choosing the 790GX could be due to the value performance and mainstream segment that AMD is targeting with the Phenom II, which made the 790GX a better fit. Nevertheless, it appears to marginalize the 790FX further as a niche enthusiast chipset that's edging inevitably towards its expiry date.

These doubts however have been cleared with the latest iteration of the 790FX that we are seeing from motherboard vendors recently. Updated to support AMD's AM3 compatible Phenom II processors, these new 790FX chipsets can handle the latest DDR3 memory. Paired with a SB750 Southbridge, these AM3 790FX chipsets have gained parity with the 790GX in offering the latest in AMD chipset technology and edging it out in terms of raw performance features (especially with 32 PCIe lanes dedicated to graphics cards). In short, the 790FX is back to being top of the chipset game.

If you need a refresher on what made up the original 790FX chipset, please refer to our previous articles in the related links below. We will be assuming that you know the basics regarding this chipset.

While the initial AM3 790FX motherboard models from vendors have been relatively slow to appear, we have managed to snag three models from well-known brands ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI for an AM3 shootout. Their specifications for these boards are listed below:-

AMD AM3 790FX Motherboards Compared
  ASUS M4A79T Deluxe Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P MSI 790FX-GD70
CPU Support AMD Socket AM3 Processors
Chipset AMD 790FX + SB750
System Bus HyperTransport 3.0, up to 5200MT/s
Memory
  • Up to 4 x DDR3-1600 (O.C)
  • 16GB Maximum
  • Up to 4 x DDR3-1666+ (O.C)
  • 16GB Maximum
  • Up to 4 x DDR3-2133 (O.C)
  • 16GB 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 (SB750)
  • 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
  • Gigabyte SATA2 chip
  • 2 x JMicron JMB322
    • 4 x SATA 3.0Gbps
  • 6 x SATA 3.0Gbps (SB750)
  • 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
  • JMicron JMB322
    • 2 x SATA 3.0Gbps
  • JMicron JMB362
    • 1 x eSATA 3.0Gbps
Audio
  • Realtek 1200 HD Audio CODEC
  • Coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs at rear
  • Realtek ALC889A HD Audio CODEC
  • Coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs at rear
  • Realtek ALC889A HD Audio CODEC
  • Optical S/PDIF
  • Coaxial S/PDIF
Networking Realtek 8112 Gigabit LAN 2 x Realtek 8111DL Gigabit LAN w/Teaming support 2 x Realtek 8111DL Gigabit LAN w/ Teaming support
IEEE 1394
  • VIA VT6315N
  • 2 x 1394a ports (1 header, 1 rear)
  • T.I TSB43AB23
  • 3 x 1394a ports (1 header, 2 rear)
  • VIA VT6315N
  • 2 x 1394a ports (1 rear, 1 headers)
Rear I/O
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 x eSATA port
  • 6 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x RJ45 (LAN) port
  • 1 x FireWire port
  • Optical S/PDIF
  • Coaxial S/PDIF
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 2 x FireWire ports
  • 8 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 x RJ45 (LAN) ports
  • Optical S/PDIF
  • Coaxial S/PDIF
  • 6 x audio jacks
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 7 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x eSATA/USB combo port
  • 2 x RJ45 (LAN) ports
  • 1 x FireWire port
  • Optical S/PDIF
  • Coaxial 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
  • 4 x fan connectors
  • 1 x S/PDIF out connector
  • 2 x USB headers (4 ports)
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 10 x SATA connectors
  • 5 x fan connectors
  • 1 x 1394a connector
  • 1 x serial port connector
  • 1 x parallel port connector
  • 1 x S/PDIF out connector
  • 2 x USB headers (4 ports)
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  • 1 x COM connector
  • 1 x TPM module header
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 8 x SATA connectors
  • 5 x fan connectors
  • 1 x 1394a connector
  • 1 x S/PDIF out connector
Expansion Slots
  • 4 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16, x8, x8) or quad x8 modes (CrossFireX)
  • 2 x PCI 2.2
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (dual x16)
  • 3 x PCIe 2.0 x1
  • 2 x PCI 2.2
  • 4 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16, x8, x8) or quad x8 modes (CrossFireX)
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
  • 2 x PCI 2.2
Special Features
  • Express Gate
  • ASUS EPU
  • ASUS Q-Fan 2
  • ASUS Stack Cool 2
  • ASUS Q-Connector
  • ASUS Q-Shield
  • ASUS EZ Flash 2
  • ASUS CrashFree BIOS 2
  • @BIOS
  • Q-Flash
  • Virtual Dual BIOS
  • Xpress Install
  • Xpress Recovery2
  • EasyTune
  • Support for Easy Energy Saver
  • Time Repair
  • Q-Share
  • DrMOS
  • M-Flash
  • O.C Dial
  • D.O.T
  • MSI Live Update
Form Factor ATX (30.5 x 24.4cm)