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Written by Bruce Normann - Edited by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
ASRock AOD790GX/128M AM2+ Motherboard
ASRock AMD 790 Features
AOD790GX/128M Specifications
Closer Look: AOD790GX/128M
AMD 790GX Detailed Features
AOD790GX/128M Component Layout
AOD790GX/128M BIOS
Motherboard Testing Methodology
3DMark06 Benchmarks
PCMark05 Benchmarks
CINEBENCH Release 10 Tests
Crysis Benchmark Results
EVEREST Benchmark Results
AOD790GX/128M Power Consumption
ASRock Final Thoughts
ASRock AOD790GX/128M Conclusion

AMD 790GX Details

The AMD 700-series chipset covers a lot of bases; as one leg of AMD's new DragonTM platform, it has a pretty strong team backing it up. The fusion of the AMD PhenomTM II processor, ATI RadeonTM HD 4800 series graphics, AMD 7-series chipsets, and AMD software should yield seamless integration between all the major PC subsystems and the highest possible level of performance at the lowest cost. If that sounds like a tall order, it is, and the success of companies like NVIDIA put a wrinkle in that perfect picture.

45953A_Chipset_790GX.jpg

The 700-series integrated chipset solution buys you the following capabilities and features:

Proven ATI RadeonTM Graphics Powering
DirectX 10

Powered by ATI RadeonTM Graphics, DirectX10 introduces never before-seen detail-rich images and dynamic interactivity for playing the latest DirectX 10 games

HyperTransportTM 3.0 Technology

HyperTransportTM 3.0 more than doubles your CPU communications bandwidth to graphics as compared to HT1

PCI Express Generation 2.0

Double your graphics bandwidth over earlier PCI Express for improved performance

Backwards Compatibility

Ensures flexibility to build platforms with previous generation CPUs as well as the latest AMD Phenom IITM processors

Performance Cache

Performance and power improvements with AMD's unique side port technology

ATI Hybrid Graphics1

Improve your system performance by enabling the ability for both discrete graphics and integrated graphics to render simultaneously

ATI CrossFireXTM Technology

Upgrade to even greater 3D performance quickly and easily with plug-and-play ATI CrossFireXTM technology when you use two discrete ATI RadeonTM Graphics cards

ATI AvivoTM HD2

ATI AvivoTM HD is the advanced image and video processing and display technology found in ATI RadeonTM graphics that enables:

  • brilliant colors, sharp images and smooth playback of Blu-rayTM and HD DVD content
  • performance that rivals high end HD DVD and Blu-rayTM players on difficult 1080i content
  • built-in HDMI and DVI with HDCP

Low Power Design

Designed for power-efficient computing to help lower energy costs

AMD Cool'nQuietTM 2.0

Benefit from power saving features that help reduce power consumption at idle or during low usage

Enhanced Digital Display Integration

Supports Display Port interface for the latest displays. Includes a TDMS interface that enables dual-link DVI or HDMI 1.2 as well as HDCP 1.1

ATI SurroundViewTM

SurroundViewTM feature allows support for up to four independent monitors for systems equipped with an additional RadeonTM discrete graphics card

ATI PowerPlayTM

Flexible power saving technologies that ensure optimal power efficiency to help reduce your electricity costs

SB750 Southbridge

Support for up to 12 USB 2.0 connections and 6 SATA 2.0 devices, including eSATA devices. Also includes support for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10

AMD OverDrive with Advanced Clock Calibration*

Shift your system performance into next gear with Advanced Clock Calibration that allows you to get the highest overclocking out of your AMD PhenomTM CPUs. AMD OverDriveTM also enables control of the AMD 790GX to easily configure system settings in Microsoft Windows in real-time

AMD RAIDXpertTM

Easily configure your RAID setup from remote locations to personalize your media for extra performance or enhanced reliability. Additional RAID 5 support with SB750

It's a very strong platform, and gives Intel and NVIDIA plenty of competition as the basis for high-definition gaming, video processing and home entertainment PCs. AMD claims that it is "... the only company in the world that can deliver all the essential technologies for an amazing gaming experience and breakthrough video processing speeds with our world-class processors, graphics, and chipsets." True enough... The AMD 700-series chipsets are produced by the giant Taiwanese semiconductor foundry TSMC, and in the case of the 790GX, the latest chip in the series, uses the latest 55nM fabrication process. 55nM was a direct, linear die shrink from the 65nM process, so AMD didn't have to do any architecture or device redesign for the 790GX. They just took advantage of their partner's technology progress, when TSMC rolled out the improved process in May 2007. I'm sure this is exactly the sort of thing AMD hopes to do more of in the future, now that they've sold off all their production wafer fabs to a third party.

AOD790GX_55nMTech.jpg

The AMD 790FX Northbridge offers 42 available PCI-E lanes, which explains some of the monster motherboards featuring 4 PCI-E 16X expansion slots. If you use all four, they have to throttle back to 8X bandwidth, but when you can pick up four ATI 4830 cards for about $300, the possibilities look pretty interesting. The ASRock AOD790GX/128M uses the newer 790GX Northbridge, which supports 26 PCI-E 2.0 lanes, limiting it to 8X bandwidth in dual Crossfire mode. You might ask, "Can I run 3-8X cards; that only consumes 24 lanes of the 26?" Unfortunately, the answer is no, since four of the 26 lanes are consumed by the chipset interconnects, leaving only 22 lanes available for onboard peripherals and expansion slots.

The ASRock AOD790GX/128M has an ATI Radeon 3300 integrated graphics processor, 128MB of sideport memory hooked directly to the NB, and can run in Hybrid CrossfireX mode with Radeon 3400 series video cards, as long as you are running Vista. This is an excellent component set for general office use or a HTPC, however it's largely irrelevant to enthusiasts or gaming users. BTW, the sideport memory is being called a "Performance Cache" by some vendors; don't be fooled, its sole function is to act as video memory for the IGP. It doesn't interface with the rest of the Northbridge, nor offer any performance benefit unless you are using the built-in video capability, where it does do an excellent job of speeding up the integrated graphics.

AOD790GXSIDEPORT.jpg

The SB750 Southbridge caused quite a stir when it was introduced in 2008, as it introduced Advanced Clock Calibration (ACC) to the world, a feature that is now built in to the Phenom II class of CPUs. How that functionality ended up in a Southbridge is anybody's guess, the whole story seems shrouded in secrecy. But, if you've got a Phenom CPU that needs a new mobo, pick one that has a SB750 Southbridge if you want to overclock it. Additionally, if you want to take advantage of the ACC feature within AMD OverDriveTM, you also need the SB750. In case you're wondering, that's what the "AOD" in the product name, AOD790GX/128M refers to.

Surrounding the processor socket there are the usual power supply components: switching transistors, capacitors and chokes. ASRock offers its own version of power-saving design, calling it Intelligent Energy Saver. Like most power saving schemes, it reduces clock speed and voltage in tandem. They've also focused on the design of the voltage regulators and are claiming a 16% increase in efficiency. This is a smart approach, because even though the components draw less current when you feed them less voltage, the "extra" voltage has to be dissipated by the voltage regulator; the power supply is still putting out 3.3, 5, and 12 volts.

e-saver002.gif

Going from left to right on the I/O panel, there is not an overabundance of connections available, but a reasonable set, at least. PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports are still supplied, which is handy when starting up a new system, if the MB has trouble connecting to a USB KB and mouse. A total of six High-Speed USB 2.0 ports populate the I/O panel, with another four available on two motherboard headers, for connection to the case I/O panel.

AOD790GX_IOPanel.jpg

There is one IEEE-1394 Firewire ports on the I/O panel; the larger, 6-pin version which is commonly used on larger, stationary devices, such as 3.5" external HDDs. There is also an additional motherboard header available to connect to an IEEE-1394 port on your computer case I/O panel, if one is supported. One Ethernet LAN connections is supplied, with activity and link speed indicators at the corner of the RJ-45 port. ASRock includes the high-definition Realtek ALC890 audio controller on the AOD790GX/128M with support for Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback. S/PDIF digital audio OUT is available on the motherboard, and can be used for internal connection to a video card for full HDMI compatibility.

The external eSATA connector on the rear I/O panel is not hardwired to the board; it requires a cable connection, jumpered from the sixth SATA connector near the bottom of the board, which is specifically designated to support this function. The first five SATA connectors only support regular SATA II connections; the sixth can function as a normal SATA II port, or as the pass-thru for the external eSATA port. ASRock conveniently color coded the two SATA sockets that need to be connected differently from the other sockets; it's the brown one.

In the next section, component layout is examined, an area that is all too often an unexpected weakness for some motherboards.



 

Comments 

 
# 790 GX chipset MBpawan 2010-08-08 10:09
790 GX chipset with ATI radeon HD 3300 IGP is even today a very good.
Unlike the reports in this review, this mobo can handle most of the current games at decent playable frame rates with great ease. Any one has clarifications can approach me to clear his/her doubts.
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# Wrong.Olin Coles 2010-08-08 13:46
You are absolutely wrong, pawan. The ATI Radeon HD 3300 IGP will not play "most" current games "at decent playable frame rates with great ease". This mobile graphics chip is not capable of any DirectX-11 games, which is what qualifies as current these days, and it struggles with DX10 extensions. Even on the games it will play, you must turn the settings all the way down and play at reduced resolutions.

The ATI radeon HD 3300 IGP is not intended for modern 3D games, and it's best used for low-impact 3D applications.
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# Examples, PleaseBruceBruce 2010-08-08 10:34
Can you provide some benchmarks with the HD 3300 IGP and the current games you mention?
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