|ASUS M4A785TD-M EVO mATX AM3 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Hank Tolman - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 06 April 2010|
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AMD 785G Chipset and SB710
AMD has been busy in recent years creating good chipset options that motherboard manufacturers actually want to use. The 785G chipset is another step in a line of successful chipsets with graphics integration. AMD's original graphics chipset, the 690G, was surprisingly competent. It was followed later by the 780G and 790GX chipsets. All of these chipsets have been designed to offer good productivity and a decent graphics interface at a price that appeals to mainstream users. Though the 780G and 790GX chipsets have been very successful at meeting these goals, recent upgrades to computer hardware and performance have necessitated the creation of a newer chipset that offers compatibility with upcoming technologies.
We have previously mentioned some of the details of te 785G chipset, but here we will go over them in more detail. The 785G is truly an upgrade for home theater PC enthusiasts. It offers all the great features of the 780G chipset while upgrading a lot of the video and audio functions. First, the 785G offers support for HDMI 1.3 standards, while the old chipset only supported 1.2 standards. Initially, AMD had considered offering 8-channel LPCM audio over HDMI as well, but that has been put aside for the 785G chipset. Another improvement not offered with the 785G chipset but undoubtedly planned for the future would be TrueHD or DTS-HD audio streaming capabilities. Additionally, in the graphics arena, the 785G updates the integrated GPU to a Radeon HD 4200 over a 3200 on the 780G and 3300 on the 790GX. The new GPU is nearly identical to the Radeon HD 3200 found on the 780G chipset with some minor changes.
The Radeon HD 4200 is built on the RV620 graphics core, which is about the same as the RV610 core for the 3200. We still have the 55nm node and around 205 million transistors and there are still 40 stream processors. The graphics upgrades actually come in video playback capability. In addition to the new HDMI 1.3 standards, the Radeon HD 4200 on the 785G chipset supports UVD2 now and also supports DirectX 10.1 just like the 780G chipset, the 785G offers the ability to pair another video card with the Radeon HD 4200 in crossfire mode. The drawback to this is that you can't pair it will another 4000 series card. In fact, the best card you can pair it with is the Radeon 3450, which should help boost performance slightly. However, since the 785G chipset does offer one PCIe 2.0 x16 link, you would probably be better off getting a higher end graphics card if you really need an improvement over the HD 4200.
As I mentioned earlier, the 785G chipset also adopted the newer DDR3 standard of memory, while the 780G and 790GX chipset primarily focused on DDR2 memory. Of course, the 785G keeps the 500MHz clock speed found on the 780G which is slower than the 700MHz found on the 790GX. The chipset is, of course, backwards compatible with DDR2 memory, so you won't have to upgrade everything all at once. ASUS offers a motherboard very similar to the M4A785TD-M EVO that is a DDR2 memory board rather than DDR3. The M4A785TD-M EVO motherboard pairs the 785G chipset with the SB710 Southbridge.
Basically, the SB710 is almost the same as its predecessor, the SB700, and it is also very comparable to the SB750, the other southbridge that can be paired with the 785G chipset. The SB710 offers Advanced Clock Calibration, a nice feature that, among other things, will allow users to manually unlock Deneb cores that have been disabled during manufacturing. This is a nice feature to have for users of the Phenom-II X2 and X3 series that are built on Deneb cores that didn't meet manufacturing standards. Of course, to meet production quotas, sometimes perfectly good quad-core processors have a couple of cores disabled. These can sometimes be reactivated with the ACC feature.
The SB710 brings 6 SATA ports to the table and support for 12 USB ports, in addition to the traditional PATA port. There is no support, unsurprisingly, for the new USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s ports. ASUS does offer a motherboard with the 785G chipset that comes included with an add on card for those ports, but the M4A785GTD-M EVO does not come with that card. The SB710 offers RAID 0, 1, and 10 support, but not RAID 5 support like the SB750. I highly doubt that there are many users considering the 785G chipset that will be discouraged by the fact that RAID 5 is not supported. While the SB710 does not offer native GbE support, its rich feature set still poses an extreme threat to the competition, Intel's ICH7. The ICH7 offers up only 4 SATA and 8 USB ports. Additionally, the ICH7 lacks a PATA port and any RAID support at all. Overall, the SB710 is a much better fit for most users than the Intel alternative at this point.