AMD may not have the performance crown when it comes to its processors. In fact, Phenom has a lot of competition from Intel and a long way to go if they want to regain the top crown they stole from Intel quite some time ago. But while their CPUs aren't top of the line, their chipset business has been spot on. ATI acquisition has allowed AMD to increase its own chipset production to the level where AMD is able to produce platforms for its own products; something that has been a major problem for them in the past. I can remember the Irongate debacle to this day. Now that's a thing of the past thanks to AMD branded chipsets and the 7 series from AMD being top notch. The first chipset to have come out in the 7 series was the 780G, the first with the next generation in onboard graphics along with HT3 support for the Phenom processors. AMD really outdid themselves; not only was it future proof, it finally introduced a good onboard graphics accelerator. Not to say that it would rival a discrete solution, but its hardware decoding of HD video along with its ability to combine a second ATI graphics card to increase its 3D potential made it a huge success for the cheap PC market. GIGABYTE has been one of the biggest producers of motherboards along with ASUS and MSI. And one thing is for certain with these three companies; above all else, if the chipset is good, you will find at least one board based on it. Today we are looking at the GIGABYTE GA-MA78GM-S2H motherboard. How does it stack up as a HTPC board? Let's have a good look.
SpecificationsSpecifications of the GIGABYTE GA-MA78GM-S2HCPU
Supports AMD Phenom X4 AM2+ SeriesSupports AMD Phenom X3 AM2+ SeriesSupports AMD Athlon 64 X2 AM2 SeriesSupports AMD Athlon 64 AM2 SeriesSupports AMD Sempron AM2 SeriesChipset
AMD 780G ChipsetAMD RS780 NorthbridgeAMD SB700 SouthbridgeA-Link @ 4GB/sSystem Memory
4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR2-400/533/667/800/1066MHz64/128Bit Dual ChannelSupports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)Bus Frequency
200MHz Internal600/800/1000/1600/1800/2000MHz ExternalHyper TransportExpansion Slots
1 PCI Express x161 PCI Express x12 PCIConnectivity
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives5 Serial ATA ports1 e.SATA port1 Gigabit Ethernet PortExpansion Ports
1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port10 USB 2.0 Ports (6 rear accessible, 4 via expansion bracket)6 Stereo Audio Ports1 CRT D-SUB Port1 DVI-I Port1 HDMI Port1 Toslink SDPIF Port1 e.SATA Port1 RJ45 Ethernet Ports2 Firewire ports (1 rear accessible, 1 via expansion bracket)
The MotherboardThe Board
The board we were shipped didn't come with a retail box, so we skipped our usual look at the package. However, we did get the cables and extras which are standard for a Micro-ATX board, so there's nothing special to note here. The board itself is based around a 6-layer Micro-ATX motherboard layout. Being so small, layout can be a problem. However, GIGABYTE has managed to keep things relatively neat and tidy and in a case the size of a micro-ATX where airflow is more so restricted, it's very important to keep it all neat and tidy. The 24-pin power connector along with the single IDE port and FDD connector are located behind the four DDR2 memory slots that the board is equipped with on the right hand edge of the board. The 4-pin power connector is placed behind the PS/2 port towers on the top left of the board. This for any board is an optimal layout as it keeps all of the bulky cables well out of the way.Five of the six SATA ports that are controlled by the SB700 chipset reside on the bottom right hand edge of the board, well away from any of the major components. While the SB700 supports six SATA ports, GIGABYTE has routed the last one off to a single eSATA port at the rear I/O; good idea GIGABYTE. Another interesting thing that GIGABYTE is now doing for all its boards is including a TPM or Trusted Platform Module connector. This allows for the use of TPM to hardware encode the contents of one's hard disk, preventing unauthorised access to the system. If you're a security nut, GIGABYTE has you covered.
The CPU area, thanks to the retention clamp design AMD uses for its heatsinks keeps the CPU clear of high rise components. This allows for clean installation of heatsinks; no matter how big they are, the clips are easy to get to. The power for the CPU is regulated through a 4-phase solid state component system.
Moving to the rear I/O ports, GIGABYTE has put a lot into this board, that's for sure. Of note here are the two obvious video ports; one CRT and one DVI-I for standard displays. If you want to go full digital, the HDMI interface port is included as well, allowing easy connection of the system to a LCD or plasma TV; great for HTPC purposes from the IGP. For digital storage, one eSATA port is included that is controlled from the sixth SATA port of the SB700.
Lastly we have expansion slot possibilities. Thanks to the Hybrid CrossfireX technology, a single PCI Express x16 slot supporting PCI-E 2.0 specs is included. If you have one of the Hybrid CrossfireX certified cards on hand, you can connect it through the PCI-E x16 slot and use both the discrete and IGP together to boost system performance, though don't expect double like standard Crossfire claims, but enough to make some games playable where they normally wouldn't be with the integrated solution alone. For additional PCI Express connectivity, a single PCI Express x1 slot is included supporting PCI-E 2.0. That's right; SB700 is a PCI-E 2.0 compliant part. Finally, two PCI slots make up the last of the expansion offerings. Two mightn't be much, but remember this is m-ATX. It's not going to have as many as full ATX for obvious reasons, but it's more than enough for a HTPC or basic PC offering.
BIOS and OverclockingBIOS
Now we move along to the BIOS and GIGABYTE has gone with its usual Award offering, making it easy to get around just about every GIGABYTE board available. To locate the overclocking options, you simply visit the MB Intelligent Tweaker Menu.Buses
CPU Frequency: 200 - 600MHz in 1MHz IncrementsPCIe Frequency: 100 - 200MHz in 1MHz IncrementsVoltages
DDR2 Voltage Control: +0.1 - +0.3v in 0.1v IncrementsNorthbridge Voltage Control: +0.1 - +0.3v in 0.1v IncrementsCPU Voltage Control: +0.1 - +0.3v in 0.1v IncrementsOverclocking
In the past, most 780G boards haven't let us do much or any overclocking. The GIGABYTE board, however, gave us a little head room. We managed an FSB of 235MHz stable. But this was the limit; all voltages were turned up to get it just at this level.Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory PerformanceTest System Processor
: AMD Phenom X4 9850 @ 2.5GHzMemory
: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil
: 500GB Western Digital SE16 (Supplied by Western Digital
: GIGABYTE 9800GX2 (Supplied by GIGABYTE
: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE
: Microsoft Windows Vista SP1Drivers
: Catalyst 8.6, Forceware 175.16Today's tests will consist of our ASUS M3A78 board and the GIGABYTE MA78GM motherboards. ASUS' board did not overclock at all in a stable manner, so we are unable to do OC tests with this board. But GIGABYTE did manage an increase as you saw just before, so we threw in the OC tests here. At stock speeds the two systems were running with DDR2-1066MHz memory, since both boards support this with the Phenom X4 processors. At the GIGABYTE overclocked speeds, we ran with the memory at the same divider.EVEREST Ultimate EditionVersion and / or Patch Used:
2006Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.comBuy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
In our first stock tests there is nothing at all in it between the two boards. Only when overclocking on the GIGABYTE do we see a slightly higher result.
Benchmarks - PCMark VantagePCMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedDeveloper Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage//Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
PCMark almost gives clone results at stock speeds. At OC a little gain for GIGABYTE is seen, but not really enough to consider it a victory. With the CPU clocked almost at the same speed, only the memory speed gives it a slight lead.
Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 PreviewSYSmark 2007Version and / or Patch Used:
1.04Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/products/sysmark2007preview/>
SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista. SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.
SYSmark manages to give clone results at stock. There's only two marks more at OC to the GIGABYTE board.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0Version and / or Patch Used:
4.0Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode.
Premiere Elements puts both boards at stock speeds on top of each other. At OC settings this is where the extra memory bandwidth comes in handy and takes a couple of minutes off of the encode time.
Benchmarks - HDD PerformanceHD TachVersion and / or Patch Used:
18.104.22.168Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.comProduct Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTach
Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:27 pm CDT