Asus M3A78 Pro: An ATX 780G Motherboard

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OVERCLOCKING

With very effective third party heatsinks on the market, and many low power CPUs available, overclocking can improve performance without compromising the noise level of a silent PC. A simple overclocking investigation was conducted with the CPU multiplier set to 5x and RAM at 533Mhz/2.10V. The CPU frequency was increased in increments of 10Mhz until the system failed a 5 minute run of Prime95 with ATITool 3DView running simultaneously or failed to boot or showed other signs of instability.


The maximum FSB overclock with our X2 4850e.

We found that the M3A78 Pro was good up to a CPU frequency increase of 300Mhz. At 310Mhz, Prime95 produced an error after only one minute. No graphical anamolies were detected by ATITool, suggesting the overclock did not compromise the video subsystem. With ample voltage applied to our X2 4850e processor, we managed to get it partially stable at 3.16Ghz using a 10.5x multiplier. Our overclocking attempts were hampered by the processor itself — we probably needed increased cooling or extremely high CPU voltages, neither of which are silent-friendly.

3D PERFORMANCE

We usually run 3DMark05/06 to get a sense of how suitable the board's IGP is for 3D gaming, but unfortunately we were not able to get the test suite to run. The Futuremark splash screen would appear and then freeze. We tried different driver sets and the newest BIOS but were unable to resolve this issue. We can assume that the board performs as well as the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H given that they use the same chipset. Below are 3DMark results of the Asus M3N78 Pro, Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H, and ATI's budget discrete video card, the Radeon HD 3450.

Futuremark Comparison
Test
Geforce 8300 IGP
780G
(HD 3200 IGP)
780G
(HD 3450)
3DMark05
1669
2293
3705
3DMark06
902
1116
1716
All results with 2GB of system RAM and 256MB of VRAM assigned (when applicable).

HDMI OUTPUT

When we connected the board's HDMI output to our BenQ FP94VW monitor, it allowed us to select a large variety of resolutions including the native resolution of 1440x900 which turned out to be the best fit. The resulting image was reduced however with narrow black borders on all sides. The text was also distorted (pictured above), though it may look better on a TV rather than a monitor. The audio portion of the signal worked flawlessly.


Distorted text with HDMI.


COOLING

To test how well the board's chipset heatsinks performed, we overclocked the CPU frequency to 300Mhz, and lowered CPU cooling fan's voltage to 5V to reduce the amount of top down airflow they received. After 20 minutes of stressing the system with CPUBurn, the northbridge heatsink reached 58°C, as measured by an infrared thermometer — hot enough that three seconds of direct skin contact was too much to handle. The southbridge cooler on the otherhand was pleasantly warm at 47°C. The power regulation circuitry to the left of the CPU socket also got fairly hot, between 55°C and 60°C. At no point during testing did we observe any instability from the board.



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