790GX Showdown: Gigabyte vs. MSI

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The Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H and MSI DKA790GX Platinum are solid boards based on the 790GX northbridge and SB750 southbridge. The features are very similar, with neither board offering anything compelling over the other. The inclusion of a single eSATA port (which can be easily replicated with a cheap adapter) along with a few extra accessories is really the only thing that sets the DKA790GX Platinum apart on paper. It may be why the board carries a $20 price premium over its rival.

If power consumption is the deciding factor, our recommendation depends on what components will be used to fill out the rest of the system. If you wish to use a low TDP chip and intend to actively use the IGP rather than a discrete video card, the 790GP-DS4H is more energy efficient. It can also run on Sideport memory alone, which is enough to playback Blu-ray movies and will save you some system memory. The MSI board requires some system memory to be allocated to the IGP, 64MB at least for Blu-ray playback. For higher-end systems, the DKA790GX Platinum is more power efficient when a Phenom II chip is utilized, but this advantage evaporates once the IGP is called into action. We aren't sure exactly why but power consumption during video playback and 3D load was consistantly higher on the MSI board. For a gaming machine with a discrete graphics card, this obviously wouldn't be an issue.

If features and power consumption aren't enough to push you to either side, the 790GP-DS4H has a noticeable edge in fan control. Smart Fan control on the Gigabyte board is much smoother, SpeedFan allows for a better range of control, and it has four fan headers versus the MSI's three. These are significant advantages for a silent PC enthusiast. All other differences were trivial.

Ultimately, the reason we favor the 790GP-DS4H is simply its lack of faults. It works exactly as it should and nothing was noticed during testing that made us groan, wince, or scratch our heads. The DKA790GX Platinum's issues may be minor, but the fact that they exist makes the Gigabyte board a slightly safer bet.

Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H
* Lower power consumption with low power CPU
* Feature-rich
* Good fan control
* Nothing significant
MSI DKA790GX Platinum
* Lower power consumption with high power CPU
* Even more feature-rich (eSATA)
* Limited fan control
* High IGP power consumption
* Sideport memory issues

Our thanks to Gigabyte and MSI for the motherboard samples.

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