Asus M4A78T-E AM3 motherboard

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AM3 vs. AM2+

The board chosen for comparison is the Asus M3A78-T. Made by the same manufacturer and sharing the same chipset and an almost identical feature-set, it comes closest to being the AM2+ version of the M4A78T-E. Before testing, the M3A78-T was flashed to the latest BIOS to ensure processor compatibility and Cool 'n' Quiet was confirmed functioning.

Test Results: AM3 vs. AM2+
Test State
M4A78T-E (AM3)
M3A78-T (AM2+)
Mean
CPU
System Power
Mean
CPU
System Power
Off
N/A
2W
N/A
2W
Sleep (S3)
N/A
3W
N/A
3W
Idle
N/A
54W
N/A
56W
Rush Hour
(H.264)
7%
~57W
10%
~67W
Coral Reef
(WMV-HD)
21%
~64W
24%
~76W
Drag Race
(VC-1)
35%
~71W
37%
~91W
Disturbia
(Blu-ray H.264)
20%
~70W
23%
~82W
CPU Load
N/A
117W
N/A
131W
CPU + GPU
Load
N/A
135W
N/A
157W

We expected to see little difference between the two platforms, but testing showed a clear advantage for the AM3 board in terms of power consumption. We saw improvements in the order of 10 to 22W during video playback and CPU/GPU stress testing. If Asus' boards are any indication, there seems to be an efficiency penalty for using an AM3 processor on a AM2+ board.

Performance Differences

To determine whether there is any clear-cut performance difference between the two boards, a short suite of synthetic and real-world benchmarks was run.

Benchmark Comparison: AM3 vs. AM2+
Test
M4A78T-E (AM3)
M3A78-T (AM2+)
Time
Power (AC)
Energy Used
Time
Power (AC)
Energy Used
NOD32
5:57
~60W
5.95W·h
5:35
~65W
6.05W·h
WinRAR
3:18
~74W
4.07W·h
3:37
~100W
6.03W·h
iTunes
5:17
~80W
7.04W·h
5:15
~90W
7.88W·h
TMPGEnc
5:07
~91W
7.76W·h
5:15
~103W
9.01W·h
3DMark2005
4884
4699
3DMark2006
2205
2140
PCMark2005
6974
6764
Memory set to AUTO in BIOS.
M3A78-T: 800MHz, 5-5-5-18.
M4A78T-E: 1333MHz, 9-9-9-24.

On paper, the only real difference between the systems is the memory. The M3A78-T uses lower speed DDR2 with better latency while the M4A78T-E has higher speed DDR3 with poorer latency. The frequencies/latencies selected by the BIOS are what we would consider average for budget DDR2/DDR3 memory. Given the frequency/latency tradeoff, it was no surprise to us that our real-world tests split between the two boards, though the synthetics all favored AM3 by a small margin.

Power efficiency echoed our previous results — it was clearly superior on the M4A78T-E. Even the two benchmarks the AM3 system lost, the energy used performing the two tasks was less. It could be due a quirk in the M3A78-T or perhaps there is something inherently different in regards to power regulation when it comes to AM2+ vs. AM3 processors.



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