Asus M4A78T-E AM3 motherboard

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With AM3 being so fresh, we had nothing to compare the Asus M4A78T-E to except its AM2+ variant, the M3A78-T. We found only minor differences between the two in terms with the boards splitting real-world timed tests, and the AM3 M4A78T-E pulling slightly ahead in synthetics. From a pure performance point of view, there is no compelling reason to consider AM3 over AM2+.

More compelling is that AM2+ will soon be history, and future AMD CPU offerings will come in AM3. The improved power efficiency we found on the AM3 board is also significant. The earlier AM2+ M3A78-T used more power during all of our tests, varying from as little as an extra 2W idle and 5W during anti-virus scanning, to as much as 20W during VC-1 playback and 26W when archiving files with WinRAR. In long term use, the average difference should fall somewhere between those extremes. DDR3 memory is supposed to use less energy, but that's not enough to explain the differences we found today. While all the current Phenom II AM3 processors are 95W parts, AM2+ Phenom II's are 125W. Perhaps the 95W TDP applies only when the AM3 processors are used with AM3 boards? This is an issue that calls for a bit more digging, and we'll report power results with other AM3 boards in the near future.

The Asus M4A78T-E board is solid, with plenty of features including eSATA and CrossFireX, a tried and tested IGP with SidePort memory, fan control for up to 3 fans, and a BIOS that is unintimidating to mainstream users yet satisfying to enthusiasts. Stability was perfect and no oddities cropped up during testing. The only thing negative we could say about the M4A78T-E applies to the AM3 platform in general — the current lack of CPU choice and extra cost of DDR3 memory, but neither will stay static.

The potential of this new board will be better utilized when faster AM3 CPUs are released. Still, if you already have an AMD CPU, it's a good step upgrade. The price of DDR3 memory has already come down significantly. A 4GB kit of DDR3-1333 can now be acquired for only $20-$30 more than 4GB of DDR2-800. The M4A78T-E itself is moderately priced at $140~150, no more than its AM2+ counterpart, the M3A78-T, and way lower than Intel i7 boards, so it is the first reasonably priced DDR3-based platform that value-minded users can consider.

Our thanks to ASUSTeK and AMD for the product samples.

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