AMD's 785G Chipset Boards: 780G Evolved

CPUs|Motherboards
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FINAL THOUGHTS

The 785G chipset is an evolutionary step, bringing a few feature improvements over 780G. It provides a capable and affordable alternative to 790GX for users looking to setup a true AM3 system, DDR3 memory and all. 790 boards offer faster 3D performance (in the order of 20% if you consider 3DMark a good indicator), more bandwidth for CrossFire configurations (8x/8x vs. 16x/4x) and RAID-5 capability from the SB750 Southbridge chip. If none of these advantages appeal to you, a 785G board might be superior as HD 4200 includes an updated version of UVD, and it is more affordable.

The MSI 785GM-E65's main draw is its impressive energy efficiency. At idle it used 12W (about 20%) less than the Asus board, and was thrifty during video playback as well. The heatsinks on the board components run fairly cool, a result of its high efficiency. The BIOS has plenty of voltage/frequency options and allowed us to undervolt much more than the M4A785TD-V. The only aspect of the 785GM-E65 we disliked was the fan control system. Once the target temperature is reached, the fan ramps up incredibly fast and the system fan can only be set to three different but static speeds. It is not yet supported by SpeedFan.

The Asus M4A785TD-V EVO offers more expansion slots and the option of using CrossFire. Our sample's power consumption is decidedly poor at low levels, though it matches the 785GM-E65's efficiency at full load. Like the MSI board, its components are well-cooled and shouldn't be problem if paired with a high performance 125W+ processor, for which it seems more suited. The BIOS is enthusiast-oriented but has an CPU undervolting limit of -0.3V. Fan control was better than on the 785GM-E65. The settings in the BIOS allow you to adjust its aggressiveness to suite your tolerance, and both fans can be controlled using SpeedFan which is a huge bonus. On the other hand, the CPU fan's minimum speed is too high, and if you use BIOS control, the auxiliary fan does not react to changes in temperature.

Both of these boards offer a slew of features including HDMI, DVI, S/PDIF, eSATA and FireWire, RAID 0/1/10, a 100% solid-state capacitor design, and a very capable onboard graphics chip. The M4A785TD-V and 785GM-E65 retail for about $30 less than their 790GX counterparts. The new chipset won't blow anyone's socks off, but it does give price-conscious users a reason to choose the newer AM3/DDR3 platform rather than settling on an AM2+/DDR2 solution simply because of the price. It is also a compelling alternative to an Intel based platform. The only Intel motherboard we can find that matches the features of these two boards is the Gigabyte GA-EG45M-UD2H which retails for $130. The bottom line on Intel vs. AMD for affordable HTPC: The MSI 785GM-E65 is $40 cheaper and has faster onboard graphics.

Asus M4A785TD-V EVO
PROS

* Feature-rich
* Liberal BIOS options
* Excellent HD video playback
* Fairly good 3D performance
* Well cooled
CONS

* High idle and low load power consumption
* Doesn't undervolt well
MSI 785GM-E65
PROS

* Feature-rich
* Liberal BIOS options
* Excellent HD video playback
* Fairly good 3D performance
* Well cooled
* Excellent idle and low load power consumption
* Undervolts well
CONS

* Poor fan control

Our thanks to Asus and Micro-Star International for the motherboard samples.

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Asus M4A78T-E AM3 motherboard

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