Where are all the AMD AM3 motherboard reviews?
Posted on 7th Apr 2009 at 10:22 by Richard Swinburne with 17 comments
We have been working on no less than three 'new' AMD motherboards since we completed our Socket AM3 processor review at the start of February, but the problems have been continual, and no manufacturer has been left unmarked by the spattering of not quite there yet.
Normally we'd just go ahead with a review since the products are all ready on sale, but with each one we want to get to the bottom of their wierdness before we post a review. Also, we'd usually keep the inevitable debugging process sort of thing between ourselves and the parties involved but as it stands we don't know when we'll be able to get you a full review so we thought at least we'd keep you updated on our already delayed progress.
First up: Gigabyte. The MA790FXT-UD5P to be exact. We have been through at least three BIOS revisions trying to get to the bottom of an SB750 ACHI issue with SATA DVD drives that stop Windows Vista x64 installation every time it hits "Completing Installation...". At first we found it limited to triple core CPUs (the 720 Black Edition in our case), but just the other day we also found it locked with an 810 quad-core as well. Gigabyte, as usual, has been very supportive throughout and doesn't seem to be able to reproduce the issue with the current F4 BIOS and since the board we have is "an early sample" (their words) then we're being shipped a retail version to see if it's just the occasional pre-production woes.
Next: MSI. The 790FX-G70 has no ACHI issues - it runs Vista fine and zipped through all our tests just great - that is, until we tested the SATA performance on both the SB750 southbridge and JMicron chipset. It's Ab-so-lutely-crippled.
An X25-M normally hits over 200MB/sec in native SATA performance and a PCI-Express x1 chipset like JMicron will hit ~160MB/sec on a good day, however we're now consistently seeing nice flat lines at 120MB/sec and 100MB/sec in HD Tach. We did have an ACHI issue on the JMicron chipset, but that was resolved quickly by MSI in Taiwan and kudos goes to Miss LL in Taipei for keeping us updated every-single-day as an email comes back from literally 25 Cc'd MSI engineers who are trying to replicate our issues and find the clearly evident bottleneck.
MSI suspects again it's an early sample issue - we have had the board since mid-late Feb from release and it's a V1, but we think there's a BIOS switch missed by MSI because the performance is too consistent and the board is very stable. If anyone else has this board and a drive that can saturate the SATA bus, please try it for yourself.
Finally Asus: The M4A79-T has been the best of the bunch so far - it flew through testing, it seems lightening fast and it easily overclocked our 720 BE to 3.8GHz after just 30 minutes of playing without even developing a sweat. We did have an issue with a few Radeon HD 4800 series cards but that's been resolved just this morning (thank you Tim): and was found to be software related rather than the motherboard. So far the M4A79-T is following in the stead of the M3A79-T we loved so much and continually recommend for a companion to AM2+ CPU (until we killed it just before reviewing it - oops).
There we are for now, but to appease the AMD fanboys among you we are plodding on with a Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition overclocking guide on a range of these popular boards to show BIOS settings, typical overclocks and limitations - we've hit 3.8GHz already on one CPU and AMD is sending us a couple more straight from the States to expand our testing with too. It won't be before Easter, but once it's ready and we have the full picture you'll all be the first to know.