As usual you can tell a Gigabyte motherboard with its happy colours a mile off. It hasn't made a board that's particularly different, and for the most part there's no need to change - the layout works in most ways. The connectors are generally easy to get to and very well labelled, although the pin-outs for eight USB 2.0 ports in the middle of the board might prove awkward for some, depending on your hardware configuration.
The SATA ports look in the right place, but unfortunately Gigabyte again almost completely sacrifices SATA use if CrossFire is used. The performance mainstream 790GX chipset is designed with CrossFire in mind as it offers dual x8 PCI-Express lanes for graphics, so why Gigabyte hasn't taken this into account we don't know. We thought the designers had learnt as the translation from P35 to P45 boards saw this conflict removed by moving the SATA ports to the edges of the board; however Gigabyte seems to have forgotten again.
If you use a single height card like a HD 4850 in the second PCI-Express x16 slot you lose two SATA ports, but if you use a dual height card like a HD 4870 we found a loss of between four and five. This is clearly unacceptable.
There's plenty of PCI and PCI-Express x1 on offer, even if you choose to fill the space with CrossFire. Even the northbridge heatsink is shaped to allow a long PCI-Express x1 card to go over it. That's brings us neatly to the heatsinks: the entire board is passively cooled, although unlike the 780G boards, this one gets a few heatpipes as well. This is mostly because the board has five phase power regulation that supports up to 140W Phenoms including the latest X4 9950 Black Edition, as well as providing some necessary overhead for overclocking.
Thanks to the fact the chipsets are built on TSMC's 55nm process, they are super low power, although even when we tested the board with a 125W Phenom X4 9850 BE, the heatsinks were only simply warm to touch. As is expected with Gigabyte boards this one also features the Ultra Durable 2 branding and is completely decked out in solid aluminium capped capacitors, low RDSon PowerPAK MOSFETs where needed and environmentally sealed chokes. What is missing, as are all the AM2+ boards, is the Energy Efficient phase changing that's featured on a growing range of Intel boards. Clearly Intersil doesn't make an AMD compatible phase adjusting chipset.
Other features include the usual Realtek ALC889a high quality sound codec, a single PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet and a few Firewire ports - all features we'd expect to see. The feature set is very solid but Gigabyte doesn't do more than it needs to.