Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5

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Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5
  • Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5
  • Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5
  • Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5

Pros

  • Passive cooling on the chipset, reliable and quick performance, eSATA

Cons

  • No external power plug for eSATA drives, might require a BIOS update in order to be fully compatible with the latest optical drives on the market

Bottom Line

If you're considering making the switch to AMD's Phenom, this motherboard will be a solid platform for it. It was reliable in our tests and it has enough features to please even the most demanding of users.

Would you buy this?

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Based on AMD's new 790FX chipset, this Gigabyte platform is ripe for use with any of AMD's AM2 and AM2+ based CPUs, including Phenom. The 790FX is a high-end chip, yet this board isn't Gigabyte's top-of-the-range product. That honour goes to the GA-MA790FX-DQ6, which has a few more options, including four graphics card slots. The DS5 is for users who want a more affordable high-end platform, and to this end, it delivers.

For under $300, you'll get a board with two graphics card slots that support ATI CrossFire mode, support for AMD's high-end Phenom CPUs and plenty of useful features including eSATA, RAID, high-definition audio, FireWire and USB 2.0.

The DS5 is also very well built. It uses solid capacitors throughout, which are more reliable and longer-lasting than traditional capacitors, and it uses ferrite-core chokes instead of iron chokes, which are said to improve the quality of the electrical signal coming in from the power supply. A passive cooler, which includes a heat-pipe, sits atop the 790FX chipset and on the transistors next to the CPU, while the components on the board are relatively well-spaced and easy to access during the system assembly process.

The 790FX chipset consumes less electricity than previous high-end chips, and this is reflected in the size of the heat sink that resides on the chipset, which is relatively small compared to what we've seen on previous high-end AMD-based motherboards. The 790FX gives this motherboard two PCI Express x16 slots, and the AM2+ CPU socket links the CPU to the chipset using HyperTransport 3, which when coupled with a HyperTransport 3-capable Phenom CPU, will boost the bandwidth between the CPU and the chipset (2GHz). AM2-based CPUs will run at HyperTransport 2 speeds (1GHz).

Running an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ AM2-based CPU (2.6GHz), as well as 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card, the board returned a score of 86 in WorldBench 6, which is the fastest score we've seen so far from this type of configuration. This indicates that the new chipset is fast and Gigabyte has implemented it well on this board.

The BIOS allows for the clock speed of the CPU to be manipulated manually, as well as the multiplier (for CPUs that feature an unlocked multiplier) and the board supports DDR2 memory up to 1066MHz. Memory timings can be changed in the BIOS to reduce latency, and voltage adjustments can be made when overclocking, too. We had success when running the CPU at 2.86GHz and this improved the system's performance in Adobe Photoshop and WinZip by five per cent and thirteen per cent, so it's definitely a reliable platform.

The 790FX chipset is paired with the AMD SB600 'southbridge' chipset on this motherboard, which supplies four built-in SATA ports, 10 USB 2.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet, three PCI Express x1 slots, high-definition audio (with support for up to eight speakers) and two PCI slots. Furthermore, a Gigabyte SATA controller is present, which adds two more SATA ports to the mix. Plus a FireWire chip, which adds three FireWire ports. As such, it's a fully-stocked board that should suit demanding gamers as well as video enthusiasts.

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