In many respects the Asus M3A79-T Deluxe is an update of the M3A32-MVP Deluxe that we reviewed last December. The M3A32-MVP is a regular AMD 790FX motherboard with an SB600 Southbridge that supports CrossFire X with four PCI Express graphics slots but it suffered from a fundamental issue at the time of review as we were testing with the original B2 Phenom CPU.
The combination of 790FX and B2 stepping of Phenom was something of a disaster and we were unable to overclock by even the tiniest amount. This was very bad news as competing Intel processors such as the Q6600 offered better performance than Phenom and overclocked magnificently so it was almost impossible to make an argument in favour of the 790FX chipset or the Asus M3A32-MVP.
Imagine our surprise when the M3A79-T Deluxe arrived as it looked to be the absolute spitting image of its M3A32-MVP Deluxe cousin. The only visible difference is that the older model included a piece of hardware named Cool Mempipe which screws to the Northbridge cooler and extends the passive cooling system to your system memory.
The new M3A79-T has the necessary mounting holes on the Northbridge cooler but there is no Cool Mempipe in the box. This seems perfectly reasonable as the memory doesn’t get especially hot in a Phenom system and the whole thing felt like a bit of a gimmick anyway.
There’s another, less obvious, change in the new motherboard though, which is where things get interesting. Asus has updated the Southbridge from SB600 to the new SB750 that was introduced with the 790GX chipset. We’ve reviewed two 790GX motherboards recently with mixed results as the Foxconn A7DA-S allowed us to overclock our Phenom X4 9850 to 3.1GHz while the cheaper Biostar TA790GX A2+ didn’t overclock at all.
We hoped that the M3A79-T would offer us the prospect of a 790FX motherboard that would overclock with ease while adding the benefits of the new south bridge. Before we get down to performance testing, though, let’s take a quick look at the layout of the Asus.
If you look at the M3A79-T from a short distance you’d be unable to tell whether it was intended for Intel Core 2 or Phenom. The layout follows the tried and true Asus form with the EATX power connector at the top of the board, the Northbridge below the CPU socket and the main power connector outboard of the memory slots. The six SATA connectors and single IDE are laid down to steer the cables away from even the most monstrous rank of graphics cards and across the foot of the board there are header connections and micro buttons for Power and Reset.
The only oddity that caught our eye is that two of the USB headers are in the usual position at the foot of the board between the Firewire header and a Serial connector while the third USB header is located at the very top of the board above the power regulation hardware - ideas on a postcard, please.
The four PCI Express 2.0 slots are spaced out reasonably well however the third graphics slot is close enough to the fourth that you won’t be able to install four double slot graphics cards if such a ludicrous idea took your fancy.