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Getting onto the software, unfortunately the usual Express Gate instant-on OS needs to be installed on a hard drive rather than included on a memory chip as with more expensive Asus boards such as the P7P55D Deluxe. Hence, if you try enabling Express Gate without installing it to the hard drive first the board will throw up an error message (though on our first boot-up it just crashed completely, but this was a once-off). Once activated though, it will allow you to perform basic tasks like web-browsing, chat, Skype and multimedia functions almost from the moment you press the power button.
The included CD is rather disappointing in that it refused to work, though ideally you should always get the latest drivers and applications from the manufacturer's website anyway.
Getting onto the BIOS, it's not as clear and logically laid out as we're used to from Asus. Things are all over the place and sometimes unintuitively named; for example, most of the overclocking settings are found under the heading of JumperFree Configuration, though a few settings have snuck in under CPU Configuration.
Time to find out how this board performs when the pedal is put to the metal in the hardware department. As ever with AMD-based systems, overclocking is a piece of cake. Though the Phenom II processor we used was a 2600MHz X4 810 rather than one of the famed Black Edition CPUs, all you need to do for hassle-free overclocking is to raise the CPU/HT clock. On air cooling and without raising the voltage we got as far as 237 (up from the default 200) before the system started showing signs of instability, but everything ran rock solid at 235, which returned clock speeds of 3,065GHz for all the 810's four cores.
This is quite decent, and certainly not bad for what by all appearances should be a budget board - especially as it soundly thrashes Gigabyte's MA785GMT-UD2H microATX board based on the same AMD 785G chipset. As the Asus also offers a cleaner layout and supports higher O.C. memory speeds it would seem we have a clear winner here. Thankfully it's a reasonably priced board to boot, and can be yours for £68.20. At a mere £4 premium over its Gigabyte rival, it deserves serious consideration in the affordable Micro-ATX motherboard segment.
Despite a few flaws, a sparce bundle and slightly confusing BIOS, Asus' M4A785TD-M EVO delivers in the performance stakes and looks good doing it. For the price, we really can't complain.