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Gigabyte GA-M720-US3 - Gigabyte GA-M720-US3

By Leo Waldock


Our Score


Review Price free/subscription

The Gigabyte is an under-sized ATX motherboard that measures 305mm x 215mm and looks similar to a number of budget models from MSI which also uses this form factor.

The nature of the Nvidia chipset means that the ports and connectors are arranged around the centre of the board instead of the usual Southbridge location towards the bottom of the board. This means that the six SATA connectors are placed above the single graphics slot between the passive cooler on the chipset and the laid down IDE connector. It's a convenient location which is more than we can say about the four-pin ATX-12V connector which is uncomfortably close to the CPU fan connector and the mounting frame for the CPU cooler.

In appearance the Gigabyte is a strange mix of old and new. The I/O panel packs in eight USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire port, a mini Firewire port, Gigabit Ethernet, two PS/2 ports and a full selection of audio connectors. The board supports a PCI Express 2.0 graphics slot and two PCI Express x1 slots along with four PCI slots. It's been ages since we saw more than two PCI slots on a motherboard and it makes you wonder why Gigabyte didn't go the whole hog and make the GA-M720-US3 Micro-ATX.

There are two headers at the foot of the board for four more USB ports and a header for a third Firewire port but you don't get any brackets in the box.

The only negative point that stands out is that the passive cooler on the chipset hits 70 degrees idling in the Windows desktop if you don't use a case fan and will rise to 80 degrees under load. With a case fan the chipset cooler sits at a steady 35 degrees which seems far more acceptable to us, though certainly a lamentable necessity.

We tested the GA-M720-US3 with our usual Phenom II X4 810 and found that performance was slightly lower than comparable AMD 790FX/GX models, perhaps as a result of the slower DDR2 memory that we were using. Overclocking was also a disappointment as we couldn't raise the base clock beyond 235MHz which gave a CPU speed of 3.06GHz. This CPU will happily run at 3.4GHz on most motherboards and up to 3.6GHz on a good board so the Gigabyte doesn't impress in the overclocking stakes.

Things took a turn for the better when we switched to the triple core Phenom II X3 720 as the Gigabyte has a trick up its sleeve. In the BIOS you can use a hidden option Ctrl-F1 to enter Advanced Chipset Features and then you can enable Nvidia Core Calibration and turn on the fourth core in this triple core processor. Gigabyte is somewhat coy about this feature as Ctrl-F1 isn't mentioned on the POST screen and neither does it appear in the manual. We would have been none the wiser if we hadn't been shown a Gigabyte marketing presentation that explained how to unleash the fourth core.

Presumably Gigabyte is keen to sell the GA-M720-US3 by spreading word of this feature without upsetting AMD too much. The results of enabling the fourth core in the X3 720 are quite intriguing as it has a higher clock speed than the X4 810 so it starts at 2.8GHz and overclocks to 3.29GHz which is pretty impressive when you consider that the Gigabyte costs less than £55 while a Phenom II X3 720 is £40 cheaper than the X4 810.


On the face of it the Gigabyte GA-M720-US3 is unimpressive but once you unlock a triple core X3 720 you'll see a different side to this motherboard and should be thoroughly impressed by the value that it offers.

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April 16, 2009, 6:31 am

Hmm, I think it would have made more sense if each motherboard was a different colour on the Performance Results graphs (Green, then Yellow, then Blue etc.), with different processors tried, being different shades of that colour.

As it is, I find it a bit confusing to read, especially with having to scroll down (on my monitor at least) to see the key for most of the graphs.


April 16, 2009, 2:03 pm

Hi Pbryanw,

I totally agree but due to time concerns and Excel 2003 having a rubbish selection of graph colours, these had to do. I'd have needed to create each graph then manually fill in each bar with a different colour in Photoshop to do what you suggest. Not impossible but very time consuming.

Leo Waldock

April 16, 2009, 7:54 pm

The key points with the Gigabyte are that it is quite an average AM2+ motherboard at stock speeds and overclocked although it is very cheap. Once you install a tri-core X3 and unlock the fourth core it becomes a bargain.


August 17, 2009, 1:55 pm

This board is more a gem than you realise.

I'm using the f4 bios revision and I've unlocked a phenom II x2 550 black edition up to a phenom II x4 b50. Yep I've unlocked two extra cores and it's all stable.

People need to remember with this board that it uses nvcc, not acc and as such requires an extra 0.05 volts on the vcore to stabalise all four cores on the x2 compaired to amd chipsets but the unlocking procees is pretty much guarenteed. Pluss at leat 80% of all phenom II x2 550 black editions seem to have four healthy cores so this board combined with the x2 cpu is an enthusiasts dream.

RE: The ddr2.

While ddr3 can give much more bandwidth, more bandwidth does not necisarily mean more speed especialy when you concider the latency of ddr3. I mean it's nearly double the latency of ddr2 for a small bandwidth increase so that extra bandwidth becomes sort of redundant. Thats why ddr2 is still in use and pretty much the way to go in my book. Perhaps if they can lower the lattency on ddr3 it will rule all but not untill that day.


August 17, 2009, 3:13 pm

Just to add to the above...

Given my cpu is a black edition, I'm getting an excellent overclock from my cpu, with little effort. My phenom ii x2 550 @3.1 2 core stock is running as a phenom ii x4 b50 @ 3.6ghz. Thats an everyday overclock. I've had it up to a stable 3.9ghz on all 4 cores on air cooling by increasing just the freq multiplier and a small increase in vcore.

Odviously with the above I'm using an aftermarket cooler. A xigmatek thors hammer.

To switch on all 4 cores successfully on a phenom x2 with this board I would advise setting the vcore to aprox 1.40 volts then switching on nvcc.


August 30, 2009, 5:46 am

hey josey, can u help me out and tell me how to unlock the 2 other cores? i hav the exact same processer and motherboard


August 21, 2010, 9:39 pm

I have this board, and I had a lot of trouble with it trying to feed too low an amperage to a 8800 GTS and a Phenom 955 BE, constantly crashing to loss of total power to the computer.

Fixed this by upgrading the PSU, but still crashed to desktop during L4D gameplay. Swapped the Phenom for a Athlon and it now flies like a rocket and is very stable. This board and the Phenom 955 do not like each other, so am looking for a motherboard to compliment the Phenom 955 BE, a Zotac GTX 460, and DDR2 memory 1066. Anyone any ideas?

Barry Jillett

October 4, 2010, 3:56 pm

Windows7 X64

Phenom 955BE C3 @ 3.93Ghz great overclocker (everyday overclock)OCZ Vendetta2 cooler Air

GTX 470 @ 860/1740/4000 loves this board 23626 Vantage score

Ensure you have the latest bios release

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