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We liked the Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe WiFi AP Edition (despite its absurdly lengthy name) but were less excited about AMD's Phenom processor which didn't seem to bring anything special to the party.
Well it's a whole new year and the motherboard manufacturers have had a few weeks to sort out BIOS revisions for their Phenom models so let's see what we make of the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DQ6. The model code gives away the game that this board is built around the AMD 790FX chipset which is the same silicon that we saw on the Asus.
It doesn't come as a great surprise that reviewers are offered motherboards with the top-of-the-line chipset but there's no getting away from the fact that the key feature of 790FX doesn't work at present. I'm talking, of course, about CrossFire X where you gang up three or four graphics cards for your gaming delight. At present CrossFire ‘only' works with two graphics cards and we're still waiting for drivers that support more graphics cards. There are rumours of Beta drivers arriving any day now with final versions possibly turning up in March but whether that turns out to be the case is anyone's guess.
You may be thinking that I'm an old fuss budget who has got the wrong end of the stick. What harm can lie in buying a motherboard that does everything you want today with the prospect of more features in a couple of months' time? The problem lies in the layout of the board and those four vital PCI Express x16 graphics slots. For one thing they take up a huge amount of space and for another the graphics cards will block the other expansion slots and generate a significant amount of heat. Asus has that covered by the simple expedient of wide separation of the four graphics slots so you can make the most of the expansion slots right up to the point that you plug in four double slot HD 3870 graphics cards. Even then you can connect your hard drives without any trouble as the SATA and PATA connectors are laid down for easy access.
Gigabyte has taken a different and somewhat extraordinary approach by positioning the four graphics slots next to each other so you cannot use double slot cards but will instead be restricted to HD 3850s. You may be thinking that you can use CrossFire X to gang up a pair of the new HD 3870 X2 cards but Gigabyte has another nasty shock in store as the four SATA connectors are bang in line with the third graphics card slot and they stand upright so there's a good chance the cables will interfere with the graphics card.