- Review Price: £169.00
This week’s motherboard is the Asus M4A79T Deluxe which differs from the Asus M4A79 Deluxe that we reviewed a couple of weeks ago in one important detail. The Asus M4A79 Deluxe is a Socket AM2+ motherboard that uses the AMD 790FX chipset to support Phenom and Phenom II CPUS and DDR2 memory. Asus told us that the M4A79 Deluxe also supports the new Socket AM3 Phenom II (review from Edward, on its way) which was a claim that we couldn’t check at that time.
The problem is that we couldn’t understand why anyone would buy a brand new Phenom II X4 810 or X3 720 processor and then choose to ally it with a DDR2 motherboard. It also seemed unlikely that many people would buy a new AM2+ motherboard for their existing CPU on the off-chance that they might buy an AM3 Phenom II in the future. The upshot was that we regarded the M4A79 Deluxe as little more than a refreshed M3A79-T Deluxe that was trading on its support for AM3.
By contrast the M4A79T Deluxe supports new Socket AM3 processors but doesn’t have backwards compatibility with AM2+ Athlon X2 and Phenom processors due to its use of DDR3 memory. The four slots can support up to 16GB of DDR3-1,333MHz memory, which is the native speed of the memory controller in the new Phenom II. If you overclock the memory you can run it at a heady 1,600MHz although our testing showed that this doesn’t bring much obvious benefit.
The M4A79T Deluxe is identical in layout and appearance to the M4A79 Deluxe apart from the colour of the memory slots which have changed from yellow and black to yellow and orange. If you can tell the difference between the AM2+ and AM3 sockets by eye then you’re doing very well indeed. The other difference is the price as the DDR3 M4A79T costs £10 more than the M4A79.
As we mentioned in the M4A79 Deluxe review we like most aspects of the layout of the motherboard. The power connectors are sensibly located, there is a good array of expansion slots and the micro buttons at the foot of the board are the usual quality Asus components. We have some doubts about the placement of the SATA connectors as three of the five would be blocked if you use a pair of double slot graphics cards. Realistically that will not affect many people but it is a concern nonetheless.
The array of ports on the I/O panel is generous without being ridiculous. Plug in the supplied bracket and you have a total of eight USB ports and two Firewire ports along with one eSATA, Gigabit LAN and audio with both coaxial and optical digital connections.
Diving into the BIOS was a familiar experience as it appeared to be identical to the DDR2 M4A79, though of course this isn’t the case. Nevertheless, the BIOS on the M4A79T is as solid and stable as we could wish and we had no trouble overclocking our Phenom II X4 810 from 2.6GHz to 3.38GHz. The process was very simple and involved modest changes to the voltage settings along with a hike in the base clock speed from 200MHz to 260MHz. It was a similar story with the Phenom II X3 720 which started at 2.8GHz and shot up to 3.5GHz. The X3 720 is a Black Edition processor so we left the base clock at 200MHz and raised the multiplier from 14x to 17.5x to achieve the maximum speed with the minimum of effort.
The three coolers on the chipset and power regulation hardware are linked with heatpipes and do a fine job of keeping the system cool at stock speeds, just as we would expect. The eye opening thing is that the latest version of Phenom II has a relatively low power draw when it is overclocked and we were able to keep the fan speed of our Zalman CNPS9500 CPU cooler to a minimum. This meant that airflow across the M4A79T Deluxe was almost non-existent but despite that the coolers were barely warm to the touch.
The two Phenom II models X4 810 and X3 720 that we used in testing both have a TDP of 95W which is less than the 125W of the AM2+ Phenom II X4 940 but that is only part of the story. AMD rates the TDP of its CPUs on a worst case scenario so the TDP isn’t much better than a guide to the thermals of the processor. Phenom was dreadfully hot and the Phenom II 940 was merely good but the combination of AM3 Phenom II with DDR3 memory and the Asus M4A79T Deluxe is very encouraging.
This is the first AM3 motherboard we have seen in action so we cannot be sure how much of the credit lies with AMD and how much should go to Asus. For the time being it is safest to say that AM3 puts AMD back in the game and Asus has done a fine job.
The Asus M4A79T Deluxe is the first Socket AM3 motherboard we have seen and it is a very good partner to the latest version of Phenom II.
Score in detail
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