Starting the Gigabyte is a slightly nervy process as the POST screen takes a fair few seconds to pop up on the screen. The BIOS is your regular AWARD set-up that has all of the options that you’d expect including the MB Intelligent Tweaker which gives you full rein for overclocking. There’s a further option in the F3 version which is less expected as you have the option to ‘Patch AMD TLB Erratum’.
This refers to the problem that beset early versions of Phenom chips that meant they miscalculated certain, well, calculations. A fix has subsequently been released but it is generally accepted that it knobbles the chip’s performance by around 10 percent. In theory the TLB Erratum-not-an-error won’t strike you down unless you are very unlucky but we ran the Phenom 9500 with the TLB fix on both settings for comparison and it took a slice off the memory and graphics performance but oddly it seemed to boost processor performance.
Once we’d finished in the BIOS and the POST was done we were faced with a choice of setting SATA in either AHCI or IDE function which is a one-off choice that remains set until the BIOS is cleared.
The Gigabyte behaved very respectably with the Phenom 9500 but we were surprised to see that the driver CD doesn’t include a copy of the AMD OverDrive utility. Instead Gigabyte has selected its Gigabyte EasyTune5Pro utility which is far less sophisticated than the AMD software.
We didn’t waste time trying to overclock the Phenom 9500 as it is notoriously fickle but instead plugged in a Phenom 9600 Black Edition which is unlocked and far more amenable. We had no trouble raising the reference clock from 200MHz to 225MHz for a CPU speed of 2.59GHz on standard voltages but found that was the limit. This modest overclock led to a handy increase in performance but it was fairly feeble compared to the Intel Core 2 Q6600 which sells for a similar price.
Gigabyte has made some odd choices with the design of the GA-MA790FX-DQ6 that centre around the four graphics slots. Add in the questionable performance of Phenom in a world that is dominated by Core 2 processors and you have a motherboard that is only likely to appeal to a dedicated band of enthusiast gamers.
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