Our review sample was delivered with BIOS version F4d installed which seems to be newer than version F3i on the Gigabyte website so we left it well alone. At first we had mixed feelings about the BIOS. It is clearly laid out with all of the options that you need for overclocking but the voltage settings appear to be wilfully confusing, at least at first. All of the voltages are set relative to the default voltage so, for example, you increase the CPU voltage from the default setting of 1.325V to 1.475V by selecting a setting of +0.15V. At first glance it looks like you need to know the starting point for each voltage and then do some maths but in fact the BIOS immediately shows the results of any changes that you make and it’s the same story when you adjust the base clock speed or adjust the memory multiplier.
We found it quick and easy to adjust the CPU and memory voltages and then started to crank up the base clock speed of our Phenom II X4 810. With the Asus M4A79T Deluxe we hit a brick wall when the base clock reached 260MHz which gave a CPU speed of 3.38GHz. By contrast the MA790FXT-UD5P was happy to run a CPU speed of 13 x 275MHz = 3.58GHz and a DDR3 memory speed of 1,465MHz. This gave a small edge in performance to the Gigabyte over the Asus but in the great scheme of things the two motherboards cannot be separated.
As the Gigabyte sells for £20 less than the Asus we are naturally inclined towards the MA790FXT-UD5P but that’s not the only difference. You may recall that we were unhappy with the layout of the Asus as it was quite possible to block most of the SATA connectors if you installed a long graphics card. This leaves the Gigabyte in a field of one until we see more AM3 motherboards from other manufacturers. So the question is, should you buy any AM3 motherboard, let alone this particular motherboard?
We hated the original Phenom and warmed to Phenom II but the AM3 Phenom II with DDR3 memory is very good indeed. It’s so good that we would go so far as to recommend that you buy a Phenom II X4 810 rather than a Core 2 Quad Q8200 as they both cost a very similar amount. Alternatively you can save some cash and buy a cheaper Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition for the same price as a dual-core Core 2 Duo E7500.
It’s official – Phenom II on Socket AM3 is a real winner and the Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P delivers the goods at a very reasonable price.