- Review Price: £65.19
When we took our first look at the AMD 785G chipset in the shape of the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO we were generally quite pleased. The 785G is not much more than a makeover for 780G but the ”new” chipset performs well. We would be happier if the 785G had the higher 700MHz clock speed of the 790GX, rather than the 500MHz speed that it shares with the original 780G, but we found the Asus board would overclock to 700MHz quite easily. In the meantime the 785G supports Socket AM3 CPUs, the graphics support DirectX 10.1 and the chipset contains dual movie decoders.
To our mind this makes the 785G a natural contender for media centre PCs and small, highly integrated PCs for the office and home. We don’t expect many people would use the 785G for a high end gaming PC but it is worth noting that ASRock has claimed a world record for overclocking on its M3A785GXH/128M where a Phenom II X4 965 ran at 6095MHz.
That led to one of our criticisms about the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO as we didn’t see why it sent us a full sized ATX model to review when a Micro-ATX one makes more sense. Particularly, as one of our readers commented, Asus has a Micro-ATX 785G in its range.
Gigabyte hasn’t made the same tactical error as it sent us the MA785GMT-UD2H which is a compact Micro-ATX model that measures 244mm x 244mm. This means you don’t get the second long PCI Express slot that you see on the Asus model but that’s no loss as the 780G and 785G do not support CrossFireX.
When you look at the layout of the MA785GMT-UD2H it is clear that Gigabyte has worked hard to squeeze in a long list of features. On the I/O panel we get the headline features of the 785G chipset with HDMI, DVI and VGA outputs for the Radeon HD 4200 graphics. In addition there are six USB ports, one PS/2, one Firewire port, one eSATA, Gigabit LAN and full surround sound audio including optical S/PDIF.
Then we come to the main group of internal connectors and slots. The four DDR3 memory slots and the PCI Express x16, PCI Express x1 and two PCI slots take up most of the available space. In addition there are five vertical SATA connectors that look as though they might interfere with a long graphics card. We plugged in a Radeon HD 4890 and found that the cables actually clear the card by a small margin leaving all five connectors available for use.
It’s a similar story with the passive cooler on the Northbridge on the chipset which looks terribly close to the PCI Express x1 slot. In fact the cooler has been profiled to provide enough room for you to plug in an expansion card such as a TV tuner or sound card without any problem.
Down by the SATA connectors the usual expansion headers are present and correct however you don’t get any brackets in the package so you’ll be relying on the ports that you have mounted on your case. There are three USB headers that support six USB ports and a Firewire header for a second port which is all very satisfactory. Head up the side of the board next to the memory slots and you’ll find the main power connector, the ATA133 connector for legacy optical drives and a floppy connector. That sounds like a full house of expansion options but Gigabyte has also included a header for a COM port and a second header for a Parallel port.
It is a matter of personal taste but we would be happy to see the legacy connectors swept away with the exception of the ATA133. Having said that we are quite sure that some of the connectors will be life savers for a handful of potential customers so it’s a minor complaint. The point is that Gigabyte has managed to squeeze the whole lot in neatly and elegantly despite the small size of the motherboard.
Tucked in behind the I/O panel there is an eight-pin EATX power connector which isn’t necessary for such a lightweight motherboard but it is backwards compatible with the old four-pin plug and as a result it is compatible with every power supply on the market.
The power regulation hardware looks compact and basic as the 4+1 set-up is bare and takes up very little space, which is in stark contrast to the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO with its 8+1 hardware and large blue heatsink.
Firing up the MA785GMT-UD2H leads to a BIOS set-up that is very similar to pretty much every other Gigabyte on the market. It makes little concession to the integrated graphics and we could only find one relevant option which was to set the clock speed of the GPU. The Gigabyte comes with 128MB of DDR3 SidePort memory onboard which is plenty for such relatively weedy graphics however we have become used to having options to dedicate additional system memory to act as graphics memory. In our experience this is a waste of time and we feel that Gigabyte has taken a sensible decision to keep the BIOS clean and simple.
It’s a similar story when it comes to overclocking. You get all the usual options for raising CPU, RAM and chipset voltages but nothing too extreme. The maximum Northbridge voltage is +0.3V=1.40V which is quite conservative and we have little doubt that this limits the scope for overclocking. You’ll also find the options for fine tuning memory performance are limited as the steps between the memory dividers are quite large.
When we overclocked our Phenom II X4 810 we started by raising the graphics core speed in steps to 1,000MHz which was stable and then onwards to 1,100MHz at which point the system refused to POST. The BIOS presented us with an error screen and gave us the option to undo the problem. After that we raised the voltages and then cranked up the base clock speed. 225MHz worked perfectly well while 230MHz was a step too far and once again we got the error message. We stepped back to 225MHz for a CPU speed of 2.93GHz and once we had raised the memory speed to 1,200MHz the job was done.
Although the Gigabyte didn’t achieve quite the same CPU speed as the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO the graphics speed was considerably faster with the result that the Gigabyte delivered considerably better performance. In Far Cry 2 we were able to play the game surprisingly well, albeit at low quality settings, with a frame rate that is three frames per second faster than the Asus.
With its powerful integrated graphics, video decoders, and a full complement of basic features, the Gigabyte is a snip at £65. Certainly, if you’re building a media centre or small home PC, it should be high on your shopping list.
Score in detail
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