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Maximum PC Staff Dec 29, 2008

Gigabyte MA 790GP-DS4H

At A Glance

Codex Leicester

Scales from integrated to full-tilt CrossFire support.

Da Vinci Code

Poor SATA port placement; BIOS disables USB keyboard support by default.


Pardon us, but crowing that your integrated graphics chip is better than your competitor’s integrated graphics chip is a bit like bragging that your D is better than your friend’s D-.

As sad as that is, it’s the tack AMD is taking with its 790GX chipset, which Gigabyte’s MA790GP-DS4H mobo is based on. While the chipset features DirectX 10 support and indeed might be faster than other integrated graphics solutions, it’s still slower than the ancient GeForce 7600 GS we compared it to.

The 790GX does support a hybrid mode, which allows you to pair an equally weak Radeon HD 3400-class GPU with the board. By adding the subpar performance of the Radeon to the integrated graphics, you immediately realize you should have purchased a better videocard. If that were the only story, we’d already be done with the 790GX. What’s interesting is that AMD’s latest chipset scales from dirt-poor integrated, to illogical hybrid support, all the way up to full CrossFire support. The MA790GP-DS4H takes full advantage of the CrossFire slots and lets you run two GPUs at full x16 PCI-E 2.0 data rates. However, Gigabyte makes a faux pas by pointing the SATA ports straight up. If you were to run two double-wide GPUs in the board, several SATA ports would be cut off.

The real news concerning the Gigabyte board is the inclusion of AMD’s new SB750 south-bridge chip, which adds RAID 5, additional SATA ports, and the ability to directly overclock the CPU further than you could before, theoretically. Our Phenom overclocks have been good but not stellar, and we didn’t seem to get much further with the new SB750, so your mileage may vary.

In our benchmarks, the board’s performance was all over the map, with hard drive scores particularly low. Only after installing a patch provided to the media (with the warning that it could result in data loss) did we see performance actually match that of boards based on the 790FX chipset. We imagine that final drivers will include the patch, but it’s obvious to us that the MA 790GP-DS4H’s drivers weren’t fully baked for the release, so color us unimpressed.
Benchmarks

Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H
Asus M3A32-MVP

PCMark GPU  11, 663
12, 610
3DMark06 Overall 11, 571
12, 020
HD Tach Average
59.3
77.4
Valve Particle Test
66
71
UT3 standard (fps) 76
83
FEAR Max/min (fps) 173
213
Quake 4 low (fps) 166
152.7
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed consists of a Phenom 9950BE, 2GB of DDR2/800 RAM, a 150GB WD Raptor hard drive, a GeForce 8800 GTX, and Windows XP SP2.
THE VERDICT

Gigabyte MA 790GP-DS4H

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