ASRock A780GXE vs AOD790GX - Phenom Battle

Print

Product(s): ASRock A780GXE/128M Motherboard
                 ASRock AOD790GX/128 Motherboard
Provided By: ASRock
Price: Currently $79.99 and $104.99 respectively


Introduction:

A while ago ASRock sent us a press release that contained a couple of new motherboards that look somewhat similar at the release.  They do however use different Northbridge and Southbridge chipsets, different integrated GPU solutions as well as a few other differences.  At first glance though the ASRock A780GXE/128M and the AOD790GX/128 look almost identical.  We'll put them head-to-head and see how they compare - both physically and in terms of performance.

 A780GXE - Box
A780GXE - Box
 AOD790GX - Box
AOD790GX - Box

 

Right from the start the similarities of the package is very similar.  There are only a couple of different decals on the box of the AOD790GX.  When opening the box, you can see a few differences though.  The AOD790GX ships with a few more cables and a DVI-HDMI video connector.  Other than that, both boards include driver CDs, manuals, SATA cables, IDE/Floppy cables and the usual rear I/O shield.

 A780GXE - Bundle
A780GXE - Bundle
 AOD790GX - Bundle
AOD790GX - Bundle

 

First Look at the Boards:

When I first looked at the A780GXE/128MB and the AOD790GX/128 I thought they looked virtually identical, but after a few seconds you can see a few major differences between the motherboards.  Although both have a very similar layout, the A780GXE/128M board has a mixed array of capacitors - both electrolytic and solid-state capacitors.  ASRock claims that all of their capacitors are Japanese, but solid-state capacitors are known to have a longer life-span.

A780GXE - Profile
A780GXE - Profile

 

Although the second board is pictured from a different angle, you can still see the similarities as well as the differences.


 AOD790GX - Profile
AOD790GX - Profile

 

As we take a look at the board above, there are a few things worth mentioning.  The main 24-pin power connector is located conveniently at the top right of the motherboard.  This helps for cable management - especially on cases with bottom-mounted PSUs.  You'll also notice that both ASRock boards use a Crossfire/SLI switch card to change from the 16x/8x PCIe configuration to the Crossfire configuration.  The last thing that bothers me with these boards is the relatively small passive cooling solution and the lack of fan headers.  There are only two fan headers on these boards and one of them is required for the CPU.  That only leaves one for a case fan or aftermarket chipset fan.  The passive solution may be great if the integrated GPU is kept clocked down, and the chipset isn't overclocked very high, but heat could be a big issue here.

The SATA connectors are all located at the bottom corner of the board and remain out of the way for long graphics cards.  Five are dedicated to standard SATA and the orange port is designated for eSATA.  There is also another eSATA port located near the rear I/O of the board.  Although there is a Firewire header on the board, there is no Firewire bracket included with either of these boards so if you want to take advantage of this you'll need to purchase a PCI slot bracket or have a case with this feature built in.  Also there are USB headers on board for four more USB ports - again no USB brackets are included.  However many cases have the option for at least two USB headers and this may not be a big deal if you've got one of these cases.


Closer Look:

The rear IO on this board is pretty straightforward and not as interesting as the WiFi series of boards from ASRock.  This board comes equipped with PS/2 keyboard and mouse connections.  There is no coaxial or optical digital audio output on these boards.  Instead, it's taken care of in the cluster of audio connectors.  There is an eSATA port on the back as well as six USB2.0 ports, 8 channel audio and a GB Ethernet jack. Unfortunately there is no Firewire present on the rear I/O or on the board at all for that matter.  Firewire is typically used for external hard drive connections and as eSATA has gained popularity, IEEE 1394 appears to be taking a back seat on some motherboards.  The truth is, I prefer Firewire over USB2.0 for data connections, but due to the popularity of USB2.0, I don't use Firewire that much at all anymore. The only thing I still use it for regularly is for downloading data from my digital video camera.

A780GXE - Rear I/O
A780GXE - Rear I/O
 AOD790GX - Rear I/O
AOD790GX - Rear I/O

 

The CPU socket is clear of obstructions on both of these boards but there are still a couple of issues with the power layout in my opinion.  The is a 4-pin/8-pin power connector located close to the CPU socket as well as a standard Molex connector that is used to provide additional power to high-end cards - especially if you're running in Crossfire.  These cables have to run across the CPU and make cable management a little difficult.  CPU power regulation looks very solid however, and this is a bonus.  Even on the A780GXE/128M board that uses both solid and electrolytic capacitors, ASRock has chosen to use solid-state capacitors on the CPU power regulation circuit.

 A780GXE - CPU and Power
A780GXE - CPU and Power
AOD790GX - CPU and Power
AOD790GX - CPU and Power

 

ASRock is considered a "budget" board maker, but they typically use high-quality components.  One area where they save some money is in the SLI/Crossfire department.  Instead of using more expensive integrated, BIOS-controlled switches, they still use the Crossfire Switching card in order to change the PCIe lane configuration from 16x/4x to 8x/8x when it CrossfireX mode.  As you can see below, there are enough PCI and PCIe slots to keep most people happy.  There is a single PCIe 1x slot, two 16x (16x/4x or 8x/8x) slots, and three PCI slots.  If your graphics cards have single slot coolers - you'll be able to populate all of these slots for maximum connectivity.  As you can see, the only difference between the two boards from this angle is the capacitors.

 A780GXE - PCIe Slots
A780GXE - PCIe Slots
 AOD790GX - PCIe Slots
AOD790GX - PCIe Slots

 

Although the boards use different chipsets, both use the same cooling solution - a large passive cooler on the Northbridge and a smaller passive cooler on the Southbridge.  Even though I was concerned about passive cooling on such a powerful chipset, the coolers seemed to hold up, but if you're into high-end overclocking, you may want to swap these up for some active cooling.

 A780GXE - Chipset Cooling
A780GXE - Chipset Cooling
AOD790GX - Chipset Cooling
AOD790GX - Chipset Cooling

 

The SATA and USB2.0 connections are all located in the bottom right of the board and should be pretty self-explanatory.  The orange SATA port is designated for eSATA usage - although it will work for regular SATA drives as well.

 A780GXE - SATA and More
A780GXE - SATA and More
AOD790GX - SATA and More
AOD790GX - SATA and More

 

Before we carry on any father, we'll take a look at the chipset and motherboard features and specifications on the next page.


AMD 780G Chipset Specifications:

AMD 780G Chipset Specifications
with ATI Radeon™ HD 3200 Graphics

Proven Radeon™ graphics powering DirectX® 10 Powered by ATI Radeon™ Graphics, DirectX® 10 introduces neverbefore-seen detail-rich images and dynamic interactivity for playing the latest DirectX® 10 games
HyperTransport™ 3.0 technology More than doubles your CPU communications bandwidth to graphics as compared to HyperTransport™ 1
PCI Express® Generation 2.0 Double your graphics bandwidth over earlier PCI Express for improved performance
Backwards compatibility Ensures flexibility to build platforms with previous generation CPUs as well as the latest
AMD Phenom™ processors
ATI Hybrid Graphics1 Improve your system performance by enabling the ability for both discrete graphics and integrated graphics to render simultaneously
ATI Avivo™ HD1 ATI Avivo™ HD is the advanced image and video processing and display technology found in
ATI Radeon™ graphics that enables:
  • brilliant colors, sharp images and smooth playback of Blu-ray™ and HD DVD content
  • performance that rivals high end HD DVD and Blu-ray™ players on difficult 1080i content
  • built-in HDMI and DVI with HDCP
Low Power Design Designed for power-efficient computing to help lower energy costs
AMD Cool’nQuiet™ 2.0 Benefit from power saving features that help reduce power consumption at idle or during low usage
Enhanced Digital Display integration Supports Display Port interface for the newest displays.
ATI SurroundView™ SurroundView™ feature allows support for up to four independent monitors for systems equipped with an additional Radeon™ discrete graphics card
Next Generation SB700 Support for up to 12 USB 2.0 connections and 6 SATA 2.0 devices, including eSATA devices
AMD OverDrive* Shift your system performance into next gear. Enables control of the AMD 7-Series Chipsets to easily configure system settings in Microsoft® Windows®
AMD RAIDXpert™ Easily configure your RAID setup from remote locations to personalize your media for extra performance or enhanced reliability

 

ASRock A780GXE/128M Features & Specs:

 General
CPU - Support for Socket AM2+ / AM2 processors: AMD Phenom™ FX / Phenom / Athlon 64 FX / Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core / Athlon X2 Dual-Core / Athlon 64 / Sempron processor
- Supports CPU up to 140W
- AMD LIVE!™ Ready
- Supports AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet Technology
- FSB 2600 MHz (5.2 GT/s)
- Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
- Supports Hyper-Transport 3.0 (HT 3.0) Technology
- AM3 CPU Ready
Chipset - Northbridge: AMD 780G
- Southbridge: AMD SB700
Memory - Dual Channel DDR2 memory technology
- 4 x DDR2 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR2 1066
*/800/667/533 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 16GB
**

*Support with AM2+ CPU.

**Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® XP and Windows® Vista™. For Windows® XP 64-bit and Windows® Vista™ 64-bit with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.
BIOS - 8Mb AMI BIOS
- AMI Legal BIOS
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports Jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU, DRAM, NB Voltage Multi-adjustment
- Supports Smart BIOS
 Audio, Video and Networking
Graphics - Integrated AMD Radeon HD 3200 graphics
- DX10 class iGPU, Pixel Shader 4.0
- Max. shared memory 512MB
- Integrated 128MB side port memory for iGPU
- Dual VGA Output: Support DVI-D and D-Sub ports by independent display controllers
- Supports HDCP function with DVI-D port
- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback
Audio - 7.1 CH Windows® Vista™ Premium Level HD Audio (ALC888 Audio Codec)
LAN - PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Realtek RTL8111C-VCO-GR
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
 Expansion / Connectivity
Slots - 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (green @ x16 mode, blue @ x8 mode)
- 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
- 3 x PCI slots
- Supports ATI™ CrossFire™ and Hybrid CrossFireX™
Connector - 6 x SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, and JBOD), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
- 1 x eSATAII 3.0 Gb/s connector (shared with 1 SATAII port)
- 1 x ATA133 IDE connector (supports 2 x IDE devices)
- 1 x Floppy connector
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x COM port header
- 1 x HDMI_SPDIF header
- 1 x IEEE 1394 header
- CPU/Chassis FAN connector
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- SLI/XFire power connector
- CD in header
- Front panel audio connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)
- 1 x USB/WiFi header
Rear Panel I/O I/O Panel
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
- 1 x VGA/D-Sub Port
- 1 x VGA/DVI-D Port
- 6 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x eSATAII Port
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x IEEE 1394 Port
- HD Audio Jack: Side Speaker / Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
 Other Features / Miscellaneous
Unique Feature - ASRock OC Tuner
- Intelligent Energy Saver (Support with Phenom CPU)
- Instant Boot
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
- ASRock AM2 Boost: ASRock Patented Technology to boost memory performance up to 12.5%
Support CD - Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version)
Accessories - 1 x ASRock SLI/XFire Switch Card
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- Floppy/ATA 133 Cables
- 2 x SATA Data Cables (optional)
- 1 x SATA 1 to 1 Power Cable (optional)
Hardware Monitor - CPU Temperature Sensing
- Chassis Temperature Sensing
- CPU Fan Tachometer
- Chassis Fan Tachometer
- CPU Quiet Fan
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, Vcore
Form Factor - ATX Form Factor: 12.0-in x 9.6-in, 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm
- Solid Capacitor for CPU power
OS - Microsoft® Windows® XP / XP Media Center / XP 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit compliant
Certifications - FCC, CE, WHQL

 

On the next page, we'll take a quick look at specs for the AMD 790G chipset and the ASRock AOD790GX/128M motherboard.  

 



AMD 790G Chipset Specifications:

AMD 790GX Chipset Specifications
with ATI Radeon™ HD 3300 Graphics

Proven ATI Radeon™ Graphics Powering
DirectX® 10

Powered by ATI Radeon™ Graphics, DirectX®10 introduces neverbefore-seen detail-rich images and dynamic interactivity for playing the latest DirectX® 10 games
HyperTransport™  3.0 Technology HyperTransport™ 3.0 more than doubles your CPU communications bandwidth to graphics as compared to HT1
PCI Express® Generation 2.0 Double your graphics bandwidth over earlier PCI Express for improved performance
Backwards Compatibility Ensures flexibility to build platforms with previous generation CPUs as well as the latest AMD Phenom™ processors
Performance Cache Performance and power improvements with AMD’s unique side port technology

ATI Hybrid Graphics1

Improve your system performance by enabling the ability for both discrete graphics and integrated graphics to render simultaneously
ATI CrossFireX™ Technology Upgrade to even greater 3D performance quickly and easily with plug-and-play ATI CrossFireX™ technology when you use two discrete ATI Radeon™ Graphics cards
ATI Avivo™ HD2

ATI Avivo™ HD is the advanced image and video processing and display technology found in ATI Radeon™ graphics that enables:

  • brilliant colors, sharp images and smooth playback of Blu-ray™ and HD DVD content
  • performance that rivals high end HD DVD and Blu-ray™ players on difficult 1080i content
  • built-in HDMI and DVI with HDCP
Low Power Design Designed for power-efficient computing to help lower energy costs
AMD Cool’nQuiet™ 2.0 Benefit from power saving features that help reduce power consumption at idle or during low usage
Enhanced Digital Display Integration Supports Display Port interface for the latest displays. Includes a TDMS interfacen that enables dual-link DVI or HDMI 1.2 as well as HDCP 1.1
ATI SurroundView™ SurroundView™ feature allows support for up to four independent monitors for systems equipped with an additional Radeon™ discrete graphics card

ATI PowerPlay™

Flexible power saving technologies that ensure optimal power efficiency to help reduce your electricity costs
SB750 Southbridge Support for up to 12 USB 2.0 connections and 6 SATA 2.0 devices, including eSATA devices. Also includes support for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10

AMD OverDrive with Advanced Clock Calibration*

Shift your system performance into next gear with Advanced Clock Calibration that allows you to get the highest overclocking out of your AMD Phenom™ CPUs. AMD OverDrive™ also enables control of the AMD 790GX to easily configure system settings in Microsoft Windows® in real-time

AMD RAIDXpert™

Easily configure your RAID setup from remote locations to personalize your media for extra performance or enhanced reliability. Additional RAID 5 support with SB750

 

ASRock AOD790GX/128M Features & Specs:

 General
CPU - Support for Socket AM2+ / AM2 processors: AMD Phenom™ FX / Phenom / Athlon 64 FX / Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core / Athlon X2 Dual-Core / Athlon 64 / Sempron processor
- Supports CPU up to 140W
- Supports AMD OverDrive™ with ACC feature (Advanced Clock Calibration)
- AMD LIVE!™ Ready
- Supports AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet Technology
- FSB 2600 MHz (5.2 GT/s)
- Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
- Supports Hyper-Transport 3.0 (HT 3.0) Technology
- AM3 CPU Ready
Chipset - Northbridge: AMD 790GX
- Southbridge: AMD SB750
Memory - Dual Channel DDR2 memory technology
- 4 x DDR2 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR2 1066
*/800/667/533 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 16GB
**

*Support with AM2+ CPU.

**Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® XP and Windows® Vista™. For Windows® XP 64-bit and Windows® Vista™ 64-bit with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.
BIOS - 8Mb AMI BIOS
- AMI Legal BIOS
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports Jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU, DRAM, NB Voltage Multi-adjustment
- Supports Smart BIOS
 Audio, Video and Networking
Graphics - Integrated AMD Radeon HD 3300 graphics
- DX10 class iGPU, Pixel Shader 4.0
- Max. shared memory 512MB
- Integrated 128MB side port memory for iGPU
- Three VGA Output options: D-Sub, DVI-D and HDMI with DVI-to-HDMI Converter
- Supports HDCP function
- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback
Audio - 7.1 CH Windows® Vista™ Premium Level HD Audio with Content Protection
- DAC with 110dB dynamic range (ALC890 Audio Codec)
LAN - PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Realtek RTL8111C-VCO-GR
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
 Expansion / Connectivity
Slots - 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (green @ x16 mode, blue @ x8 mode)
- 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
- 3 x PCI slots
- Supports ATI™ CrossFire™ and Hybrid CrossFireX™
Connector - 6 x SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
- 1 x eSATAII 3.0 Gb/s connector (shared with 1 SATAII port)
- 1 x ATA133 IDE connector (supports 2 x IDE devices)
- 1 x Floppy connector
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x COM port header
- 1 x HDMI_SPDIF header
- 1 x IEEE 1394 header
- CPU/Chassis FAN connector
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- SLI/XFire power connector
- CD in header
- Front panel audio connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)
- 1 x USB/WiFi header
Rear Panel I/O I/O Panel
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
- 1 x VGA/D-Sub Port
- 1 x VGA/DVI-D Port
- 6 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x eSATAII Port
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x IEEE 1394 Port
- HD Audio Jack: Side Speaker / Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
 Other Features / Miscellaneous
Unique Feature - ASRock OC Tuner
- Intelligent Energy Saver (Support with Phenom CPU)
- Instant Boot
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
- ASRock AM2 Boost: ASRock Patented Technology to boost memory performance up to 12.5%
Support CD - Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), AMD OverDrive™ Utility
Accessories - 1 x ASRock SLI/XFire Switch Card
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- Floppy/ATA 133 Cables
- 4 x SATA Data Cables (optional)
- 1 x SATA 1 to 1 Power Cable (optional)
- 1 x DVI-to-HDMI Converter
Hardware Monitor - CPU Temperature Sensing
- Chassis Temperature Sensing
- CPU Fan Tachometer
- Chassis Fan Tachometer
- CPU Quiet Fan
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, Vcore
Form Factor - ATX Form Factor: 12.0-in x 9.6-in, 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm
- All Solid Capacitor design (100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors)
OS - Microsoft® Windows® XP / XP Media Center / XP 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit compliant
Certifications - FCC, CE, WHQL

 

On the next page we'll take a quick look at the BIOS, do a little overclocking and look at the IES (Intelligent Energy Saver).



ASRock A780GXE and AOD790GX BIOS:

The motherboard BIOS is probably one of the most boring areas to look at if you're not an overclocker or enthusiast.  Mainstream users will probably want to skip down to the overclocking section to see how easy it is to tweak and overclock this board.  For you hardcore users, check out the BIOS screenshots of both motherboards below.  Both are pretty straightforward and we've only included a few of the BIOS screens that will be of interest.  We've also included a few of the BIOS screens that show a difference between the motherboards.  Many sections like "Boot Order" have been left out as we simply can't handle that much excitement.  For now, the advanced bios settings will have to keep you happy - and tweaking your RAM, CPU and voltages until your heart's content.

 A780GXE - BIOS Main
A780GXE - BIOS Main
 AOD790GX - BIOS Main
AOD790GX - BIOS Main

 

There are a few changes on some of the BIOS screens between the two motherboards.  While the Advanced CPU configuration screen is pretty much the same, the Advanced Chipset BIOS screen on the AOD790GX has the additional Advanced Clock Calibration option that can be adjusted from -12 to +12 in "2" increments.  This is a feature of the SB750 chipset on the AOD790GX/128M.  You can see that both boards support HDMI, integrated GPU overclocking, Surround View, and SidePort.

 A780GXE - CPU Config
A780GXE - CPU Config
 AOD790GX - CPU Config
AOD790GX - CPU Config
   
 A780GXE - Advanced Chipset
A780GXE - Advanced Chipset
 AOD790GX - Advanced Chipset
AOD790GX - Advanced Chipset
   
 A780GXE - Memory Settings
A780GXE - Memory Settings
 AOD790GX - Memory Settings
AOD790GX - Memory Settings

 


The last few BIOS settings show below are all taken from the AOD790GX motherboard.  Pictured below is the ACC Settings from the Advanced Chipset screen, Smart Settings that are actually available on both boards and the Hardware Monitor.

 AOD790GX - ACC Settings
AOD790GX - ACC Settings
AOD790GX - Smart Settings
AOD790GX - Smart Settings
AOD790GX - HW Monitor
AOD790GX - HW Monitor

 

With the BIOS behind us, now we take a look at the Intelligent Energy Saver (IES).

 

Power Saving IES:

If you're feeling a little greener than power hungry, you may be more interested in the Intelligent Energy Saver feature of this motherboard.  This feature only works with Phenom Quad core processors at this time and puts the CPU into a lower power state and even drops the voltage regulation from 4-phase to 2-phase.  This is dynamic and when required your processor will clock back up to normal speed.  Think of IES as an advanced "Cool & Quiet" for Phenoms.

 IES - On

In order to use IES, the BIOS setting for "Cool 'n' Quiet" must be set to "Enabled".  Choosing "Auto" or "Disabled" will render IES defunct.

 

Overclocking:

With all the adjustments that we just covered, I actually had some hope in this board when it came to overclocking.  Undoubtedly, the thing that will hold is back is an AMD processor.  For this review we used the Phenom x4 9950 Black Edition in order to play around with multiplier and FSB adjustments.  We also wanted to try out the ACC options on the AOD790GX motherboard as this is supposed to increase Phenom processors overclockability.  After much tweaking on the A780GXE/128M we managed to reach 2.92GHz.  Even though the multiplier is unlocked on the Black Edition, our best results were at 13x 225MHz.  Although I could get the A780GXE up to 3.0GHz for a few hours, it ended up failing Prime95's torture test.

 

The AOD790GX/128M proved to be a better motherboard when it came to overclocking, but I'm not sure how much of that has to do with AMD's new Advanced Clock Control.   Our best results were with ACC disabled.  Our second best results were with ACC set to auto.  When any manual setting was applied on the "+" side of things to improve overclocking - we ran into major stability issues and the lovely BSOD showed itself many times.  Finally we settled on 3.28GHz - an improvement of 360MHz. On this board I could run up to 3.5GHz, but once again Prime95's torture test showed us that it wasn't rock stable.

AOD790GX - Overclocked
AOD790GX - Overclocked

 

I've tried different BIOS revisions on the AOD790GX/128M in order to try and find a stable BIOS that works with ACC.  In the end, most forum posts around the net recommend "Auto" or "Disabled" on the ACC at this point.  When ASRock has it working like it should, I do expect to gain another 100MHz at the very least.

ASRock includes a nice little overclocking tool called "OC Tuner" and it works very well and if you want to check it out in more detail please refer to our review of the K10N78hSLI-WiFi motherboard here.

On the next page we'll start some subsystem tests before we jump into the full-blown benchmarks.


Test Setup:

This is the first full-blown motherboard review we've posted with the AMD Phenom x4 9950 Black Edition processor and as such we have no previous results to compare it to in terms of CPU performance, gaming and such.  In this review we are simply comparing one board against the other.  Both boards offer very similar BIOS options but the latest board - the AOD790GX/128M actually takes our processor to levels we've not seen before.  AMD has done something right with the SB750.

 

Subsystem Tests - HDD:

Both the A780GXE/128M and the AOD790GX/128M support AMD's RAIDXpert which I covered in detail in the ASRock A770 Crossfire review.  Please refer to that if you want more details about this feature.



We start off the subsystem testing with some HDD tests.  For the HDTach test below we used a RAID 0 stripe on a new pair of 640GB HDDs.  Both motherboards used the same RAID array and stripe settings.  This test was run at stock CPU speed on both boards as well.  You can see that the AOD790GX edges out the A780GXE motherboard in Average Read and Burst Speeds in the HDTach benchmark.  CPU load was measured at 4% on both boards with a latency of about 14ms.  If the burst speed is accurate, it's impressive at over 378MB/sec on the 790GX chipset board.

 HDTach Chart
HDTach Chart

 

Subsystem Tests - Audio:

ASRock claims that some of their motherboards have HD Audio that is capable of 110db dynamic range through the ALC890 codec.  You can find our results of those boards here.  The A780GXE/128M uses the standard ALC888 audio codec so we expected it to have slightly poorer audio quality than the AOD790GX/128M which uses the same ALC890 codec as other "HD Audio" motherboards.  The truth is that most people won't hear the difference when plugged into a $50 pair of speakers or $15 headphones, but for those of you that care about audio quality on the integrated audio, RightMark Audio Analyzer results are below.  We tested a few different bit and sampling rates and have posted the chart below for your viewing pleasure.

 A780GXE - RightMark
A780GXE - RightMark
 A0D790GX - RightMark
A0D790GX - RightMark

 

You can see that the AOD790GX indeed shows better audio quality in terms of Noise Level, Dynamic Range and more.  As stated before, if you're using cheap speakers, you won't hear the difference however.



Subsystem Tests - Network:

One area that we have started testing is network performance.  It is easy for a company to claim great networking features as many users never test them out and are puzzled when they can only transfer files at a mere 250Mbit/sec on their 1000Mbit/sec NIC.  We use iPerf for testing network performance and on this board we tested out both wired and wireless performance.

In iPerf, we ran single threaded tests as well as a multi-threaded network test that used five streams at the same time.  Multi-threaded performance always looks better and shows how the network system will hold up when accessed from multiple machines at the same time.  Single thread performance shows client-to-client file sharing performance.  For kicks and giggles we included the A770 Crossfire results as well.

 iPerf Performance
iPerf Performance

 

Please keep in mind that the network performance numbers indicate maximum throughput that the networking hardware is capable of.  In reality, you won't see these numbers due to Operating System overhead, CPU and even Hard Disk Drive limitations.  The truth is though; the A770 Crossfire has one of the best performing networks of any of the tested ASRock motherboards and it is still the board to beat.

On the next page, we'll run some performance benchmarks and see how these boards round out.


 

Synthetic Performance:

To start things off we'll take a look at PCMark Vantage numbers.  An interesting thing to note is that the both motherboards actually run slightly slower than the rated 200MHz FSB, and come in right around 2594MHz at stock speeds.  For the overclocked performance numbers, the A780GXE was clocked in at 13x 225MHz = 2925MHz while the AOD790GX was clocked in at its previously stated 14x 235MHz.  Obviously we expect the higher clocked motherboard to perform better in these benchmarks and it just shows what is available with the 790GX NB and SB750.  Memory was kept at DDR2-800 4-4-4-12 1T at both stock speeds and scaled slightly higher when we ramped up the FSB.

PCMark Vantag

 

To gauge memory performance on the both of these boards we used Everest Ultimate.  For this test we used both stock and overclocked numbers and tried to keep the memory as close to DDR2-800 as possible.  You can see that the stock performance of the A780GXE/128M motherboard is actually quite a bit better than the other motherboard. All memory timings are exactly the same - 4-4-4-12 1T @ DDR2-800.  However, the overclocked performance of the AOD790GX/128M is clearly the winner as the high HTT speed helps us reach close to 8GB/sec read speed.


Everest Ultimate

 

Finally we take a look at PM Core - a program that calculates prime numbers.  This program multi-threaded and we used it to calculate 10,000 prime numbers.  The results below are in minutes:seconds.tenths.  Once again, we've put up both ASRock boards against each other at identical stock and the highest stable overclock each board was able to achieve.

PMCore

 

PMCore shows an interesting thing that other tests so far have not disclosed.  In this test the quad-core CPU performs identically on both motherboards in the single-threaded and multi-threaded test.  When overclocked, the AOD790GX gains an extra 9% performance over the slower-clocked A780GXE.


We wrap up the synthetic benchmarks with the infamous 3DMark Vantage.  While many will argue that this is not indicative of real-world performance, it is a simple and effective way to compare similar systems to judge how tweaking, drivers and different hardware can affect your performance.  This benchmark is effective at producing consistent results as it is scripted and 100% repeatable.  Once again we show stock 2.6GHz scores and overclocked comparisons at each board's highest stable overclock.

3DMark Vantage

At stock speeds, both motherboards show very similar performance.  According to the chart, the AOD790GX board edges slightly in the lead and this lead is enlarged when overclocked as the AD790GX allows the processor to run over 300MHz faster.

On the next page we'll use real games and applications to better judge how these motherboards perform in real-world tasks.  These other benchmarks are great though if you want to directly compare your system.


Gaming Performance:

To find out how these two boards compare when playing games, we used my personal favorite game - Call of Duty 4, as well as Crysis to see how these boards hold up.  Crysis takes a very powerful system to run smoothly and while we only have a single HD4850, the AMD Phenom x4 9950BE processor is pretty solid and keeps the gameplay running much smoother than I thought.  Call of Duty 4 runs pretty good on mid-range systems so I expect 60FPS+ in this game.  For the Crysis benchmark we used the HOC Benchmarking tool at several different resolutions, but settled on 1280x768 as it is a balance between CPU and GPU limitations.  We ran this at Medium settings and did three passes on each level.  The results were averaged.  CoD4 benchmarking was done with a custom timedemo at 1920x1200 with no AA and details set to "Normal" and "High" were applicable.  The settings were identical on both boards so any performance difference is due to the motherboards.

Gameplay Performance

 

Crysis shows identical stock performance on both boards, but the higher clocked CPU on the AOD790GX helps it beat out the A780GXE by 1FPS when overclocked.  Call of Duty 4 looks to be more GPU limited at these settings as performance doesn't increase much when overclocked.  The AOD790GX wins here as well, but by a mere 2.1FPS at the most - unnoticeable in a game.

 

Real-World Performance:

We wrap up with a look at video decoding (watching) and encoding.  We've used several HD Video clips at 1080p and 720p on both WMVHD and Quicktime H.264.  The fast CPU on this system makes HD videos play very smoothly and the chipsets actually offload the processing to the integrated GPU and/or the HD4850 graphics card.  We've used this test several times before but have left out those results as they were using different CPUs.  For this test, only the two ASRock boards are being compared.

 HDVideo Playback

 

It seems that this is a toss-up.  For some videos the A780GXE comes out as the winner and in other tests the AOD790GX pulls ahead.  The biggest difference is in the 1080p Amazon clip.  The difference on CPU load is 8% and after many passes on each machine the results are still the same.  The AOD790GX never has CPU load rise above 20% - except on the "Coral Reef Adventures".  The A780GXE has two videos that require greater than 25% CPU load.

Video encoding is a very CPU intensive application and shows just how efficient the system is.  We've used DVDShrink, ConvertX to DVD in real world tests as well as the x.265 benchmark - which is a scripted test that merely calculates frames per second.  All tests are very CPU intensive.

 ConvertX to DVD
ConvertX to DVD
DVDShrink
DVDShrink
 x.264 SD & HD
x.264 SD & HD

 

In ConvertX to DVD from VSO-Software, the A780GXE takes the cake at stock speed.  Even when overclocked to a lower frequency the A780GXE still does very well where we'd expect it to lag behind.  This follows through with DVDShrink as well - the A780GXE beats out the AOD790GX - and still holds it's own in the overclocked benchmarks as well. In the x.264 and x.264HD tests we see the AOD790GX finally live up to our hopes of better performance.  At stock speed it transcodes video slightly faster than the A780GXE, and when overclocked it shows greater improvement due to its higher clock speed.

 

Final Thoughts & Conclusion:

Although released close to the same time the ASRock A780GXE/128M has an older chipset and a more limited set of features than the ASRock A790GX/128M motherboard.  While the A780GXE is based on the 780G Northbridge and HD3200 graphics chipset, the AOD790GX is based on the newer 790GX Northbridge chipset and HD3300 graphics chipset.  The 790GX board also sports the AMD SB750 chipset that is said to allow greater overclocking on the Phenom processor.  In our tests the board certainly does overclock the Phenom better, but only when not using the Advanced Clock Control setting that is supposed to yield all the extra performance.

If I'd have to pick a winner between the two, I'd go with the AOD790GX/128M motherboard.  Overall it offers better performance, better overclocking, better audio quality and a little more integrated GPU power from the HD3300 GPU.  Both boards support upcoming AM3 CPUs and should provide years of service.

 

A780GXE/128M Pros:

  • Good performance & stability
  • 140W Phenom Support
  • Crossfire Ready
  • AM3 Ready
  • Firewire, eSATA and 10x USB2.0

 

A780GXE/128M Cons:

  • Mediocre Phenom Overclocker
  • Audio Quality not the greatest
  • Split-up Power Connectors
  • Mixed capacitors - all Japanese, but not all solid-state

BCCRating

 

 

AOD790GX/128M Pros:

  • Good performance & Stability
  • 140W Phenom Support
  • Good Phenom X4 overclocking
  • Crossfire & AM3 Ready
  • Firewire, eSATA and 10x USB2.0
  • All Japanese Solid-State Capacitors
  • Excellent audio quality for on-board sound

 

AOD790GX/128M Cons:

  • ACC doesn't work as advertised
  • Split-up power connectors

BCCRating

 Top Pick

 

When you consider that the A780GXE/128M board is available for $80USD and the AOD790GX/128M can be found for $105USD, both of these boards are great value and are worthy of buying for your next upgrade.  It's your choice.

I'd like to thank ASRock for sending these boards our way for review.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.