MSI 790GX-G65 Inverness
The 790GX-G65 is the first AM3 motherboard we've seen. The AM3 socket is an update of AM2+. Both will accept AM3 processors, so you don't need a board to use AMD's latest chips. Instead, it's the support for DDR3 memory that's the big change.
DDR3 is currently a little more expensive than DDR2. It may run at faster speeds, but its higher latencies largely cancel out this advantage. Plus, AM3 motherboards don't support the faster triple-channel memory configuration like Intel's X58 boards.
AM3 motherboards support only AM3 chips, so we couldn't use our AM2+ 2.8GHz test processor. To get round this we reduced the clock speed of an AM3 Phenom II X4 955 from 3.2GHz to 2.8GHz. This allowed us to make comparisons between the 790GX-G65 and our reference board and attribute any differences to the DDR3 memory.
The results supported our suspicions concerning DDR3. There were no appreciable differences in our image-editing or video-encoding benchmarks. Our multitasking benchmark was quicker, as it unzips some very large files, but an increase in our overall score of only two per cent isn't enough to make DDR3 a worthwhile purchase for most.
If you're still keen to build a DDR3-based Phenom II PC, the 790GX-G65 is a good choice. Its two-tone brown PCB and steel-finish heatsinks combine for a stylish understated appearance. The four memory slots support up to 8GB of RAM. There are two expansion slots of each type: PCI, PCI-Express x1 and x16. The latter slots support two ATI cards in CrossFire. The onboard graphics chipset is http://preview.uk.pcpro.denint.co.uk/manage/login.phpcapable of Blu-ray HD video playback and can support a maximum of two monitors from its VGA, DVI-D and HDMI outputs.
As well as outputting audio over HDMI, there are six mini-jack analogue outputs for surround sound as well as an optical S/PDIF. All the ports you'd expect are provided, with six USB ports, FireWire and eSATA.
Overclockers are well catered for. The board's BIOS provides a wide range of options, with control over practically every aspect of your PC's hardware.
The 790GX-G65 is reasonably priced for an AM3 motherboard with integrated graphics. However, it costs around £30 more than an equivalent AM2+ board, and there's still the extra cost of DDR3 memory to consider - around a £20 premium for 4GB.
An AM3-based PC may seem to be a good choice for future-proofing, but you might as well save money by buying an AM2+ board and DDR2 memory, which will be just as fast. You can then put aside the money you've saved for a complete system upgrade in a couple of years' time.
AM3 socket, AMD 790GX/AMD SB750 chipset, 4x DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600 slots, 2x PCI Express x16 slots, 2x PCI Express x1 slots, 2x PCI slots, 1x IDE ports, 5x SATA II ports, two-year RTB warranty
A reasonably priced AMD motherboard with built-in graphics, but it does cost more than equivalent AM2+ boards.
Author: Seth Barton