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Gigabyte GA-790XTA-UD4 review

A feature packed motherboard that uses an ageing chipset

Our Verdict

For

  • SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0
  • Full 2x 16 PCI-e graphics support

Against

  • Based on AMD's ageing 790FX chipset
  • Too expensive given the last-gen tech

Stuffing ever-more features and functionality into chips. That's what computing is all about.

In the past, ever-increasing transistor counts have enabled the likes of Intel and AMD to make their execution cores more sophisticated, perhaps bolting on extra cache memory or maybe bunging in a floating point unit or three. More recently, chip engineers have spent their transistor budgets by cramming in more cores.

But arguably the most significant current trend is the drive towards SoC or system-on-a-chip designs. In the context of the PC, that means taking bits off the motherboard and sticking them into the CPU. Bits like the memory controller, I/O and integrated graphics.

The point is that you could argue that mobos are becoming less and less critical. The end game seems to be a dumb board with a few sockets that does little more than connect components and supply power.

Thus, you might wonder whether it matters what chipset your motherboard has. So long as it has the right features and quality electrical current management, you're pretty much good to go, right?

That is surely the only hope for this Gigabyte board. It's the sole model here that's based on one of AMD's old 7 Series chipsets. However, it's a well specified board running the high-ish end 790FX variant of AMD's older chipset family. So you know you're getting quality power management and good cooling.

A pair of bona fide 16-lane PCI-e 2.0 sockets for multi-GPU CrossfireX action are also part of the package. What's more, Gigabyte has plumbed in a dedicated SATA 6Gbps controller. Okay, you only get a pair of 6Gbps ports. The other six can only manage 3Gbps. But it largely offsets one of the more obvious advantages of the 8 Series family.

It also has the NEC USB 3.0 chip, so doesn't fall short in that department, either. Again, USB 3.0 connectivity is limited to a pair of ports.

Chipsets do matter

In fact, the only obvious omission from the feature set is some kind of autooverclocking tool. Given the mediocre results typically delivered by such features, that's no great loss. What is disappointing, however, is this board's all round performance.

The first inkling that the GA-790XTA might not quite deliver the goods arrives in the storage performance benchmarks. Granted, with both sustained and burst read rates well over 300MB/s, it's much faster than any SATA 3Gbps motherboard. But it's still a fair few clicks down on the boards with 6Gbps supported natively in the chipset.

The results in our application benchmarks are a little patchy, too. By a clear margin, this board returns the slowest time in the Cinebench software rendering test.

But the biggest downer has to be overclocking. A maximum bus speed of 230MHz is pretty pathetic. Ditto for the top memory frequency of 1,333MHz with our 1,600MHz-rated Corsair DIMMs.

If the GA-790XTA was available at a conspicuously cut-down price, we might be inclined to to turn a blind eye to the boards shortcomings.

But at well over £100, it's deep into 890GX territory. Turns out motherboard chipsets do matter after all.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeDesktop Motherboard
Chipset ManufacturerAMD
Chipset Model790X
Multi GPU SupportedCrossFireX
Number of PCI Express x16 Slots2
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Processor SocketSocket AM3 PGA-941
Brand NameGigabyte
Form FactorATX
Processor SupportedPhenom II, Athlon II, Phenom II X3, Phenom II X4, Phenom II X2, Phenom II X6, Athlon II X3, Athlon II X4, Athlon II X2, Sempron
Total Processor Supported1
Maximum Memory16 GB
Green CompliantYes
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityRoHS, WEEE
64-bit ProcessingYes
Number of Memory Slots4
Number of PCI Slots3
Audio Channels7.1
Gigabit EthernetYes
Number of IDE Interfaces1
Number of SATA Interfaces8
HyperTransport Speed5.20 GT/s
RAID SupportedYes
Number of Total Expansion Slots7
eSATAYes
Number of Network (RJ-45) Ports1
Network (RJ-45)Yes
Total Number of USB Ports8
Number of USB 3.0 Ports2
Total Number of FireWire/i.LINK Ports1
PS/2 PortYes
Number of PS/2 Ports2
Total Number of Onboard USB Ports4
Number of Onboard USB 2.0 Ports4
Total Number of Onboard FireWire/i.LINK Ports1
PCI Express StandardPCI Express 2.0
Total Number of PCI Express Slots4
Memory Form FactorDIMM
Number of eSATA Ports2
Processor TechnologyHyperTransport 3.0 Technology, Virtualization Technology
Width305 mm
Depth244 mm
ManufacturerGIGABYTE Technology, Inc
Product ModelGA-790XTA-UD4
Product NameUltra Durable 3 GA-790XTA-UD4 Desktop Motherboard
Product LineUltra Durable 3
Controller TypeUltra ATA/133 (ATA-7), Serial ATA/300, Serial ATA/600, Floppy Controller
Manufacturer Part NumberGA-790XTA-UD4 (Rev 1.0)
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://uk.giga-byte.com
Marketing Information

The 790XTA-UD4 motherboard is designed to offer a stable, high-speed platform for delivering amazingly fast data transfer via the GIGABYTE 333 onboard acceleration technologies. Featuring the world's first USB 3.0 logo certified host controller from NEC Electronics, AMD 700A series motherboards allow users to take advantage of super fast USB transfer rates of up to 5Gbps, delivering 10x faster data transfer compared to USB 2.0.Utilizing the industry's first Serial ATA Revision 3.0 solution, the Marvell 88SE9128 controller, GIGABYTE AMD 700A series motherboards offer support for next generation high speed data storage devices with data transfer speeds of up to 6 Gbps. Coupled with RAID 0 (Stripe) mode, SATA Revision 3.0 enables a data transfer boost of up to 4x the speed of SATA Revision 2.0.The AMD 700A series motherboards introduce a unique hardware design with lower resistance fuses for ensuring lower voltage drops and providing more stable and plentiful power delivery. All USB ports also benefit from a 3x power boost for better power delivery to power hungry USB devices.

Package Contents
  • Ultra Durable 3 GA-790XTA-UD4 Desktop Motherboard
  • Motherboard Driver Disk
  • User's Manual
  • Quick Installation Guide
  • 1 x IDE Cable
  • 4 x SATA 3Gb/s Cables
  • I/O Shield