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790GX Showdown: Gigabyte vs. MSI

The Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H and MSI DKA790GX Platinum motherboards are based around the same AMD 790GX and SB750 chipsets and sport similar features. Which board will prevail in this head-to-head contest?

March 5, 2009 by Lawrence Lee

Product GA-MA790GP-DS4H
AMD AM2+ Motherboard
DKA790GX Platinum
AMD AM2+ Motherboard
Manufacturer Gigabyte MSI
Street Price US$140-$150 US$160-$170

With the release of the Phenom II processors, the demand for motherboards
powered by the 790GX chipset has never been greater. Besides the ability to
use the latest and greatest AMD CPUs, they are feature-rich, support CrossFire
and Hybrid CrossFire and offer a capable IGP with digital outputs — all this at prices
that won’t break the bank.

In this review, we examine the Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H and MSI DKA790GX Platinum
motherboards — their strengths, weaknesses, and most importantly how they
compare to one another. The two boards are based around the same 790GX
and SB750 chipsets and sport similar features, so it will interesting to see which
board distinguishes itself, and whether it will do so in a positive manner.
It is likely we will find only minor differences, but either way, it will give
us insight about what approaches the two manufacturers take in
design and implementation, and how this affects the overall user experience.

Specifications Comparison
Feature Gigabyte
GA-MA790GP-DS4H
MSI
DKA790GX Platinum
Maximum CPU Support
Phenom II X4
Phenom II X4
Hyper Transport
Up to 5200MT/s for AM2+
2000/1600MT/s for AM2
Up to 5200MT/s for AM2+
2000/1600MT/s for AM2
Memory Support Up to 16GB DDR2
DDR2 667/800/1066
Up to 8GB
DDR2 667/800/1066
Sideport Memory
128MB DDR3 (1333MHz)
128MB DDR3 (1333MHz)
LAN
1 Gigabit
1 Gigabit
PCI Express Slots 1 PCI-E x16, running
at x16
1 PCI-E x16, running at x8
3 PCI-E x1
1 PCI-E x16, running
at x16
1 PCI-E x16, running at x8
2 PCI-E x1
PCI Slots
2 PCI
2 PCI
IDE Connectors
1
1
SATA Connectors
6
5
SATA RAID Support
0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD
0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD
IEEE 1394 Ports
1 rear + 2 optional
1 rear + 2 optional
USB Ports 4 rear + 8 optional 6 rear + 4 optional
Back Panel 1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 D-Sub
1 DVI-D
1 HDMI
1 optical S/PDIF
1 IEEE 1394a
4 USB 2.0/1.1
1 RJ-45
6 audio
1 PS/2 keyboard
1 D-Sub
1 DVI-D
1 HDMI
1 optical S/PDIF
1 eSATA
1 IEEE 1394a
6 USB 2.0/1.1
1 RJ-45
6 audio
Fan Headers 4 3
Differences in bold.

The Gigabyte board claims to support more memory, has an extra PCI-E 1x slot,
a PS/2 mouse port, and an additional fan header. The MSI board has more available
USB ports on the back panel and traded in the 6th SATA connector for an eSATA
port. Both boards have 128MB of integrated 1333MHz DDR3 Sideport memory.

GIGABYTE GA-MA790GP-DS4


The included accessories are limited, befitting a budget board,
rather than one that is fully-loaded. Only four SATA
data cables and a 2-port USB bracket.

 


The Good: The 24-pin ATX and IDE port at the edges, front panel connectors
raised slightly for easier access, and four fan headers (two 3-pin
and two 4-pin PWM).
The Bad: 8-pin EPS12V connector is at the top/back
corner — a tough spot to reach if a large heatsink
is employed. The floppy connector is in a horrible spot below the last
PCI slot. The central northbridge/VRM heatsink sits precariously
close to the top PCI-E slot.

 


The board’s capacitors are all solid-state and all chokes are shielded.
The VRM area next to the socket is orderly.

 


The northbridge and VRM heatsink are impressive looking; substantial in
size and with many fins. They are connected by two heatpipes.

 


The back panel is more old school than we’ve seen recently. It
is rare to see a board these days with only 4 USB and both PS/2 ports.
The rest of connectors are more modern: DVI-D, HDMI, S/PDIF, FireWire.

MSI DKA790GX Platinum


MSI’s accessory bundle is more extensive than Gigabyte’s, containing CrossFire
bridges, SATA power adapters, and MSI’s version of Asus’ Q-Connector kit.

 


The Good: SATA, IDE connectors on their sides and 24-pin ATX connector
at the front edge.

The Bad:
4-pin ATX12V and floppy connector placement
is the same as the Gigabyte board and the edge of the northbridge heatsink
is very close to the CPU socket. Only one PWM fan header is available
— the other two are of the 3-pin variety.

 


Like the Gigabyte board, the VRM area is very tidy and it uses all
solid-state capacitors. The MSI has a bonus feature — power,
reset, and cleaer CMOS buttons right on the PCB. The board’s layout seems
a bit more polished and thoughtful than the 790GP-DS4H.

 


The cooling system is unusual, consisting of two circular
heatsinks on the north/southbridges connected by heatpipes. Removing the
name-plate from both would improve thermal dissipation. MSI’s VRM heatsink
is rather diminuitive compared to Gigabyte’s.

 


The back panel has DVI-D, HDMI, S/PDIF, FireWire and eSATA. Very up to
date.

 


When we installed an AMD stock heatpipe cooler, the northbridge cooler
just barely cleared it. We hope this wasn’t a coincidence.

BIOS

For enthusiasts, the options available within the BIOS can make
a good board, a great one. The ability to manipulate frequencies, voltages,
and fan control settings vary depending on the hardware and the amount of
confidence in the user by the manufacturer.

GIGABYTE 790GP-DS4H


Gigabyte’s “MB Intelligent Tweaker” menu with maximum values
entered.

 


“PC Health Status” menu.

Gigabyte’s BIOS allows for a fair amount of tweaking frequencies
and voltages, even those pertaining to the IGP. VGA clock and Sideport memory
options are available as well. Fan control settings were lacking. Both the
CPU and System fan can be controlled, but the only settings available are
“Enabled” and “Disabled.”

MSI DKA790GX Platinum


MSI’s “Cell Menu” with maximum frequencies entered.

 


MSI’s “Cell Menu” with maximum voltages entered.

 


“Hardware Monitor”

The customization available in MSI’s BIOS was similar for frequency and voltage. Fan control was more detailed as it allows for the
user to specify a target CPU temperature and minimum fan speed for the CPU
fan. The System fan can be set to a constant speed of 50%, 75% or 100%.

Comparison

Notable BIOS Adjustments
Setting
GA-MA790GP-DS4H
DKA790GX Platinum
CPU Frequency 200 to 500MHz 200 to 600MHz
CPU Voltage 0.800V to 1.550V in 0.025V increments 0.800V to 1.300V in 0.025V increments,
1.300V to 1.600 in 0.05V increments
Memory Frequency DDR 400, 533, 667, 800 (depends on CPU) 1:1, 1:33, 1:66, 1:2 (depends on CPU)
Memory Timing Control Intermediate Intermediate
Memory Voltage 1.850V to 2.400V in 0.05V increments 1.80V to 2.10V in 0.025V increments,
up to 2.30V in 0.10V increments
Northbridge Voltage 1.200V to 1.600V in 0.025V increments, 1.20V to 1.50V in 0.05V increments
Southbridge Voltage 1.20V to 1.50V in 0.10V increments N/A
HT Link Voltage N/A 1.20V to 1.50V in 0.05V increments
Integrated Graphics
VGA Core Clock 200MHz to 2000MHz 150MHz to 1500MHz
Memory Options UMA, Sideport, UMA+Sideport UMA, UMA+Sideport
Frame Buffer 128MB, 256MB, 512MB 32MB, 64MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB
Sideport Clock DDR 333, 400, 533, 667 (DDR = double
data rate)
667MHz, 800MHz, 1066MHz, 1333MHz, 1600MHz,
1700MHz
Fan Control
CPU Fan Enabled or Disabled Target Temp: 40°C to 60°C in
5°C increments
Minimum Speed: 0% to 87.5% in 12.5% increments
SYS Fan Enabled or Disabled Fan Speed: 50%, 75%, 100%

The BIOS options of the two boards were similar, except for frequency extremes which are unlikely to ever be used. We
noticed that the MSI board does not allow the integrated graphics to use
Sideport memory only — it requires some amount of system memory to be allocated,
with 32MB being the minimum. That was the biggest obvious difference.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Test Setup:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPU-Z
    to monitor CPU frequency and voltage.
  • CPUBurn
    K7

    processor stress software.
  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • ATITool
    artifact scanner to stress the integrated GPU.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • QuickTime
    Alternative
    to decode Quicktime.
  • Cyberlink
    PowerDVD
    to play H264/VC1/Blu-ray video.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor temperature and fan speeds.
  • 3DMark05
    as a 3D benchmark.
  • 3DMark06
    as a 3D benchmark.
  • Seasonic
    Power Angel
    AC power meter, used to measure the power consumption
    of the system.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    the CPU fan speed.

Our main test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power
consumption at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel). To stress
Intel Pentium E/Core 2 CPUs we use Prime95 (large FFTs setting) to maximize
heat and power consumption. For AMD X2 CPUs we use CPUBurn K7 as it seems to
tax AMD processors more. To stress the IGP, we use ATITool artifact scanner,
ATITool 3DView, or FurMark, whichever application is found to be more power
hungry.

We also test platform’s proficiency at playing back high definition videos.
Standard Blu-ray movies can be encoded in three different codecs by design:
MPEG-2, H.264/AVC and VC-1. MPEG-2 has been around for a number of years and
is not demanding on modern system resources. H.264 and VC-1 encoded videos on
the other hand, due to the amount of complexity in their compression schemes,
are extremely stressful and will not play smoothly (or at all) on slower PCs,
especially with antiquated video subsystems.

Our main video test suite features a variety of 1080p H.264/VC-1 encoded clips.
The clips are played with PowerDVD and a CPU usage graph is created by the Windows
Task Manger for analysis to determine the approximate mean CPU usage. High CPU
usage is indicative of poor video decoding ability on the part of the integrated
graphics subsystem. If the video (and/or audio) skips or freezes, we conclude
the board’s IGP (in conjunction with the processor) is adequate to decompress
the clip properly.

Cool’n’Quiet was enabled (unless otherwise noted). The following features/services
were disabled during testing to prevent spikes in CPU/HDD usage that are typical
of fresh Vista installations:

  • Windows Sidebar
  • Indexing
  • Superfetch

Video Test Suite


1080p | 24fps | ~10mbps
H.264:
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 1
is a H.264 encoded clip inside an Apple
Quicktime container.

 


1080p | 24fps | ~8mbps
WMV-HD:
Coral Reef Adventure Trailer
is encoded in VC-1 using the
WMV3 codec commonly recognized by the “WMV-HD” moniker.

 


1080p | 24fps | ~19mbps
VC-1: Drag Race is a recording of a scene from
network television re-encoded with TMPGEnc using the WVC1 codec, a
more demanding VC-1 codec.

 


1080p | 24fps | ~33mbps
Blu-ray: Disturbia is a short section of the
Blu-ray version of Disturbia, the motion picture, played directly
off the Blu-ray disc. It is encoded with H.264/AVC.

TEST RESULTS

Our test system is fairly basic, featuring a X2 4850e, a mid-level dual core
processor with a low 45W TDP cooled by a stock AMD heatpipe cooler connected
to a variable DC fan controller so the fan’s power draw does not come into play.
The rest of the system consists of a single stick of Corsair memory, an Asus
Blu-ray drive, a 5400RPM notebook hard drive and an OEM Seasonic 400W power
supply. The operating system used is Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit).

Test Results: X2 4850e @ 2.5GHz (C&Q), 128MB
UMA
Test State
Gigabyte 790GP-DS4H
MSI DKA790GX Platinum
Mean
CPU
System Power
Mean
CPU
System Power
Off
N/A
2W
N/A
2W
Sleep (S3)
N/A
3W
N/A
2W
Idle
N/A
37W
N/A
39W
Rush Hour
(H.264)
10%
57W
10%
62W
Coral Reef
(WMV-HD)
47%
57W
45%
64W
Drag Race
(VC-1)
67%
70W
72%
76W
Disturbia
(Blu-ray H.264)
32%
68W
33%
70W
CPU Load
N/A
93W
N/A
95W
CPU + GPU Load
N/A
107W
N/A
109W

With 128MB of system memory allocated to the IGP, CPU usage during video playback
was similar, varying by only a few percentage points at most. The DKA790GX used
more power during playback regardless of the minor differences in CPU usage.
The 790GP-DS4H also used less power when idle and during full load.

Test Results: X2 4850e @ 2.5GHz (C&Q), 128MB
Sideport
Test State
Gigabyte 790GP-DS4H
MSI DKA790GX Platinum
Mean
CPU
System Power
Mean
CPU
System Power
Idle
N/A
38W
N/A
36W
Rush Hour
(H.264)
15%
46W
10%
58W
Coral Reef
(WMV-HD)
33%
55W
38%
55W
Drag Race
(VC-1)
57%
64W
62%
69W
Disturbia
(Blu-ray H.264)
34%
61W
33%
71W
CPU Load
N/A
96W
N/A
94W
CPU + GPU Load
N/A
104W
N/A
107W
DKA790GX Platinum configured with 32MB UMA (minimum) and
64MB during Blu-ray playback. 790GP-DS4H had no system memory allocated
to the IGP.

When Sideport memory was enabled, The DKA790GX required 32MB of system memory
to be allocated to the IGP as it was unable to run on Sideport memory alone.
However, PowerDVD and other playback software would not play our Blu-ray disc
in this configuration. After some investigation we discovered that the UMA frame
buffer had to be increased to 64MB. Incidentally, 128MB UMA alone, without Sideport,
was enough for Blu-ray playback with the screen resolution set to 1920 x 1200,
while only 64MB UMA was required at 1680 x 1050.

Running with Sideport memory alone, the 790GP-DS4H used less power during playback
of most of our video clips and at full load with both the CPU and GPU stressed.
Idle and with CPU load only, the DKA790GX had the advantage, possibly due to
inefficiency in the implementation of the DKA790GX’s Sideport memory, or the
extra resources required for the small amount of system memory used by the IGP.

UNDERCLOCKED

The 790GP-DS4H was a slightly better unclocker, keeping the system stable at
1.5GHz with only 0.850V CPU voltage. The DKA790GX required an extra 0.025V.
Sideport memory was used rather than UMA — we established earlier that
it was the more power efficient way to go on both boards.

Test Results: X2 4850e @ 1.5GHz, 128MB Sideport
Test State
Gigabyte 790GP-DS4H
(0.850V)
DKA790GX Platinum (0.875V)
Mean
CPU
System Power
Mean
CPU
System Power
Idle
N/A
37W
N/A
35W
Rush Hour
(H.264)
10%
44W
12%
45W
Coral Reef
(WMV-HD)
40%
45W
57%
47W
Drag Race
(VC-1)
78%
49W
78%
49W
Disturbia
(Blu-ray H.264)
42%
49W
54%
48W
CPU Load
N/A
53W
N/A
53W
CPU + GPU Load
N/A
60W
N/A
64W
* DKA790GX Platinum configured with 32MB UMA (minimum) and
64MB during Blu-ray playback.
*
790GP-DS4H had no system memory allocated
to the IGP.
* Grey boxes indicate test failure.

Underclocked and undervolted, the two boards performed very similarly, with the
790GP-DS4H just edging out the DKA790GX by 1-2W in most tests. A 4W difference
was recorded when both the CPU and GPU were placed under load. This time around
CPU usage was noticeably higher during VC-1 playback, up to 17% though this
did not translate into significant differences in power consumption — it
varied by only a couple of watts for these two clips. It should be noted that
the most demanding clip, Drag Race, failed to render properly on both boards
when underclocked. The audio clipped and went out of sync, while the video stuttered
as it dropped frames.

PHENOM II POWER

Power consumption was also compared with a Phenom II X4 940 processor as the
790GX chipset is the ideal choice for these new chips.

Power Consumption: Phenom II X4 940
Test State
Gigabyte 790GP-DS4H
MSI DKA790GX Platinum
Idle
57W
52W
VC-1
79W
86W
CPU Load
(2 cores)
122W
119W
CPU Load
(4 cores)
166W
166W
CPU + GPU
Load
176W
183W
Systems were configured with 2GB of RAM, Sideport memory
enabled and UMA set to 128MB.

The DKA790GX bested the Gigabyte by 5W idle, and 3W when two of the CPU’s
cores were put under load. On full CPU load, the Gigabyte drew even. It seemed
the MSI was more energy efficient with the 125W TDP processor as long as
the IGP was left out of the equation. The 790GP-DS4H used 7W less during VC-1
playback and when both the CPU and GPU were stressed.

Whenever we recorded a significant power consumption advantage for the Gigabyte,
it was during tests where the integrated graphics were being taxed, be it by
video playback or our synthetic 3D stress test, FurMark. It did not matter what
configuration we used for IGP memory, or whether we used an energy efficient
X2 or a high-powered Phenom II, the DKA790GX was always less energy efficient
when the IGP was in active use.

SMART FAN?

We tested the boards’ Smart Fan feature by connecting the CPU cooler’s fan
to a variable DC fan controller, so we could lower it manually to increase the CPU temperature while loading it with Prime95. A Xigmatek 120mm PWM fan was connected to the CPU fan header while a Scythe
Kama Flow 80mm 3-pin fan was connected to the secondary fan header. We’re interested in seeing how the output to those fan headers varies with CPU temperature changes.

Smart Fan Behavior (CPU Fan)
Critera
Gigabyte 790GP-DS4H
DKA790GX Platinum
Trigger Temp.
24°C
49°C
(50°C setting)
Temp. Range
35°C
3°C
Fan Speed
Range
300 RPM to 2660 RPM
1310 RPM to 2720 RPM
(minimum speed set to 0%)
Smart Fan Behavior (SYS Fan)
Trigger Temp.
N/A
N/A
Temp. Range
N/A
N/A
Fan Speed
Range
500 RPM
680 RPM
(50% setting)

Gigabyte’s Smart Fan setting resulted in the SYS fan running a constant 500
RPM throughout stress testing. The CPU fan spun at 300 RPM at core temperatures
of 24°C and below, topping out at 2660 RPM at 59°C. The increase in
fan speed was a smooth, gradual progression.

MSI’s fan control was not so smart. The CPU fan’s minimum speed was
1310 RPM even when set to 0% in the BIOS. The selected target
temperature of 50°C was almost dead-on — the fan speed increased rapidly
once the core temperature reached 49°C, topping out at 2720 RPM when the
core temperature reached 52°C. The SYS fan stayed at the approximate speed
designated in the BIOS — 50% or 680 RPM for the fan we utilized. 75% and
100% were the other options.

SPEEDFAN SUPPORT

For Windows users, SpeedFan is our application of choice for fan control. It
can be configured to raise or lower multiple fan speeds to designated limits
when any specified temperature threshold is breached.


790GP-DS4H SpeedFan correlations.

The Gigabyte 790GP-DS4H had excellent SpeedFan support. It reported the speeds of all
fans connected to the four fan headers on the board and allowed for full control
of the CPU_FAN and SYS_FAN1 headers whether they were of the 3-pin or 4-pin
PWM variety. To enable fan control find chip “IT8718F” in the Advanced
tab of the Configuration menu and set PWM 1 & 2 modes to “Software
Controlled.”

Deciphering the various temperature sensors was much more difficult. Temp2
and Temp3 followed the rise in Core temperature when the CPU was stressed, but
to varying degrees. It is probably best to consider “Core” as the
“proper” CPU temperature as that reading is taken directly from the
CPU rather than the motherboard’s sensors. Temp1 seemed to be tied to the VRM
area to the left of the CPU socket as it decreased by several degrees when we
placed a fan over that portion of the motherboard during load.


DKA790GX Platinum SpeedFan correlations.

SpeedFan support on the MSI board was more limited. SpeedFan reported the speeds
of all fans connected to the three fan headers on the board, allowed for full
control of the SYS_FAN1 header, but the CPU_FAN1 header was unable to control
3-pin fans and had a limited range when a PWM fan was connected. The Xigmatek
PWM fan we tested on this header could be manipulated to run at 2800 RPM maximum
and 1320 RPM minimum and no lower. To enable fan control find chip “F71882F”
in the Advanced tab of the Configuration menu and set PWM 1 & 4 modes to
“Manual set PWM.”

The temperature sensors were more obvious on the DKA790GX. Temp1 followed the
Core temperature very closely, and Temp3 varied with how the degree of cooling
provided to the northbridge/VRM area. Temp2 on the otherhand jumped up and
down like a sine wave during stress testing, defying reason — it’s probably
safe to ignore this one.

COOLING

As each board has a more elaborate cooling system than most, a short investigation
was conducted to see which kept their various components cooler.

Heatsink Temperatures
Critera
Gigabyte 790GP-DS4H
DKA790GX Platinum
Southbridge
47°C
57°C
Northbridge
75°C
68°C
VRM
65°C
69°C
Measured with infrared thermometer after 15m
of full CPU + GPU load with CPU fan reduced to 6V.

Assuming that thermal contact was equal, we can infer that the heatpipe connections
are primarly responsible for the differences in the various temperatures recorded.
The MSI board’s southbridge and northbridge are connected, resulting in a higher
southbridge and lower northbridge temperature as the heatpipes help even the
difference. Its VRMs however, with no extra help from the heatsink covering
the north/southbridge run slightly hotter than the Gigabyte’s northbridge-connected
VRM heatsink. Both boards kept the components adequately cool in our airflow
deprived testing station. We’ve seen temperatures 90°C and higher in the
past.

3D PERFORMANCE

To get an idea of how well each board’s integrated graphics plays
games, we ran 3DMark05/06. As synthetic benchmarks they have limited value,
but they give a rough idea of how well an IGP performs.

3D Performance: Futuremark Comparison
Motherboard
Graphics
3DMark05
3DMark06
Asus M3N78 Pro
GF8300
1669
902
Asus P5Q-EM
GMA X4500
1708
1092
Gigabyte MA78GM-2SH
HD 3200
2293
1116
Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H (Sideport)
HD 3300 (Sideport)
3377
1668
Gigabyte MA78GM-2SH
HD 3450
(Discrete)
3405
1716
MSI DKA790GX Platinum
HD 3300 (Sideport)
3542
1719
Asus P5N7A-VM
GF9300
3497
1776
All results with 2GB of system RAM and 256MB of
VRAM assigned for IGP’s (128MB Sideport + 128MB UMA for boards with Sideport
memory). Intel (E7200) systems in blue, AM2 (X2 4850e) systems in green.

Both boards scored very well in 3DMark, more or less matching the Asus
P5N7A-VM
with its GeForce 9300 IGP. The MSI board edged out the Gigabyte. None of the top IGPs in this list are good candidates for
modern gaming, but they are good enough to be used in place of a low-end discrete
card such the as the Radeon HD 3450.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H and MSI DKA790GX Platinum are solid boards
based on the 790GX northbridge and SB750 southbridge. The features are
very similar, with neither board offering anything compelling over the other.
The inclusion of a single eSATA port (which can be easily replicated with a
cheap adapter) along with a few extra accessories is really the only thing that
sets the DKA790GX Platinum apart on paper. It may be why the board carries
a $20 price premium over its rival.

If power consumption is the deciding factor, our recommendation depends on
what components will be used to fill out the rest of the system. If you wish
to use a low TDP chip and intend to actively use the IGP rather than a discrete video card, the 790GP-DS4H is more energy efficient. It can also run on
Sideport memory alone, which is enough to playback Blu-ray movies and will save
you some system memory. The MSI board requires some system memory to be allocated
to the IGP, 64MB at least for Blu-ray playback. For higher-end
systems, the DKA790GX Platinum is more power efficient when a Phenom II chip
is utilized, but this advantage evaporates once the IGP is called into action.
We aren’t sure exactly why but power consumption during video playback and 3D
load was consistantly higher on the MSI board. For a gaming machine with
a discrete graphics card, this obviously wouldn’t be an issue.

If features and power consumption aren’t enough to push you to either side,
the 790GP-DS4H has a noticeable edge in fan control. Smart Fan
control on the Gigabyte board is much smoother, SpeedFan allows for a better
range of control, and it has four fan headers versus the MSI’s three. These are significant advantages for a silent PC enthusiast. All other differences were trivial.

Ultimately, the reason we favor the 790GP-DS4H is simply its lack of faults.
It works exactly as it should and nothing was noticed during testing that made
us groan, wince, or scratch our heads. The DKA790GX Platinum’s issues may be
minor, but the fact that they exist makes the Gigabyte board a slightly safer bet.

Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H
PROS
* Lower power consumption with low power CPU
* Feature-rich
* Good fan control
CONS
* Nothing significant
MSI DKA790GX Platinum
PROS
* Lower power consumption with high power CPU
* Even more feature-rich (eSATA)
CONS
* Limited fan control
* High IGP power consumption
* Sideport memory issues

Our thanks to Gigabyte
and MSI for the
motherboard samples.

* * *

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* * *

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