ASRock A790GXH/128M AMD Socket AM2, AM2+ and AM3 Motherboard Review

Result and general impression

++++ The ASRock A790GXH/128M/A/ASR motherboard has a price of approx. 90 Euro (07/2009) and is thus in the middle price segment of the Socket AM2/AM2+/AM3 motherboards.

The ASRock A790GXH/128M motherboard with the AMD 790GX chipset and the SB750 southbridge is not only designed for Socket AM2, but it is also an excellent board for the newer AMD Socket AM2+ and AM3 processors with support for DDR2 memory modules. It offers enormously high overclocking results and also the onboard graphics unit is very positive, but read more in the following test report.

The ASRock cardboard box already presents the AMD fusion architecture solution, which is build with an AMD CPU, the AMD chipset and the AMD integrated graphics processor unit (iGPU):

Equipment and other features …

ASRock’s A790GXH/128M motherboard comes with a manual, two CDs, one Floppy cable, one IDE cable, two SATA data cables, one SATA power cable and one ATX I/O panel.

Expansion cards …

This Hybrid CrossFireX board offers – beside two x16 PCI Express video card slots – like most SLI motherboards two PCI Slots for conventional expansion cards due to the standardized ATX size and one x1 PCIe Slot.

If one like to use only one video card on the A790GXH/128M, one should insert the PCI Express video card in the green PCIe Slot with a higher bandwidth in 16x mode.

Memory …

The ASRock A790GXH/128M board can be equipped with up to four DDR2 memory modules and is upgradeable up to 16 GB memory. The total amount depends on the operating system used (list).

The DDR3 memory market is growing faster thanks to AMDs new Phenom II CPU with integrated DDR3 support, however DDR2 memory is still interesting, because with almost identical performance the price for DDR3 RAM is much higher contrary to DDR2.

With an AMD Phenom K10 Sockel AM2+ or AM3 CPU this board supports DDR2-1066 modules thanks to the new memory controller and with an AMD Athlon 64 K8 Socket AM2 CPU it supports DDR2-800 within the BIOS. Of course it’s also possible to increase the memory speed by increasing the reference clock.

Hard disk drive connectors …

The motherboard offers one IDE connector for maximally two conventional ATA 133 drives and six SATA II ports (3 Gb/s) but without an eSATA-II port. The S-ATA II ports supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, JBOD and Hot Plug function in AHCI mode (AHCI stands for Advanced Host Controller Interface).

The manual contains all basic informations to manage a new installation of Windows XP or Windows Vista with S-ATA hard disks and how to make a RAID installation. Drivers for Windows XP and Windows Vista are provided on the CD and can be downloaded on the ASRock support page.

USB and Firewire …

The board has four USB 2.0 connectors at the ATX-panel and three internal USB 2.0 plugs for up to six optional USB ports.

Network …

The ASRock A790GXH/128M motherboard uses the Realtek RTL 8111 DL chip, which makes a WoL capable 10/100/1000 network connector available at the ATX panel.

Serial and parallel port …

This motherboard does not provide a parallel port and the serial port is only optionally available as internal connector.

Sound …

The ASRock A790GXH/128M motherboard is equipped with the VT1708S Soundchip from VIA which supports 7.1 surround sound for example analog over 6x 3.5mm connectors at the ATX panel or over the internal analog connector.

For the digital output there is one internal HDMI SPDIF out connector available to connect it for example with a SPDIF cable to a HDMI suited video card, in order to get the digital audio and video signal to a HDMI equipment like a HD-Ready LCD television. Additionally there is also an optical digital SPDIF output and Microsoft Windows Vista Premium Level HD Audio support. So most users don’t need to buy an additional sound card with digital outputs.

Graphics …

The AMD 790GX chipset of the ASRock A790GXH/128M board offers a very fast graphics processor which was able to beat the Futuremark 3DMark06 benchmark result of one nVidia 6600 GT video card and that is very amazing for an onboard video solution. AMD announced the HD3300 IGP of the AMD 790GX chipset as the fastest motherboard GPU of the world last year, but these good benchmark values exceed the expectations. The benchmark results specified above by the way contain beside the newer AMD Phenom II 710 values a 3DMark03 benchmark result with the AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor. This result is just for an easier comparison with older motherboard benchmark results.

So the benchmark result is really nice, but the iGPU has still more to offer. The HD 3300 graphics processor supports DirectX 10, has an integrated 128MB Sideport memory on the A790GXH/128M motherboard, supports HDCP and Full-HD 1080p playback and offers thanks to an onBoard HDMI connector optimal conditions for a Home Theatre PC.

Here is a picture of the ATX panel connectors:

Click to enlarge

From left to right one see the two PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, 15-pol Sub-D VGA, DVI-D VGA, HDMI, optical SPDIF out, 2x USB, RJ45 Gigabit LAN, 2x USB and 6x 3.5mm connectors for the sound.

The picture shows additionally the solid caps for higher stability and better durability of the motherboard.

BIOS and Overclocking …

Let us go on with the BIOS options and with the BIOS overclocking. By pressing the F2 key, you get access to the AMI BIOS with all important hardware settings.

The P1.20 BIOS offers a lot of DDR2 memory settings like e.g. the memory frequency setting from 200 MHz over 266 MHz and 333 MHz on up to 400 MHz (DDR2 400/533/667/800) and of course also the ASRock AM2 Boost option. When using an AMD Phenom (K10) processors, it supports additionally DDR2-1066 modules.

The host clock is adjustable from 150 MHz up to 500 MHz and the HT (hypertransport) frequency is adjustable from 1x to 5x (200-1000 MHz and 2000 MHz with K10). The PCIe frequency is adjustable from 75 MHz up to 250 MHz and with the asynchronous or synchronous setting of the CPU/PCIe bus, it is possible to increase the host frequence independent of the PCI and PCIe clock.

With asynchronous clock setting, it was possible to reach a fantastic reference clock of 340 MHz !!! and that is really amazing. Some may think that the reference clock is no longer important for overclocking of e.g. Black Edition processors with free multiplier selection, but the reference clock is still very important for good PC overclocking results. And of course not every user like to spend more money for these AMD BE CPUs.

The AMD Athlon64 3000+ Socket AM2 test processor was not able to run on these very high reference clock and highest multi of 9x. But with a little bit lower multiplier it was possible to overclock the processor to a CPU frequency of about 2800MHz at 1.40 Volt Vcore instead of the default 1800MHz.

The boot failure guard was checked in this review as well and it was possible to start the PC (on standard values) with too high overclocking settings without using the Clear CMOS Jumper.

Another interesting feature is the so-called ACC setting in the BIOS. With the Advanced Clock Calibration feature it was possible to unlock the deactivated fourth core of the AMD Phenom II 710 X3 test CPU and on this ASRock A790GXH/128M board it was btw. also possible with BSP Only to modify the AMD Phenom II CPU into an AMD Engineering Sample. Unfortunately it’s not possible with every Phenom II CPUs, but the BIOS options are nevertheless present and this is surely for some buyers an important purchase aspect.

Furthermore, this board offers for Phenom II a NB voltage from 0.6000 Volt to 1.6125 Volt, a Vcore setting on the Phenom II test CPU from 0.6000 Volt to 1.6125 Volt and with the AMD Athlon 64 3000+ test CPU it was adjustable between 0.6000 Volt and 1.6125 Volt. The DDR2 memory voltage can be set between 1.80 Volt up to enormously high 2.72 Volt in steps of 0.06 Volt, whereby these high memory voltages should be used with caution also with very good cooling and OC RAM. The GPU can be adjusted from 500 MHz to 1000 MHz and the Sideport memory can be clocked from 400 MHz to 1066 MHz. And as a special BIOS feature one can store four different BIOS settings. Thus one can save for example balanced BIOS settings, overclocking settings and underclocking settings in a user profile of the BIOS.

The downclocking or underclocking was also tested in this review. It was possible to lower the AMD Phenom II 710 CPU multiplier to 0.5x over the BIOS and can be underclocked in such a way with 150 MHz reference clock to approx. 75 MHz. Even if probably nobody like to underclock an AMD Phenom II 710 processor from 3x 2600 MHz to 3x 75 MHz CPU clock.

And also several energy saving options are available on this ASRock motherboard, because the new A790GXH/128M board offers the Away Mode, which is particularly very important when using Microsoft Windows MCE (Media Center Edition) to e.g. record TV shows when the PC system is nearly powered off. And IES (Intelligent Energy Saver) reduces the power consumption by lowering voltages on less load. The features can be e.g. adjusted with the included OC Tuner Software.

The BIOS of the passive cooled A790GXH/128M motherboard supports by the way a CPU Quiet Fan option (temperature fan control) for 4-pin CPU fans.

Result …

The ASRock A790GXH/128M motherboard for AMD Socket AM2/AM2+/AM3 processors offers with the AMD 790GX chipset an enormous performance and can be overclocked first-class.

Its DirectX 10 capable onBoard HD 3300 graphic unit is amazing fast and reached the so far highest benchmark values of integrated graphic solutions.

And also the equipment of the ASRock A790GXH/128M motherboard is very good, because the motherboard offers Gigabit LAN, 7.1 sound with analog sound output over six connectors, digital sound output over one optical and one internal SPDIF connector, up to ten possible USB ports, six SATA II ports with RAID support and last but not least video output over 15 pole D-Sub, DVI-D and HDMI.

The low price of the motherboard is the more amazing, because AMD 790GX motherboards are usually only available starting from approx. 100 EUR.

Thanks to the nice overclocking options and the enormously high reference clock result up to 340 MHz, the ASRock A790GXH/128M motherboard got the Redaktion OverClocking Dream Award 07/2009.

All in all the ASRock A790GXH/128M motherboard is thus very recommendable if one like to use DDR2 memory with a current Socket AM2, AM2+ or AM3 processor like for example an AMD Phenom II.

Special thanks to ASRock for their support.


Click to enlarge !

Click to enlarge !

* All Socket AM2 PCIe motherboard reviews since 01.07.2009 are based on an AMD Phenom II 710 X3 Test CPU, 1x (or SLI systems with 2x) Gigabyte GV-NX66T128VP Nvidia 6600 GT PCI Express video cards, 2x512MB Crucial Ballistix DDR2-800/PC2-6400 memory modules 2x 1024MB Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR2-1066/PC2-8500 memory modules on DDR2 mainboards or 2x 1024MB Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1333/PC3-10600 memory modules on DDR3 mainboards, and the following software configuration: Microsoft Windows 7 RC, Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows XP SP2, SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP3, Futuremark 3DMark03, 3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage (the software is available in the Links & Downloads section). All benchmark results only offer a comparison among themselves for a rough motherboard performance comparison.

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