Asus M4A785TD-V EVO 785G ATX Preview Page: 1
Introduction
 
ASUS LogoIt’s been just over a year since AMD started clawing back at Intel in the entry level to lower midrange segments with it’s 780G integrated graphics platform. During the beginning of this time period, AMD was still relying on ageing Athlon 64 X2 processors to stay in the game and it was this chipset that bought AMD a considerable amount of time by offering affordable motherboard solutions with integrated graphics that run circles around Intel’s G31/33/35 resulting in a comparably priced computer that was faster overall. It was also said that all 780G motherboards would support future 45nm processors, which they did leaving customers with a solid budget performer that had the scope to be transformed into a high end system. It certainly wasn’t lacking in other departments with 5.1 channel sound over HDMI, RAID and the ability to implement plenty of SATA II and USB ports. Even today, the motherboards based on the 780G/SB700 are popular choices but of course there’s always scope for improvement – and cue the AMD 785G. Like the AMD 780G, motherboards based on this chipset will appear in different shapes and sizes and with different features. Today we’ll be putting a performance orientated version of the platform through it’s paces to see just how good AMD’s latest mainstream offering can be – The Asus M4A785TD-V EVO.
 
I personally don’t feel the need to write a lot about Asus as their reputation for quality computer components, desktops and laptops really do speak for themselves. Founded in 1989, Asus has a long established design team and understand their customer bases well. They’ve previously released some impressive mid range solutions and already have a range of popular and capable Socket AM3 motherboards. Will this motherboard complement Asus’ existing M4A product lineup or is it a lemon? Has it got what it takes to perform against other 785G competition? Let’s find out.
 
 
Specifications
 
CPU Support
– Support AMD® AM3 CPU

System Bus
– Up to 5200 MT/s; HyperTransport™ 3.0 interface

Chipset
– AMD RS785G/SB710

Memory
– 4 x DIMM. Max 16GB
DDR3 1800(O.C.)/1600(O.C.)/ 1333 / 1066 un-buffered ECC/Non-ECC memory

CrossFireX Support
– ATI CrossFireX® Support
– ATI Hybrid CrossFire Support

Audio
– High Definition Audio 8-channel CODEC
– Supports optical S/PDIF out

USB
– 12XUSB2.0/1.0(6 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at back panel)

LAN
– PCIe Gb LAN

Storage
– 1 x Ultra DMA 133/100/66
– 5x Serial ATA 3Gb/s supporting RAID 0, RAID 1,RAID10
– 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s ports

Expansion Slots
– 2 x PCI-E 2.0 x16 (1 @ x16 mode, 1 @ x4 mode)
– 1 x PCI-Ex1
– 3 x PCI

ASUS Brand New Features
– ASUS GPU NOS
– ASUS Extreme Phase
– ASUS Turbo Key
– ASUS Turbo V
– ASUS Stack Cool III
– ASUS Anti EMI
 
The first observation that you may have observed is that this is a Socket AM3 motherboard, offering DDR3 support up to DDR3-1866 (OC), a step up from it’s predecessor which only came in Socket AM2+/DDR2 format. Also, while AMD does not formally support ATi CrossfireX on this chipset, Asus has implemented a second PCI-E 2.0 16x slot, offering Multi GPU support in a restricted 16x/4x mode. While this is less than ideal, 16x/4x shouldn’t cause a noticeable performance loss for middle of the road graphics cards like Radeon HD 4770’s in CrossfireX. Aside this, Asus has implemented solid state capacitors, an extra 2 phase power regulation for the CPU, a robust cooling system, a full host of software utilities and Express Gate operating system. With much to see and test, I invite you to click away to the next page!


Asus M4A785TD-V EVO 785G ATX Preview Page: 2
Packaging and Initial Impressions
 
The motherboard arrived in a fairly standard “Asus like” box, indicating the model name in large font at the front and it’s key features. At any rate, it certainly seems to have survived it’s journey across the country. As we expected, the internals were as they should be and packed in a very secure fashion. Included in the box other than the motherboard were two SATA cables, an I/O Shield, an IDE cable, manual and CD, a fairly standard accessory list.
 
ASUS M4A785TD-V Box Front Asus M4A785TD-V
 
ASUS M4A785TD-V ASUS P4A785TD-V Accessories
 
Here’s the M4A785TD-V EVO in the flesh. A rather mean looking motherboard given it’s target market. Physically speaking, the board seemed very well built and it seems as though a fair amount of thought has gone into it’s layout, with a sensible combination of PCI, PCI-E 1x and PCI-E 16x slots and Audio/USB/SATA placements. The absence of 90* rotated and stacked SATA II ports was to be expected for a motherboard of this class but again would have been a nice feature for Asus to have implemented for the sake of aiding cable management and also making the board more “tidy”, so to speak.
 
ASUS M4A785TD-V ASUS M4A785TD-V Board Mem Slots
 
ASUS M4A785TD-V PCI Slots Asus M4A785TD-V I/O
 
The Northbridge and Southbridge are cooled by separate passive, aluminum heatsinks. The 55nm 785G and SB710 shouldn’t really require anything more substantial and I’m glad that Asus did not take the more elaborate (and expensive) heatpipe route. Both heatsinks are installed by pushpins and can be easily removed if you wish to install a waterblock or aftermarket cooler. The contact between the cores and heatsink base appeared to be very good, preventing unnecessarily high temperatures that may cause instability or limit one’s overclock.
 
ASUS M4A785TD-V NB
 
The installation process was quite uneventful until the power button for the test setup was pressed…
 
ASUS P4A785TD-V GSOD
 
“Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat there with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about. Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this” Source.
 
The predicament that I was in suddenly cast my mind back to this agitated, albeit hilariously written complaint to Virgin Atlantic by a passenger who was less than satisfied about his in flight experience. Upon powering on this shiney new Asus 785G based motherboard, I was presented with a spectacular array of flickering and vertical lines of the greenish variety. Not quite as horrendous as a meal that looked like a dessert but wasn't, although it was disappointing all the same. Naturally, it’s understood that like all electronics, a small minority of motherboards may leave quality control with defects but I've been left in a situation that has prevented us from being able to test the key feature of this motherboard.


Asus M4A785TD-V EVO 785G ATX Preview Page: 3
Testing
 
As the motherboard's HD 4200 IGP was inoperative, a dedicated Radeon HD 3450 256mb GDDR2 graphics card was implemented in the testing process instead. While they are both based around the same core, the HD 3450 has a core clock of 600MHz, 100MHz higher than the HD 4200 and a memory clock frequency of 800MHz, considerably slower than the 1333MHz GDDR3 Sideport memory on the IGP. As a result, it's not particularly accurate to assume the level of the HD 4200's performance from our findings with the HD 3450.
All other aspects of the motherboard will be fully tested
 
The Testbed

AMD Phenom II X4 905e Processor
Asus M4A785TD-V EVO Socket AM3 Motherboard
Corsair DDR3-1333 CAS9 Memory
Samsung S203 DVD+/-RW
Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 120GB SATA HDD
Tagan TG420 420W ATX2.0 Power Supply Unit
AMD Reference CPU Heatsink
 
 
BIOS and Overclocking
 
The M4A785TD-V EVO features a BIOS that is packed with tweaking options for overclocking, offering generous increases in frequency ranges and voltage increases for a variety of components. Thanks to the updated SB710 Southbridge, users with 65nm AMD Phenom CPU’s may utilize the Advanced Clock Calibration option (originally found on the SB750), which yields higher processor frequencies at potentially lower voltages. The Advanced Clock Calibration option is also known to unlock 45nm AMD Phenom II X2 and X3 Processors into fully fledged Quad Cores (your mileage my vary) and unlock hidden Level 3 Cache on Phenom II X4 800 series CPU’s. A very comprehensive BIOS indeed and from what we can see, it can certainly talk the talk. However, in the same way that my rusting Ford Ka 1.3 has a speedometer that reads to 140mph, is this motherboard a case of all show and no go?
 
Well, I’m happy to report that it didn’t fare too badly at all. As our AMD Phenom II X4 905e CPU had a maximum CPU Multiplier of 12.5x and a fixed Northbridge Frequency of 10x, overclocking was bound to cause a strain on the motherboard. So in order to push the M4A785TD for all it’s worth, we removed some external limiting factors by lowering the CPU Multiplier to 9x and lowering the memory frequency to a 1:2 ratio.
By Increasing in 5-10MHz at a time, we hit a brick wall at a HTT Base Clock of 240MHz and a Northbridge Frequency of 2400MHz. The M4A785TD-V refused to boot into Windows at anything north of this regardless of CPU Voltage, NB/HT Voltage, Load Line Calibration, ACC or disabling Cool’n’Quiet. As per usual, one’s result with pure HTT Base overclocking will vary regardless of your motherboard and if you plan on opting for the Socket AM2+/AM3 platform with the intention of overclocking, it’s crucial that you buy a Black Edition CPU for it’s fully unlocked CPU and Northbridge Multipliers.
 
Bios - Main Settings     Bios - Frequency/Voltage
 
On another note, it is also possible to overclock the integrated HD 4200 IGP and if it’s anything like it’s HD 3200/780G predecessor, it will have very high yields. Sadly, we’re unable to put this theory to the test.
 
Bios - HT Voltage
 
CPU-Z     CPU-Z
 
Lets move on and take a look at the Asus Express Gate Operating system.


Asus M4A785TD-V EVO 785G ATX Preview Page: 4
Asus Express Gate Operating System
 
Included in a number of Asus motherboards (including this one) is their Express Gate Operating System. A very basic, no frills means of being able to access the internet or view photos and media within seconds of powering one’s system on. Boot time was timed in at around 8 seconds from power on, which is fantastic. It was able to detect our Abit Airpace PCI-Express Wireless Adapter and use it without the installation of drivers. In fact, the usability of the operating system is further extended by the ability to use Skype or AIM/ICQ/MSN. The overall experience was hassle free and very useful for those that quickly need to check your mail before heading out for a day of work or school!
 
Express Gate     Express Gate
 
Express Gate     Express Gate
 
 
Synthetic Benchmarks
 
 Sandra
The output DDR3 results were exactly as expected for DDR3-1333 C9 memory, showing that the 785G/SB710 platform works well with Socket AM3/DDR3
 
 
 
Hard Disk Performance
 
Very predictable results from the SB710 Southbridge with the Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 120GB Hard Disk Drive.
 
 
Processor Arithmetic Performance
 
Performance wise, the Phenom II X4 905e performed exactly as it should when paired with the M4A785TD-V, a reasonable amount better than the popular Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU.
 
 
Processor Multimedia Performance
 
Again, our test subject showed absolutely no sign of limiting a processor of this calibre. The results are very much in line with similar CPU's, performing above the previous generation of Phenom CPU's and above the Core 2 Quad Q8200 and Q6600.
 
 
Benchmarks out of the way lets move on to test the gaming performance.


Asus M4A785TD-V EVO 785G ATX Preview Page: 5
Gaming Performance
  
Once again, I must reiterate that while the Radeon HD 3450 256mb Graphics Card that we used has a lot in common with the integrated Radeon HD 4200 IGP in the 785G, it would be unfair to say that they are equal in performance.
 
 
FarCry 2
 
Far Cry 2 performed reasonably well for a modern hit, occasionally becoming a bit unplayable in dense areas of trees or buildings. I suspect that the Phenom II X4 905e helped hold up the frame rates.
 
 
 
 
CoD4
 
 
Call of Duty, a slightly older hit performed very well. Aside a couple of moments of abrupt game play, the performance was fluid and reasonably consistent to hold up the game.
 
 

GRID
 
GRID, regardless of reducing it’s on screen resolution simply didn’t bode well with our test setup. For most of the part, the performance was less than mediocre.
 
 
See over the page for initial thoughts.


Asus M4A785TD-V EVO 785G ATX Preview Page: 6
Conclusion
 
ASUSAt an approximate retail price of £70, this motherboard has a lot of competition. From the Socket AM2+ side, it is possible to purchase AMD 790GX based motherboards such as the Biostar TA790GX series with a slightly better feature set and from the Socket AM3 side, a number of hybrid AMD 770 or 790X motherboards also paired with the SB750 southbridge such as the Gigabyte MA770T UD3P. It’s safe to say that the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO deviates from it’s more mainstream routes and holds it’s own against the aforementioned motherboards and only lacks a small number of features such as 8x/8x CrossfireX support. What it does have over other AMD chipsets is a more capable Integrated Graphics chipset which can now play 7.1 channel sound over HDMI (previously 5.1) and also supports DX10.1 (previously DX10). Also mentioned previously, the HD 4200 is expected to overclock very well and can be paired in hybrid crossfire with a HD 43xx series graphics card, resulting in significant gains. Unfortunately, the substantial fly in the ointment for us was that we did not get the opportunity to really put the chipset through it’s paces. However, if the dedicated Radeon HD 3450 graphics card is anything to go by, it should be a very promising little GPU, especially with it’s GDDR3 Sideport memory running at an impressive 1333MHz frequency.
 
All in all, Asus have done a very good job at serving a mainstream chipset platform to those with higher performance requirements, thanks to a well thought out ATX base, Socket AM3 support, 16x/4x CrossfireX and at any rate, it’s certainly worth considering for those that are contemplating a middle of the road AMD Phenom II setup.
 
 
The Good
- Well thought board layout.
- Express Gate OS is an excellent touch.
- Comprehensive BIOS.
- Overclocks Reasonably well.

The Mediocre
- Slightly lacking in accessories.
 
The Bad
- Nothing.
 
 
Value for Money 
  
Thanks to ASUS for sending the M4A785TD-V EVO in for review. Discuss this review in our forums.